The Top National Parks for Solo Travelers This Fall

Oct 27, 2018

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Fall is the perfect time for solo travelers to experience offseason fun without feeling like they’re on a crowded summer field trip. If whale watching or sand sledding are calling your name, or you just want to chill out on a secluded beach, plan visits to these national parks, which range from urban nature getaways to island adventure havens.

» Learn more: 7 easy ways to make solo travel affordable

1. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

When you think of national parks, the Golden Gate Bridge, one of San Francisco’s top tourist attractions, probably doesn’t come to mind. The 80,000-acre national recreation area, however, which includes the famous bridge, is one of the largest urban parks in the world. With over 130 miles of trails and several historic structures, the park also offers activities ranging from guided tours to whale watching in December.

“You can bike over the bridge to Sausalito to get oysters on the half-shell,” says Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro. Whether you want to enjoy bay views and houseboats around the area or explore nature, ruins and museums, there’s plenty to do.

Best use of frequent flyer miles or loyalty rewards points

You can fly directly into San Francisco International Airport, but if mileage seats are not available for redemption on those flights, look for cheaper fares to the nearby San Jose and Oakland airports. You can stay in the Bay Area at one of the numerous chain hotels with travel rewards from credit cards and enjoy San Francisco’s urban delights in addition to the park activities.

2. Hawaii’s national parks

Which summer vacation fantasy doesn’t include drinking a coconut on a secluded beach? Why not add in a few waterfalls and a hike near a volcano? You’re more likely to get relative seclusion at popular destinations such as Hawaii in offseason times. The state has five national parks and a national historic trail. While you’ll want to check out sea turtles and native flowers on the Hawaiian islands, your adventurous side will want to go to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. You can walk by steaming vents on lava rock around active volcanoes. There are temporary park closures due to maintenance, so make sure the park you want to visit will be open during your trip dates.

Best use of frequent flyer miles or loyalty rewards points

You’ll want to use miles not just to fly to Hawaii, but also to travel from one island to another if you’re visiting more than one. Hawaiian Airlines, which partners with JetBlue, is a good choice for interisland flights. American Airlines allows users to redeem their AAdvantage frequent flyer miles for Hawaiian Airlines flights between islands.

3. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Looking for winter activities in the fall? Try the sand version of sledding and snowboarding on sand dunes. The Great Sands Dunes National Park in southern Colorado has the tallest sand dunes in North America. The park is in the midst of wetlands and you can hike to alpine lakes and high peaks. While the night skies are beautiful, you may not want to camp out if you’re not a fan of cold temperatures.

Best use of frequent flyer miles or loyalty rewards points

United Airlines flies to several airports in Colorado, including to Alamosa, which is less than 40 miles to the park, and to Gunnison, which is about 130 miles away. There are several chain hotels in Alamosa and the surrounding area, so you can use points redeemed from your credit card’s travel rewards or from your favorite hotel’s loyalty program.

How to maximize your rewards

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