It's Summertime, And The Options Are Many In The National Park System

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Summertime, for many, equates with beach time, and there’s no shortage of that in the National Park System.

From the 10 national seashores that line the country’s coasts to the four national lakeshores that rim the Great Lakes, the park system offers you plenty of fresh and saltwater options when it comes to escaping the heat. You can take a sea kayak out, pitch your beach umbrella, or go in search of shells to add to your collection.

If you're not familiar with all of the lakeshores and seashores, this guide will help you get the basics down. Greg Breining opens the feature on national lakeshores by taking to the Lake Superior waters of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan in his sea kayak, and from there we provide overviews of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Each offers its own unique watery experience in the National Park System.

My own trip to Cape Lookout National Seashore provided the backdrop for the article on the 10 national seashores: Cape Cod, Fire Island, Assateague, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, Cumberland Island, Canaveral, Gulf Islands, Padre Island, and Point Reyes. As with the lakeshores, each of the seashores brings its own distinct personality to the National Park System. You could tie together a trip to several in one long vacation and find something unique in each.

But summer vacations also encourage exploration out on the open road, and Patrick Cone, Traveler's special projects editor, has highlighted some great trips that allow you to take in several parks during one excursion. Ever consider visiting Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, or Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah? Patrick takes a look at those destinations in a feature of four roadtrips to add to your to-do list.

Of course, traveling to the parks means finding great places to stay, and our summer guide takes a look at the gateway towns of Estes Park, on the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Bryce Canyon City, the front door to Bryce Canyon National Park.

We also take a look at how the Millennial generation views the national parks and the outdoors. Are they averse to roughing it in the outdoors? Have they turned their backs on their parents' version of a wonderful family vacation? To tackle that story, we brought in a Millennial, Carli Jones. Carli, a University of Utah student, is interning at the Traveler this summer and will bring her generation's perspective to our pages in the months ahead. (She convinced us to get on Instagram)

Like to hike in the parks? Michael Lanza and his family discovered some fantastic day hikes at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state and shares them with you. We even turned to our Facebook audience of more than 110,000 for suggestions on family hikes in the parks and came away with a rich list. With so much to do in the National Park System in summer, it's a shame that the season is so sort.

In exploring all these great destinations, we even turned over a new card: National Park Trading Cards. Contributing writer Danny Bernstein took a look at this program, and came up impressed...and with a desire to start her own collection.

We'll be rolling these stories out in the months to come to keep summer, and summer destinations, alive. We think you'll enjoy them.