When it comes to national parks, some are more popular than others. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give lesser-known parks a second look.
In the Summer issue of Via magazine, AAA shares five national parks that have eluded the spotlight—which only makes them better. These destinations are home to less crowded trails, campgrounds and rare opportunities for solitude. Here are three that made the list:
Redwood National and State Parks, California
You can find redwood trees in California, Washington and Oregon, so what makes the redwoods at this string of protected forests so special? Old growth. Safe from chainsaws, these redwoods are allowed to reach their full grandeur, giving visitors the opportunity to stand at the foot of the world’s tallest trees that are 2,000 years old and 350-feet high.
While best known for its redwoods, these parks offer more than 130,000 acres of rolling woodlands, open prairies, wild rivers and 40 miles of rugged Pacific coastline.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
The Great Basin Desert spans across almost all of Nevada, yet only about 160,000 travelers a year have discovered one of its treasures: Great Basin National Park. From sage-covered foothills to the 13,000-foot summit of Wheeler Peak, this park is home to a number of ecosystems. It’s also home to some of the world’s oldest living trees, Great Basin’s ghostly bristlecones are 4,000-plus years old.
One of the park’s most popular attractions is Lehman Caves. They were formed when acidic water carved out layers of limestone and marble, which resulted in vaulted rooms and passageways lined with stalactites and cave shields that resemble pizzas dripping with cheese.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic Period over 200 million years ago.
Short trails lead to the impressive Crystal Forest and Long Logs area, as well as sites such as Newspaper Rock, which features more than 650 petroglyphs. Erosion has exposed the remains of giant reptiles at the park, many of which are on display in the park’s museum and paleontology lab.
With many parks, you can’t go off-trail, but most of Petrified National Park is open to the public, offering visitors to hike to a beautiful place where there isn’t anyone else around.
See the full list of least visited national parks in the Summer issue of Via magazine or online at ViaMagazine.com. Share your travel adventures with Via on social media by using #ViaAdventure.