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National Park Guide | National Parks Without the Crowds

Top 10 Little Known National Parks

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There are over 397 units in the National Park System of the United States. These include National Parks, National Monuments, National Historic Site and much much more. Each of these protects a site of importance, whether it is historic or natural. Most people know about the most popular parks, such as Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park, however these are just a small number of the amazing destinations visitors can go within the National Park System. Here are 10 of the little known National Parks that everyone should try to visit.

01

Buffalo National River, Arkansas

The Buffalo National River travels for 135 miles through beautiful terrain, and it flows uninhibited, as it is one of the few rivers in the lower 48 states that does not have dams. This river travels east through the Ozarks and flows into the White River. Visitors to this park will find a myriad of activities to enjoy. Floating the river, is of course, one of the most popular activities, visitors can enjoy the river's waters by canoe, kayak or tube. Those visitors that want to try other activities can enjoy horseback riding, fishing, wildlife viewing, and stopping to explore historic sites.

02

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

On the opposite side of New Mexico from Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is another great spot to experience New Mexico. Chaco Culture provides access to a wide variety of Chacoan sites. In fact, Chaco Culture National HIstorical Park has the largest concentration of Chaco ruins outside of Mexico. The park also has a great night sky program. The Chaco Night Sky Program includes presentations, astronomy which links modern astronomy with the astronomical knowledge of the Chacoan people.

03

Colorado National Monument, Colorado

This National Monument protects one of the region's most beautiful landscapes. The land is covered with towering monoliths within surrounding plateau and canyons. Visitors will be greeted with stunning views as well as plenty of activities. The Rim Rock Drive is a great option for car travelers wishing to enjoy the views of the landscape. In addition, Colorado National Monument is great for hiking, known as canyon country hikers can gaze up at . It is also a great destination for camping and biking. Visitors should be sure to start the trip at the Saddlehorn Visitor Center and take the opportunity to learn about the park and about all of the ranger programs that visitors can enjoy.

04

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake is one of the most unique areas in Oregon and the country. The park makes a great summer and winter time destination. Most of the year the park is covered in snow, the summertime window is very  brief, lasting only from July to October. During the short summer visitors can enjoy the Rim Drive, hiking, camping, fishing, swimming in the lake and even take a boat tour of the lake. The park offers interpretive programs where visitors can learn about the history of the park and the very interesting volcanic past of the lake. During the long winter, which lasts from October to July, the Rim Drive is mostly closed, but visitors can still enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on the trails.

05

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado

This destination preserves the tallest sand dunes in North America. In addition it has amazingly diverse ecosystems, including grasslands, wetlands, forests and more. Visitors can enjoy learning about the diversity of the land while enjoying the beauty of the region. Medano Creek is a great destination in the National Monument and Preserve, children love playing in the creek. Great Sand Dunes is also a fantastic destination for building sand castles and even enjoying some Sandboarding. This destination is also great for hiking and backpacking, including hiking up Medano Creek, as well as hiking on the Mosca Pass Trail. Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve is filled with fun activities and amazing points of interest, sure to interest any visitor.

06

Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, Louisiana

This amazing park has six sites, which each feature a different aspect of Louisiana's rich culture and history. For visitors looking to explore the outdoors, the Barataria Preserve in Marrero is a great destination, where visitors can have outdoor adventures in the amazing wetland. The Chalmette Battlefield is an interesting spot where visitors can learn about the 1812 Battle of New Orleans, and in January visitors can watch the reenactments. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve also has four visitor centers in different locations, including the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans, the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux. Each visitor center highlights a different cultural and historical aspect of Louisiana.

07

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Located in southeastern California Joshua Tree has some amazing sites to see, even the night skies, especially while camping. There are many nature trails, hiking trails, as well as options for mountain biking and rock-climbing. Visitors to Joshua Tree can enjoy the beautiful desert ecosystem. At Joshua Tree you can see the Milky Way with amazing clarity, using only binoculars. Using binoculars you can look into the dense star clouds of the Milky Way, and see clearly. These star clouds are especially dense and bright to the south near the horizon.

08

Olympic National Park, Washington

The park provides visitors to Washington with an amazing park to explore the wild beauty of the Washington peninsula and coast. Travelers will find beautiful beaches, rain forest, mountains and more. The Olympic National Park protects some unique Washington ecosystems and is also a good destination for wildlife viewing. Visitors to the park will love the many hiking trials, and the wild beauty of the beaches and the entire park. One fantastic destination within the park is Shi Shi Beach. Shi Shi is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline in the lower 48 states. This two-mile, crescent shaped beach features sandstone bluffs, fringed by forests, and the beach is a wild mix of sand and stones. The trail to reach Shi Shi is often rough, muddy and very rugged, but the scenes of the spectacular beach are worth the wait. Shi Shi Beach is just one of many beautiful, undeveloped and rugged landscapes in the Olympic National Park.

09

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Arizona has excellent examples of some of the ancient history the Americas. One place to learn about this and see it in person is at Petrified Forest National Park. This park has an amazing concentration of petrified wood, giving visitors the chance to envision the forests that once covered the land. The park also has beautiful scenery, archeological sites and a collection of fossils.

10

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

This park is home to one of the world's longest and most complex caves. In addition to the caves, Wind Cave National Park also preserves mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest. Visitors to this park can enjoy learning about the geology and history of the cave, and they can also enjoy the variety of wildlife that inhabit the mixed-grass prairie, including bison, mule deer, elk and more.
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