In a world of crowded tourist hotspots, discover extraordinary experiences and serenity at lesser-known national park sites. Escape the crowds and enjoy untouched landscapes, rich history, and remarkable biodiversity.
Embark on an enchanting journey through the isolated islands of Dry Tortugas National Park. Marvel at the tidal pools, intriguing marine ecosystems, and fascinating history of this underrated wonder.
1. Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is a water-lovers paradise with a rich history of interconnected lakes and rugged landscapes. Named after the French-Canadian fur traders who navigated these waters in birchbark canoes, this wilderness area features a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy its wild beauty.
Boating is the most popular activity in Voyageurs and navigating the parks many lakes and islands offers a full appreciation of this unique Northwoods environment. The parks pristine lakes and forests also provide habitat for wildlife such as white-tailed deer, black bear, timber wolf, and moose.
A visit to the park wouldn’t be complete without seeing iconic landmarks such as the Kettle Falls, Ellsworth Rock Garden, and Little American Island. The park is a Dark Sky Sanctuary so don’t miss the opportunity to see the mesmerizing Northern Lights.
2. Congaree National Park
While some national parks, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, are household names with their own allure and majesty, there’s something to be said for a hidden gem. A prime example is Congaree National Park in South Carolina, which showcases the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.
Among its most notable features is the General Greene Tree, a bald cypress recognized as the largest in the state by the non-profit organization Trees SC. Hiking and wildlife viewing are popular pastimes at Congaree, and river otters are often spotted darting around the swamp.
Canoeing and kayaking are also available, though the park doesn’t offer its own guided wilderness tours, but you can rent equipment from third-party outfitters. And, from mid-May to mid-June, Congaree is renowned for hosting a population of synchronous fireflies—a natural phenomenon that defies science and mesmerizes visitors.
3. North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is home to rugged mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, and wildlife such as mule deer, black bears, and lynx. This park complex includes the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas and borders Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Visit to discover an alpine landscape shaped by moisture in the west and recurring fires in the east. Learn about the communities of plants and animals adapted to the harsh conditions, and see the sweeping vistas and epic trails that draw in hikers, climbers, rafters, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
To get the most out of this national park, be sure to plan ahead and bring your America the Beautiful National Park Pass. It’s the best way to save on entrance fees and explore all of these amazing parks for less!
4. Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is a place where the natural beauty of towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and vibrant wildflowers takes center stage. It’s a wholesome adventure where you can bond with family, learn together, and build memories amidst nature’s splendor.
Close to the mainland yet worlds apart, the five Channel Islands and encircling ocean harbor a remarkable diversity of natural and cultural resources. Here you can hike, snorkel, kayak, camp, birdwatch, photograph, sketch, and spend uninterrupted time with family or friends.
The parks’ rocky landscapes and island habitats support an impressive array of native wildlife. On land, you can spot four native mammals, including the sweet island fox and Townsend’s big-eared bat. In the water, you can explore the iconic kelp forests that shelter leopard sharks and California sea otters.
5. Olympic National Park
With its dynamic landscapes, Olympic National Park is like three parks in one. The mountainous interior features snow and glaciers, while the coast is characterized by wild beaches dotted with tide pools and sea stacks.
The Hoh Rain Forest is unrivaled in its beauty, home to Roosevelt elk and black bears. It’s also one of the only old-growth temperate rainforests in the Lower 48. Stroll through western red cedar, hemlocks, Sitka spruce and Pacific silver firs in this incredible ecosystem.
The park’s rugged Pacific coastline is home to sculpted sea stacks, tide pools, high bluffs and wildlife. Don’t miss the famous Rialto Beach trail or walking to Split Rock and Hole in the Wall, two massive rock formations along this shoreline.