How to Spend a Weekend at Biscayne National Park

There is so much to do at Biscayne National Park, from boating to snorkeling to kayaking and more. This scenic national park lies in South Florida and encompasses a vast region of protected land and water. If you plan to spend a weekend at Biscayne National Park, the following are the top things to do in the park.

What to Do 

Ranger-led activities-  These include guided canoe and kayak trips, daily ranger talks and walks, and more. Partaking in ranger-led activities help visitors to gain a greater understanding of what they’re experiencing in the park.

Fishing and boating- One of the main ways to get around the park is by boat and there are lots of organized boating tours available. You can also launch your own boat to explore the area. Fishing is permitted within the park with some restrictions.

Canoeing and kayaking- You can rent canoes and kayaks in the park and spend the day exploring this beautiful natural area. Paddling is one of the park’s most popular activities.

Snorkeling and scuba diving- Biscayne National Park is home to a wide variety of unique marine life and coral reefs which can be explored by snorkeling and scuba diving.

Wildlife viewing- There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing within the park, both in and out of the water. There are 20 endangered species in Biscayne National Park and birding is a wildly popular activity here.

Where to Stay

The nearest hotels and overnight lodgings are in Homestead and Florida City, though you may be more comfortable staying in Miami or one of the other Florida Keys and commuting during the day to Biscayne National Park. There are also two campgrounds available inside the park that must be accessed by boat. These are on Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key.

How to Get There

Miami International Airport is the closest airport to Biscayne National Park. The park can be reached by car via the Florida Turnpike or the US-1 highway. Once there, the best way to get around is by boat, so it’s recommended to take a guided boat tour or rent canoes or kayaks.

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How to Spend a Weekend in Katmai National Park

Located in Southwestern Alaska, Katmai National Park is so remote that it can’t be accessed by car – your only options for visiting are by commercial flight or boat. The nearest town is King Salmon, though it is rather remote. Katmai National Park was established in 1918 and encompasses a large number of prehistoric human artifacts as well as the iconic Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, created by the 1912 eruption of the Novarupta Volcano. Spend a weekend in Katmai viewing wildlife, hiking, fishing and camping.

Photos from Roy Wood

What to Do

Bear Viewing

Join the park’s annual Fat Bear Week competition to watch Katmai’s bears bulk up before their winter hibernation! Catch them feeding on salmon in the Brooks River and at the Brooks Falls. The park has one of the highest concentrations of brown bears in the world, so there’ll be lots of opportunities to view these massive creatures.

Fishing

Katmai National Park is renowned throughout the world for sport fishing. Many visitors to the park partake in the excellent fishing opportunities here. Fishermen can expect to catch salmon, rainbow trout, grayling, and dolly varden.

Hiking

Primarily a wilderness park, there are less than five miles of maintained hiking trails. That said, visitors to the park can still check out the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, one of the original reasons for the park’s preservation.

Where to Stay 

You have a few options for where to stay in Katmai National Park. If you plan to go camping, the Brooks Camp Campground will be your best bet. Be sure to make reservations in advance for the campground! Additionally, there are several lodges within the park that offer overnight accommodation, including Brooks Lodge, Grosvenor Lodge, and Kulik Lodge. Be sure to call ahead to make your booking.

How to Get There

290 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, you’ll need to either take a small commercial flight from Anchorage to King Salmon, or arrive in the park by floatplane or air taxi.

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How to Spend a Weekend in Kenai Fjords National Park

The impressive network of fjords that comprise the Kenai Fjords National Park is situated in the Gulf of Alaska and covers more than 600,000 acres. Characterized by the iconic Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords National Park offers beautiful landscapes and fantastic opportunities for wildlife viewing. If you’ve only got a weekend, you’ll want to make sure to experience as much as possible!

What do Do

Cruises

Exploring the park by cruise is one of the most popular ways to experience Kenai Fjords. Because there are no roads in the park and the major sites are the glaciers anyway, it’s best to visit the park by water. 

Boat Tours

If you’ve only got a weekend and aren’t planning to do a cruise, boat tours provide great options for day trips. Some of the park’s most notable sights are Aialik Glacier, Bear Glacier Lake, Exit Glacier, and Bear Glacier, which can be visited via organized boat tours.

Wildlife Viewing

Kenai Fjords National Park is home to some truly spectacular wildlife. You can expect to encounter sea otters, humpback whales, dolphins, orcas, harbor seals, mountain goats, bald eagles, seabirds like cormorants and puffins, and much more. Taking an organized wildlife viewing tour is a great way to have a safe and successful wildlife viewing experience with a guide that can shed light on what you’re seeing.

Hiking

There are several opportunities for hiking in Kenai Fjords National Park, and the Harding Icefield Trail is by far the most popular, though it’s incredibly strenuous. The Exit Glacier Loop is another great day hike in the park.

Where to Stay

The only lodge within Kenai Fjords National Park is the Fjords Glacier Lodge. Camping at the free Exit Glacier Campground is another popular option, but all campsites are first come, first served and they do not take reservations.

How to Get There

You must access Kenai Fjords National Park through the town of Seward. Arrive in Seward either by train from Anchorage, by car, or on a cruise. As the park has no roads, the easiest way to explore the area is by boat.

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How to Spend a Weekend in Isle Royale National Park

A massive island situated in Michigan’s Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park is both an International Biosphere Reserve and a National Wilderness. Green forest and breathtaking coastline characterize this national park, as well as a plethora of hiking trails since the park does not have any roads.

What to Do

Hiking

As hiking is one of the only ways to get around in the park, you’re sure to be doing a lot of it during your trip! Isle Royale landscape is rugged and wild, making for a unique national park experience. The Greenstone Ridge Trail runs the course of the island, from one end to the other. The most popular areas of the park include Rock Harbor and Windigo, with many hiking trails cutting through the backcountry as well. 

Wildlife Viewing

As there are strict wilderness preservation rules and no roads anywhere in the park, the wildlife viewing at Isle Royale is fantastic. Here you will experience untouched wilderness, so keep your eyes peeled for foxes, moose, loons, wolves, birds, and more.

Northern Lights

An utterly remote wilderness, Isle Royale lends itself especially well to stargazing, and the lack of light pollution allows for frequent viewing of the aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights. Head to Isle Royale from late spring to early September for your best chance of seeing this unique natural phenomenon. 

Fishing

Fishing is an incredibly popular activity at Isle Royale National Park, but be sure to get a permit at one of the port’s ranger stations before heading out.

Canoeing

Another of your limited options for getting around Isle Royale is by canoe. Canoes are available for rent and there are plenty of areas in and around the park to explore by water. This is a great and peaceful way to experience the park from a different perspective.

Where to Stay

The only option for lodging within Isle Royale National Park is Rock Harbor Lodge. However, the far more popular option is camping. The park has a wide variety of campsites and all of them are completely free. 

How to Get There

You have several options for how to get to Isle Royale National Park. If you plan to fly, the closest airport to the park is Thunder Bay International Airport in Ontario, Canada. From there, you will need to take a ferry to enter the park. Most visitors to Isle Royale arrive by ferry, and it’s important to make your ferry reservations well in advance as they do tend to fill up. Arriving by floatplane is also an option, though it’s much more expensive than taking the ferry but is quicker and offers phenomenal aerial views.

When to Go 

July and August are the best and most popular times to visit Isle Royale. Temperatures in the park remain mild to cold year round, and at night can dip below freezing. This is the only US national park that completely closes during winter, which lasts from November through mid-April. The park offers limited access before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, so be wary of the date when making your travel plans.

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How to Spend a Weekend in Redwood National Park

Located on California’s North Coast, Redwood National Park has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Characterized by giant redwood trees, this national park is truly something to behold. If you’ve only got a weekend to spend exploring the ancient Redwoods, you’ll want to be sure to see as much as you can.

What to Do

Hiking

The best way to explore this park is by hiking. There are many stunningly beautiful hiking paths throughout Redwood National Park that will offer you the full experience in a weekend. Some of the most popular trails include Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, Prairie Creek – Foothill Trail Loop, Big Tree Wayside Walk, and James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon Loop.

Wildlife Viewing

There is no shortage of unique flora and fauna to see in Redwood National Park. Beyond the magnificent trees, you should also come prepared to see wild animals like black bears, sea stars, bald eagles, elk, sea lions, and gray whales, among many others. Some of the park’s endangered species include the Brown Pelican, Western Snowy Plover, Chinook Salmon, Marbled Murrelet, Tidewater Goby, Northern Spotted Owl, Steller’s Sea Lion, Coho Salmon, and Steelhead Trout.

Stargazing

This natural, untouched area provides the perfect environment for stargazing with dark night skies that offer an unforgettable view of the stars. This is why Redwood National Park is excellent for lovers of astronomy.

Where to Stay

There are no hotels or lodging accommodations within the park, but you’ll have no problem finding a place to stay in the nearby towns of Klamath and Crescent City. Camping is a popular option for lodging at nearby state parks which have several campgrounds. 

How to Get There

The easiest way to get to Redwood National Park is to drive. However, if you plan to fly, there are two small airports that will get you to the park. These are the Arcata-Eureka Airport, which has daily flights from San Francisco, and Del Norte County Regional Airport, which has two daily flights from Portland, Oregon. 

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