If you’re looking for scenic, low-cost destinations, the National Parks System has some suggestions. And while some of the more prominent parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone get millions of visitors a year, you can find adventure without the crowds at a host of lesser-known jewels.
For lovers of startling rock formations, Black Canyon on the Gunnison River has cliffs that run 2,700 feet straight down, offering ample opportunities for amazing views and truly challenging climbing. You can also hike, fish, camp and, for the very skilled, raft the spectacular whitewater rapids. nps.gov/blca
Cuyahoga National Park is not only beautiful, but it’s also reachable from nearby Akron and Cleveland by trains that ride through the park. With forests, a gorgeous river and rugged valleys, Cuyahoga hosts a wide range of wildlife, including river otters, mink, bald eagles and deer. nps.gov/cuva
If an ocean paradise thrills you, consider Dry Tortugas National Park, spread over a series of Florida Keys. To get there, you need to go by ferry, seaplane or boat. Most of the park is crystal blue water, attracting a range of astonishing seabirds. You can also tour Fort Jefferson, dating from the 1800s, and snorkel the warm Florida waters. nps.gov/drto
Amid the vast expanse of Lake Superior, Isle Royale National Park covers an island over which moose and wolves roam freely, where you can hike, backpack, boat and scuba dive. Take a boat or seaplane to get there, and once you alight, you’ll have 132,000 acres of wilderness to explore and share with the wild creatures that inhabit it. nps.gov/isro
Do you like to live on the wild side? Do you want to explore a volcanic-gas vent or a boiling pool? Lassen Volcanic National Park’s hot water and molten rock feed a hydrothermal system underneath Lassen Peak. Hike through steam, bubbling mud and water — you’ll need to stay on the path, but you can still have a raw, unfettered view of Mother Nature. You can also camp, hike and even snowshoe in this area, which offers diversions year-round. nps.gov/lavo
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