When you think of our national parks, the first to come to mind are probably Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Glacier National Park. These iconic parks are treasures—and are also very well visited. But there are 63 national parks that are designated protected areas served by the National Park Service, and some of the lesser-known parks draw much smaller crowds. Consider these gems as you make upcoming travel plans.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
If you want to visit an island in an unexpected place, Isle Royale National Park is the ticket. Located in Michigan across Lake Superior, Isle Royale is an archipelago, a group of over 400 islands in the park. With 165 miles of trails and 36 campgrounds, this park offers lots to explore. Access to Isle Royale National Park takes some good planning. It’s open April 16 through October 31 and is only accessed by boat or seaplane, so make sure you research before you go.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
About 30 minutes south of Columbia, South Carolina, is the astoundingly biodiverse forest known as Congaree National Park. Conservationists will love that Congaree National Park is part of what’s called the Congaree Biosphere Region. This designation includes a collaborative framework of partners, both residents and diverse organizations, working to ensure sustainable resource use and development. Congaree National Park has opportunities for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
Located along the Indiana coastline of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Park offers different ways to enjoy this beautiful part of the country all year long. Biking, hiking, birdwatching, fishing, horseback riding, and even cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter are just some of the activities within this national park. The ecosystem of this park is diverse with a variety of birds, fish, and aquatic organisms. Inland from the shoreline are dune complexes with varied stages of plant successions.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Seventy miles west of Key West, the remote Dry Tortugas National Park is home to historical and natural wonders. The native flora of this park includes plant species that are common to the Caribbean. Historic Fort Jefferson is part of this 100-square mile park, one of the nation’s largest 19th century forts. Paddle sports, fishing, snorkeling and wildlife viewing are just some of the activities located in this unique landscape. Accessible only by boat or plane, so plan ahead.
Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
If you’ve always wanted to see Alaska, Lake Clark National Park is a great destination. The park is located just 100 miles from Anchorage and is home to mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, granite spears, and Alaska’s largest lake. Visitors can enjoy backcountry hiking, birding, wildlife, and so much more. The main entry port to the park is accessible only by plane, so a visit to the park requires some forethought and consideration.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California
Glaciers, caverns, lakes and ponds are part of the dynamic landscape that encompass the beautiful Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Giant sequoia trees are abundant in this wilderness that offers lots of recreation opportunities like hiking, backpacking, camping, and wildlife viewing.