10 National Parks in the USA Lower 48 That You've Never Heard Of


, by Charlie Boscoe

Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Photography by: BlueBarronPhoto

The USA is famous for its huge network of National Parks. But while many flock to the 'big name' National Parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, there are plenty of unheralded gems to explore if you want to avoid the crowds.

Of all the things America is famous for, its huge network of protected National Parks is one of the most prominent. Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and Grand Canyon belong on any self-respecting travel bucketlist - and rightly so - but there's far more to America's wilderness than the famous names that have put it on the map. There are no less than 63 American National Parks, and whilst some of them (particularly the more remote Alaskan ones) are genuinely wild and challenging to tick off, there are still some gems in the Lower 48, and today we'll recommend 10.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Tucked away in eastern Nevada, Great Basin National Park is a haven for those seeking solitude and natural wonders. From ancient bristlecone pine forests to Wheeler Peak's rugged terrain, this park offers breathtaking vistas and opportunities for stargazing in its designated International Dark Sky Park.

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The mountain's best-known landmark is the aforementioned Wheeler Peak - the second-highest peak in Nevada -, but there are almost 80,000 acres to explore, and the scenery is remarkably varied. If you had Nevada down as one big desert, think again!

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Located in the northwest corner of Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park is a remote wilderness escape accessible only by ferry or seaplane. Visitors can hike along pristine trails, paddle through crystal-clear waters, and observe wildlife, including moose and wolves, in their natural habitat. The park covers the largest island on Lake Superior, but there are no less than 400 smaller islands in the park, so finding solitude shouldn't be too tough!

Sunset over Rock Harbor at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. Photography by: Mark Baldwin

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, North Cascades National Park is a rugged wilderness characterized by jagged peaks, cascading waterfalls, and dense forests. With over 300 glaciers, this park offers unparalleled opportunities for hiking, climbing, and immersing oneself in nature.

The sheer wildness of the North Cascades is jarring, and it's hard to believe that the urban sprawl of Seattle is just a couple of hours away. Expect changeable weather and rugged terrain, and you won't be disappointed.

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Dean Weyer heading into the Isolation range, North Cascades National Park, Washington. Photography by: Boscoe Collection

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Nestled in the heart of South Carolina, Congaree National Park is a hidden gem renowned for its towering hardwood forests and diverse ecosystem. Visitors can explore the park's lush floodplains via boardwalk trails, kayak along scenic waterways, and marvel at the abundance of wildlife, including rare bird species.

The park has a huge amount of old-growth forest, and the trees are utterly fantastic. Their sheer scale is spectacular, and pondering how the world has changed since they began to grow is thought-provoking.

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Home to the highest peak in Texas (Guadalupe Peak, 8751 ft), Guadalupe Mountains National Park boasts rugged desert landscapes, ancient fossil reefs, and expansive vistas. Hikers can challenge themselves on the park's extensive trail system, while history enthusiasts can explore remnants of ancient civilizations and frontier ranching.

Pinnacles National Park, California

Formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, a visit to Pinnacles National Park allows you to see a unique landscape of towering rock formations, hidden caves, and diverse wildlife. Rock climbers flock to the park to test their skills on its dramatic spires, while hikers can explore trails winding through chaparral and oak woodlands. The park is also known for its abundant bird life, including some rare species such as the California Condor.

Landscape of Pinnacles National Park, California. Photography by: Rafid Shidqi

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Carved by the mighty Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park showcases some of the steepest and most dramatic cliffs in North America. From the top of the canyon you can marvel at the canyon's sheer walls, hike along scenic trails, and enjoy world-class rock climbing opportunities. The rock climbing is some of the most intimidating and serious in the lower 48 - only consider attempting to climb in the Gunnison if you've got an awful lot of climbing miles on the clock!

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Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

A land of interconnected waterways and pristine boreal forests, Voyageurs National Park offers a tranquil retreat for lovers of all things natural. You can explore the park's lakes and islands by kayak or canoe, hike along wooded trails, and immerse yourself in the rich history of the fur trade era. For watersport enthusiasts, this is one of the best parks in the country.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Named in honor of the conservationist president who once roamed its rugged badlands, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a testament to the beauty and resilience of the North Dakota landscape. A visit allows you to hike amidst colorful rock formations, spot bison and other wildlife, and camp beneath star-studded skies. North Dakota isn't the most glamorous of states, but it's home to some fabulous natural sights, as the former President clearly believed.

Sunrise over Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. Photography by ZakZeinert

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Situated 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote island paradise accessible only by boat or seaplane. Home to historic Fort Jefferson and pristine coral reefs, this park offers unparalleled opportunities for snorkeling, birdwatching, and exploring marine life in its crystal-clear waters. If you have the time and resources to get to the park, make sure you pack your snorkel!

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While these national parks may not enjoy the same level of fame as their counterparts, they possess a wealth of natural beauty and recreational opportunities waiting to be discovered. Whether seeking solitude in the wilderness or embarking on an adventure off the beaten path, these hidden gems all you to explore the diverse landscapes and rich ecosystems that make America's national parks genuinely remarkable.