A guest post from our Brand Ambassadors, The Switchback Kids. . .
This year, we are visiting all 59 National Parks in the U.S. Although we're only 24 parks in, we have already encountered so many amazing spots. While some parks, like Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and Everglades, are on everyone's travel bucket list, we have come across some gems that are a little more hidden.
And those are the parks we love to share with other people.
Visiting lesser-known parks has many benefits. In addition to being less crowded, they tend to feature more secrets and unique adventures that all your friends haven't already Instagrammed. This sense of discovery is so exciting. Off-the-beaten-path parks also tend to be less commercialized, and thus cheaper. Though they may be harder to access, the solitude makes up for the remoteness.
If your travel bucket list wasn't full before, get ready to add a few more amazing destinations.
1. National Park of American Samoa: located about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific, this park is one of the most unique we've explored. Available is a little hiking, a little snorkeling, and a lot of local hospitality. If you manage to make it out there, be sure to participate in a few local Samoan traditions like dancing, drinking straight from coconuts, and greeting everyone with a friendly "talofa!"
2. Capitol Reef National Park: Of Utah's "Mighty Five" National Parks, Capitol Reef had by far the (1) least tourists, (2) least commercialization, (3) best ranger programs, and (4) most diverse adventure opportunities. Through our stay, we hiked through slot canyons, picked apples from the historic in-park orchards, waded through the gorgeous narrows of Sulfur Creek, hiked to the tall Navajo Knobs, and camped for free for four nights. If you are looking for all Utah has to offer in an off-the-beaten-path package, Capitol Reef is worth venturing to.
3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Colorado has a lot to boast in terms of National Parks: we've seen Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, and this summer we'll see the Rocky Mountains. But their fourth source of pride in the NPS system is the less-frequented Black Canyon of the Gunnison, located in western Colorado near the city of Montrose. The canyon itself is extremely impressive, black cliffs dropping steeply from the rim, and the hikes are no joke.
4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park: In the east, National Parks are few and far between, but located between Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley gives visitors a rare chance to experience history and nature amidst two booming metropolises. Even thought the park is deemed an "urban" park, visitors can quickly step out of their cities and into wooded trails. Activities include waterfall hikes, biking the famous Towpath Trail, and scouring for fossils along the creek. It would be a great family destination.
5. Dry Tortugas National Park: Located 70 miles off the coast of Key West is a strange but beautiful small island. The historic Fort Jefferson covers almost all the island, leaving two small beaches and a somewhat shaded primitive campground. This was plenty for us, though. We toured the fort, lounged in the perfect-temperature water, kayaked the surrounding waters, and walked along the moat wall.
We already have a special place in our hearts for all National Parks. But what's even more special is finding a National Park where you can have a true moment of solitude or a completely unique experience.
If you are a National Parks lover, be sure to make time for some of these off-the-beaten-path parks. You won't be sorry you did.