It’s true that some of North America’s biggest and oldest national parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon have plenty to offer budding travellers. Some of the most stunning landscapes and sights can be found in the famous and iconic national parks in the USA.
However, for travellers wanting to go a little further away from the tourist trail, there are plenty of lesser-known national parks that have plenty to offer with much smaller crowds. You may have never even heard of these fantastic places but they have more than enough to calm your wanderlust.
Big Bend National Park
Nestled in Texas, the Big Bend National Park is the perfect retreat for adventurers who want to get lost in the wilderness. With more than 150 miles of trails, the area is a haven for walkers and hikers alike and allows you to really escape the daily grind. In fact, it is the largest expanse of roadless lands open to the public in Texas.
With great canyons of limestone, Big Bend has some spectacular scenery and is home to more than 450 species of bird. However, for budding wildlife enthusiasts there is far more than just birds to look out for. The park’s diverse habitat means that amphibians, reptiles, fish, mammals and insects can all be found in Big Bend. In fact, it boasts more types of birds, bats, and cacti than any other national park in the United States.
Big Bend National Park is also known around the world for its natural resources and spectacular geology, which makes it such a welcoming home to the vast array of wildlife. For history buffs, the rocks tell stories about the Native American settlers who lived in Big Bend for thousands of years. From archaeological sites, to wildlife spotting and even star gazing, Big Bend is a fantastic national park with plenty on to offer adventurers of all ages.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Sitting astride the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, Smoky Mountains National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. In addition to being celebrated for its wildflowers, it is home to glorious waterfalls, scenic streams and lush forests. Not content with offering a feast for the eyes, this reserve also holds the promise of stunning hikes (indeed, it is even home to a portion of the Appalachian Trail) and close to 100 historic sites.
The park is perhaps at its best during autumn, when all the kaleidoscopic colours of fall render the park all the more visually spectacular. Typically, October is the optimum time to enjoy fall foliage in Smoky Mountains National Park, usually towards the middle and end of the month.
No matter the time of year you visit, Clingmans Dome offers the finest views. The park’s highest point, this viewing spot is at an elevation of 6,643 ft and provides 360-degree views not only of the park itself, but the surrounding area; in fact, a clear day will let you see out more than 100 miles!
Kenai Fjords National Park
Alaska is a place of great beauty and nowhere is this truer than in Kenai Fjords National Park. Although many people won’t have heard of it, the area has plenty to offer explorers of all ages.
On the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, the park is home to nearly 40 glaciers, which flow from the incredible Harding Icefield. Although it may feel as though you have gone back to the Ice Age, there is plenty of wildlife to spot as the park also has areas of lush forest.
Joining a boat tour is one of the best ways to see everything Kenai Fjords has to offer, though you should remember to wrap up warm. For those wanting to stay on terra firma, the park also has the Exit Glacier, which can be accessed by road. From here you can enjoy a number of short walks or simply take in the breathtaking view from one of the designated areas.
If you fancy something a little bit more adrenaline filled then why not take a kayaking trip while in Kenai Fjords? However, unless you are very experienced, travelling with the help of a guide is recommended as the Gulf of Alaska can be home to challenging waters.