The summer heat is starting to break making it the perfect time to be outdoors without
having to worry about the elements encroaching on the fun. Before it cools off completely, we
put together a list of National Parks that are a little off the beaten path. We’re giving these
smaller, less traveled and quaint parks some love as a must-see before the season changes.
Alcatraz Island [San Francisco]
Alcatraz is typically thought of as the past home to some of the country's most notorious
prisoners, but don’t forget that this island boasts beautiful scenery, wilderness and gardens.
Bring your binoculars as you tour the island because it's a very well known birdwatching location
with a wide variety of species to spot and holds surprises around every turn, right in the heart of
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore [Wisconsin]
Twenty-one islands and 12 miles of lakeshore make up the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
on Lake Superior, making it a true paradise for canoe and kayak aficionados. The water,
beaches and cliffs all meet the sky for breathtaking panoramic views.
Badlands National Park [South Dakota]
Known for striking geological deposits, Badlands National Park contains one of the world’s
richest fossil beds. Here you can find some of the rarest species in North America, including
bison and bighorn sheep. There’s no shortage of overlooks and scenic drives to enjoy the views
making this is the perfect spot for nature enthusiasts to check out.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park [New Mexico]
Unlike other National Park’s, the Carlsbad Caverns were not discovered by sanctioned
explorations. Instead, they were discovered by a young boy named James White who stumbled
upon the Southeastern land in New Mexico. He took it upon himself to name many of the
caverns, which offer much needed relief to the sweltering heat that can reach upwards of 90
degrees in the summer. Stay in the caves for cooler temperatures around 60 degrees.
Congaree National Park [South Carolina]
Just a stone’s throw away from downtown Columbia, Congaree National Park is the largest
intact bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeast, where biodiversity is alive and
well. Escape the busy city life with the calming scenery, cool waters and old growth forest
backdrops. If you can plan your visit in unison with the rare phenomena of synchronized fireflies,
we would highly suggest it. For approximately two to four weeks each year, hundreds of
lightning bugs blink in unison, turning the dark forest into a magical wonderland.
Dry Tortugas National Park [Florida]
Just 70 miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park, 100 square miles of islands and
sea. Drive until the road ends and switch over to a boat in order to arrive at this final destination.
Nearby, you can explore Fort Jefferson, one of the country’s largest 19th-century forts, or cool
off with some unforgettable snorkeling and sea creature sightings.
Everglades National Park [Florida]
Animal lovers rejoice! If you’re in the mood for some wildlife sightings head to Everglades
National Park. Between walking down the Anhinga Trail and canoeing down Nine Mile Pond,
you're likely to catch an alligator or two in its natural habitat.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve [Colorado]
Look no further for the perfect balance of outdoor excitement and relaxation. Sledding and
boarding down the sand dunes are a popular attraction at this park as well as stargazing and
taking in unobstructed views of the vast Milky Way.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park [Texas]
Say hello to the highest summit in Texas, located at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Go for the crisp white salt basin dunes and stay for the incredible hiking on Guadalupe Peak.
You can expect to find the world’s most extensive Permian reef and environmentally diverse
collection of fauna and flora.
Isle Royale National Park [Michigan]
This park may be one of the least visited in the country because of the limited access options,
but it’s definitely worth the trip for the adventure and views. As an island, you can only get here
by seaplane, ferry or boat. Due to the extreme weather conditions, it’s only open about half of
the year from April 15 to November 1. Safe to say, the crowd attracted to Isle Royal tend to be
pretty serious about the outdoors and making the voyage worth it. On average, hikers and
backpackers on average trek six to eight miles per day.
North Cascades National Park [Washington]
This hidden gem has a lake on both sides of the park which lends itself to incredible views.
Although North Cascades isn’t quite a household name like Yosemite or the Smoky Mountains,
it's the perfect location for avid hikers and kayakers. Jagged mountains, rivers, waterfalls and
glacial lakes offer an assortment of terrain options. Lodging is available if you want to plan a
long weekend trip. Don't forget to check out the 4.2 mile trek around Pyramid Lake.
Mammoth Cave National Park [Kentucky]
You may be surprised to learn that the longest cave system in the world is located right here in
the U.S. in the heart of Kentucky. Mammoth Cave National Park runs 390 miles long with some
areas still untapped by explorers. Head below ground to one of the pools or check out the
geological formations like stalagmites or stalactites. Much like Carlsbad Cavern, you can beat
the heat with cooler temperatures in the caves around 50 degrees.
Redwood National Park [California]
Here you will get an iconic visual of the tallest trees in the world surrounded by hiking trails
throughout the ancient forest. Looking up at the magnificent red giants will keep you occupied
while the dry cool air provides the perfect elements for the occasion. The summer months are
the off-season for storms, making it the best time to visit.
Saguaro National Park [Arizona]
It gets its name for the beautiful saguaro plant that is found and protected here while it sits
among the largest cacti in the country. Those interested in getting a good look at the ecosystem,
the Desert Discovery Nature Trail is the ideal activity. If you’re looking to stretch your legs on an
easy walk you can head over to Valley View Overlook.