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Three people admiring the vista at a Grand Canyon lookout point
Gary M. Smillie | Adobe Stock

7 Unique Things to Do in the US National Parks This Summer

Hiking, kayaking, and wildlife watching are all great ways to spend a day in one of America’s 63 national parks. But if you’re looking for something a little different, check out these seven unique activities you can do in national parks.

From sand sledding to spelunking, these fun adventures will make for an unforgettable national park trip this summer. 

Sand Sledding, White Sands National Parks

Person sledding down a dune at White Sands National Park in New Mexico, United States
Andriy Blokhin | Adobe Stock

Sledding in the desert? It can be done at White Sands National Park. The park’s beautiful white dunes not only look like snow, but can be sledded on just like you would on a wintery hill. 

Since the sand isn’t slippery like snow, you’ll want to use a waxed plastic snow saucer (buy at the park’s gift shop or bring your own) for the best results.

Monitor Whales for Science, Channel Island National Park

Why not help whales while you watch them? If you’re headed out whale spotting in Channel Island National Park, you can become a citizen scientist for the day by downloading the official Whale Alert app

Use the app to report sightings of whales, and the data is used to help prevent whale ship strikes and entanglements. 

Ride the Grand Canyon Railway, Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon railway passing by on train tracks
tomalu | Adobe Stock

Travel in style through Grand Canyon National Park aboard the Grand Canyon Railway. This historic train whisks passengers on a 65-mile scenic trip from Williams, Arizona all the way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and back.

Unique train cars offer observation domes, open-air platforms, and oversized windows from which to observe the park’s scenery.

Get Your Dog Sworn in as a Bark Ranger, Various Parks

You might never live out your dream of becoming a park ranger for the National Park Service (NPS), but your dog can become an official Bark ranger, which is the next best thing. At various parks throughout the US, dogs and their owners can take Bark Ranger classes. 

Participants will learn the four important BARK principals:

  • Bag your pet’s waste
  • Always leash your pet
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Know where you can go

Upon completion of the course, dogs will earn the right to wear a special Bark Ranger collar tag that shows off their new important position with the NPS. 

Watch the First Sunrise in the United States, Acadia National Park

Sunrise in Acadia National Park, United States
mandritoiu | Adobe Stock

From October 7 to March 6, Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the country where the sun rises. Since you can drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, this morning ritual is hugely popular, and you’ll need to make a vehicle reservation in advance in order to visit. 

Or, make the sunrise even more special by hiking to the top (no reservation required). 

Become a Park Employee for a Day, Everglades National Park

Considering a career change to become a NPS ranger? Try the job on for size first at Everglades National Park’s Park Employee for a Day Geocache Trail

Find five caches hidden along the Main Park Road, each of which contain real-world case study about the park. Log your find and share your solution to the problems, which helps provide valuable feedback to the park.

Watch a Sled Dog Demonstration, Denali National Park

Park ranger at Denali National Park giving a sled dog demonstration in the summer
NPS Photo / Claire Abendroth

If you want to watch the adorable sled dogs of Denali National Park in action, the best time to visit is actually in the summer. During the winter, the dogs are hard at work helping rangers patrol the park.

In the off-season, June through early September, sled dog demonstrations are held three times daily so visitors can witness this traditional Alaskan method of transportation. 

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