When summer is over, the real vacationing begins at off-season havens that aren’t very crowded. Here are three of the best national parks for families to visit this fall, with features ranging from wild horses roaming free to cheap camping.
1. Assateague Island National Seashore
It may not seem to make sense to visit a seaside national park when it’s not beach season, but it’s worth it. You’ll get to watch wild horses roam free away from summer crowds, says Rue Mapp, the founder of Outdoor Afro.
Kayaking and ranger-guided programs are available at this 37-mile barrier island getaway along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. Camping, with sites starting at $30 per night, provides an inexpensive way to enjoy the Assateague Island National Seashore. Reservations aren’t required from Nov. 16 through March 14. You can buy firewood locally to toast marshmallows and remember to bring screen tents and repellent for insect protection.
How to get there
The north entrance of the park is near Ocean City, Maryland. You can fly into one of the three nearest airports in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. All are within 150 miles of driving distance of the national park.
2. Yosemite National Park
Nearly 1,200 square miles of meadows, mountains, glaciers and giant sequoia trees make Yosemite National Park a popular travel destination year round. From October through April, though, you can get a camping spot in some areas of the park for as little as $18 per night. The cheaper reservations, however, can only be made on-site on a first-come, first-served basis. You can make reservations in advance online for a group campsite for $50 per night.
How to get there
You can fly into Fresno, California, which has one of the closest airports with airlines that fly to major hubs throughout the country. You’ll also need a car to drive an hour and a half to the national park.
3. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is a mile-deep geological wonder of red rocks. The fall is much more temperate than the 100-degree summers, so you can hike the Grand Canyon without breaking a sweat. It’s the cheaper season as well. There are junior ranger programs, hiking, and river-rafting opportunities for families.
Backcountry permits for camping cost $10 each, plus a fee of $8 per person per night. This permit allows you to camp at a variety of spots in the park. Park activities can be combined with a short urban break, too — both Las Vegas and Phoenix are a few hours away from the park by car.
How to get there
If you’re flying, the fastest travel option is to fly into Flagstaff, Arizona, then drive about 90 miles to the park’s South Rim entrance. Or, you can start off in Las Vegas and save money with a cheap flight. Bonus tip: Use any extra points for a side trip to Phoenix or Las Vegas.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Make your national park trip an adventure in savings
Your money-saving guide to holiday vacations (or staycations)
This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards