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10 Lesser Known U.S. National Parks To Visit This Summer

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As domestic travel is on the rise, Americans are hitting the road and exploring closer to home. With plenty of outdoor attractions open to visitors this summer, many of the iconic destinations may be overwhelming or crowded. Here are ten national parks that are just as attractive, but less known. 

1. North Cascades National Park, Washington

North Cascades National Park

Just outside Seattle you'll find the North Cascades National Park, a stunning natural attraction offering a pleasant experience for vacation seekers. The site is ideal for families whether you’re taking a road trip or flying across the country. Stay over night, when setting up a camp and expand the depths of your trip by strolling along Thomton Lake or adventuring the trails of Newhalem. With a variety of hikes, it’s important to plan in advance to make the most of your day. 

All types of outdoor enthusiasts are welcome to this natural site which offers a range of activities such as bird watching, bike riding, canoeing, fishing, and photography. 

2. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

With an abundance of islands and interconnected waterways, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is over 40 percent water. The specialty of this park is its seasonal versatility, offering visitors cross-country skiing and snowmobile options during the winter months, while in the summer, visitors can expect to pick out delicious berries such as blueberries and raspberries. Come fall time, the park is famous for its picture-perfect fall colors among the trees that border it. 

For those who have a passion for the sky and the solar system, Voyageurs National Park has open views of shooting stars, the milky way, and a rare occurrence of the aurora borealis.

3. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale, Michigan

Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Step into Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, where you will discover serene waters, idyllic landscapes, and elevated tranquility. The park is only accessible by ferry and requires a camping reservation in advance for visitors interested in spending the night. 

Guided cruise tours are available for detailed exploration of the site. Visitors with the state’s fishing license to catch diverse fish within the park’s deep waters. 

4. Petrified Forest – Arizona 

petrified forest arizona

Located in Northeast Arizona, Petrified Forest is a quaint park that contains a range of outdoor activities and eye-catching views. Uniquely enough, the park’s northern area is home to the Painted Desert Inn, built in the 30’s, and offers visitors up close demonstrations of historical murals painted by the natives. Archaeological artifacts such as forest fossils tracing back to the deserts can be found in the southern part of the park. 

The park’s name takes after the petrified wood that attracts visitors for its geological significance as well as compelling beauty that appears in a range of colors. However, be aware that according to legend, visitors that have taken a piece of this artifact have claimed to find a “curse” attached, which resulted in returning it back to its place with letters expressing regret, that are now displayed in the visitor center. 

5. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Autumn colors along Pine Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers visitors fascinating and exhilarating adventures alongside scenic landscapes including mountains, canyons and rivers. The famous park attracts hikers and campers from all over the world and holds a rich history.

The mountains are admired for geological marvels; the largest fossil reef in the world, bright fall colors, and endless options of engaging activities.

6. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park

Gleaming with history, Dry Tortugas National Park features the 19th century Fort Jefferson that comprises distinct architecture and 2000 arches.

The fort was initially created as the access point into the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can only get to the land with a boat or plane. Once in, they will get to choose from fun activities like snorkeling in the turquoise-colored waters or watching a picturesque sunset from the beach. 

7. Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

This must-see attraction features the Lehman Caves. Guided tours are available for inquisitive adventurers who are interested in learning about and experiencing various activities such as hiking through the mountains and exploring beyond. The campground is available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Witness stunning night skies from the campsite. 

8. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Renowned as a dream destination for nature lovers, Alaska is frequented by travelers who enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and water sports. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is one of the many spacious national parks located in Alaska. Unlike the others, this park is a hidden treasure that offers seclusion and lots of space for its visitors. 

The park’s immaculate wilderness is an adventure to be discovered, keeping in mind, there are no trails or roads, and pre-planned transportation, most commonly a plane, must be arranged to enter and exit the park.

9. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Credit: National Park Service

No need for a permit when visiting this natural Alaskan gem or camping on its grounds. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is spread through hundreds of miles of land comprising breathtaking views. The site is ideal for fishing or boating within the 50 miles of crystal clear Lake Clark. Not too far off, Port Alsworth offers canoe rentals for visitors interested in exploring the waters. Meanwhile, hikers can take off to Tantalian Falls or climb Tanalian mountain. 

10. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Boardwalk at Congareee national forest

Although this park is less frequented, it is a highly diverse site filled with a distinct geographic structure that compels its visitors. With more than 25 miles of trails, followed by a 2.5-mile boardwalk, visitors can choose to take a guided tour or independently improvise through the park. Whichever you choose, you're guaranteed a beautiful, exciting adventure.

Read more:

Top 10 Places In Texas To Visit This Summer

California Dreaming: 10 Cities To Visit This Summer

Top 10 Pacific Northwest Roadtrip Ideas

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