The National Park System gives 63 unique parks the title of “national park.” Some of them you can get to easier than others. Today we want to share with you six national parks we think you should consider visiting. They may be out of the way or hard to get to, but you might see why they’re worth the extra effort. Let’s take a look.
About the US National Park System
While 63 parks have the “national park” title, the National Park Service (NPS) manages 423 national park units. These stretch across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.
They employ approximately 27,000 permanent and temporary employees and partner with nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and some private industries.
NPS has been caring for our national parks since 1916. Due to these efforts, nearly 318 million visitors explore the parks each year. The goal for NPS is to take care of the parks and to help ensure future generations get to enjoy them as well.
5 National Parks That Are Hard to Get to, But Worth the Effort
While we think all 63 national parks are worth a visit, you may have trouble getting to these five but they are worth the effort. Let’s get started!
1. Denali National Park
How to Get to Denali National Park:
Denali National Park sits approximately 240 miles north of Anchorage. It only has one entrance at mile 237 of the George Parks Highway. Whether traveling from Anchorage in the south or Fairbanks in the north, you can easily access this entrance.
Why Denali Is Worth The Trip:
You don’t have to see all six million acres of Denali National Park to appreciate it. There’s only one road in the park, which is 92 miles long. You can travel the first 15 miles in your private vehicle.
However, after this point, you’ll need to hop on one of the park’s bus trips. Whether you pick a tour bus or a transit bus, you’ll experience some of the best landscapes. You also get to see some wild animals that call the park home, including moose, eagles, and even bears.
If the jaw-dropping landscapes that this national park provides aren’t enough, maybe the park’s namesake will do the trick. Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali stands 20,310 ft tall and is the largest mountain in North America. No visit is complete to this national park without catching a glimpse of this beast.
Pro Tip: If you’re eager to spot some unique wildlife while in Denali, check out our Complete Guide to Denali National Park Wildlife.
2. Dry Tortugas National Park
How to Get to Dry Tortugas National Park:
This national park will take a bit of effort for your travel arrangements. The park is a remote island that sits 70-miles west of Key West, Florida. As a result, you can’t drive your car to get there. You can only access it via boat or seaplane. You can take a ferry or plane service from Key West.
Why Dry Tortugas Is Worth The Trip:
Dry Tortugas National Park is a 100 sq mile park home to coral reefs, marine life, and 16 million bricks that make up Fort Jefferson. The park is mostly water but also has seven small islands.
Whether you enjoy snorkeling or bird watching, you’ll see a tremendous amount of wildlife. If you enjoy primitive camping, you can extend your stay and camp overnight on the island. With the nearest city being 70 miles away, you’ll have some of the darkest skies available for stargazing.
3. Virgin Islands National Park
How to Get to the Virgin Islands National Park:
To get to Virgin Islands National Park, you must fly into St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Once you arrive, you can rent a car to drive or take a taxi to Redhook. You will then need to either hop on a car barge or people ferry to St. John.
Once on the island of St. John, you can easily walk over to the park’s visitor center. This one earns a spot on this list for being an out-of-the-way national park outside the continental US.
Why the Virgin Islands Is Worth the Trip:
If you like blue waters and sandy beaches, visit Virgin Islands National Park. In these crystal-clear waters, you can enjoy some of the best snorkeling of any of the 63 national parks.
However, if the water isn’t your thing, you can choose from more than 30 trails of varying difficulties. The park protects coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and even marine animals like sea turtles. It’s a beautiful island that all ages can enjoy.
4. North Cascades National Park
How to Get to North Cascades National Park:
Located in Northern Washington, this national park is off the beaten path. The nearest major airports are Seattle and Vancouver; however, both are over 120 miles away.
Many guests reach the park by using State Route 20, which travels horizontally across the state. If traveling late fall to early spring, guests should prepare for winter weather, especially when driving over mountain passes in the area.
Why North Cascades Is Worth the Trip:
If you want to experience water colors you’ve likely never experienced before, you may love this trip. The gorgeous mountains reflect off the intense turquoise water and provide views out of this world.
Guests enjoy hiking through the dense forests and gazing at the many plants and waterfalls. Just looking at images of the waters at North Cascades National Park will likely have you researching flights or travel arrangements.
Pro Tip: While traveling off the beaten path, why not try camping remotely as well! We put together 40 RV Boondocking Tips To Make Your Off-Grid Camping Better.
5. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
How to Get to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:
Located in the western portion of Colorado, near Montrose sits Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. If you travel through Colorado on Interstate 70, we recommend making a slight detour to visit this park.
Why Black Canyon of the Gunnison Is Worth the Trip:
Portions of the canyon where the park derives its name only receive 33 minutes of sunlight per day. However, the canyon isn’t the only dark object you should check out while visiting.
It’s also an International Dark Sky Park, which means you’ll see a tremendous amount of stars on a clear night. Whether you enjoy fishing, a scenic drive, hiking, or cross country skiing, this park offers something for everyone.
6. Isle Royal National Park
How to Isle Royal National Park:
Isle Royal is a national park in Michigan located in the middle of the world’s largest freshwater lake isle royal national park is serviced only by boat or seaplane. You can take your own boat or plane, but most use the park’s own ship the Isle Royal Ranger from the park headquarters located in Houghton MI. Alternatively, the Isle Royal Queen makes runs from copper harbor a bit further north shortening the water journey considerably.
Why Isle Royal Is worth the trip:
Once again this is a lesser-visited park due to its remote nature. Because of this peace and solitude are welcome here. The park also has a healthy population of moose and wolves and has been the location of intense study of the hunter-prey relationship as they are isolated on the island. You are likely to see these animals here.
The park offers excellent hiking and boasts some of the cleanest air in the US for excellent nighttime skies. You will also feel like you are on an island in the ocean but in reality, it’s all freshwater so clean and clear, perfect for swimming.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit These National Parks?
Visiting these six fantastic national parks can be expensive. You’ll likely need to factor in travel, lodging, and food expenses during your adventures. How you travel and the type of accommodations you choose will play a large part in your total cost.
Entry fees will also vary from one park to another. Some, like Denali and Dry Tortugas National Parks, charge per person, while others charge per vehicle. If you plan to visit multiple national parks in a year, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
Those visiting Denali and Dry Tortugas National Parks should expect to pay $15 per person. However, guests 15 years and younger get in free. The only park on our list to charge per vehicle is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which charges $30 per vehicle. The two remaining parks, North Cascades and Virgin Islands National Parks, are free of charge.
Is It Worth the Effort?
While you can easily get to some parks in the National Park System, these five may take a hop, skip, and a jump. They require effort, but it’s worth every bit. You’ll have the chance to experience some of the most incredible landscapes and wildlife.
Additionally, because of the remote locations, you’ll likely have fewer crowds. Visiting some of the best landscapes our country has to offer and not battling crowds? Yes, please!
Have you visited any of these hard-to-reach national parks? Let us know in the comments below!
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