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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.