Did you know there are almost 400 designated spots in the U.S. from the National Parks System? The most popular national parks are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains and the Everglades, yet there are others not many have heard of. They offer something unique by way of natural scenery and recreation. If you want to go to a national park that isn’t crowded you should definitely check out these five underrated national parks. Learn more on what they have for accommodations.
1.) Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
If you love hiking it’s the national park best suited for this activity. The hills were once the hideout for Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch. Capitol Gorge is where hikers go down a twisting canyon. Its unique feature is the 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth’s crust. This is called the Waterpocket Fold which is the “reef” in the park’s name.
The incredibly colorful mountains have layers upon layers from over 270 million years of sediment. These mountains stand 10,000 feet tall. Be sure to drive west along Route 12 to see the 1,400-year old Indian petroglyphs. In the town of Torrey is where the main gate is located to the park’s western edge. You will find several lodging facilities such as the Sandstone Inn.
2.) Great Basin National Park, Nevada
This is one of Nevada’s best kept secrets. In the town of Baker, Nevada you will find the Great Basin Visitor Center. At the park it’s a remote desert where you’ll see aspen, jack rabbits and wild flowers. The groves of gnarled bristlecone are said to be over 4,000 years old. You’ll find Lexington Arch, a rare above ground limestone arch, that is six stories high and one of the largest in the United States.
At the basin is 5,000 feet above sea level. If you love star gazing this is the park for you. It is one of the darkest spots in the continental U.S. at night, which is the perfect spot for stargazers. Come visit the marbled caves at Lehman Caves. There are campgrounds at the national park as well as nearby. Silver Jack Inn and The Getaway Cabin are nice motels for lodging.
3.) North Cascades National Park, Washington
It is one of the snowiest places on earth at North Cascades. They have at least 300 glaciers, more than half of the glaciers in the lower 48 states. Located fifty miles from Bellingham, Washington on the Canadian border is this picture-perfect from a postcard national park representing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
For hikers there is 400 miles of trails. The 12-mile roundtrip of Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail takes you past the waterfalls and glaciers and to some of the 127 alpine lakes. There are no campgrounds or lodging facilities at the national park. Nearby you can stay at the Ross Lake Resort or Stehekin Lodge Resort.
4.) Channel Islands National Park, California
One of the most obscure national parks located offshore from the heavily developed Southern California region. Did you know that fewer than 30,000 leave the California mainland to visit these islands? Five of the Channel Islands are protected by the National Park Services.
There is a boat tour that runs from late December to mid-March for the gray whale migrations. Another boat tour for the blue and humpback whales runs during the summer. The islands have 175 miles of untrammeled shores that is the perfect grounds for harbor seals and sea lions. For novice hikers there is an easy 1.5 mile trail, the Anacapa Loop, which goes along the island’s ridge lines.
You’ll find designated campgrounds on the islands. For other accommodations on the mainland in Ventura there is the Viking Motel and Mission Bell Motel.
5.) Biscayne National Park, Florida
Only a stone’s throw away from downtown Miami and nearby Homestead, Florida is another national park in the Sunshine State. It’s well known as one of the best places for snorkeling and scuba diving in the U.S. You’ll be able to swim with the manatees, barracudas, 500-pound groupers, and over 200 species of colorful fish. At least 95% of this national park is underwater. Islets and a mangrove forest are situated on the mainland.
Biscayne has over 173,000 acres of clear waters you’d see in the Caribbean. It also has one of the world’s largest coral reefs as well as 72 shipwrecks in the park. At Biscayne National Park the only campgrounds available are at Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key. Homestead offers lodging at their Redland Hotel. In Redland you can stay at the Grove Inn Country Guesthouse.
Whether you just want to take in the beauty of the park’s scenery, hike, camp, stargaze, whale watch, snorkel or scuba dive one of these underrated national parks offers these activities and more. You won’t find crowds of people or garbage strewn everywhere in these parks. They are untouched by man and as close to nature as you could possibly get without going out of the country. These U.S. national parks are one of the best kept secrets in this information age.
U.S. National Park Service – Experience Your America, National Park Service
Reid Bramblett, “America’s Most Underrated National Parks”, Travel and Leisure
Capitol Reef National Park Area, Utah.com
Baker, Nevada – The Heart of The Great Basin National Park, Great Basin Park
Hotel and Lodging North Cascades National Park, National Park Reservations
Channel Islands National Park Lodging Guide, Channel Island National Park
Biscayne National Park Lodging Guide, Biscayne National Park