CLOSE The coronavirus pandemic has canceled a lot of things, but your summer vacation doesn't have to be one of them. USA TODAYThe summer road trip, a
The coronavirus pandemic has canceled a lot of things, but your summer vacation doesn’t have to be one of them.
USA TODAYThe summer road trip, a long-standing American tradition, has taken on new relevance amid the coronavirus pandemic.As states begin to reopen, Americans are starting to venture out of their homes and attempt travel for the first time in months, reports The American South, a project from the USA TODAY Network. Any form of travel still carries risks, especially if you are considering going across state lines or to places where COVID-19 case numbers are still on the rise. However, travel by car, especially to outdoor areas where you can maintain social distance, is considered one of the safer activities in this new normal.If you are looking to avoid the crowds but need to leave your living room, there are dozens of natural gems scattered across the Southeast within an hour or two from most major cities. The parks listed below offer a needed respite from home while also helping you avoid crowds and maintain safe distance from others in this time.Heads up: Road trips won’t be the same this summer. Here’s what you should plan forWhile states are lifting restrictions that make it easier to travel, health officials caution that any form of travel does carry some risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published recommendations for anyone considering travel at this time. Travelers are urged to look at any updated travel restrictions specifically if they are planning to travel out of state.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideRed Bluff — Foxworth, MississippiIt’s not THE Grand Canyon, but Red Bluff, more commonly known as “The Little Grand Canyon” is a much more accessible alternative. Located about two hours south of Jackson, Miss., Red Bluff is a rapidly eroding canyon that gets its name from the bright red and orange clay that colors this geologic formation.This mini canyon continues to expand due to erosion from the nearby Pearl River and continuous rainfall. It offers beautiful views off of its 400 ft high bluffs for hikers interested in taking a day trip.It’s important to note that it can be difficult to access during times of significant rainfall. Congaree National Park Hopkins, South CarolinaSouth Carolina: Congaree National Park – Discover 25 miles of hiking trails and a 2.4-mile boardwalk at Congaree National Park. For a change of pace, observe the forest from the vantage of the water by paddling down marked water trails in your canoe or kayak. (Photo: Denton Rumsey, Shutterstock.com)Home to one of the largest tracts of wetlands forests in the United States, the Congaree National Park offers a variety of activities from nearly 25 miles of hiking trails to canoeing and fishing. While parts of the park are still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, some trails and areas of the park reopened to visitors late last month. For more information click here.Fort Pickens (Gulf Islands National Seashore) Visitors enjoy the sunshine and warm weather at Fort Pickens Sunday, May 17, 2020. (Photo: John Blackie/[email protected])Pensacola, Florida, Ala., Miss. seashoreWhile the summertime crowds have begun to return in droves to nearby Pensacola Beach, Fort Pickens offers a quieter alternative. The historic military fort is located on Santa Rosa Island between Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, Florida near the Alabama border. Even before the pandemic, the beaches surrounding the fort tended to be far less crowded than the alternative just 10 minutes up the road.The loneliest road trip: I drove across the country during coronavirus. Here’s what I saw.Like all national parks in the Southeast, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is in a phased reopening, so some areas of the park may be off limits to the public. For more information click here.Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, VirginiaThe Linn Cove Viaduct, part of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. (Photo: Getty Images)It’s quite possibly one of the most scenic road trips in the Southeast. The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches across the southern to central Appalachians offering stunning views of the highest mountain peaks in the eastern United States. The National Park Service began a phased reopening of most of the parkway starting May 15. While some portions remain closed and restrictions are in place to limit crowds, drivers have access to many of the parks most popular natural attractions.More information is available here.Cloudland Canyon State Park Rising Fawn, GeorgiaPrimary overlook at Cloudland Canyon State Park (Photo: RobHainer/Getty Images/iStockphoto)Located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain in northwest Georgia, this park offers breathtaking views of the nearly 1,800 ft gorge carved into the rocks. The park also features sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, hiking and mountain biking trails.While state parks in Georgia are open to the public, park rangers are limiting the number of visitors to ensure social distancing. Camping is available by reservation only. For more information click here.When will travel return? Predictions for cruises, international destinations, toursSavage Gulf State Natural Areas (Palmer, Tennessee)
The Great Stone Door in Savage Gulf State Natural Area offers the best overlook on the Cumberland Plateau.
)With more than 15,000 acres of wide-open space, this park has over 50 miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, and rugged terrain. It’s located within the South Cumberland State Park system about an hour and a half north of Chattanooga, so it’s easy to get to for a quick day trip.Tickfaw State Park (Maurepas, Louisiana)It’s easy to explore the swamp and wetlands at Tickfaw State Park, La., along boardwalks that stretch for more than a mile. (Photo: Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks)This 1,200 acre park is one of the quickest escapes to a natural setting if you live in Southeast Louisiana. With boardwalk trails through cypress swamps and surrounding bottomland hardwood forests, it’s a welcome break from the crowds. All state parks in Louisiana have remained open during the pandemic with the exception of three sites. Guests are required to social distance. Starting June 12, out of state visitors will be allowed to use overnight accommodations at the parks.Time to think: How to plan the perfect 3-day weekend trip once you start traveling againBankhead National Forest (Double Springs, Alabama)Beautiful Caney Creek Falls in the William B Bankhead National Forest of Alabama. (Photo: Wirepec, Getty Images/iStockphoto)Want to explore the canyons, waterfalls and thick forests of Northwest Georgia but can’t make the drive? Located less than two hours north of Birmingham, Ala., the Bankhead National Forest is one of four in the state. The Sipsey Wilderness trail is the largest wilderness area in Alabama with dozens of waterfalls. While most of the park is open the public, some areas and facilities remain closed due to COVID-19. For more information click here.Maria Clark is a general assignment reporter with The American South. Story ideas, tips, questions? Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @MariaPClark1. Sign up for The American South newsletter.Travel uptick: Airlines, hotels hope holiday weekend travel revival points to COVID-19 comebackLas Vegas Strip reopening scenes: Foot traffic light, but Bellagio fountains dancingAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideRead or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/experience/america/2020/06/05/coronavirus-safe-road-trips-take-summer-south/3153137001/Find New & Used CarsNew CarsUsed CarsofPowered by Cars.com