Part of the beauty of exploring a national park is the feeling that you’re the first to discover it. But this is difficult to accomplish when you’re the umpteenth person to gaze over a scenic overlook. Want to escape to national parks where you can be at one with the surroundings? Below you’ll find five places where you can still hear birdcalls instead of camera flashes. They’re out there, and they’re waiting for you to find them.
#1) Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore– Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks spotlights the pristine shoreline of Lake Superior. Admission to the park is free, and a trek through the hardwood forest reveals waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, and freshwater creeks. If you don’t wish to explore the park by foot, you can hire a boat and cruise along the 40-mile lakeshore. Don’t forget to look up – birds of prey frequent the park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a bald eagle swooping overhead.
#2) Mojave National Preserve– California
This just in: You don’t have to visit Joshua Tree National Park to see Joshua trees. California’s Mojave National Preserve is home to three deserts: Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin. What this means? Lots of flora, including an affluent Joshua tree forest. Not to mention much fewer people. Not only is it tremendously under-populated, but it’s also quite massive. Mojave ranks as “the third largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States.” What that means? Lots of room to explore.
#3) Glen Canyon National Recreation Area– Arizona/Utah
Situated on the border of two sandstone states, Glen Canyon offers unparalleled panoramas of red rocks intertwined with freshwater. Lake Powell, a gem of the park, offers aquatic fun ranging from kayak rentals to boat tours. The lake is manmade, but you’d never know. Set off on the water or kick back on the shore. The rich water body hosts sand worthy of praise. It’s brown and grainy on the surface, but slosh around long enough and you’ll find it acts as a natural exfoliant, leaving your feet feeling refreshed.
#4) Redwood National Park– California
Never was there ever a better place to hug a tree. Redwood National Park is where you go for a less commercial chance to see those giant trees John Muir wrote so fondly about. In California’s Humboldt County lies an expanse of the world’s oldest and tallest trees. Whether driving or hiking, you’ll feel at peace among the old growth redwoods. Be sure to stop over at Elk Meadow to catch a herd of Roosevelt elk grazing and bugling. Oh, and did I mention entry’s free?
#5) Canyonlands National Park– Utah
Overshadowed by its more popular neighbor, Canyonlands is often forgotten. The park sits just 26 miles from Arches National Park but receives less than half the annual visitors. At four times the size of Arches, it’s safe to say Canyonlands offers more space and solitude. And the name says it all: you’ll journey about endless sandstone cliffs. Pick your adventure sport – off-roading, mountain biking, rock climbing – Canyonlands has it covered. But don’t forget it’s a primarily primitive park, so be sure to bring the essentials along with you.