You probably drive past them every time you travel along an interstate. You may even live close to one, unaware of the treasures it holds. National Parks are dotted all over the country, and are as varied as the landscapes they possess. And although there are a few, like Yellowstone, that get all the attention, there are many others with only a small trickle of people enjoying their bounty.
National Parks make a great way to vacation with a family, since they are usually very inexpensive and full of a variety of activities. Kids love the Junior Ranger Program that most parks offer, with booklets and guided lessons, and even badges for each child.
So this summer, get out the map and find one of these buried treasures to enjoy with your family!
Badlands National Park, South Dakota Set among the mixed-grass prairies and amazing canyons, the Badlands National Park in South Dakota is home to an amazing number of incredible fossils. In the 381 square miles of rapidly eroding layers of earth, visitors can see ancestors of the modern-day cat, pig, rhinoceros, and horse and can also watch bison roam freely on the grassy terrain.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee/Kentucky The Cumberland Plateau in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee is home to beautiful scenic gorges, bluffs, and overlooks. Hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting and fishing make this an ideal camping destination. Families will love riding the Big South Fork Scenic Railway into a restored 1940s coal mining camp, where ghost structures provide an ideal setting for this outdoor museum.
Biscayne National Park, Florida The biggest surprise about this natural collection of emerald isles and corral reefs, is that it’s next door to busy Miami, Florida. Kids will enjoy catching their own lobsters, taking a boat ride, and snorkeling by the bay. Go canoeing or kayaking. There’s amazing sea life to be seen and fun family weekend festivals all summer long.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah In southern Utah, this National Park is filled with amphitheaters, two campgrounds, and amazing red rock spires. The geology in this park makes for breathtaking views on hiking trails. Take a horseback or mule-back guided tour. There’s so much scenery in this park. Don’t forget your camera!
Congaree, South Carolina The floodplains southeast of Columbia have recently become the first and only national park in South Carolina. To take in the sights, you can walk along the many hiking trails or canoe through the marshy waters. Enjoy a primitive camping site, bird watching, fishing, and the peaceful seclusion of this undiscovered treasure.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Vermont Come for the trees – sugar maples and 400 year old hemlocks. Or come for the quaint scenery – covered bridges and stone walls. Take a tour of the mansion, hunt for clues on the two-hour family forest hike, or visit nearby Billings Farm and Museum where you’ll get a taste of old Vermont farm life. Fall is the busiest season for this national treasure, so beat the crowds and take in the views this summer.
Why stand in line? This summer, enjoy amazing parts of the country at any of these beautiful underutilized national parks.