Lesser-known national parks of USA

picGates of the Arctic, Alaska

The Gates of the Arctic National Park is located in Alaska and is one of America’s finest national parks. The park is within the Arctic Circle and covers 39,460 sq km. That is almost the same size as the Netherlands. This is not a place for casual tourists: there are no trails, roads or visitor facilities in the park. The only visitor centre is off the Dalton Highway close to the town of Coldfoot. There are wild rivers, hungry grizzlies and huge Mountains, so you will need to know how to survive in the wild. The park is extremely remote and most people arrive by floatplane.

Shenandoah, Virginia

Most of the terrain here was farmland before the creation of Shenandoah National Park in the mid-1930s. Tranquillity is still what you will find along Skyline Drive, which is the main 169km route running through the park. Blue Ridge Mountains may sound imposing, but Hawksbill Mountain is the highest at 1235m. Shenandoah is the perfect place to relax, hike through country trails and camp in the grassy meadows. This park is the best place to take your family for a wonderfully relaxing day out in nature.

Big Bend, Texas

This park is situated in the Deep South, making up almost 400km of the Texan border with Mexico. Big Bend National Park is known for the outstanding geology and palaeontology. The park has extreme climatic conditions, due to the varying altitudes. From the hot deserts and plunging canyons by the Rio Grande, to the cooler Chisos Mountains, you are sure to see something that inspires you here. There are a number of archaeological finds from thousands of years ago along the border. Big Bend’s isolation keeps the number of visitors low, because the nearest airports are Midland/Odesa (330km) and El Paso (580km).

Crater Lake, Oregon

The Great Lakes of America are famous all around the world, but many people do not know that the world’s ninth-deepest lake is also here. It is 594m deep, and the blue Crater Lake is home to an extinct caldera, which is in the heart of Crater Lake National Park. The lunar landscapes of ash and pumice are another sight that you absolutely have to see. Try hiking the 4260km Pacific Crest Trail and get that much needed exercise.  It runs all the way from Mexico to the Canadian border – A “walk in the park”. Take a boat tour from Cleetwood Cove from July to September if the weather is good.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon is located 330km northeast side of Las Vegas. There are no neon signs in Bryce Canyon National Park, but you will seethe brilliant red and orange hoodoos (pillars and arches that are eroded from the soft sedimentary rock). Bryce’s focal point is its eponymous amphitheatre and is19km long, 5km wide and up to 240m deep. There is a mass of fragile needles 60m from the valley floor, something that not even Vegas can match. The super clean air means that you can see all 7500 stars on a clear night.