If you are like millions of people worldwide, you are no stranger to America’s national parks. And one trip to a national park and it is easy to see why. They are set apart as the most beautiful, preserved natural areas of this country, and are thus ideal locations for a vacation. But, as can happen when you share an interest with millions of people, you often have to share your vacations with…well, millions of people. However, did you know that there are actually 391 sites that hold the title “national park?” With so many locations, it is reasonable to suppose that there are at least a few that are not visited quite as often as the others. And there are. So next time you look into making national park reservations, consider these lesser known parks first.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah:
Canyonlands is one of five national parks in the state of Utah, and it is probably the most often forgotten. Only visited by 473,773 people in 2011, it is definitely the least visited. Why? Well, often the more famous parks such as Zion and Arches take the majority of visitors to national parks in Utah, but Canyonlands offered a more secluded, yet equally beautiful experience. Need some more convincing?
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado:
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in the state of Colorado, and is a great place to experience something unique in the United States. Home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, it is a great place for those who love the outdoors to hike, climb, or even board, ski, or sled down the dunes. But even if you are not into extreme sports, or even sand, you can enjoy the alpine lakes, forests, wetlands, and waterfalls that can be found in this park. And you can enjoy it all by yourself (more or less), as there were only 254,674 visitors in 2012.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska:
Ever dreamed of visiting the fjords in Norway, but just don’t have the means? Well, few people realize that there are actually some fjords that you can visit right here in the United States. And between the 669,984 acres, there is a good chance that you won’t even encounter one of the 291,279 people there. At this park, you can take a boat tour, kayak, hike, or even take a ranger-led walk to enjoy the scenery.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida:
Although it sounds as though it fell out of a Disney movie, Dry Tortugas National Park is actually named after the sea turtles found in the area, of which there are many. However, some of the activities that are available in this park, such as snorkeling, might be just as exotic as the caribbean. A tour of Fort Jefferson, a huge unfinished coastal fortress, is a must-do. It is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors in 2012: 60,550.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina:
This national park is definitely the hidden gem of the south. If you are looking for a lush area, filled with forests, trees, and a large river, this is one to add to the list. The trees are some of the tallest in the eastern half of the country, and the park is full to the brim with wildlife and animals such as bobcats, deer, pigs, dogs, coyotes, armadillos, turtles, snakes, alligators, and even turkeys. This park is a perfect place for hiking, walking, camping, kayaking, and canoeing.