The United States is home to 423 national park sites and 63 national parks that span over 84 million acres. While everyone has heard the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains, many lesser-known parks offer visitors solitude and beauty. Check out some of the least visited national parks in the country:
Located in the Southwestern part of Texas near the Mexican border, Big Bend National Park offers visitors views of the vast Chihuahuan Desert and impressive limestone canyons carved out of the Chisos Mountains by the Rio Grande millions of years ago.
Steep cliffs, ancient rock, and fierce waters—the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is dauntingly beautiful. This park contains some of the oldest geologic structures in North America and is perfect for visitors who seek adventure.
A must-see in New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to some of the largest caves in North America. This national park contains 119 caverns beneath the unique wildlife of the Chihuahuan Desert, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the subsurface limestone.
Tucked between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Mountains in Nevada, Great Basin National Park is home to a diverse range of spectacles. From the incredible Lehman Caves to the 13,063-foot summit of Wheeler Peak, this park offers an abundance of beauty.
Set against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Great Sand Dunes contain over 5 billion cubic meters of sand spanning over 30 miles. Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to some of the steepest and most impressive dunes in North America.
Containing some of the highest peaks in Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is filled with canyons, deserts, dunes, and of course, mountains. This park also protects the largest Permian fossil reef in the world.
Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park is home to a wide array of island wildlife and stunning views. This park spans 850 square miles of clear waters and vast forests and is only accessible by boat or plane.
The unique towering rock structures seen at Pinnacles National Park were formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. Located in the Gabilan Mountains in eastern California, this national park is home to incredibly diverse wildlife.
Located in the vast wilderness in Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers visitors views of boiling mud pots and active fumaroles that emit steam and volcanic gases. This park is home to Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world.
Spanning over 218,055 acres, Voyageurs National Park is an aquatic park that blends the beauty of the southern boreal and northern hardwood forests with the vastness of the waterways flowing into the Hudson Bay.
Here are some state parks and national park sites that are so beautiful you’ll wonder how they haven’t received the “national park” status:
- Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
- Colorado National Monument, Colorado
- Custer State Park, South Dakota
- Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin
- Eldorado Canyon State Park, Colorado
- Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee
- Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin
- Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
- Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
- White River National Forest, Colorado
Here are the days national parks will be free this year:
Monday, Jan. 16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
Saturday, April 22 (The start of National Park Week)
Friday, Aug. 4 (Great American Outdoors Day)
Saturday, Sept. 23 (National Public Lands Day)
Saturday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day)
By Emma Maring, TDS Communications Intern
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