17 stunning photos of under-the-radar national parks that you should visit to escape crowds

Kris Wiktor/ShutterstockYou can sandboard down a 755-foot-tall mountain of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
  • There’s little doubt that you’ll encounter crowds of tourists during your time visiting famous national parks like Yellowstone,Grand Canyon, and Yosemite.
  • Instead, there are plenty of under-the-radar national parks to explore across the country.
  • You can sandboard down a 755-foot mountain of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
  • Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is home to some of the best stargazing in the world.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

While famous national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite are undoubtedly worth seeing, you’ll also need to be prepared to encounter crowds of tourists when you visit.

If you’re looking to avoid crowds this summer, there are plenty of underrated national parks to visit throughout the US, from the stunning banks of Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado to the crystal blue waters of Biscayne National Park in Florida.

Below, check out 17 under-the-radar national parks you should consider visiting.


Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park is home to the Twin Lakes: two shimmering, turquoise pools that reflect the surrounding mountains.

Carl Johnson / Design Pics / Getty ImagesLake Clark National Park in Port Alsworth, Alaska.

Visitors can find all sorts of natural phenomena in Lake Clark National Park. In addition to the gorgeous mountains and lakes, the park is home to an array of wildlife like swans, porcupines, fish, brown and black bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and more.


Visitors can view the largest cacti in the US at Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona.

Arto Hakola / ShutterstockSaguaro National Park in southern Arizona.

Saguaro National Park is located in the desert of Arizona. While Saguaro cacti are the signature draw of the park, inhabitants like mountain lions, foxes, jackrabbits, Gila monsters (a type of lizard), rattlesnakes, turtles, frogs, and many species of birds also frequent the park, according to the National Park Service.


Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has 47 natural thermal baths with an average temperature of 143 degrees Fahrenheit.

Zack Frank / ShutterstockHot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

While the 143-degree pools are too hot to swim or bathe in, many visitors take a taste of the water at Hot Springs National Park. It’s completely potable and many bottle up water to take home with them, according to the National Park Service.


Channel Islands National Park in California is a great spot to hike, bike, surf, dive, snorkel, kayak, and tidepool.

Joseph Sohm/ShutterstockChannel Islands National Park in Ventura, California.

Visitors may happen upon sea lions, seals, whales, dolphins, and sea otters in the ocean water surrounding Channel Islands National Park, per the National Park Service.


You can sled or sandboard down a 755-foot mountain of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

Kris Wiktor/ShutterstockGreat Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado.

Hiking up the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park gives visitors an unparalleled view of the Rocky Mountains. According to the National Park Service, the melting snowcaps of the Rockies form a stream called Medano Creek at the base of the sand dunes, creating a beach unlike any other during the spring and summer months.


Bright-blue waters, colourful coral reefs, and stunning wildlife are all common sights at Biscayne National Park in Florida.

William Silver/ShutterstockBiscayne National Park in the Florida Keys.

Just south of Miami, Biscayne National Park in the Florida Keys offers visitors boating, kayaking, snorkelling, and diving opportunities unlike anywhere else in the country.


In addition to the stunning natural beauty of Haleakalā National Park, this haven has deep ties to ancient and modern Hawaiian culture.

Evan Austen/ShutterstockHaleakalā National Park in Kula, Hawaii.

From sunrises and sunsets in the Summit Area to hiking and camping in the Kīpahulu District, there’s plenty to explore at Haleakalā National Park. Additionally, many spots throughout the park are mentioned in Hawaiian legends and songs, according to the National Park Service.


Acadia National Park in Maine boasts both stunning shores along the Atlantic Ocean and the highest peak on the East Coast.

ShutterstockAcadia National Park in Maine.

Visitors can explore rocky coastlines, dense forests, and soaring mountain peaks within the 65-square-mile expanse of Acadia National Park, per Brittanica.


With sparkling lakes, snowcapped mountains, and icy glaciers, Montana’s Glacier National Park is a great spot for outdoorsmen.

© Kan Khampanya / 500pxGlacier National Park in Crystal Point, Montana.

Hiking, biking, boating, and camping, are all popular activities for visitors to Montana’s Glacier National Park during the warmer months, while those who like the cold can take in the stunning scenery on cross country skis in the winter.


Visitors can explore the more than 119 caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

Doug Meek/ShutterstockCarlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

According to the National Park Service, sulfuric acid dissolved the limestone of the bedrock to form this underground gem in the middle of the desert. Visitors can explore the caves and see the wildlife inside, including foxes, wolves, and 17 different species of bats.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is the site where the late president found inspiration for his conservationist policies.

Chen Ran/ShutterstockTheodore Roosevelt National Park in South Billings, North Dakota.

Home to diverse wildlife and scenic landscapes, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota offers visitors prime hiking and camping opportunities, according to the National Park Service.


You can visit the deepest lake in the entire country at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.

Matthew Connolly/ShutterstockCrater Lake National Park in Oregon.

According to the National Park Service, Crater Lake formed 7,700 years ago when the peak collapsed due to an eruption. Now, visitors can marvel at the pristine water and gorgeous scenery of the mountaintop lake.


Located in the middle of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is filled with unique geologic features like arches, domes, cliffs, and canyons.

Quinn Calder/ShutterstockCapitol Reef National Park in Fruita, Utah.

Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park is a great spot for hiking and camping, but some of the greatest sights in the park come after dark. According to the National Park Service, Capitol Reef National Park is designated as a “Gold Tier” park by the International Dark-Sky Association, meaning that it has the highest quality views of the night sky.


Badlands National Park in South Dakota boasts 244,000 acres of rugged and beautiful landscape.

photo.ua / ShutterstockBadlands National Park in South Dakota.

According to the National Park Service, the Badlands are filled with fossils of animals that once roamed the South Dakota expanse, like saber-toothed cats, rhinos, and horses. Now, the park is home to bison, beavers, bobcats, prarie dogs, and many other types of animals.


With three different ecosystems in its 135 square miles, Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas has incredibly diverse wildlife.

Anton Foltin/ShutterstockGuadalupe Mountains National Park in Salt Flat, Texas.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to more than 400 different species of animals, including snakes, lizards, mountain lions, foxes, and black bears, according to the National Parks Service. Like many of the other national parks on this list, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a great spot for hiking, backpacking, and camping.


North Cascades National Park in Washington is filled with snowy peaks, icy glaciers, and bubbling brooks.

SoisudaS/ShutterstockNorth Cascades National Park in Sedro-Woolley, Washington.

Hiking, biking, boating, fishing, camping, and climbing are all common activities to partake in at North Cascades National Park, but perhaps most unique amongst the park’s offerings is Stehekin, the hidden village tucked into the mountains that is only accessible by foot, boat, or plane, per the National Parks Service.


Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park showcases some of the most beautiful peaks in the nation.

littleting/ShutterstockGrand Teton National Park in Jenny Lake, Wyoming.

Incredibly serene and perfect for any nature lover, Grand Teton National Park in Jenny Lake, Wyoming, boasts more than 200 miles of trails with awe-inspiring views of the Teton Range.

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