Thanks to social media, more attention is being paid to the US National Parks than ever before. Everyone has the ability to see the beautiful vistas and delightful wildlife from the comfort of their own homes due to the availability of high res images. These photos have also inspired more and more people to actually go out and visit these national parks themselves. This is great news, and means that more people are discovering the beauty this country has to offer and see first hand what makes our national parks and monuments so special.
However, there are downsides to more visitors. In any natural environment, a large crowd makes it harder to enjoy the secluded trails and beauty of a quiet visit to a naturally preserved place. Instead of hearing birds chirping, you hear feet crunching and voices chatting along the trials. The good news is that this country offers over 50 national parks to visit, and some tend to draw far fewer visitors than their beauty deserves. Here, Ranger Mac will take a look at some of the most underrated national parks in the US, offering you new destination locations with fewer visitors and more refreshing solitude!
This park is the second largest in the US, spanning an astounding 8.5 million acres. It housed a small number of only 10,000 visitors in 2016 due to its remote location. If you're a self-sufficient traveler and enjoy a rugged road adventure, you should definitely add this park to your list. Once you reach this quiet park, you will be greeted with beautiful mountain views, scenic rivers, and diverse wildlife. It’s advisable to stick to late spring and summer months to visit, as the temperatures drop to a frigid -20 to -50 degrees in the fall and winter months.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
This park is far less visited than both Mt. Rainier or Olympic National Park, but it packs some serious punch as a vacation destination. You can head out on a 4.5-mile hike that will take you to Blue Lake, taking you through lush forests and alpine meadows with beautiful views of the snowcapped mountains. Make a day of it, pack yourself a picnic, and set up in a great spot where the kids can splash in the water while you sit and enjoy the view. Once you’re done lounging, hop back into your car and take the North Cascade scenic byway into the quaint, quiet little town of Winthrop, and enjoy a nice evening there.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
This park offers so much more than meets the eye. While above ground, this quiet park has dozens of outdoor actives with everything from fishing and backpacking in the summer months to skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. However, it’s the Lehman Caves that have the biggest draw for visitors to the park. While this park does have a larger crowd during the summer months, it’s a great place for the adventurous person to get out and explore in relative peace and quiet in the winter. You can also take the 12-mile Wheeler Peak scenic drive to a great overlook of the park.
This park sits just east of El Paso and is often passed up for the more popular Big Bend National Park. Head to this hidden gem, and you won’t be disappointed. This park is home to the four tallest mountain peaks in Texas, as well as the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef. There are many hiking trails to choose from, as well as great camping options. The best part about this park is the minimal light pollution, providing a great evening view of the Milky Way. With no reservations needed for camping, grab your family and head to this park for some camping and stargazing.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
There’s a good reason why this park is one of the most underrated. That’s because it is quite literally an island in the wildest part of the Midwest. While it’s relatively remote and can easily be overlooked, you really should check it out. There’s a lot to do for a family here, from kayaking to hiking to finding the most beautiful views of Lake Superior. You can check out the islands on the lake inside this park, or brave the waters to scuba dive and check out the National Park Service’s largest collection of intact shipwrecks.
Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio
This national park is within driving distance of Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, and features beautiful trails, waterfalls, and countryside. If you travel here in the winter, you can get in some good skiing and sledding. If you choose to go in the summer months, you can raft the Cuyahoga River or hike to Brandywine Falls. This park is a great place to have some family fun.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Dry Tortugas is located on the southwestern tip of the Florida Keys, making it closer to Cuba than the mainland US. To get to this park, you’ll have to take a boat or a seaplane. Due to its remote location, the National Park Service does not offer as much in the way of recreational activities. However, once here, you can explore the island at your own pace, visit Fort Jefferson, and learn all about the fascinating history of the area. The views are beautiful and the area full of rich history. If you’re looking for adventure and ready to explore a truly remote location (without being completely isolated from society), then this could be the park for you.
These are just a few of the lesser-known national parks that this country has to offer. There are reasons why these areas were given the status of “national park,” and if you take the time to get out there and explore the trails less traveled, you will find beautiful, peaceful scenery and exciting adventures!