Five Lesser-Known National Parks I'd Love to Visit and Why

Though I love exploring North America's national parks any time of year, warmer weather has me jonesing for a big trip. I've yet to get to Yosemite (gasp!), one of our nation's most popular national parks, and on top of that, I've got a long, seemingly ever-growing list of national parks I'd love to see. (After all, of the 59 national park units, I've only been to 15 of them.) Whether it's remoteness, historical significance, or just pure, unadulterated beauty, these national parks are all places I'd love to visit on my next big trip.

Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

The fact that it's the only national park in the state of Oregon is one of many things that makes Crater Lake special. It's our nation's fifth national park, and Crater Lake itself is the deepest lake in the United States. The park hit my radar after friend Patrick posted this picture from one of his solo adventures. The sheer size of the lake drew me in, and the more I learn about the park, the more I want to visit. The lake formed when Mount Mazama erupted then collapsed, and the lake stands completely alone with no streams or rivers flowing from it. The park's natural and geological history is absolutely fascinating, and I'd love the chance to see it up close.

Learn more about Crater Lake National Park here.

Kobuk Valley National Park (Alaska)

Near the Teklanika River in Denali National Park. Alaska is amazing!
Kobuk Valley National Park sits nestled just north of the Arctic Circle, and it's one of our nations youngest national parks. Though you might expect the park to be cold, which is can be, it's also home to 200,000 acre sand dunes.

In addition to that unique feature, what draws me to Kobuk Valley is the fact that there are no roads available. It's only accessible on foot, by dogsled, by snowmobile, or by chartered air taxi. It's one of the least-visited national parks.

Learn more about Kobuk Valley National Park here.

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

According to the National Park Service, Isle Royale offers "unparalleled solitude...far from the sights and sounds of civilization." If that's not enough to put the park on any adventurer's must-visit list, I don't know what is. It's a beautiful collection of islands nestled in the western region of Lake Superior just south of Thunder Bay in Ontario.The park is most widely known for it's wolf and moose populations; the isolated island provides the perfect opportunity to study predator-prey relationships. Between the fauna, history of shipwrecks, remote camping opportunities and beautiful scenery, I can't wait to go.

Learn more about Isle Royale National Park here.

Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)

Though I tend to prefer temperate climates, the inviting tropical climate, rich history, and undisturbed reefs of Dry Tortugas National Park make it particularly appealing to visit. Located just west of Key West, Florida, it was designated as a park in 1992 to protect the area's cultural and natural heritage. Dry Tortugas National Park is almost entirely water, save a few beautiful coral reefs and islands, and it's only accessible by boat or sea plane. (Beginning to notice a pattern with the parks on my list? Me too!) There are ten primitive campsites available and the park is open year round, so for those who might find themselves in need of a tropical vacation in the winter, Dry Tortugas sounds like a perfect getaway.

Learn more about Dry Tortugas National Park here.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Watching rain come in, Denali National Park. More Alaska amazingness!
Despite the fact that I lived in Alaska for almost two years after college, there's so much of the state I didn't see. I spent time in Denali National Park, Chugach State Park, Seward, Fairbanks and more, but never got to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

Located in  the south central park of the state, it's the largest tract of land managed by the National Park Service in the United States. It's home to towering mountains shaped by geological processes, active volcanoes, numerous glaciers, and of course, it's remote. Less than 70,000 people visited the park last year. (Note: you can look up visitation statistics for any park here.) The park has no entrance stations or gates, and never actually closes, though winter in that part of Alaska is predictably harsh. I'd imagine you could spend months there without seeing the entire park.

Learn more about Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve here.

There are so many more national parks in North America, and outside of North America, that I'd love to see! It was tough to get this list down to six and I'm sure I'll think of more. Have you been to any of these special places? I'd love to hear stories and tips! What national parks would you love to visit that you haven't seen yet? Leave a comment!


Heather Balogh said…
Gros Morne-- I'm in!!
Katie L said…
Let's start planning! :)
Charles Miske said…
Crater Lake - very pretty and great place to take pics. It's been a while, so thanks for reminding me to make it a destination to take the kids to now that they're old enough to appreciate it more fully.
edupraz said…
Oooo. I've been thinking about a trip to Gros Morne this summer. I'll have to also consider those other two parks in Newfoundland that you mention.
Katie L said…
Awesome, Em! I can't wait to go, even if it's just for five minutes to see the lake. Though let's be honest - that wouldn't be satisfying :)
Katie L said…
Of course, Charles, and thanks for confirming the park has to be on my list!
Katie L said…
Sweet! Let me know if you end up going and I'll do the same :) If I do, you can bet I'll post about it here!