Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Six must-see beaches at our national parks

Enderts Beach, Redwood National Park, courtesy of Redwoods NPS.
The following article was written for and originally appeared in the July 2016 Coach.net newsletter:

It’s summertime, and there’s almost no better place to be than the beach. The warmth of the sun upon your face, the sound of waves splashing against the shore, the blue water stretching into the horizon…Let’s go!

Among the most beautiful beaches you can visit are those in national parks. Thousands of miles of shoreline around lakes and along oceans are protected in our parks, and just like the wildlife and rock formations you’re apt to find in most of them the beaches won’t disappoint either.

Here are six must-see beaches at our national parks that can be reached via an RV.

Ocean Path Trail
Acadia National Park
Cobble beaches and hard bedrock make up most of the shoreline for the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds the Maine park’s many islands. A rare exception is the 4.4-miles round trip Ocean Path Trail that heads from a sand beach to sea cliffs.

Convoy Point
Biscayne National Park
This boardwalk trail is flat and easy, running along the Florida mangrove shore known as Convoy Point. You’ll follow the blue-green waters of Biscayne Bay and be able to spot some small, mangrove-covered islands. Bring a lunch; there’s a picnic area below palms overlooking the bay. Part of the boardwalk also takes you out over the water. As the bay is shallow and quite clear, you’ll have no trouble spotting the bottom.

Swiftcurrent Nature Trail
Glacier National Park
The first 0.6 miles of the trail at this Montana park heads through an evergreen forest with several short spur trails leading to beaches along Swiftcurrent Lake. Meltwater from Grinnell Glacier feeds lake, making for an crystal clear albeit cold water.

Leigh Lake Trail
Grand Teton National Park
Several alpine lakes perfect for a family outing sit at the Wyoming park’s central String Lake Area. The 1.8-mile round trip trail heads around a shimmering blue lake through green pines with gray Mount Moran soaring in the background. During summer, enjoy a picnic on the beach and then a swim in the cool waters.

Ruby Beach Trail
Olympic National Park
The Washington park’s Pacific Ocean shoreline features gushing sea stacks, piles of driftwood logs, and colorful, wave-polished stones. To enjoy all three, take the 1.4-mile Ruby Beach Trail. Some of the driftwood here has floated in from the distant Columbia River.

Coastal Trail
Redwood National Park
With more than 40 miles of pristine Pacific Ocean coastline, the northern California park is the perfect place to see tide pools and sea stacks. The latter are visible from many highway vistas but to get close up to a tide pool – a small body of saltwater that sustains many colorful sea creatures on the beach at low tide – explore the 1-mile segment (2-miles round trip) of the Coastal Trail at Enderts Beach south of Crescent City.

Rob Bignell is the author of several hiking guidebooks, including the bestselling Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.