5 Lesser-Known U.S. National Parks You Need to Visit

In 1872, long before they were states, the United States Congress established Yellowstone National Park within the territories of what is now Montana and Wyoming. Over a century later, there are 58 national parks across the country. Many states do not have a single park, while others like Alaska and California boast seven and eight respectively.

The “big five” are those parks that have the highest number of visitors each year: Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion, Rocky Mountain, and Yosemite. But did you know that some of the more obscure parks are just as majestic, yet receive only a fraction of the visitors as those?

So what are you waiting for?

Grab a pack, lace up your boots, and hit the trails of one of these five lesser-known national treasures.

U.S National Park Location Visitors in 2017
Biscayne Florida 446,961
Great Basin Nevada 168,028
Capitol Reef Utah 1,150,165
Isle Royale Michigan 28,196
North Cascades Washington 30,326

Biscayne National Park


Get ready to dive in, as 95 percent of Biscayne is covered by water. Located south of Miami, the 172,000-acre park is largely blanket by crystal clear water that is ideal for diving and snorkeling. There are over 70 shipwrecks within its boundaries, six of which are part of the Maritime Heritage Trail. Oh, and did we mention that Biscayne also encompasses the world’s third largest coral reef?

Great Basin National Park


Located in east-central Nevada near the Utah border, this relative newcomer to the national park lineup is home to ancient bristlecone pine groves and the spectacular Lehman Caves. Grab a telescope and take advantage of Great Basin’s remote location as it boasts some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states.

Capitol Reef National Park


Capitol Reef is the least visited of Utah’s “mighty five.” Situated in south-central Utah, the park was established around a “wrinkle in the Earth’s crust” called the Waterpocket Fold. This 100 mile-long geologic monocline features sedimentary deposits older than 270 million years. Looking for something a little more recent? Make sure to check out the prehistoric petroglyphs etched in the canyon’s cliffs from its earliest inhabitants.

Isle Royale National Park


Nestled in the world’s largest freshwater body (by surface area), Isle Royale is the largest island on Lake Superior. The park’s remoteness also contributes to its popularity among backcountry users. In addition to the main island, there are over 400 satellite islands within the park that create unparalleled adventures for those seeking isolation and solitude. On the downside, Isle Royale can only be reached by boat or seaplane and is one of the few U.S. national parks to close in winter.

North Cascades National Park


North Cascades is located just three hours north of Seattle near the Canadian border. With over 400 miles of hiking trails and dramatic snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, the park also lays claim to more than 120 alpine lakes and melting glaciers produce waterfalls to plentiful to count.

Once you’re done exploring these, check out the most remote national parks and the best day hikes.


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