5 Underrated National Parks To Visit In The U.S. This Summer

Five Underrated National Parks To Visit In The U.S. This Summer

The United States is one of the largest countries in the world with more than 9,857,348 square kilometers for travelers to explore. It’s home to iconic cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami as well as countless mid-size cities and quaint small towns each with their own unique charm. Lively beach towns on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans offer ample opportunities to soak up the sun and world-famous tourist destinations like Disney World and Las Vegas attract visitors from all around the world. It would take months to experience the entire country, and while it’s definitely worth checking out some of these lively attractions, the best way to experience America is by exploring its diverse natural beauty.  

Throughout the United States you’ll find endless miles of golden desert, rugged mountains, wild rivers, lush old-growth forests, vibrant wetlands, and endless miles of grassy prairie. Despite the near-constant population growth, many of these natural wonders have been well-preserved through the establishment of national parks. The United States was the first country to establish a national park system with the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Since then, 63 National Parks and more than 400 national park sites have been added to the list of protected land. America’s national parks are open for everyone to enjoy, and many of them attract millions of visitors from all over the world each year. Many of the most iconic spots become incredibly crowded, especially during peak summer travel. They’re all incredible, but if you’re looking to escape the summer crowds for some solitude in nature, plan a trip to some of the lesser-known hidden gems across the country.

Dry Tortugas 

If you’re looking for a beachy escape, or visiting Disney World, it’s only a short journey to Dry Tortugas National Park which is located about 70 miles off the coast of Key West Florida. This national park is a bit different because it is composed mostly of water, with a few small islands to explore. It’s often passed over in favor of Everglades National Park, but if you’re interested in marine life, this is the spot. It’s only accessible via seaplane or boat, which further discourages crowds. Visitors can enjoy sparkling clever water and colorful coral reefs as well as the historic Fort Jefferson, which dates back to the 19th century. It’s an amazing destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as birdwatching. 

New River Gorge National Park

One of the most underrated parks in the U.S is also the most recent addition to the country’s national park system. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve was officially established in 2020, but before that it was a protected national river. It’s nestled within the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and includes 70,000 acres of land surrounding over 85 kilometers of the wild New River. The area is extremely popular for paddlesports including whitewater rafting and kayaking. Throughout the river, whitewater boating enthusiasts can experience long pools surrounded by lush forests as well as heart-pumping Class I-IV rapids. Adventures on the Gorge is a fantastic outdoor recreation outfitter offering whitewater rafting as well as other experiences like mountain biking and rock climbing. 

Big Bend National Park

Despite being one of the nation’s largest national parks at over 800,000 acres Big Bend is one of the least visited parks in the country. Only about 500,000 people travel there each year. In a park as expansive as Big Bend, there is plenty of space to spread out and find solitude in nature. Big Bend is located in a remote part of Texas, which deters many visitors looking for somewhere close to a major city. If you’re willing to make the journey, you’ll be rewarded with miles upon miles of desert, epic canyons, forested mountains, and the winding Rio Grande River. There are more than 241 kilometers of hiking trails to explore. Big Bend is also an International Dark Sky Reserve. The lack of light pollution means it’s one of the best places to stargaze in the country. 

Canyonlands National Park

Utah is well known for its stunning natural scenery. The western state is home to five national parks, including some of the nation’s most popular like Zion and Bryce Canyon. Canyonlands National Park is one of the least visited of Utah’s Big Five, with just over 400,000 visitors per year, but it’s no less beautiful than the others. It’s close to Arches National Park and Moab, and you can easily visit all three in one road trip. During your visit you can go whitewater rafting along the Colorado River (the same river that carved the majestic Grand Canyon) and enjoy breathtaking views of the slot canyons that Utah is famous for. 

Pinnacles National Park 

With nine national parks, California has more than any other  U.S state. Pinnacles National Park is often passed over in favor of popular tourist destinations like Joshua Tree, Yosemite, and Death Valley. With over 26,000 acres and under 350,000 annual visitors, it’s the perfect park to relax in a beautiful natural setting without hordes of other tourists. The park is named for its iconic rock formations and visitors can enjoy activities like hiking, rock climbing, and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. It can get pretty hot during the summer so come prepared with plenty of water. Spring offers beautiful wildflowers and ideal temperatures.