Dead Horse Point

8 Awesome Alternatives to US National Parks

With the American government at loggerheads over the proposed Obamacare bill, the USA has begun shutting down all of its government-funded tourist attractions and National Parks. The ‘government shutdown’, which is tipped to last up to a few weeks, is said to be costing $300 million a day, and states are losing millions in tourism revenue daily. Tourists are rightly annoyed, especially those who have travelled a long distance to specifically visit some of the big hitting parks like the Grand Canyon, Arches, Bryce, Yosmite and Yellowstone.

However if you’ve travelled far to experience America, you shouldn’t be put off that the big-hitting national parks are closed, as there are still some amazing places to explore which are either funded by states (instead of through the national system), or free to enjoy. Here’s my guide to some of the best alternatives to US National Parks.

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8 Awesome alternatives to US National Parks

Want the Grand Canyon? Visit Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park. Credit:

OK, so not as big or impressive as the canyon, Red Rock State Park has some good day hiking options and as the title suggests, it’s got the same red rock colour which makes the Grand Canyon so impressive. It’s also near the city of Sedona which is a gateway to lots of other red rock parks in the region. If only the Grand Canyon will do, some helicopter tours are still available over the canyon (as they depart from outside the park), and some places in the west may still be open as Grand Canyon West is administered by the Hualapai Nation, not by the government.

Want Zion? Visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Credit:

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Credit:

Try the challenging hiking trails as you venture onto a shifting sea of red sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Changed by winds, these mountains and hills of sand can move as much as 50 feet per year, and the surrounding mountains are beautiful layered rock. Pretty impressive for a place you only just heard of, right? OK they might not rival the hanging gardens and sandstone cliffs at Zion but with areas for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and those with non-motorized pursuits, the dunes offer adventures for all.

Want Bryce Canyon? Visit Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Backway


Cottonwood Canyon

Cottonwood Canyon Road Scenic Backway. Credit:

This route features strangley eroded rock formations in Cottonwood Canyon and Kodachrome Basin State Park (here, sandstone surrounding the solidified geysers have eroded, leaving 67 large sand pipes.) A popular feature is Grosvenor Arch, a soaring pastel buttress located about ten miles east of the Kodachrome Basin turn-off. In Cottowood Canyon, the sandstone colors are particularly striking. The Paria River and the rugged upthrust of the Cockscomb formation are also prominient features of this journey.

Want Arches? Visit Sand Flats Recreational Area

Sand Flats Recreational Area

Sand Flats Recreational Area. Credit:

Near Moab, is this 9,000-acre recreation area is at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Slick rock domes, bowls and fins in the east to meet the colorful mesas and nearly 13,000 foot peaks of the La Sal Mountains. Bordering the area are the canyons of the Negro Bill and Mill Creek Wilderness Study Areas, the deep gorge of the Colorado River and Arches National Park. Famous Slickrock and Porcupine Rim bike trails and 40 miles of jeep trails are located here and are world-renowned for their combination of challenge and scenery.

Want Canyonlands? Visit Dead Horse Point State Park


Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point State Park. Credit:

Dead Horse Point State Park is legendary for its jaw-dropping views, but there’s much more to do than packing a picnic and taking a few photos. The Intrepid Trail System is a network of singletrack hiking and mountain biking trails with family-friendly loops from one to nine miles in length that roll over slickrock outcroppings and skirt the edge of the impressive drop to the Colorado below. However, the obvious draw is the view from The Gooseneck, which looks over the Colorado River.

Want Capitol Reef? Drive The Burr Trail


The Burr Trail

The Burr Trail, cutting through the land. Credit:

The Burr Trail takes the adventurous traveler into some of Utah’s most beautiful and extraordinary country. Views of the Henry Mountains, the colorfully contorted Waterpocket Fold, red Circle Cliffs, and Long Canyon all await the traveler who wishes to drive this interesting back road. Numerous hikes and side trips are available for those with the time and inclination. Today, the road which connects Bullfrog and Boulder, and which passes through the painted rock country of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument land is known as the Burr Trail.

Want Yosemite? Visit Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe. Credit: Wikipedia

A year round destination, Lake Tahoe caters for skiiers in winter and hikers and adventure enthusiasts in the summer. Impeccable natural beauty and a huge range of watersports keep people visiting year after year. There are hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails all around the lake. They range in length, difficulty and popularity. One of the most famous of Tahoe’s trails is the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile (270-km) trail that circumnavigates the lake.

Want Yellowstone? Visit Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park

Harriman State Park. Credit:

Nothing can really compare to Yellowstone, with its hundreds of geothermic features and protected wildlife such as moose, bear, bison and elk. However if you’re into wildlife why not try nearby Harriman State Park. Located within an 11,000 acre wildlife refuge which is part of the greater Yellowstone area. Moose, Elk, and Sandhill Cranes are common, as is North America’s largest waterfowl, the Trumpeter Swan.


Do you have any other suggestions for national park alternatives? Please let me know below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share!


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Hayley is the author behind A Life of More, a travel and lifestyle blog with the goal of helping you to live a happier and more fulfilled life, whether you're currently travelling or happily settled.

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