Culture Call: Five Lesser-Known US National Parks We Love

All this time in the great indoors has accelerated our need to get into the great outdoors - and no, we're not talking about the city park two blocks away. We're hankering for vast, open spaces, the odd herd of deer and redwoods so tall they block out the clouds. Basically, something that's miles away from supermarket shortages and the need to repeatedly sanitise our hands. So we're seeking solace in America's back garden, specifically these five national parks that are as easy on the eye as they are the crowds. Stick on your North Face and grab a hiking pole; it's (hopefully almost) time to break out into the wilderness.

Call of the wild: five national parks we can't wait to visit again

Saguaro National Park


Why we can't wait to visit again: Being cooped up with our housemates has left us feeling a bit prickly, so we're setting off for some much-needed desert downtime. After tackling the easy-going Valley View Overlook Trail that's littered with blooming Saguaro cacti, we're decamping to nearby Tucson. Arizona's oldest city is more of a small bohemian town than a thriving metropolis, especially since it's heavy on the kooky vibes - helped by its cosmology-obsessed residents. Stop by the well-curated boutique Bon before chowing down on tacos at America's oldest Mexican restaurant. El Charro Café has spent nearly 100 years perfecting the guac-to-salsa ratio and we think it's nailed it.

Where we're staying: Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort

Before you go: Seek out a copy of Legends of the American Desert by Alex Shoumatoff. Think of the author as an ideal dinner party guest who likes to share fascinating anecdotes about past and present desert dwellings.

Lassen Volcanic National Park


Why we can't wait to visit again: Sure, Yosemite might be California's adult answer to Disneyland, but with 4 million visitors a year we're rain-checking the crowds queuing to crawl up crevices and heading to its steamier sister, Lassen. Four types of volcano, bubbling mud cauldrons and scorched ash trails await if you climb Cinder Cone, while Kings Creek Falls takes you along a pretty creek before leading you to a fern-trimmed waterfall that looks like it starred in Jurassic Park. You'll find us looping back round the trail and making for Manzanita Lake at sunset, kayak and ready-to-roast s'mores in tow.

Where we're staying: Highlands Ranch Resort

Before you go: Download the back catalogue of The Lavocast podcast. Hosted by park rangers and featuring audio stories from the park, it provides good listening material for the three-hour drive from Sacramento.

North Cascades National Park


Why we can't wait to visit again: To properly flex our crampons. After being confined to the same four walls, we're planning on following the mountain goats and climbing up the side of snow-capped peaks in a week-long escapade. Ticking all the boxes - piercing glaciers, thick forests and resident deer grazing on high meadows - North Cascades' diverse terrain is more suited to serious backcountry hikers than weekend RV rentals. Seeking a bit of fresh air and a leisurely stroll? You're better off visiting Washington's other two national parks: Olympic and Mount Rainier.

Where we're staying: In one of these floating cabins on Ross Lake.

Before you go: Read The Dharma Bums. In his (brief) stint as a Park Service fire spotter, beat poster-boy Jack Kerouac holed himself up in a cabin on Desolation Peak and found inspiration for two novels. Do the same - hallucinations, optional.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve


Why we can't wait to visit again: It's exactly what you want from the Alaskan wilderness: cloud-tickling mountains, turquoise lakes and pines so perfect they wouldn't look out of place dangling from the rear-view mirror of a 4x4. This place is a nature lover's idea of porn. Unlike the rest of Alaska, the park isn't too hard to reach and is ideal for any first-time forays into the area. Simply drive the few hundred miles from Anchorage to Port Alsworth - known as the gateway to Lake Clark - before hiking to Tanalian Mountain. A moderate-level hike (read: less-exhausting than Barry's Bootcamp) to be rewarded with 360-degree views of the lake.

Where we're staying: We're going full frontier and staying in a tent on the shores of the lake. Unlike most national parks, Lake Clark is trail free meaning you can pitch up pretty much wherever you like.

Before you go: Try to get your hands on a copy of Alone in the Wilderness. The 60s documentary follows naturalist Dick Proenneke in his quest to build a cabin in the remote surrounds.

Rocky Mountain National Park


Why we can't wait to visit again: Because who wouldn't want to drive the Trail Ridge Road (aka the "Highway to the Sky") the moment we've allowed to leave our lockdown pads? Nothing embodies the sense of freedom more than a good old American road trip, so we're reactivating our Turo account and shoving boots, boards and bikinis - and the kitchen stove - into the back of a family saloon. The Rockies aren't exactly a hidden gem, but there's nothing wrong with answering the familiar call of the wild sometimes.

Where we're staying: The Hygge Chalet and Sauna

Before you go: Rewatch The Shining… but have old South Park re-runs ready for when you finish and want something less toe-curling to binge.

The Lowdown

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Culture Call: Five Lesser-Known Destinations in Alaska We Love