No scroll through Instagram is complete without seeing a throwback shot or two from Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. But travelers hoping to witness awe-inspiring views without the crowds should plan a visit to these often-overlooked national parks, which still showcase the beauty and bounty of the American wilderness.
Crater Lake National Park
More than 7,700 years ago, the Mount Manzana volcano blew its top and collapsed, leaving a depression now filled by some of the purest water in the world. Oregon’s Crater Lake — located about 250 miles from Portland — descends nearly 2,000 feet, making it the deepest lake in the U.S. and the ninth deepest in the world. A trip around the 33-mile Rim Drive offers 30 stop-off points to look out across this beautiful, otherworldly circle of water.
Grand Teton National Park
Located seven miles south of the more popular Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton is the perfect spot for rock climbers and Romantic poets. Each year, visitors from around the world fly into the only commercial U.S. airport located inside a national park to try their hand at scaling the jagged peaks of the Teton Range, but also to gaze at the sheer majesty. For prime views, boat or float down the Snake River, which flows throughout the 480-square-mile park.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
At this remote national park, about 120 miles southwest of Anchorage, modern-day pioneers have nearly four million acres to explore. Take a powerboat ride on the 42-mile long lake, or get up close and personal (within reason) with the brown bears that inhabit this exquisitely pristine preserve.
Big Bend National Park
A three-hour drive south from Midland International Air and Space Port, Big Bend boasts hundreds of miles of trails and dirt roads on which to hike, bike or horseback ride among the park's canyons and prairies—along with 100 miles of pavement for those who prefer to go into the wild by car. Try to spend the night—this West Texas park is so remote that it has some of the darkest skies in the country.
Biscayne National Park
A far cry from the sensory overload you get on South Beach, Biscayne National Park offers pristine aquamarine water and vibrant coral reefs that create the perfect backdrop for fishing, boating, snorkeling, diving, paddling, camping or hiking—all within sight of the downtown Miami skyline.
Voyageurs National Park
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes lies a maze of interconnected waterways far off the beaten path. About 270 miles from Minneapolis, near Minnesota’s border with Canada, Voyageurs National Park is a wonderland for winter lovers. Visitors can partake in guided boat tours, canoeing and hiking, as well as skiing and snowshoeing when the powder piles high.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Less popular than the Grand Canyon but with equally dramatic views, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison—located just 15 miles from Montrose Regional Airport—is home to steep cliffs and craggy spires that have been carved out by the Gunnison River over the past two million years. Take a scenic drive down to the river or, for a real challenge, climb the inner canyon.
Channel Islands National Park
When the hustle and bustle of city life becomes overwhelming, in-the-know Angelenos head to the Channel Islands to find some peace and quiet. Comprising five emerald islands and surrounded by sapphire ocean, this national park boasts hiking, camping, snorkeling, kayaking and birdwatching.
Congaree National Park
A two-hour drive south from Charlotte, Congaree National Park in Hopkins, SC., is home to the largest expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast. Camp among the tall upland pines or take a canoe or kayak among the bald cypress and water tupelo that line the Congaree and Wateree rivers.
Isle Royale National Park
It doesn’t get more remote than Isle Royale, an archipelago in the middle of Lake Superior that is accessible only by ferry, seaplane or private watercraft. After arranging transportation from departure points in Michigan or Minnesota, a roadless wilderness awaits, complete with moose, wolves and a variety of birds.