5 Undervisited National Parks That Deserve Your Attention

It seems like just yesterday when we packed away the Christmas stockings and rang in the new year, but it honestly isn’t too early to start thinking about where you’re going to travel for your summer vacation. I am, of course, a strong believer in the good ol’ fashioned cross-country American road trip. If that’s your style of travel as well, check out these five undervisited national parks in the United States that deserve your attention as you trip from East Coast to West Coast and back.

Death Valley National Park, California / Nevada

Though breath-catching hot in the summer, Death Valley is an expansive and impressive national park worth visiting. The lowest, driest and hottest place in North America is home to an amazing array of terrain, ranging from dry salt beds and sand dunes to peaks that top out at 11,049 feet. Visitors can check out many of the park’s sites within easy driving distance, but to get a feel for all the park has to offer venture off grid with a hike into some of the country’s most unusual landscapes.

Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park, Maryland / Virginia / West Virginia

Harper’s Ferry isn’t so much a park as it is a small town. Take a bus into this historic city where women churn butter and make ice cream and men run the general store. Wander the streets pausing to marvel at the interesting museums and the views along the river. Though you could spend close to a whole day in this park, if you’d like to extend your stay, take a short hike on the Appalachian Trail, which runs through town.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

At the end of Highway 50 (also known as The Loneliest Road in America) is Great Basin National Park, home to Nevada’s second highest mountain. It is so isolated that the skies are among the darkest in the lower 48 states, entrance fees are non-existent, firewood is sold on the honor system and all camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s a particularly friendly park for those who don’t need much hand holding. Interpretive trails are minimal and park rangers are few and far between, but for those with a sense of adventure and an interest in long-distance hiking, this park is the perfect destination.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Often overshadowed by Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park never receives the accolades it should. While many drive by the park with little else but a stop at an observation point for a photo, those who take the time to explore the park will find a treasure buried in this rather isolated Midwest state. The beautifully painted, otherwordly landscape is ideal for hiking and a lazy paddle down the Little Missouri River.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Though often bundled with Sequoia National Park, which sits south of this park, and frequently overlooked by the significantly more famous Yosemite National Park to the north, Kings Canyon National Park is worthy of a stop, especially if you have a particular interest in hiking or backpacking. Most people pass directly from Sequoia to Yosemite without so much as a pit stop in Kings Canyon, so chances are you’ll only run into those who are actively seeking out action in the park. The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which is only open during the summer months, offers stunning views into the canyon. For a special treat, stop by the Kings Canyon Lodge and fill up with gas with the oldest double-gravity gas pumps in the world.

 

19 Responses to “5 Undervisited National Parks That Deserve Your Attention”

  1. Hiking Lady

    Death Valley definitely is a must see national park. Perhaps because it’s name is so morbid people don’t visit it as much as some of the more popular NPs.
    My favorite part of the park are the sand dunes… just gorgeous!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I love the sand dunes too, but what surprises me the most about Death Valley is the truly extreme nature in elevation. We were at Badwater below sea level and hiking about nearly 11,000 in the snow on the same day!

      Reply
  2. 19babs64

    Thanks for suggesting Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota! I have been looking for someplace interesting to go that would be only a days drive from my home in the Midwest.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      As much as I love South Dakota and the Badlands, I really do love that you can wander around Theodore Roosevelt National Park without the crowds. I’d love to get back there and spend more time exploring the area one of these days.

      Reply
  3. Cory

    The best part of Kings Canyon, for me, is the fact that a person has to earn the beauty of that park. There are very few pull out and observe spots. To see the best parts of the park, you have to hike.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I’m a big fan of earning the views too. I found that to be the case at Glacier National Park as well. Everyone just pulls off of the main road, but if you strap on a backpack and get a few miles off of the road, there’s hardly anyone in the park.

      Reply
  4. Jill

    Theodore Roosevelt is certainly “undiscovered” compared to other parks. I think we saw only 2 or 3 other cars when we were there a few years ago. North Dakota itself is a wonderful state – with some of the bluest skies and cleanest air you will ever find. A gem.

    Reply
  5. Sherry Ott

    I love Death Valley – it’s fascinating. I wish I would’ve had more time there when I visited – only had a day.
    I will def. check out Harper’s Ferry this May when I’ll be traveling thru that area. I would love to hook up with the Appalachian Trail for a bit!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      When I went to Harper’s Ferry, I didn’t even realize the trail went through the park. It was a pleasant surprise, and I spent a few hours walking along it once I discovered it was there.

      Reply
  6. Spencer Spellman

    Love Love Love all these parks. All great parks although the last one I’m not as familiar with. Harper’s Ferry I love, mainly because of it’s history. Great to see some of these as I’m currently writing quite a bit on national and state parks.

    Reply
  7. Susan

    I loved the Valley as well – I went for a three night/two day trip, and that extra night made all the difference. We got to go hiking six times during the trip, which was great. I also lucked out because even though I went during the wet season (early February) we had gorgeous weather. It only rained once, and it was during the night.

    Reply
  8. Don Faust

    I thought Death Valley was so cool. I liked the Devil’s Golfcourse – such a weird landscape.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      The Devil’s Golf Course is fantastic! I thought it felt like being on another planet.

      Reply
    • Kharina

      And a wonderful plragyound it is. The last time we were in that area was nearly 11 years ago. It’s beautiful out there and I’m so glad to see you all appreciate it.

      Reply
  9. Abby

    I’ve always wanted to go to Death Valley.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      You should go if you get the chance. It’s especially fantastic in the spring when the flowers are blooming.

      Reply

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