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The 5 Most Underrated National Parks In the US | Why You Should Visit

Since Matthew and I are planning to spend about five years visiting all the National Parks, we figured we should get to reading up on them. It has been really interesting learning the history of the parks and seeing which parks we are the most excited for.

During my "research" of these parks, I've realized that some are super overrated and rarely talked about. Did you even know there is a National Park in America Samoa? Or one named after Theodore Roosevelt? I'm guessing not.

Today, I'm going to share with you five of the most unappreciated National Parks and why you should put them on your bucket list.

By visiting these National Parks, you get to experience nature with significantly less crowds. No one likes taking a picture of a beautiful view and having 20 heads in your way or having to wait in line for the visitor center.

National Park of American Samoa

national park of American Samoa. tropical island with mountain cliffs, forests, sandy beaches, blue water and black rock
The Samoan beaches offer dramatic cliffs and a sandy shore.

Established in 1988, this remote park is not as developed as most National Parks. Rather than walking through visitor centers and taking scenic drives, you'll get a closer experience with the island. During your stay, you can visit secluded villages and explore tropical forests.

There is a really cool program called the Homestead Program, in which you can stay with a local Samoan family for your visit rather than at a hotel. This is a great way to see the local culture first hand and get to experience traditional crafts and activities.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

badlands in North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt national park. hills, plains, and buffalo
There is more to the Dakotas than just flat land, I promise!

Named after our 26th president as a memorial to him, this park is full of history. While the land did not gain National Park status until 1978, the process began shortly after Teddy's death in 1919.

This rich history is found throughout the park in the old ranch sites, visitor centers, and a fun filled "Old Went Cowtown" in Medora.

old western cowtown Madera in North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Here you can take tours on horses, visit museums, and enjoy a show at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre.

If you like backpacking and feeling alone with the land, this may be the right park for you. There are no designated backcountry campsites, which allows you to go at your own pace and make your trip custom tailored to your liking.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

tallest part of Texas is the Guadalupe mountain national park mountain peak.
You can climb to the "Top of Texas" at an elevation of 8,751 ft.

This park is not talked about much (though it should be) which is why visitation hovers around only 180,000 visitors each year. Compare this to Yellowstone which received nearly 4.5 million visitors last year.

Guadalupe Mountain is the highest peak in Texas and offers breathtaking views of the valley below. The park is full of winding trails through the forested hills and rich local history. It is also home to the most extensive Permian fossil reef.

With over 80 miles of trails, you can hike through the McKittrick Canyon, up in the highlands, scramble up the Salt Basin Sand Dunes, and visit the historic Frijole Ranch.

salt basin sand dunes in Guadalupe Mountains national park. white sand dune nest to black mountains.
These dunes rise 100 feet above the desert floor.

Because of the location, clear nights make for dramatic sunsets followed by a sky full of stars. If you are interested in learning more about stargazing or want a fun guided experience, visit the McDonald Observatory run by the University of Texas.

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin national park Rocky Mountains and fall foliage colored trees
This park has a lot of scenic drives!

With only 90,000 visitors each year, this park is a great place to visit if you're seeking solitude. This park is really all about the landscape. Covering over 77,000 acres of land, this National Park offers a wide range of landscapes, altitudes, and wildlife.

From the ancient bristlecone pine trees and abundant wildlife to the limestone caverns, this park offers lots of adventures. During your visit, you may take tours through caves in search of "cave bacon", go fishing for trout, hike into the backcountry, or birdwatch.

Additionally, the remote location makes for dark nights which is why this park offers ranger-led astronomy programs year round.

Congaree National Park

boardwalk trail through Congaree national park floodplains
Thanks goodness for boardwalks!

Known as the largest intact floodplain forest in the southeastern United States, this National Park is home to a unique landscape. Here you will find large trees submerged in water which is quite the sight.

A floodplain is an areas of low-lying land along a river that is subject to regular flooding. Because of this, much of the land in Congaree is regularly covered in water. Luckily for you, there is a 2.4 mile boardwalk trail available so you can keep your feet dry.

There is an additional 24 miles of trails that take you through different areas of the park. You can hike down around the swamps or traverse up the ridges. There is abundant wildlife that you may spot such as turkeys, pigs, and armadillos!

Canoeing is a popular activity here so you can explore the waterways in a fun way.

fire flies in Congaree national park in the south of the United States
If you visit in the late spring, you can experience the beauty of fireflies!

Alaskan National Parks

I would also like to mention the eight National Parks in the state of Alaska, however, I have decided not to mention any one in particular for this list. These parks do tend to take a higher level of commitment and skill to visit. That being said, I would strongly suggest visiting these parks if you have the opportunity.

bush plane air taxi to fly into Alaska for national parks. nine national parks in Alaska
If you don't like being in little planes, you could always backpack your way in!

The biggest reason that these parks are on the list of "least visited" is simply because of their remote location. Traveling to many of these parks requires taking a bush plane in and there are few designated trails to meet you once you arrive. The land here is truly undeveloped which offers you a more rugged and adventurous experience. These parks are popular for backpackers and those seaking wildlife encounters.

The eight parks include: Denali, Gateway to the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Kenai Fjords, Katmai, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, and Wrangell-St. Elias.

Plan Your Visit

If one of these parks stood out to you, start planning your next trip! Check out this post to see what the peak time to visit the park is and what time of the year is the least crowded.

For more information about the National Park that got your interest, head over to the NPS website. Here you will find local information and updates that will help you make a well informed trip.

Remember to visit responsibly!

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Meet the Author


Hey! I'm Kaitlynn, a lover of the outdoors and all things travel. I quit my job to travel full-time with my husband, Matthew, in our skoolie. 

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Matt & Kate

Project 63 

Bringing you travel information and inspiration as we travel to all 63 National Parks.

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