Well-known parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone often get more attention than the 56 other national parks. Here are ten others to consider as you make this summer’s vacation plans:
Smallest: Hot Springs, Arkansas. Only 5,549 acres, but it has 47 thermal springs. Jump in a tub and enjoy.
Least Visited: Kobuk Valley, Alaska. While Grand Canyon had 4.4 million visitors in 2008, Kobuk Valley only had 1,565. Why? It’s far away and there are no roads. Get a plane, boat or snowmobile and see what it’s like north of the Arctic Circle.
Most Bears: Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. The park has an average of two black bears per square mile. No wonder there are often bear-sighting traffic jams along park roads.
Most Prehistoric: Petrified Forest, Arizona. Once upon a time it was a tropical floodplain. Now you can see 225 million years of history in the fossilized trees.
Tallest or Thickest: Your call. It’s either the Redwoods or King’s Canyon/Sequoia in California. The Redwoods include trees 38 stories high. While Sequoia has tall trees, too, they include the General Sherman tree that’s wider than three lanes of traffic.
Most Isolated: Isle Royale, Michigan. It takes a 3-5 hour boat ride to reach this primitive wilderness in Lake Superior.
Wettest: Olympic, Washington. You’ll find many ferns, mosses and lichens in this rain forest with an annual precipitation of twelve feet.
Darkest: Big Bend, Texas. In this remote and relatively cloud-free desert, the Milky Way is bright enough to cast a shadow.
Deepest: Crater Lake, Oregon. The lake in this volcanic basin is the seventh deepest lake in the world at 1,943 feet.
Newest: Great Sand Dunes, Colorado. This 30-square mile dune field was switched from a national monument to a national park in 2004. You’ll find short-horned lizards, bighorn sheep and mule deer here as well as some wonderful dunes to slide down.
Source: “National Parks Less Traveled” in AARP Magazine, May/June 2010