July 19, 2024
National Geographic Reveals The Top 5 Lesser Known National Parks To Visit This Summer

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Those looking to enjoy the outdoors this summer, look no further.

Critically acclaimed publication National Geographic has revealed the top 5 lesser-known National Parks to visit this summer.

And here’s a tease – even though all are located in the U.S., you will still need a passport for one of them!

National Geographic Reveals The Top 5 Lesser Known National Parks To Visit This Summer

Hordes of visitors will pack into America’s top natural sites this summer, whether it be the wide open spaces of Yellowstone, the scenic backroads of the Great Smoky Mountains, to 4 dead presidents carved into a rock.

The more popular the park, the more crowds you have to deal with; hence, ‘lesser known’ may be the way to go.

With bright blue watered lakes, picturesque waterfalls, and incredible hiking trails, these are the 5 off-path National Parks you should visit this summer, according to National Geographic.

Hot Springs National Park

You don’t need to take a long-haul flight to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon to enjoy epic hot springs.

Vast Wilderness of Hot Springs National ParkVast Wilderness of Hot Springs National Park

The town with a fitting name of Hot Springs has been around for nearly 2 centuries as a natural health hub where the 143°F have long been believed to contain healing properties.

In fact, 8 different late Victorian-era bathhouses still exist today on Bathhouse Row for the ultimate “spa day”.

Beyond this historic way of relaxing, there are 43 thermal springs and 26 miles of hiking trails dispersed through the dense forests of the scenic Ouachita Mountains.

And just so you aren’t disappointed when you show up, know that there is no soaking in the hot springs outdoors. The only soaking allowed is in the two bath houses, Buckstaff and Quapaw.

For those wanting to be completely immersed in nature, this is the place, and quite possibly the easiest off-the-beaten-path National Park to reach, given it’s less than an hour from Little Rock.

To plan your visit, check out the official site here.

Pro Tip: There is free parking at 128 Exchange St; check it out on Google Maps here.

Waterfall at Hot Springs National ParkWaterfall at Hot Springs National Park

Indiana Dunes National Parks

Who knew Indiana had beaches, and nice ones at that?

Okay, let’s temper expectations here…

You’re not going to find a hidden paradise even remotely close to what you’d experience in Cancun, but just like Chicago’s Lake Michigan is fun in summer, the same goes for the Indiana side of the famed lake.

Indiana Dunes National Parks flies well under the radar, but tourists love visiting.

Perhaps no more than Kemil Beach along Lake Michigan’s blue waters where one vacationer claims, “Parking is pretty generous and it’s a quick walk up a slight hill to get to the sandy shore. It’s never too overly crowded and is kept pretty clean.”

Blue water beaches at Indiana Dunes National ParkBlue water beaches at Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana’s lone National Park is home to beautiful dunes, wetlands, prairies, and forests, but most notably, 15 miles of sunny shoreline with views of the Chicago skyline, the perfect less-crowded alternative to the Windy City.

Getting into the park runs $25 per private vehicle, and you can snag an annual pass for $45.

To plan your visit, check out the official visitor site here.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The Dakotas don’t see much action from a tourism standpoint, but that can also be the main draw.

When was the last time you heard someone say they were vacationing in Fargo? Probably never.

While many outdoor lovers and history buffs are satisfied seeing Teddy Roosevelt’s face carved into Mt. Rushmore, did you know another National Park honors his namesake?

Bison crossing the Scenic Drive in Theodore Roosevelt National ParkBison crossing the Scenic Drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North Dakota is home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an off-path destinations with far less crowds than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and yes, even neighboring Mt. Rushmore.

Home to high probabilities of wildlife sightings not limited to bighorn sheep, wild horses, and bison, this vast landscape is the ultimate quiet retreat to avoid crowds while staying within the continental U.S.

One recent visitor said, “Compared to Yellowstone, Teton and Badlands, it is better in that not as many people visit here and it is easier to get closer to wild animals.

Standard passes run between $15 and $30, and annual passes will run you $55.

Check out the official ‘plan your visit’ section of their site here to plan your trip!

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

The only U.S. National Park to lie above the Arctic Circle, summertime provides one of the most unique times to visit as in the sun doesn’t set for nearly 2 months!

Wildflowers blooming in Gates of the ArcticWildflowers blooming in Gates of the Arctic

Set in Alaska, often termed America’s ‘final frontier, you will feel truly immersed in the wild as there are no roads or marked trails.

Reaching this natural wonder is no easy trek, as you must charter a plane or find an entry point on your own. If you read the official ‘plan your visit’ section of the park’s website, you’ll see that they only recommend the park to experienced outdoors lovers.

There are no services within the park, so you should have good outdoor survival skills.

National Geographic recommends visiting in August as wildflowers begin to pop in vibrant colors for the best photo-ops for which very few people hold bragging rights here.

Check out the official site here to plan your visit to this untouched wilderness park!

National Park of American Samoa

Is it America? Is it international? Who cares what it is?!

Island of Tutuila of the National Park of American SamoaIsland of Tutuila of the National Park of American Samoa

Whatever you call it, it is worth visiting, that’s for sure.

Unlike visiting other U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa requires everyone to have a passport for entry.

This relatively unknown destination is home to numerous islands, but these 3 should be your focus:

The National Park is spread across these three islands (plus on more, Olosega), and it is truly an unspoiled paradise brimming with crystalline waters, lush rainforests, and over a thousand different species of native animals, such as colorful birds and fish.

National Park In The Tutuila Island, American Samoa, Unincorporated Territory Of The United StatesNational Park In The Tutuila Island, American Samoa, Unincorporated Territory Of The United States

Beaches are the textbook definition of “pristine” with soft white sand and hardly any crowds.

One recent visitor claims it’s a real world ‘Jurassic Park’ halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.

Plan your visit here on the park’s official site!

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