Five Obscure National Parks Worth a Visit
The United States is filled with popular parks that get scores of attention each year. Many of the most popular parks are overcrowded during peak season, while others in the National Parks system are under utilized. If you’re looking to plan your next adventure, we encourage you to consider taking the road less traveled, and visit a National Park that isn’t named Yosemite or Yellowstone.
The National Parks below are often overlooked because they are located in remote areas and hard to reach. Still, that doesn’t mean that they are less spectacular than their popular counterparts are. In fact, these secluded spots, offer an immense reward. Not only are they rich in natural beauty, but they also offer a one-of-a-kind experience that engages all your senses. Whether you are trying to impress a date, or just want to get away from it all, you will appreciate these five national treasures.
Beyond the flurry of flashing neon lights, the Great Basin National Park beckons visitors away from slot machines and entertainment venues. This buried gem sits on Vegas’ eastern border, offering a rare opportunity to witness the Milky Way twinkling against the dark night sky. If you’re looking for solitude, you will find miles of secluded trails to explore. Bask in the desert air as you admire 5,000-year old bristle-cone pine trees. Hike Mt. Wheeler for a panoramic view of the beautiful terrain. Walk through stalactite lined pathways to marvel at rare shield formations inside the Lehman Caves. You will also discover over 800 plant species and 60 types of mammals.
Tucked away in a remote territory south of the equator, the National Park of American Samoa sits on 13,500 acres of lush vegetation. Still, this is no ordinary plot of land. Once a military outpost, the park comprises three islands and five groups of rain-forests. Each area offers a unique experience. If you can get by with only a few essentials, and remember to lather your skin with mosquito repellent, you will appreciate this tropical paradise. The park is home to over 900 species of fish and 250 different coral species. You will have the opportunity to catch glimpses of fruit bats, sea turtles, and humpback whales. Opt for the park’s home-stay program, so you can immerse yourself in the Samoan culture. You’ll stay in a traditional village, eat home-cooked meals made from the area’s rich resources, and participate in customs and crafts.
As you can imagine, with a name like Gates of the Arctic, this park is for the brave of heart. It sits right in the center of Alaska and is four times the size of Yellowstone Park. To get here, you must travel by an air taxi or seaplane. There are no roads, no trails, no signs, no toilets, and no cell phone service. Moreover, grizzly bears exceed the number of humans, bugs are plentiful, and the weather can change from sunny to stormy without notice. Fearless travelers are rewarded with stunning views of unspoiled land. Enjoy glacier-carved valleys, crystal-clear lakes, and breathtaking mountains. For a chance to experience nature like never before, grab your backpack and trek through the tussock-covered terrain, or kayak down a fast-flowing river. Even if you wrote a book on surviving the wilderness, it is best to book your trip with an experienced guide.
A cluster of seven islands set the scene for Dry Tortugas National Park. Seaplanes and ferries stand by on the Garden Key to take adventurers to the site. With Fort Jefferson as its centerpiece, the park features a vast expanse of sea, sand, and coral reef. It’s a perfect spot for bird watchers, underwater explorers, and history buffs. Springtime brings over 300 different birds to the peaceful region and sea turtles line the sandy shores with nests to lay their eggs. Dive underwater to explore coral reefs swarming with fascinating marine life that fill the waters. Or, embark on a journey on a sunken ship to look for cultural artifacts. Be prepared to set up a tent on the primitive campground, because it is the only accommodation option allowed for overnight guests.
Although the North Cascades is only about 100 miles from Seattle, relatively few people have experienced this diverse ecosystem. Nevertheless, wilderness buffs love it here. On a back-country hike, you will trek through alpine trees, climb steep trails, scale conifer-clad mountains, and pass glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls. Don’t miss the opportunity to stay on the remote campgrounds. North Cascades National Park shelters black-tailed deer, gray wolves, moose, grizzly bears, and over 200 bird species. Although rarely seen, bobcats and mountain lions balance out the wildlife population. If you want to disconnect from the grid for a few days, put North Cascades National Park on the top of your list.