With the value of the dollar jumping, sliding and scooting around other world currencies, jet-setting world travelers might rethink their next international voyage and opt for the purple mountain majesties of the good ‘ole USA. Attendance at national parks has risen over the last few years, with many parks reporting record highs. So, maybe you’ve seen the Grand Canyon twice and think Yellowstone is too common for your adventurous spirit–if so, branch out. Here are six national parks you have probably never seen.
The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska
Located in northwest Alaska, just three miles from Russia’s border, is the fourth least-visited national park in the country. Registering a whopping 796 visits in 2007, The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve isn’t the place to go if you want to test-drive your backpacking skills. Most archeologists agree the Bering Land Bridge, once called Beringia, provided the first passageway into the Americas during the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago.
While no one really knows what these first Americans brought with them when they left Asia, it is highly recommended that modern-day explorers be prepared with a fully-stocked first aid kit and enough food to last in case of an emergency. Visitors not wanting to rough the north Alaskan wilderness can visit the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Nome, explore native Eskimo villages, or spend the night in the bunkhouse at the Serpentine Hot Springs.
Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas
America’s first national preserve is sprawled across 97,000 acres of southeast Texas wetlands where fresh water swamps and bald cypress trees intermingle with long-leaf pines and tropical palmettos. Referred to as “the biological crossroads of North America,” the preserve houses 10 ecosystems, where arid deserts and marshlands nourish over 1,000 varieties of flowering flora, including four types of insect-eaters.
In addition to wild boars and black bears, the Big Thicket boasts 80% of the Lone Star State’s Bigfoot sightings. Visitors anxious to face the Big Thicket’s most unexplained phenomenon can head out to Ghost Road where mysterious lights haunt the tree-lined trail that connects two towns. The Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center is located seven miles north of Kountze.
Isle Royale National Park in Michigan
Reachable only by boat or seaplane, Isle Royale National Park is one of the most remote national park units in America. Shipwrecked ruins bring a mysterious allure to the Isle Royale archipelago that consists of one large island, 400 islets and a four-mile-long land strip that extends into the largest freshwater lake in the world.
Around 11,000 years ago, two miles of ice covered Isle Royale and sculpted the islands we see today. Many geologists consider Greenstone Ridge, aptly named for the underlying greenstone flow that boasts an 8,000-foot volcanic flow, to be part of the largest lava stream on earth.
National Park of American Samoa
The National Park of American Samoa might not have the amenities of other parks, but visitors to this tropical playground can hike through 8,000 acres of rainforests, swim among coral atolls and extinct volcanoes, and live with native Samoans through the park’s home stay program.
Samoa is a chain of mountainous islands in an unincorporated territory of the US located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, making it one of the most remote national parks in the country. The park was created to preserve the Samoan culture, and most of the 60,000 residents live on the main island of Tutuila. Perched postcard-perfect in the South Pacific Ocean, The National Park of American Samoa houses the only mixed-species paleotropical rainforest in the US and is a habitat for rare flying foxes, a species of fruit bats that many indigenous cultures consider a delicacy. Yum!
Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas
The Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the only section of designated wilderness in west Texas, has often been called an “Island in the Desert.” An imposing limestone reef stretches more than 5,000 feet above the land, where lush woodlands of oak and maple trees, rocky canyons, and ponderosa pine trees disappear into the folds of the underlying desert.
There are more than 80 miles of hiking trails or visitors can head to limestone-laden McKittrick Canyon, cited as “the most beautiful spot in Texas,” or visit the glistening Salt Basin Dunes, where 2,000 acres of white sand vary from vegetated mounds to barren 60-foot dunes that shimmer in the west Texas sun. The Visitor Center is located at Pine Springs, 110 miles east of El Paso.
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon
A volcano boat tour on Crater Lake in southern Oregon is the highlight of any visit to this national park. Only Crater Lake isn’t … well, a lake, it’s a caldera. Ah … technicalities! The volcanic basin was created when the 12,000-foot Mount Mazama collapsed into the earth more than 7,000 years ago.
The crater is almost six miles wide and at 2,000 feet deep, is now considered to be the deepest lake in the United States. Once the finishing point for the famous Pacific Crest Trail, Crater Lake remains the oldest segment of the now-expanded route. Black bears, elk, Clark’s nutcrackers, and bald eagles have all been spotted enjoying the scenic landscape of Crater Lake National Park.
Check out the following resources and read more about travel to National Parks:
- Wanna plan a trip to a US National Park? Let BootsnAll help!
- Check out an adventure trip in the United States
- Five Best US Cities for National Parks Lovers
- Best National Parks iPhone Apps
- The First Timer’s Guide to Planning a National Park Vacation
- How to Avoid the Crowds at the Most Popular National Parks
Photos by: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, J Stephen Conn, pntphoto, mjpeacecorps, sfgamchick, Odalaigh