Remote locations, extreme adventures, and jaw-dropping scenery are all things that to be found in the 58 national parks preserved by the National Parks Service. This year marks 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service and more people than ever will be exploring the abundance of natural beauty contained within our national parks.
This list provides information (and links) to 11 national parks that are some of the most exciting, remote, and unexplored locations. Get ready to pack your bags and check out some parks that will feed the adventure-seeker’s soul.
1. Arches, Utah
Outdoor enthusiasts will find unlimited activities to enjoy in this surreal landscape. From four-wheeling, canyoneering, backpacking, mountain biking, and rock climbing to photography and stargazing, thrill-seeking opportunities abound in this desert landscape on the expansive Colorado Plateau.
2. Death Valley, California
There are many backcountry roads and camping options in this dry, desert park. Be prepared for your epic adventure by understanding the weather at the hottest, driest, and lowest point in North America. Unique natural phenomena, such as the Devil’s Racetrack (pictured above) are caused by the fluctuations in temperature and water. Check out the sand dunes and salt flats that make up part of this beautifully desolate terrain.
3. Gates of the Arctic, Alaska
This park is pure and wild, with no park services available on site. It is only possible to get into this park via hiking or flying. To experience this remote area, you can backpack, camp, or explore the wild rivers. At the end of an adventure-filled day, you can relax under the stars and experience the beauty of the awe-inducing aurora borealis in the night sky.
4. Big Bend, Texas
Experience the backcountry, float down the Rio Grande, or hike the desert, mountain, or river biomes. If fishing or birdwatching get your heart pumping, this is the place to experience both of those activities as well. Scenic drives, both on paved and primitive roads, are available to explore in this expansive area. This park offers a bit of everything for the restless explorer.
5. American Samoa, American Samoa
An island chain to the southwest of Hawaii that is a lush tropical paradise, and closer to Australia than the United States, National Park of American Samoa is an island escape for anyone experiencing a case of wanderlust. Extroverted adventurers can explore the tropical rainforest, discover stunning wildlife such as the King Fisher bird and the Pe’a (Fruit Bats), snorkel through the surrounding coral reefs, and experience the beauty of the local Samoan culture.
6. Biscayne, Florida
Boating, camping, canoeing, and kayaking are all activities available at this tropical island park on the north end of the Florida Keys. Exotic plants and animals are prevalent throughout this marine environment, including endangered sea turtles. Explore the many shipwrecks in the area by following the Maritime Heritage trail. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can check out several shipwrecks up close by snorkelling or scuba diving.
7. Grand Teton, Wyoming
An abundance of wildlife to observe (or photograph) and endless opportunities for seasonal activities make this park a thrillseeker’s dream. Summer adventures can include hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and backpacking. If you’re looking for a cold-weather adventure, this park also provides opportunities for winter skiing or snowshoeing. Learn about the previous adventurers that blazed the trail to the Grand Tetons, such as the trappers, explorers, ranchers, and Native Americans that have called this area home over the years.
8. Hawai’i Volcanoes, Hawaii
There aren’t many things more exciting than exploring active volcanoes. Take a breathtaking scenic drive along Crater Rim or follow a ranger-guided tour through the Puapo’o Lava Tube. Lava flows and steam vents are abundant on the Chain of Craters Road tour. View the scenery from your bike, but be prepared for a workout since some areas of the park climb as much as 2500 feet in 6 miles.
9. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
This is a park for those who prefer something a little bit different. This underground cave system is the longest in the world with over 400 miles that have been explored so far. After you tour the cave, be sure to hike, bike, or take a horseback ride around the “top side” so that you can appreciate the stunning scenery. The Green and Nolin Rivers flow through this park, making it a fantastic place for a kayak adventure.
10. North Cascades, Washington
This park provides breathtaking mountain views and endless outdoor adventures just 3 hours from from Seattle, Washington. You can hike, bike, canoe, climb, or horseback ride through this glacial mountain space. This park provides a much more remote experience than neighboring Mount Rainier National Park, with a fraction of the visitors and just as many, if not more, exploratory activities. Channel your inner adventurer and try some “boat-in” camping at Lake Diablo (pictured above) or some backcountry camping and mountaineering.
11. Voyageurs, Minnesota
Great for any season, Voyageurs offers adventure and history in one unique package. Hiking, camping, and guided tours are available in summer, with cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing available in the winter months. Learn about the Native American tribes that inhabited this area and some of the earliest European explorers, the Voyageurs, as well.
Featured photo credit: Josh Felise via magdeleine.co