8 National Parks You’ve Never Heard of But Should Visit

Sure, Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are all breathtaking. There’s no denying that. And everyone should visit them if they have the chance. But there are so many other national parks in the U.S.—59 to be exact—and they’re spread out among 27 states and two territories. Maybe you’re a park fanatic bent on going to every one. Well, if you haven’t been to (or even heard of) these parks, you should consider adding them to your bucket list.

1. Wrangell–St. Elias in Alaska:

At more than 13 million acres, it is the largest national park—larger even than each of the nine smallest states. “Here, you have an opportunity to experience wilderness on a scale above and beyond anything you may be used to,” says the park’s website. “Mountains loom larger than life, massive glaciers redefine your sense of scale, ice-fed rivers rage to the sea, and entire, intact ecosystems function as they have for millennia.” It’s incredibly remote and lacks the access and services that Denali has, so the park service warns visitors must “plan ahead and prepare.” All the work would definitely pay off, though.

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2. Dry Tortugas in Florida:

Way at the other end of the country nearly 70 miles west of Key West lies this tropical park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. The park is very remote, only accessible by boat or plane. The park is home to the “magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area,” says the park’s website. If for some reason you weren’t already sold on visiting, know that the park protects the southwest tip of South Florida’s coral reef, which is the third-largest barrier reef system outside of Australia and Belize.

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3. Lassen Volcanic in California:

This park is located near Mt. Shasta in Northern California. It contains Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. It’s also home to all three other types of volcanoes: shield, cinder dome, and composite. Most of the park is continuously active with many hydrothermal features, including fumaroles, boiling pools, and bubbling mud pots—similar features to Yellowstone with far less crowds.

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4. Wind Cave in South Dakota:

Wind Cave is one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. American Indians have known about the cave for centuries and considered it sacred. But “cave exploration did not begin until 1881 when the entrance was noticed by two brothers, Jesse and Tom Bingham,” says the park service. “They heard a loud whistling noise, which led them to a small hole in the ground, the cave’s only natural opening.” Today you can tour the massive underground labyrinth.

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5. Petrified Forest in Arizona:

The park contains 225-million-year old petrified wood. “There are fossils, badlands, buttes and mesas, ancient petroglyphs, wildlife and wildflowers depending on the time of year, and vast vistas for more than a hundred miles,” says the park. Don’t miss out on a hike in the Painted Desert, either.

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6. Kobuk Valley in Alaska:

Located in the northwestern part of the state, the park has three regions of sand dunes. They’re actually the largest dunes in the Arctic, reaching up to 100 feet high and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And twice a year, half a million caribou migrate through the dunes. Enough said.

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7. Guadalupe Mountains in Texas:

The park service says Guadalupe Mountains “could easily be described as one of America’s best-kept secrets.” The park contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in all of Texas. And it’s also home to a fossilized coral reef from the Permian Era. “During the Permian period, about 265 million years ago, a vast tropical sea covered much of the region,” says the park. “After this sea evaporated, the reef was buried in thick blankets of sediment and mineral salts, and was entombed for millions of years until uplift exposed massive portions of it.”

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8. Great Basin National Park:

The park has 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines, glacial moraines and the limestone Lehman Caves. Nevada’s second-tallest peak, Wheeler Peak, looms in the distance. “Come to Great Basin National Park to experience the solitude of the desert, the smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm, the darkest of night skies and the beauty of Lehman Caves,” says the park.

Written by Cole Mellino. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch. 

90 comments

Sonia M

Good article with great pictures from beautiful places.Thanks for sharing

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David C
David C6 months ago

actually heard of all of them, but haven't been to them

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Patricia Harris
John Taylor2 years ago

If only......

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Sarah Hill
Sarah H2 years ago

beautiful

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Dave C.
David C2 years ago

thanks, didn't realize I already had commented until started reading the article

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W2 years ago

Magnificent country. Thank you for caring and sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W2 years ago

Such wonderful scenery, would be great to be there in real. Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W2 years ago

Beautiful places. beautiful photos, just made my day more beautiful. Thank you for caring and sharing

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