As the name implies, today we will be talking about 5 of the most underrated National Parks. Since there are over 400 National Parks, covering millions of acres of land, it’s easy for some to slip through the cracks. So while you might have your eye on Yellowstone or Yosemite, both of which are beautiful and have definitely earned their popularity, don’t skip out on the underdog!
Today’s post is also exciting because it is a collaboration post with the lovely Taylor from Brown Eyed Flower Child! Which if you don’t already follow Taylor on Instagram (which you should, her photos are totally wanderlustable, that’s a word right?) you can click here to check her out!
And on that note I will let Taylor take it away and tell you, in her own words, why Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most underrated National Parks out there!
Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
One of the most underrated National Parks in the United States is Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northeastern California. From steamy fumaroles to picturesque meadows and glistening lakes to great hiking trails, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Lassen.
It will cost you $30 USD to enter Lassen Volcanic National Park and it is recommended that you start your adventure by the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and drive along Route 89, which is the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.
I recommend first visiting Sulphur Works that includes a hiking trail where you could see the steaming and colorful fumaroles along with bubbling mud pots. (Seen below)
Next, enjoy the breathtaking views along the scenic byway and then check out both Emerald Lake and Lake Helen where you could see the iconic Lassen Peak! (Seen in the photo above!)
Across the street, enter the Bumpass Trailhead and do the 1.3-mile hike to Bumpass Hell, which is considered the
largest hydrothermal area in Lassen Park.
After checking out Bumpass Hell, get back in your car and drive up to Kings Creek Picnic Area and do the half mile hike to Cold Boiling Lake, which is cool to see as it is a boiling spring in the middle of a meadow.
Before you exit the park, it is a MUST to see Manzanita Lake. Overall, this serene lake is one of the most stunning spots in the National Park as Lassen Peak reflects beautifully on the water. There is also a flat walking trail along the lake for all to enjoy.
If you are doing a cross country or Northern California and Oregon road trip; are adventuring around the state of California or are seeking hidden gems in the Pacific Northwest, Lassen Volcanic National Park should definitely be on your bucket list as it features the most epic nature!
Isle Royale National Park, MI
Isle Royale National Park is a remote archipelago smack in the middle of Lake Superior just south of the Canadian border. The one large island, surrounded by dozens of smaller ones, is perfect for those who are looking to escape the hustle of city life and truly immerse themselves in nature.
The only access to the island is through a 1.5-3 hour boat/ferry ride or commercial seaplane. Once on the island there are a multitude of recreational options, depending on the season and current weather. Though camping overnight on the island requires a permit, it is only $7/day to visit.
According to the NPS website “Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude and adventures for backpackers, hikers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists and scuba divers.”
The Isle is home to 9 shipwrecks available for certified, registered divers to enjoy and explore, but beware as water temperatures remain steady around 30F/-1C degrees.
Enjoy hiking the island, but remember you are not alone, as the island is home to wolves and moose. While incredible from a distance, both are very dangerous animals, always use caution.
If you’re looking for a more extended stay, the island is home to Rock Harbor Lodge, which also provides more rustic cabins, primitive camping sites, a gift shop, and two restaurants. (Click here to learn about COVID-19 related closures)
Don’t miss the the oldest lighthouse on the island, the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, built in 1855. Available via chartered ferry from Rock Harbor.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
When you think Colorado what you do you think of? Likely, you picture rising mountain tops, skiing, and lots of snow. Not many people, outside of native Coloradans, hear Colorado and immediately think “desert” or “sand” or “sandboarding.”
This incredible park, located just southwest of Pueblo, is the definition of diverse landscaping. Within just 200 miles the park contains grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Scrolling through weather conditions month to month almost seems like you’re looking a different parks!
While the fee to get in is higher than most NPs, $25, it is per vehicle and valid for up to 7 consecutive days! Which is great because camping within the park is said to be spectacular due to the amazing views of the night sky.
If you’re at all interested in astronomy or photography you definitely need to stick around until after dark to catch some meteor showers, full-moon hiking, or even just soaking up the bright lights of planets and stars in the night sky.
Once you wake up in the morning, be sure to do some more exploring of the dunes! 30 square miles of dunes are yours for the taking, and due to being at such high elevation the temperatures in the summer remain quite mild.
If you’re feeling up for the challenge, try hiking the the tallest dune in North America, the Star Dune, which stands at 750 feet (229m) and takes roughly 9 hours to hike round trip. With no set hiking trail to follow, and the rapid change in conditions to the dune, no two hikers will experience this hike the same!
North Cascades National Park, WA
Though no one can deny the stunning beauty of this breathtaking park, it is often overlooked by tourists due to Mount Rainier being just south and far more accessible. Now, I am going to give you two reasons you need to put the North Cascades on your next trip to Washington and then let you decide.
Stehekin is a a small community within the park accessible only by foot, boat, or plane. Stay at the lodge or one of the rustic cabins and spend your days exploring the valley. Visit the orchard, the garden, try exploring the trails on foot, horseback or by bike. I am truly blown away by the beauty of this place, so I am just going to allow the Stehekin website to speak for itself.
“Stehekin is a breathtaking destination nestled deep in the heart of the North Cascades. Once you reach Stehekin you’ll find yourself in a valley surrounded by peaks of the North Cascades. You’ll be dwarfed by trees over a hundred feet tall, wind your way up the one-lane road, hear the glacial melt running over the rocks of the Stehekin river and experience one of the most peaceful places on earth.”
North Cascades Highway
All along the North Cascades Highway, which is 30 miles across the length of the park, you will have dozens of opportunities for adventure and plenty of spectacular views.
With dozens of trails, a waterfall, two beautiful lakes, and three amazing overlooks you could spend multiple days exploring all this highway has to offer.
Hot Springs National Park, AR
At last, we conclude with something for our southern friends to enjoy! Arkansas might not be the first thing you think of when planning a relaxing vacation, but maybe it should be!
Though the park has 26 miles of hiking trails, the main portion of the park is actually located in the heart of the city. The water in the 47 springs flows steadily at around 143F/61C degrees. There are two main pools where it is safe to touch the water, since the water has to flow over rocks to reach the pool it naturally cools in the process.
You can even get the authentic experience of soaking in the mineral rich waters at the traditional bathhouse which has been maintained on the park for over 100 years. The town is rich with culture pertaining to the springs, and several Native American tribes have historical significance in the area.
Some tribes have evidence of occupying the area before the European “settlers” and some of the tribes came to the area due to the traumatic forced relocation by the American Government.
As always, if you’re interested in learning about a native tribe and their culture, always learn directly from a Native, it is not a white man’s place to tell their story or educate on their history.
Since the town was built around the park, there is no shortage of hikes, biking trails, or camping sites to enjoy.
So did we get you daydreaming? I hope you enjoyed our list of 5 underrated National Parks. Drop a comment and let us know what YOU think the most underrated park is and maybe we will feature it next time!
As always stay safe, and happy trails,
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