This is the second of a two-part series focused on 10 of America’s lesser known national parks. The first part was posted June 26.
Outdoor activities ranging from sedate to high adrenalin can be found at America’s National Parks.
Want to go canyoneering? Zion National Park has become one of the premier places in the country to participate in this exciting activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem solving, swimming, and hiking.
Want to meet a dog sled team? Alaska’s Denali National Park’s kennels are open year-round, hosting the only sled dogs in the country tasked with helping to protect and patrol a national park.
Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? The following five National Park are relatively undiscovered compared to the ones that attract millions of visitors annually.
North Cascades National Park, located about three hours drive from Seattle, offers serious mountaineering. Beat generation author Jack Kerouac captured his impression of the park in the 1958 novel, “The Dharma Bums,” where he wrote, “I went out in my alpine yard and there it was … hundred of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber.”
The park also offers accessible trails and short, scenic strolls, and steep, grueling hikes. Mammals native to the park include mountain goats and wolverines.
Annual visitors: 20,677
North Cascades National Park, Washington encompasses more than 300 mountain glaciers, 127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain.
Annual visitors: 20,677
More Than Meets the Eye
Nevada’s Great Basin National Park boasts dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. Visitors who venture underground at Lehman Caves will find an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and more than 300 rare shield formations The park’s Great Basin is one of the darker spots in the country at night, making it a place to marvel at the Milky Way and constellations, away from the light pollution encountered by city-dwellers.
Annual visitors: 116,123
At Great Basin National Park in Nevada, rimstone dams cover the cave floor in the Cypress Swamp.
Discovered by Fur Trappers and Gold Miners
Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park comprises 30 lakes and 900 islands that once were traversed by Native Americans, European explorers, fur trappers and gold miners who navigated the U.S.-Canada border in birch-bark canoes. Much of the park can be reached only by water. The Kettle Falls Hotel, built by a timber baron in 1910, is the only lodging within the park.
Annual visitors: 238,313
Keep an Eye Out for Gators
Congaree National Park is in South Carolina, near Charleston and Colombia. Canoeing or kayaking Cedar Creek takes visitors past some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. Along the way, they are likely to see river otters, deer, turtles, wading birds and even an occasional alligator
Annual visitors: 87,513
Before you go to any of the 59 national parks, visit nps.gov to check for any current warnings about conditions at the park, such as trail closings.
If you are planning to travel with children, the following books, suggested for 8 to 12 year olds, may be of interest:
- National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA Centennial Edition: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast!
- National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun Paperback.
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.