I’m usually happy to jump on board celebrating made up holidays. Especially the lesser known ones like today’s “National Plan For Vacation Day”. Like most of these holidays, plan for vacation day is an invention of people with a vested interest in separating us from our cash. Its inventor, the U.S. Travel Association, is an industry group that exists for that exact purpose. Even so, I firmly believe that planning for vacation is as much as 65% of the actual fun of going on vacation. To celebrate and get your planning moving along I’ve decided to share one of my favorite tips for planning our visits: ignore the thing everyone is seeing and visit the actual great spots instead.
Yosemite National Park
Ignore: Tunnel View. Known for its panoramic view of Yosemite Valley. It also also said to be overrun with throngs of stupid people doing stupid things while trying to run you over with their car. While I can’t personally vouch for adage “once is too much” applying to this spot since I’ve never been there, I can certainly recommend a better use of your time.
Visit: Artist Point. Situated just above and behind Tunnel View, Artist Point is better in every way. The views are better, the crowds are non existent, there is minor scrambling over trees and the washed out remains of Wawona Road the entire way up, and it’s only a 1.5 mile hike with a 870 foot climb.
Great Basin National Park
Ignore: Lehman Caves. Nobody goes to Great Basin, it gets only 150,000 visitors a year. In fact, last year it was one of the only parks to see a decrease in attendance. However, of the 150,000 visitors 149,996 entered the caves. They’re fine. When you do to to Great Basin you’ll visit them and you’ll also think they’re fine. Even so, you’ll be much happier when you head back above ground.
Visit: S. Fork Baker Creek Trail. This is the trail on which we coined the phrase “butterfly tunnel“. It’s like Rocky Mountain NP, but with a minuscule fraction of the people. The trail parallels a mountain stream for most of its length and the scent of pine is heavy in the air. When you finish you must stop at Kerouac’s for dinner in Baker, NV.
Dinosaur National Monument
Ignore: The dinosaurs. This is another place you’re going to go anyway, and they are cool. What you need to know as the the quarry is a tiny part of the monument. Most of the monument is empty and it’s amazing. Take a spin through the quarry and then spend a couple days enjoying the rest of the monument.
Visit: Echo Park. You’ll need 4 wheel drive, high clearance, and a fearless attitude to get there, but it’ll be worth it. At the end of this road there are hiking trails, a whispering cave, the remains of an old ranch, the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers, and even a primitive campground. Echo Place also holds a special place in my heart since it was the first place beyond Illinois that we camped as a family. I think it went a long way in instilling self-confidence in us that has allowed us to adventure to many of the places we’ve been since.
There are amazing and little known spots like the ones I’ve shared above all over the country. Please share yours in the comments, I already can’t wait to visit them!