America’s National Parks are an amazing treasure – each one is worth a visit. However, some of the nation’s most popular national parks such as Yosemite, become very crowded during peak travel months, while lesser-known parks welcome visitors without traffic, crowds or lines. Here are five national parks that are hidden gems.
Wind Cave National Park
Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Wind Cave is home to one of the world’s longest and most complex caves. A variety of cave tours are offered daily, and there’s much to do above ground as well, including nature walks through the rolling prairie and wildlife viewing. The park – one of the nation’s oldest National Parks – is home to wild bison, prairie dogs, elk and more. It’s also conveniently located near Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore.
Dry Tortugas National Park
If you find yourself in Florida, hop on a boat or seaplane over to Dry Tortugas, located 70 miles off of Key West. The park consists of seven small islands, including the impressive 19th century fort, Fort Jefferson – the largest all-masonry fort in the United States. Explore the park’s clear waters by snorkeling and you’ll discover ample marine life and coral reefs. Bird-watching is another great activity for this one-of-a-kind park.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Alaska is home to many crowd free National Parks, including Wrangell-St. Elias, which spans 13.2 million acres. From Mount St. Elias (18,008 feet) to the ocean, it’s the nation’s largest National Park. Explore the rugged terrain via primitive roads, river, foot or plane.
Las Vegas isn’t the only reason to visit Nevada. In stark contrast to the bright lights of Vegas, Great Basin provides unobstructed views of the night sky that you won’t forget. Enjoy desert wildflowers in spring or the colors of fall. Year-round, you can marvel at 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees growing on rocky glacial moraine or explore the Lehman Caves.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
California and crowded seem to go hand and hand, but that’s not the case at Lassen Volcanic, located less than 200 miles from Sacramento. The park is home to smoking fumaroles, volcanoes and mountain lakes. Enjoy horseback riding, bird watching, boating, swimming or fishing. Winter offers the chance to participate in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and other activities.
An additional benefit to national parks is that they offer very reasonable camping accommodations perfect for RVs, travel trailers or tent camping. Camping also allows you to bring and cook your own food, saving additional expenses.
In all, there are 58 National Parks. Like those above, many of these parks are not crowded. You can view them all and learn more at the National Park Service website. To discover additional hidden gems, visit the links below.