The Best National Parks You Don't Know About... Yet
Voyageurs National ParkMinnesota 1 of 9
Unobstructed night skies, boreal forests and a network of waterways create an awe-inspiring experience for anyone who visits Voyageurs. It's as rich in history as it is in beauty, rivaling some of the best national parks in the country. NPS.gov says, "In Voyageurs National Park, you can lay stretched out on a rock half as old as the world and gaze up at nature's light show in a sharply, clear sky." Though there are no drive-in campgrounds within the park, you can access 240 sites by boat.
Lassen Volcanic National ParkCalifornia 2 of 9
Large wildflower meadows are contrasted by jagged mountain ridges and an active volcano at one of California's lesser-known parks. The most popular spot here is Bumpass Hell, a 3-mile loop trail that weaves through the largest hydrothermal areas in the park. During the hike, you'll see plopping mudpots, bubbling pools and roaring steam vents. After exploring, grab a site at one of the eight campgrounds, half of which are reservable.
Dry Tortugas National ParkFlorida 3 of 9
This national park is a historian's dream. One of the park's seven islands is home to Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century fort open for the public to explore. The islands are located on the edge of a main shipping channel, and have seen hundreds of large vessels since the 1800s. Fort Jefferson was built for protection against those coming and going through the Gulf of Mexico. Located 70 miles west of Key West, visiting this remote location requires extensive planning. If you stay overnight, primitive camping is allowed at Garden Key Campground where there are eight campsites available.
Isle Royale National ParkMichigan 4 of 9
The National Park service estimates that this little-known park receives the same amount of visitors in one year that Yellowstone receives in one day. With less foot traffic, it's one of the best national parks for a serene and peaceful adventure, both solo and with friends. "To step into Isle Royale is to leave behind one's own self and one's world and to begin a new exploration into the nature of life," said Napier Shelton, author of Superior Wilderness. Once on the island, you can explore on foot, and try one of the day hikes, put on scuba gear and head underwater, or rent a canoe and explore on top of the water. You can pull up to shore at many of the campgrounds, or reach the others by trail.
Guadalupe Mountains National ParkTexas 5 of 9
According to NPS.gov, this national park is known as one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the U.S. Eighty miles of trails provide a variety of hiking opportunities, ranging from nature walks to strenuous canyon hikes. Trek the Guadalupe Peak Trail to the summit, and enjoy views from the "Top of Texas." After a long day of hiking you can rest your head at one of two campgrounds in the park, and don't forget to look up; Guadalupe is known for its incredible night skies.
Congaree National ParkSouth Carolina 6 of 9
"An almost otherworldly biodiversity reigns within the park, with bobcats and feral pigs trawling the old-growth forest, " says Dara Continenza, of Smarter Travel. The largest bottomland hardwood forest left in the U.S. is in this national park, and you'll also see bald cypress trees and a variety of birds. Over 25 miles of hiking trails weave through the forests, and a marked canoe trail helps you stay on track as you explore on the water. At the end of the day you can set up camp at one of two designated campgrounds or a backcountry campsite.
Wind Cave National ParkSouth Dakota 7 of 9
Wind Cave is one of the oldest national parks and contains one of the few remaining prairies in the country. Light breezes, swaying grasses and elk take you right back to Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Yet, it's not what's above ground that makes this one of the best national parks in the system. What lies below is one of the world's longest caves, Wind Cave. Ranger tours are available all day, and are the only way you can tour the underground cavern. Above ground, there are 30 miles of trails, and three short nature trails, all 1-mile long. Camping is also available above ground, at either Elk Mountain Campground or backcountry in the northwest area of the park.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and PreserveAlaska 8 of 9
Wrangall-St. Elias National Park is six times bigger than Yellowstone, at 9.6 million acres, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. It's also bigger than Switzerland, making it the largest national park in the nation. And, it's home to nine of the 16 largest peaks in the U.S., including the second-highest peak, Mt. St. Elias. A variety of hikes can be accessed from the side of the road, however, unlike most national parks, none of them are maintained. If you want to explore in your car, ride on Nabesna Road, which will take you through a variety remote areas. After exploring, you can stay at Kendesnii Campground, or one of the cabins located within the park.