Warmer days are an invitation to explore the great outdoors in the mountains, forests, or deep in an ancient canyon. With international travel not looking so hot this summer, we look to America’s National Parks for romantic destinations that are accessible yet remote enough to get away. Roaming in nature invites a couple to reset and reconnect with activities that are adventurous, challenging, renewing, and calming. Plan the perfect summer road trip to one or all three of these romantic national park getaways.
NPS by Kirsten Kearse
The Mighty 5, Utah
Discover all Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah for a plethora of outdoor and romantic activities for you and your partner. Start with hiking the Narrows, the main attraction in Zion National Park.
The Narrows trail runs through the Virgin River and in between thousand-foot canyon walls. High summer is the best time to hike the Narrows, the deeper into summer the increasing chances of flash floods which make the Virgin River difficult to cross. Other highly rated hikes with incredible panoramic views are Observation Point, Angel’s Landing, and the Watchman’s Trail.
Pro tip: Hike as early as possible for the best weather and empty trails at any Mighty 5 park. Depending on your experience level, some hikes are best done bright and early to avoid extreme temperatures. If you are a beginner consider precautionary options like a tour guide, renting specialty equipment, and protecting valuables on you or at your campsite in a lockbox.
Driving east of Zion is Bryce Canyon, best known for The Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, star gazing, and full moon hikes. What makes full moon hikes so special in Bryce Canyon? Bryce Canyon’s numerous hoodoos, which are tall totem shaped bodies of rocks that reflect moonlight and stay visible at night. Other than Zion, Bryce and the other four parks are internationally certified Dark Sky Parks, offering the clearest skies for the best views of the night sky.
For the couples interested in extreme activities, Capitol Reef has numerous places to try canyoneering, a combination of hiking, rappelling, chimneying, and other means of moving in between the crevices of the canyon. Serious backpackers have 15-day hiking trails and remote camping spots in Capitol Reef. Do a little bit of everything from mountain biking, white water rafting, and hiking in Canyonlands National Park. The biggest park of the Mighty 5 will exceed your expectations, starting with a popular spot at dawn, the Mesa Arch. The last of the Mighty 5 is located in Moab and famous for the world’s largest concentration of sandstone arches. Arches National Park is full of scenic trails to hike with your partner, and perhaps the perfect backdrop for a picturesque proposal.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
If hot desert canyons are not for either of you, cool off in the Rocky Mountains surrounded by abundant wildlife, rivers, and springs. Starting June 4th, 2020, reservations will be required for Rocky Mountain National Park in order to continue the practice of physical distancing in outdoor and recreational spaces. Camping is the best option for this park, but if nature at night seems too much, Estes Park is a nearby ski town that has ample lodging for you and your partner.
Summertime is the best season to see newborn wildlife like elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. Wildlife will gather in larger numbers in certain regions of the park seasonally, so be sure to review this guide to increase your chances of a well-timed opportunity to catch a glimpse of these amazing animals.
Pro tip: The elevation changes are extremely hard on visitors hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, frequent visitors recommend canned oxygen, lots of water, and planned rest points to keep the hiking enjoyable and manageable. Basically, don’t rush your hike. It’s normal for extremely fit individuals to feel fatigued on a Rocky Mountain hike with increasing incline.
Highly recommended are Lily Lake, Dream Lake, Sky Pond, Bear, and Gem Lake. They are easy to moderately challenging hikes and offer beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and trees. A couple from Houston, Texas hiked to Gem Lake on their anniversary for a romantic lunch date spot. “It’s a decent incline with lots of steps. There are plenty of spots to stop and drink water and take pics of Estes Park. It was steep and strenuous, but worth the effort,” the couple said. The couple stayed in an Estes Park lodge cottage that included a private hot tub, the perfect remedy after a long hike with your partner.
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Take a trip to the Ouachita Mountains for dedicated spa time in natural hot springs. The natural state is the best-kept secret in national parks and offers the perfect itinerary list for nearby couples looking for a low key, sleepy town vibe. Explore more than twenty miles worth of hiking trails and afterward choose from 40 hot springs or bathhouses to relax in. Arkansas is the perfect couples getaway for ultimate relaxation. Stop by the many mom-and-pop shops that sell homemade soaps, oils, and aromatherapy products. See local massage therapists dedicated to teaching couples “the art of unwinding” and bodywork services. There are museums and historic businesses that are unique to Hot Springs, including Maxine’s, The Gangster Museum, and Fordyce Bath House.
Pro tip: Enjoy brews from Superior Bathhouse Brewery, the first brewery in a US National Park, and the world’s first to use thermal spring water as the main ingredient. Hot Springs National Park is less crowded in the summer, making it the perfect destination during social distancing efforts. Cheers to that!
Average travel time to Hot Springs from surrounding metro cities.
Chicago to Hot Springs – 10h 26m
Atlanta to Hot Springs – 8h 35m
Dallas to Hot Springs – 4h 25m
Memphis to Hot Springs – 2h 53m
Louisville to Hot Springs – 8h 35m
Become familiar with the romantic terrain and beautiful trails by virtually visiting a park, a perfect tool to prepare rest spots on strenuous trails. Couples should modify their gear and tool list according to the type of terrain and park(s) they are visiting. When spending a great deal of time in remote outdoor wilderness theft and misplacement of valuable items like jewelry are of concern, consider specialty jewelry insurance, apparel with secure pockets, and lockboxes so you and your partner can wear your most cherished items confidently. Another basic essential for national park vacationers is a US Park Pass to save time and expenses. These three romantic national parks are just the beginning of many future getaways as social distancing becomes easier to manage or obsolete.