As couples continue to move away from cliché, pre-packaged honeymoons, the natural grandeur and adventure of our national parks seem more alluring than ever. And while each and every national park has something unique to offer, some are still better than others. For your honeymoon, it’s best to steer clear of the tourist crowds, but still have the amenities and offerings for a comfortable, private, romantic experience. Here are a couple of the parks we recommend exploring. Go ahead—the great outdoors are calling.
Death Valley National Park
If heat is what you’re after for your honeymoon, there is no better place to do it than the heart of Death Valley, where temperatures can skyrocket well into the 110s and 120s. But don’t fret—thanks to a renovation and the unveiling of some adorable, wonderfully private casitas, the elegant Oasis at Death Valley has never seemed cooler. When it’s too hot to do anything but relax during the day, you can luxuriate in their spring-fed pool. And once the sun goes down and the temperature levels off, enjoy a drink on the outdoor stargazing deck—with hardly any light pollution in the area, Death Valley is also a spectacular place for you and your spouse to watch the stars.
Shenandoah National Park
It has long been said that Virginia is for lovers, and the quieter towns in the state’s Shenandoah Valley are perfect fodder for a road trip honeymoon. Fly into Richmond, pick up a car, then make your way through Monticello wine country, Charlottesville, and all the picturesque Shenandoah Valley farm towns that are as American as apple pie. The historic, newly-renovated Blackburn Inn in Staunton is a great place to set up shop. Located just steps from the heart of one of the South’s most charming small towns, there is plenty of theater, dining, and antiquing. And with easy access for day trips into Shenandoah National Park for day hikes, you can throw in sweeping mountain views and long lazy trips down the scenic Skyline Drive.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There are few landscapes more quintessentially American than the rolling hills of Tennessee—and the best way to experience them is to wake up in the privacy of your own standalone suite in the heart of them at Blackberry Farm. Not only is the farm-to-table food absolutely out of control (the property is part of Relais & Chateaux), but the miles and miles of hiking trails and easy connection to the national park makes for countless days of exploring one of the South’s most treasured landscapes.
Glacier National Park
Nothing beats the rugged scenery and untamed landscapes in this northwestern Montana national park. It’s a year-round destination with no shortage of activities. The ideal place to stay is Grouse Mountain Lodge, which is located eight miles from the national park and just seconds from the heart of adorable Whitefish, which has plenty of restaurants, bars, and shopping to keep you occupied as you rest between outdoor excursions.
Yosemite National Park
Waterfalls, river rafting, hiking, stargazing, natural wildlife...there is ample adventure to explore at Yosemite, and at just a three hour drive from San Francisco International Airport, it’s one of the country’s more accessible national parks (and consequently, a great thing to combine with some time in Napa or maybe the Lake Tahoe as well). For romance and privacy, consider opting into the honeymoon package at Tenaya Lodge. It includes a couples’ massage, a bottle of champagne upon check-in, and a rose petal turndown service.
Denali National Park
It’s quite rare to find a privately owned lodge inside of a national park, but Sheldon Chalet is on a parcel of private land that predates not only Denali National Park, but also Alaska’s statehood. Getting there is a bit of a challenge (the only way in is by helicopter); there is no other way) but once you arrive at the lodge, you can enjoy one of the country’s best examples of backcountry luxury. The staff greets you with an Alaskan seafood and champagne reception, and nights are spent by the comfort of a crackling fireplace as the aurora borealis dances all around you. And best of all, there are only ever 10 guests at a time, so privacy is hardly an issue.