Pretty much everyone can agree that the National Parks are some of the very best America has to offer both visitors and residents alike.

Now, chances are, you’ve heard of or even been to some of the most popular parks like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone. But, there are actually 59 National Parks, plus over 300 designations including National Forests, Lakeshores, Battlefield Sites, Trails, and Monuments also run by the National Park System.

With the National Park Service celebrating 100 years in 2016, this year is the perfect time to start exploring. Here, we’re going to cover some of the best lesser known National Parks. Once you visit some of these beauties, don’t blame us when you’re hooked on the entire system.

Let’s go!

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Biscayne Scuba DivingBiscayne BadgeIf you love to snorkel or scuba dive, this is the park for you. Ranging just south of Miami to the tip of the Florida Keys, Biscayne National Park is an underwater wonderland. You can explore over 70 shipwrecks in this area, as well as the third largest coral reef in the world.

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon of the GunnisonBlack Canyon BadgeFor those who want to see another amazing Canyon, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers quite a bit. With a drop that’s over 2,700 feet, you won’t run into nearly the traffic you’d find at the Grand Canyon. Plus, there’s epic white water rafting available as well.


Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Rock Harbor LighthouseIsle RoyaleAs one of the least visited parks in the system, this is one of the most beautiful. Isle Royal National Park holds a special charm as the “world’s largest island in the world’s largest freshwater lake” because of that you won’t get closer (and more rustic) to the water than this.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Wheeler Peak stands over Great Basin National Park Nevada.Great Basin BadgeIf you want a break from the frenetic energy that is the Las Vegas Strip, head to the desert of Nevada and spend a night at Great Basin National Park. What makes this park special, besides the caves, lake, and peaks is the night sky, it’s among the darkest in the lower 48, perfect for stargazing.

 

Great Sand DunesĀ National Park, Colorado

Runner on the Great Sand DunesGreat Sand Dunes BadgeDid you know that the tallest sand dunes in the country can be found in Colorado? At Great Sand Dunes National Park, you can try sand boarding on dunes up to 750 feet high. There’s a lot more to the park than just sand though, you’ll also find wetlands and mountains to explore as well.

 

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Mt. Baker Viewed From Hidden Lake TrailNorth Cascades BadgeTucked along the Canadian border in Washington State, North Cascades National Park is one of the most beautiful in the country. Over 300 glaciers feed dozens of waterfalls that cascade off the alpine peaks. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for hiking, old growth forests, and animal sightings.

 

These are just a few of the best lesser known National Parks, however with the system spanning the entire country, chances are you aren’t very far from a park, forest, monument, or seashore yourself. So, start planning how you can take some of your vacation time to explore the National Park System.