One of the great treasures of the United States is its vast network of National Parks. Spanning over 84 million acres across the country, these sites house mind-blowing landscapes, endangered animal and plant species and countless opportunities for adventure.
While popular culture focuses primarily on sites such as Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Parks, the system actually boasts 417 different parks, which means there are hundreds of hidden gems just waiting to be explored.
Below, we’ve assembled some of our favorite underrated national parks guaranteed to satisfy the nature lover in us all.
1. North Cascades National Park, Washington
With its rugged terrain and difficult hiking trails, Washington’s North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited parks in the United States, which is a real shame as it’s also one of its most beautiful. Best known for its diverse array of ecosystems (where else can you see both glaciers and temperate rainforests in one place?), the park also boasts numerous waterfalls and a large population of American bald eagles.
2. National Park of American Samoa, Samoa
While the National Park of American Samoa isn’t necessarily the easiest place to get to, once visitors arrive they’ll be treated to a tropical landscape full of gorgeous flora and fauna. Plus, for those interested in a more immersive cultural experience, the park offers a homestay program where guests can room with locals to learn about unique Samoan customs.
3. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
While The Golden State is best known for housing Yosemite, Sequoia and Joshua Tree National Parks, California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park offers something the others can’t—a bevy of active volcanoes and hot springs. Sprawling over 100,000 acres in the northern part of the state, Lassen is a thrilling destination that boasts 150 miles of hiking trails and plenty of large camping grounds perfect for hardened explorers and families alike.
4. Biscayne National Park, Florida
Located just south of Miami lies Biscayne National Park, a site unique for the fact that 95% of it is located underwater. What travelers will find above the surface are dozens of colorful islets full of the Sunshine State’s tropical plants and wildlife. A visit to Biscayne Bay will allow guests to wade in the crystal clear waters while a deep dive will unveil the Florida Reef, the world’s third largest coral reef.
5. Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park is a gorgeous park made up of a cluster of islands in Lake Superior. Though visitors can only access the park by boat or seaplane, a trip to this northern gem is worth it for the peaceful rocky shores and towering Jack pines. Fun fact? Isle Royale is the only known place in the world where moose, wolves and bears are able to exist peacefully.