This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
The anniversary, and the fact that America is home to so many beautiful parks, just might motivate you to plan a trip to one.
But before you pack your bags and head to most popular ones, like Yellowstone or Yosemite, consider a trip to a lesser known park — which features equally impressive sites, but fewer people.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Bowling Green, Kentucky, might not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a summer getaway, but it turns out the city is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, which is the world’s longest cave system. The over 400-mile system of caves has attracted tourists for 200 years, and new passageways and caves are constantly being uncovered.
Great Basin National Park, White Pine County, Nevada
Great Basin is known for its bristelcone pine, which is over 3,000 years old. The park also offers a miniature glacier and limestone caverns, as well as mountain streams and alpine lakes. If you’re looking for a less-visited park, this is the perfect choice. Great Basin doesn’t see nearly as many visitors as most other parks in the US do.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park encompasses the Chisos — a full mountain range — and is the only American national park to do so. It’s also the largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Dessert in the US. The Rio Grande runs through the park’s Santa Elena Canyon (pictured above), forming the boundary between Mexico and the US.
Isle Royale National Park, Isle Royale, Michigan
Because it sits on the island of Isle Royale in Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park can only be reached via seaplane or boat. Rugged coastlines and old lighthouses make this park unique, and the 36 campsites that dot the island make it a great destination for campers. Water activities like kayaking, canoeing, and scuba diving are also popular here.
Valley Forge National Historical Park, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
An easy drive from Philadelphia, Valley Forge National Historical Park is a must for history buffs. The park served as a winter encampment for the Continental Army from 1777 to 1778 during the American Revolutionary War, and is home to a number of monuments. However, it also boasts plenty of woods, rivers, and wildlife.
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