These Underrated National Parks Will Bring You Straight Into Nature

And far away from those gigantic crowds.

America’s Best Idea has been feeling the squeeze. Originally created to protect the United States’ most idyllic swaths of natural beauty, the 423 national parks have seen a sharp spike in popularity as millions have sought a moment of peace from doom scrolling and world-altering events. But as national park fervor has grown, the more congested trails around the country have become—and the more difficult it’s grown to avoid the very crowds we hope to ditch when we wander out into the wilderness.

While most tourists make a beeline for headliners like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion, overlooked parks across the country sit blissfully devoid of crowds: places where ancient glaciers glow electric blue, dreams of the Wild, Wild West come true, volcanoes and mountains soar into the heavens, and paradise hides just minutes from major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. Head south, and you’ll find deep desert caves, cosmic skies, and 100-mile folds in the earth’s crust; venture north, and you’ll come across the first place in the US to see the sunrise.

You don’t have to wait in line or do battle with road trippers to experience your own personal utopia. These underrated national parks go just as hard as their more popular counterparts—with unbridled wildlife, stunning views, and good ol’ fashioned fresh air—but lack the masses, delivering that utterly serene, escapist feeling we all crave.

"It’s a quiet place where you can easily find solitude and appreciate what it means to be such a small part of our big, beautiful universe."


What Makes a National Park a National Park?

Turns out, it's extremely complicated.


Want to Become a National Park Ranger? Here’s What It Takes

There are multiple routes to your dream job.


20 Underrated National Parks You’re Missing Out On

What to know before you go into the wild.


This Criminally Underrated National Park Is a Sonoran Desert Wonderland

Wile E. Coyote, is that you?!


Without These Beautifully Bizarre Badlands, the National Park Service Might Not Exist

Petrified forests, droves of bison, and candy-striped mountains = an underrated park in an underrated state.


The Best National Park You’ve Never Heard of Is Almost Entirely Underwater

Some say that Atlantis is under the Mediterranean Sea. We think it's in Florida.


America’s Newest National Park Is Packed with Scenic Wonder and Eerie Ghost Towns

The misty mountains may look soothing—but this park is not for the faint of heart.


The Galápagos of North America Is a Marine Wonderland Hiding in Plain Sight

While Yosemite and Redwood get all the street cred, this park's lush islands remain blissfully underrated.


This National Park Is All About Stargazing, Scenic Hikes, and Serenity

Every night, the skies above this park erupt with billions of stars and galaxies.


Water Cascades Down the Mountains in This Breathtaking National Park

And pools at the bottom in emerald lakes.


Utah's Least-Known National Park Has Miles of Jaw-Dropping Cliffs

Way bigger than Zion, tons more serenity.


The Only National Park in the Northeast Feels Like the Edge of the World

With pine-filled islands and cliffs to catch the first sunrise in the US.


Believe It or Not, This Beachy National Park Sits Just Outside Chicago

From deep-dish pizza to dune-filled paradise.


See Steaming Volcanoes at This Eerie National Park Without Crossing an Ocean

It's not just a Hawaii thing.


This Ethereal National Park Is Home to Ancient Glaciers and Unmatched Wildlife

The Last Frontier’s remote, immense mountains, tundras, and valleys need no introduction.


Batman Would Feel Right at Home in This Cavernous National Park

Robert Pattinson, come on down!


Editors: Tiana Attride, Danielle Hallock, Vanita Salisbury

Production: Pete Dombrosky

Writers: Bailey Berg, Cathy Brown, Cindy Brzostowski, Nick Hilden, Brad Japhe, Matt Kirouac, Lola Mendez, Vanita Salisbury, Erik Trinidad

Special Thanks: Pete Dombrosky, Helen Hollyman, Meghan Kirsch, Tom McKee, Tony Merevick, Audra V Pace, and all our freelance writers

Creative Director: Audra V Pace

Art Director: Manali Doshi

Photography Director: Drew Swantak

Senior Designer: Maitane Romagosa

Photo Editor: Joleen Zubek

Project Manager: Morgan Fowler

Director of Audience Development: Kisai Ponce

Audience Development Manager: Hassan Spruill

Social Media Manager: Abby Maddigan

Audience Development Coordinator: Kierra Hearne

Senior SEO Manager: Gina Percival

SEO Coordinator: Caroline Boden