Top 5 National Parks (Off the beaten path)
Spring is practically here, and we know that means, it’s time to hit those National Parks. While we love the parks, they can get crowded, clustered and be a bit overwhelming, especially from April through September. Who wants to hike down an epic trail with hundreds of people? Not us. We’ve compiled a list of rad U.S. National Parks across the nation that are more “secret” and less crowded.
- Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Originally a national monument, this area became an International Biosphere Reserve and a Globally Important Bird Area before being designated as a National Park, the first and only in its state.
It’s is primarily distinct because it is the largest tract of old-growth floodplain forest remaining in North America, and some of its trees are the tallest on its side of the continent. The Boardwalk Loop is an elevated walkway for visitors venturing through its swamps.
Other fun activities here include hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, canoeing and kayaking.
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capitol Reef National Park features the stunning Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile geologic monocline, which is like a wrinkle on the Earth that reveals its geologic layers.Other natural features are monoliths, sandstone domes, cliffs, canyons and bridges.
In addition to its biological soil crusts, black boulders, stromatolite fossils, and tracks from the triassic era, this wild place has some of the best night sky viewing of all of the western national parks. Camping, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, biking, horseback riding and scenic drives offer visitors all sorts of outdoor play.
3. Big Bend National Park, Texas
They say everything in Texas is bigger, and this place is no exception. Where the Rio Grande River makes its wide turn through the Chihuahuan Desert, a whole host of delight is revealed.
This is a world-class geological area, with laccoliths, faults, volcanoes and remarkable fossils – including a world-record pterosaur and 50-foot crocodile. Ten-thousand-year-old archeological sites reveal a unique cultural history, and a diversity of wildlife make these wild lands a birder’s paradise.
Visitors can hike, fish, ride horseback, boat, go for a scenic drive, take a dip in a natural hot spring, or just lay back and take a marvelous gander at beautifully clear night skies – perhaps even seeing as far as two million light years away to the Andromeda galaxy!
- Sequoia National Park, California
One of California’s best kept secret, this giant forest contains the world’s largest tree named General Sherman, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. (Mount Whitney), over 240 marble caverns and the granite dome Moro Rock. Since it’s close to Yosemite it’s constantly overlooked and under-utilized, it borders Kings Canyon National Park, which together encompass hundreds of thousands of pristine acres, of which more than 90% is designated Wilderness.
Unreal hikes, Scenic drives, campgrounds, rock climbing and winter sports attract many visitors year-round. Rivers can be hazardous for swimming or boating, but fishing is permitted.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Kīlauea Volcano has erupted almost continuously since 1983, adding about 500 acres of new land to the island’s southern shore. This park is also one of the most fascinating biologically because it sits at the southeastern edge of the youngest and largest island of the geographically isolated Hawaiian archipelago.
Varied elevation contributes to a wide diversity of habitat for many species including native carnivorous caterpillars and endangered Hawksbill sea turtles. Those who come to see the lava flows can also take a hike, bike ride, leisurely drive and camp overnight.