Do you and your family love out-of-the-way vacation spots that aim to surprise with their culture, history, recreation and beauty? Here are five places you might not have considered for your next trip — but should.
1. SLEEPING BEAR DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE, MICHIGAN Standing on its pure white sand, gazing into aquamarine infinity, Sleeping Bear Dunes wows “lake people” and “ocean people” alike. In summer, the lake is warm enough, but it’s cool enough at night to sleep with the windows open. Stumble down the 400-foot-high dunes or go tubing down the Platte River.
2. DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA Be prepared for many adventures in Death Valley, including a slot canyon hike and a 27-mile off-road backcountry drive. Scale enormous sand dunes and explore several Old West ghost towns, all while avoiding seeing one of the park’s native “sidewinder” rattlers.
3. WRANGELL-ST. ELIAS NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, ALASKA The largest national park in the United States is also isolated but can be reached by bush plane. The frontier lives on here, in the bush and up and down the unpaved streets of the small town of McCarthy. The town’s handful of businesses rely on generators for power and a nearby spring for fetching pails of water. Thrill-seekers can enjoy backcountry excursions, white-water rafting and mountaineering. You also can tour the abandoned Kennecott mining town and go glacier trekking.
4. ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK, CALIFORNIA Anza-Borrego sports a rugged look, much like the bighorn sheep that call it home. Only an hour from the sprawl of Palm Springs, the setting feels unexpectedly remote. Marvel in glorious sunsets, coyotes yipping through the night, hikes through slot canyons and tropical oases, 500 miles of unpaved roads and the unforgettable view of the Badlands from Font’s Point.
5. GLEN CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, UTAH/ARIZONA Just outside Page, Arizona, near the Utah border, the Colorado River flows through one of the most iconic images of the desert Southwest: Horseshoe Bend. Navajo guides lead small groups down steep staircases where you’re enveloped by the most gorgeous (and photographed) water-sculpted slot canyons anywhere.