From coast to coast, the United States has an amazing selection of national parks to explore. Hiking, camping, skiing, backpacking, and overall adventuring is possible everywhere in the magnificent forests, mountains, deserts, prairies, and oceans this country has to offer.
While there are way too many parks and national treasures to discuss in one article, this guide is a snapshot of some of the lesser known parks to see and explore across the country.
Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts sprawling landscapes lush with wildflowers year round. The park also includes a segment of the scenic Appalachian Trail and has several gorgeous rivers and waterfalls to explore.
Arguably the crown jewel of Florida, Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It’s only an hour drive from Miami, but Everglades’ swampy wetlands are nothing like the city. Here, you’ll find some of the country’s rarest animal species, such as the manatee, the American crocodile, and the Florida panther.
Though Maine’s claim to fame is definitely its lobsters, Acadia National Park is definitely a worthy runner-up. This park encompasses the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States, and it’s full of stunning rivers, rocky shores, and whale watching opportunities.
Midwest / Southwest
Let your Wild West adventure play out in South Dakota’s Badlands, where rugged geologic deposits meet pristine prairie. Nicknamed the Land of Stone and Light, Badlands is full of opportunities for camping and hiking, as well as seeing the amazing wildlife, like bison, bighorn sheep, and black-footed ferrets.
Located in northern Arkansas, the Buffalo River flows 153 miles long through incredible bluffs of eroded sandstone, limestone and dolomite. This is a fantastic park to tube, kayak or even whitewater raft in, and it offers up opportunities for backcountry camping as well.
The nation’s largest cacti live in Saguaro National Park, located in Tucson, Arizona. Spectacular desert sunsets, giant cactus forests, picnic areas, and family-friendly hiking trails await in this amazing natural reserve.
California is primarily known for its beaches, but the state’s impressive sequoia trees are well worth a visit. Sequoia National Park is home to the largest trees in the world, spanning warm foothills to cold alpine peaks. If you’re looking for the tranquility of the forest, this is definitely not a park to miss!
Backpacking, fishing, camping, and more — stretching through Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest, this park pretty much has it all. Ecological diversity is a hallmark of this park, given that it includes several different ecosystems, from the peaks of the Olympic Mountains to old-growth forests.
You don’t need to leave the U.S. to land on a beautiful island destination — the Channel Islands are a testament to that! These five islands off the Southern California coast offer magnificent environments for hiking, camping, snorkeling, kayaking, and birdwatching, to name a few.