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6 Underrated National Parks to Add to Your Bucket List

Roofnest Team

Feb 22, 2024

6 Underrated National Parks to Add to Your Bucket List
National Parks week is here! That means it’s time to bust out that bucket list and figure out which of our nation’s natural wonders to visit this year. While we love classics like Yellow Stone, The Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park, we recommend checking out some uncharted territory this summer. We’re craving some new adventures this season. We’re talking the island-hopping, cave-diving, get lost kind of adventure. To get you out of the ordinary (and away from the crowds), we’ve rounded up some of the most underrated National Parks in the U.S., and some little-known activities you can try out while you’re there. So go ahead, check out the road less traveled. You won’t need a Wi-Fi signal where you’re headed.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

This isolated gem is accessible only by boat and is closed from November-mid-April. That means it’s not known for having too many visitors. The island is in the middle of Lake Superior, and is an excellent spot for hiking for all different levels. You’ll be provided with plenty of solitude here, including some stunning views of the aurora borealis. You’ll also have the option of dipping your toe in some adventure with scuba diving, paddling, and educational tours led by expert park rangers. Prepare to learn more about exotic and endangered species while you’re there, as you might spot the 19 beautiful gray wolves that now call this island home. Paddle out to Isle Royale and escape the crowds >

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

We love checking out ancient volcanos, especially with a view as epic and scenic as the one you’ll find nestled here in the Cascade Mountain Range. Out of all the places on the NPS map, it certainly has the deepest and bluest waters. At 1,943ft deep, that’s deeper than The Statue of Liberty, The Washington Monument, and the Eiffel Tower all stacked on top of each other! You can explore these vast waters via boat tour around Wizard Island — the fascinating remnants of the once-mighty volcano. While this park has risen in popularity in the past few years, it still remains one of the first and best-maintained national parks in the country. But you’ll still want to avoid weekends in July and August for good measure. Visit this unknown national park before it gets popular >

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Colorado is a great state for National Parks. Cradled by the Rocky Mountains, you can’t go wrong with Rocky Mountain National Park, or The Great Sand Dunes if you’re feeling like surfing on some sand. But if you’re headed for the border of Colorado onto Utah, don’t forget to add this gem to your National Park bucket list. It’s the smallest National Park in the US, which allows you to explore more beauty than some of the vast parks that might take you days to fully see. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by exceptional rock formations, which will delight the geologist-loving travelers among you. It was once said that early residents of the canyon (Ute Native Americans) believed that no human could survive a trip to the bottom. Today, you can survive an exploration of this canyon with a wilderness use permit, which you can pick up at the ranger station. When the sun goes down, prepare yourself for some of the best star-gazing in the country, so be sure to get yourself situated when the sun goes down. Check out the smallest national park in the US >

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

You already know what Vegas is all about. So skip the tourist trap and come here instead. Great Basin National Park is harder to get to, as it’s nestled between several peaks. This provides just the peace and tranquility you’re looking for in your new favorite national park. The best feature here might be the Lehman Cave tours, which are opening up again this summer. Prepare to be dazzled with an underground maze of unusual cave features, including the ever-intriguing “cave bacon.” When you emerge from your day of cave dwelling, be sure to register your Roofnest for some backcountry camping at any of the beautiful and remote sites within the park. Enjoy the solitude at this underrated national park >

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

The best National Parks come with a rich ad interesting history, and this one is packed full of it. Women played a large role in the legacy of this spot, challenging traditional roles of the time and enjoying their share of pioneering. You’ll get your fix of hot springs and volcanic sites here, and without all the crowds of neighboring Yellow Stone National Park. And if we’re getting technical, this place actually has more diverse geysers than Yellow Stone — including the most historically explosive volcano in the country, Lassen Peak. We’ll pass on Old Faithful this time around.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

The name is slightly misleading, but you’ll probably be in the water for most of your stay at this little-known national park. While the tourists crowd around Key West, you’ll be 70 miles west enjoying the remote islands and all the fun activities they have to offer — including snorkeling to your heart’s content. Underwater, you’ll spot sea life you won’t see anywhere else in the country. We’re talking vibrant coral reefs, exotic fish, and “Las Tortugas,” the elusive sea turtle. There aren’t any fancy restaurants here, making it a perfect opportunity to test out your camp cooking skills, or even catch your dinner in the ocean if you’ve got your fishing license handy. Get your snorkel on at this remote national park >

Why Be Ordinary with Your National Park Adventure?

Asking us to choose our favorite National Park is like asking us to pick our favorite Roofnest — it’s nearly impossible. And while we’ve got our go-to favorites, nothing can beat discovering a hidden gem in the wilderness. Plus, with one of these underrated National Park choices, you’ll have an experience like none other to share with your friends and family. That beats standing in line for hours to see Delicate Arch (no offense, we still love that thing). And sometimes, even the best parks aren’t all they’re cracked up to least, not for some visitors. Take it from the hilarious artist Amber Share, who has made a living making negative reviews about popular parks into artwork on the Instagram account @subparparks.

Stay Connected Even When You’re Off the Grid

Chances are, when you’re out and about this week getting off the grid — you’ll need at least some access to humanity. We’ve got you covered on that front too, just in case you do have to pull out that laptop to check a work email or get your kids set up with Zoom school. Check out our favorite portable Wi-Fi devices for remote learning and working >