Flash Bucket List of Cool End-of-Summer Activities

Memorial Day is but a faint memory. Independence Day came and went. Now, with Labor Day looming, you’re wondering where the heck summer went—exactly. But don’t stop yet. You can curl up in a blanket on the couch in January and February, promise—unless, you’re a snowbird basking in the sunshine and warm temperatures of a Sunbelt state.

Not to fret, it’s not too late for a last-hurrah to close the summer out right.

There is no shortage of must-see destinations throughout the U.S., and late summer is an opportunity to witness America’s beauty at its best.

Enjoy the sights and sounds of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with a drive along the 36-mile scenic loop road (South Unit). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy the sights and sounds of Theodore Roosevelt National Park with a drive along the 36-mile scenic loop road (South Unit). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But where to go? A flash bucket list of Great American Summer activities follow. So hop in the RV for one final road trip and head to the one nearest you, or get inspired to recreate some of this summer magic in a state park or local recreation area near your own fair city. Either way, you’ve got a few final weeks of heat and sun to make this summer one for the books. Don’t waste it.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

This austere landscape is home to a surprisingly dense population of wildlife. Bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, wild horses, and bighorn sheep inhabit the park, as do numerous smaller mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

And perhaps best of all is the shortage of human beings. This relatively isolated park is hardly ever crowded (753,880 visitors in 2016), so you can experience the gorgeous loneliness of the badlands much the way Roosevelt did more than a hundred years ago.

Wild burros make a frequent appearance along the prairie grasslands and pine-speckled hills of the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild burros make a frequent appearance along the prairie grasslands and pine-speckled hills of the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop Road. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Custer State Park in the beautiful Black Hills of western South Dakota is full of lush forests, quiet and serene meadows, and majestic mountains. Few truly wild places remain in this country. Custer State Park is one of them.

Today, nearly 1,300 bison wander the park’s 71,000 acres of mountains, hills, and prairie, which they share with a wealth of wildlife including pronghorn antelope, elk, white-tailed and mule deer, big horn sheep, mountain goats, coyotes, wild turkeys, a band of burros, and whole towns of adorable prairie dogs.

Adairsville is Georgia’s first National Historic Register City. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adairsville is Georgia’s first National Historic Register City. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adairsville, Georgia

A visit to this Norman Rockwell kind of town is a must for anyone who loves history, antiquing, and good food.

Adairsville, nestled in the Oothcalooga Valley, is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 130 homes and businesses are designated as historic properties. Adairsville still has its 1847 frame depot and many historic homes and old business blocks. The depot displays over 100 years of history.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of Lookout Mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Opened in 1895, the Incline Railway transports passengers up the steepest part of Lookout Mountain that at its extreme reaches an incline of 72.7 percent, making it one of the steepest passenger railways in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga lies in a valley in southeastern Tennessee between the Appalachian and the Cumberland mountains. Chattanooga sits on both banks of the Tennessee River at Moccasin Bend and is bordered by Signal Mountain on the north and Lookout Mountain to the south which shelters the city from major weather systems.

Tennessee’s fourth largest city with a population of 175,000, Chattanooga has a downtown elevation of 680 feet; Lookout Mountain is 2,388 feet in height. The city is a great family destination with lots of things to do and see.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Seeing this rainbow of muted colors within the badlands of Cedar Breaks creates a fantasyland you never could have imagined. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seeing this rainbow of muted colors within the badlands of Cedar Breaks creates a fantasyland you never could have imagined. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Cedar Breaks National Monument looks down into a majestic geologic amphitheater, a three-mile long cirque of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone.

The park is known for its spectacularly colored cliffs, bright blue skies, and breathtaking 100-mile views of the Great Basin. Take the scenic drive, wander among timeless bristlecone pines, ponder crystal-clear night skies, experience the richness of a subalpine forest.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

About 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde for their home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, a group of people living in the Four Corners region chose Mesa Verde for their home. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde, Spanish for “green table”, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects these sites, some of the most notable and best preserved in the U.S.

More than 4,000 archaeological sites have been preserved, including hundreds of homes and villages that date back to the 12th century.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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