Trekking into the wilderness and experiencing this great nation’s awe-inspiring National Parks is a pastime that transcends generations. However, more so than ever, families and adventure seekers alike are opting outside in droves, requiring the need for advance reservations and long-standing waitlists for scarce camp spots and experienced trail guides.
However, for those in search of simple solitude and the road less traveled, there are still some gems to be uncovered. For the able and willing, all that’s needed is a little tactical brainstorming and some simple Google Maps reconnaissance to get you headed off the beaten path towards your next great expedition.
Rest assured, your imagination will be captured and a guaranteed good time will follow, but like anything awesome, you might have to work a little harder to get it. With that being said, gather the crew and pack up the van to experience one or all of these so-called “underrated” or “off the beaten path” National Parks. At the very least, use this list as a thought starter to let your imagination run wild. After all, your next great adventure may just be around the corner in your own backyard. With any good luck, we might just see you out on the old dusty trail!
1. Crater Lake National Park (Klamath County, Oregon)
Crater Lake is a little difficult to reach, but the views and scale of this iconic landmark from outer space can make the trek well worthwhile. The deepest lake in North America, Crater Lake is known for its unique blue waters, out of this world landscapes and grueling bike paths.
2. Isle Royale National Park (Houghton, Michigan)
If you’re looking to experience truly untouched and remote wilderness, Isle Royale is the least frequented park in the country and one of the best places to unplug and get away from it all. Inaccessible by land, hop on a ferry from Houghton, Michigan or schedule a sea plane landing into a wonderland waiting to fulfill your fishing, hiking, and canoeing heart’s desires.
3. Big Bend National Park (Brewster County, Texas)
Located in West Texas and featuring a landscape like no other, Big Bend National Park is under the radar and thankfully so. The untouched moon-like landscape is a sight to behold, spanning miles and miles. If you’re driving through, prepare your camera for endless shots of open roads that wind through mountains, passed canyons and into the abyss.
4. Katmai National Park (King Salmon, Alaska)
Home to the world’s largest population of Alaskan Brown Bears, Katmai National Park is one of those far off dream destinations that you may only visit once in a lifetime, but for those lucky few, once is more than enough. From summer through fall, bears feast to their heart’s content on migrating salmon making for some unforgettable viewing experiences. If that’s not enough, Katmai is also home to some of the most active volcanos in the world.
5. North Cascades National Park (Washington)
North Cascades National Park is merely 100 miles from Seattle. With amazing views and the opportunity to go as deep into the wild as your body, mind and gear can handle, this is one of those places that true adventurers can sink their teeth into. Home to Inspiration Peak and other acclaimed destinations within park bounds, North Cascades is a playground for experienced pioneers and anyone looking to push their limits.
6. National Park of American Samoa (Pago Pago, American Samoa)
While not in the continental United States, the National Park of American Samoa is one of those magical places that are thankfully underutilized and all too often overlooked. With landscapes straight out of Jurassic Park and tropical temperatures that will make your soul smile, anyone looking to unplug should book the next flight to Pago Pago International Airport. Trust us, you’ll wanna take the long way home.