While the most famous of America’s national parks attract million upon millions of enthusiastic tourists, the less-known USA national parks remain quietly in the shadows. It’s those parks, however, that offer some of the greatest outdoor experiences you could possibly imagine.
A Handful of Gorgeous Less-Known USA National Parks
Lacking the huge crowds of the popular parks, the parks below are pristine and serene. Anyone who’s after a peaceful vacation amid spectacular landscapes or a downright epic wilderness adventure will find exactly that in these less-known USA national parks!
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Located where the Great Basin, Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada meet, Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California is one of the world’s most active volcanic areas. The park is home to all four different volcano types in the world. Additionally, there are mud pots and hot springs as well.
It receives far fewer visitors than the national park stars further south—Yosemite, Sequoia and Death Valley—and is still somewhat of an off-the-beaten-track destination.
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska
Although it lies pretty close to Anchorage, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is one of the wildest places in the world. You can easily get to its western border, but its rugged interior is something else entirely. For starters, there are no paved roads leading into the park and facilities are scarce and remote.
However, with some preparation, this enormous park—the largest national park in America—has everything and more to give you the wilderness experience of a lifetime. Salmon-filled rivers flows through glacial valleys, towering mountain ranges include most of the highest peaks in North America and enormous glaciers scrape down slopes. Activities include rafting, flightseeing, hiking and fishing.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Home to the highest sand dunes on the North American continent, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is not a ridiculously large park, but it does offer some of the most fun activities of any American park.
The sand dunes are exceptionally accessible, from the visitor center and campground, and you can explore them as you please. There are no trails, but you’re free to go wherever and however far you want. What’s more, this is a phenomenal place for sand boarding and sand sledding. This alone is a solid reason to include Great Sand Dunes in this selection of less-known USA national parks.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Drawing in no more than 250,000 visitors annually, Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is extraordinary. Named after the tough French “voyageurs”, fur traders traveling thousands of miles over land and water in search of beaver fur in the 19th century.
More than a third of the park is water. This makes it arguably the best national park in the USA for boating. In fact, all of its campgrounds can only be reached by boat. Renting a canoe or kayak, in other words, is the number one thing to do here.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
Despite its location just north of Seattle, North Cascades National Park is one of the least-visited and less-known USA national park. In 2016, visitation numbers didn’t exceed 29,000. This obviously makes this an ideal park for wilderness exploration and solitude.
This glorious park does require some advance planning, though. Although you can drive through the park on the scenic North Cascades Highway, a meaningful visit means heading into the wilderness that so characterizes this area. From thundering waterfalls and literally hundreds of glaciers to deep valleys and dense pine forests, wilderness is everywhere in this park.
Note that this is merely a handful of less-known USA national parks. Of the 59 national parks in America, there are a couple dozen where you could easily get off the grid and find yourself alone and surrounded by world-class wilderness.