Beyond the Crowds: Exploring Lesser-Known National Parks in America

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Getting off the beaten path and away from the crowds when exploring America can be tough with so many popular national parks! However, we’ve found a few less-visited parks that are just as breath-taking and have just as many activities.

1: North Cascades National Park, Washington

Starting our list strong with North Cascades National Park in Washington, this park is less than three hours away from Seattle, making it a great “local” spot for people living in Washington. This park is perfect for people eager to hike or have a fully immersive wilderness trip experience. You can also tackle the Cascades via horseback, fishing and viewing birds and other wildlife along the way. If you’re feeling very brave, you can engage in some wilderness mountaineering!

This park has no fees for entry, and there are a variety of strive-in camping locations. Campsites at Colonial Creek, Goodell Creek, and Newhalen Creek are $24 per night, while Gorge Lake is $20 per night. Campgrounds in Stehekin are also $20, with Hozomeen Campground being free. You can make your camping reservation online, or by calling them. You do need backcountry camping permits, which are $20 plus a non-refundable $6 administrative fee.

2: Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Next on our list is Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, which is a rugged and isolated island that offers a great place for backpackers, hikers, boaters, paddlers, and divers to go exploring. You can take a guided boat tour or attend a Rock Harbor Ranger Program to learn more about the island. You can boat, fish, kayak, canoe, or paddle independently. You can scuba dive. You can engage in day hiking, backpacking, and then plan to camp overnight. Groups and individual travelers are welcome at Isle Royale, so no matter what size family you have, come on over! 

Pricing for the park starts with a standard entrance pass at $7 each, with exception to children 15 and under who are granted free admission. If you plan on being a frequent visitor, you might want to invest in the annual entrance pass, which is $60 a year. There are special permit fees for group camping (which is 7 or more people), weddings, commercial filming or still photography, commercial services such as tour groups and outfitters, and any activity outside of normal park use. However, this venue is perfect if you’re looking for a gorgeous spot away from home for a wedding or event, so it’s always worth investigating the cost beforehand!

Lodging options on-site include Rock Harbor Lodge or Windigo Camper Cabins, or your own basecamp. Reservations for the Rock Harbor Lodge and Windigo Camper Cabins are online, and you can contact Isle Royale for more information regarding their base camps for small groups (1-6 people) or large groups (7+ people).

3: Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park is in Nevada, and it includes the 13,063-foot tall summit of Wheeler Peak, a tempting summit for any experienced hiker or climber. There are so many things to do here, including their programs and tours offered daily, hiking trails, sightseeing, and fishing and gathering.

This is another park that has no entrance fee, meaning you can get into the park for free. However, if you plan on engaging in a cave tour, there are per-person fees charged. There are a few different options when it comes to camping at Great Basin, but fees begin at $20 for individual sites at developed campgrounds, per night, per site. This fee is lowered to $10 for Senior and Access Pass holders. Group sites at Grey Cliffs Campground are $30 per night, and there is no discount for Senior or ACcess Pass holders. The primitive sites along Snake Creek do not have any fees, but offer no potable water.

4: Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Coming in fourth, Congaree National Park is located in South Carolina and has the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the southeastern United States. This park is a great spot for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and camping, and there are Ranger-led programs that you can partake in, as well.

Our third no entrance fee park on the list, you pay nothing to actually get into Congaree, making it a great option for people looking to spend money on other things during their adventures like great food or hotel-type lodgings. However, if you want to camp on-site at Congaree, you are required to reserve your campgrounds online, and cannot pay in person at the park. It looks like there’s camping available at Bluff Hike and Longleaf. Based on the information available at Recreation.gov (the reservation site) fees for Bluff Hike start at $10 per night. Longleaf, however, offers group sites for $25 per night, and individual sites for $15 per night.

5: Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

The fifth and final recommendation on our list is Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. This park spans 218,0522 acres, featuring exposed rock ridges, cliffs, wetlands, forests, streams, and lakes. There are amazing guided tours at Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, or Ash River. There are plenty of winter activities available, if you’re scouting out things to do to fill your winter with your family or by yourself. Hiking trails are popular at Voyageurs, as well.

This is another fee-free entrance park, so you don’t have to pay anything to get in. You can lodge at the Kettle Falls Hotel if you’re looking for in-park, not-camping lodging. However, if you want to camp, there’s only mostly frontcountry camping, available on Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, Namakan Lake, and Sandpoint Lake. There is backcountry camping available. Both are available only by water travel. You can also elect into a primitive campsite. Fees vary per season, so check out the online reservations before you decide on where you want to camp out.

No matter where in the country you’re traveling to take in the sights, On Air Parking has got you covered with cheap, accessible airport and city parking. You can reserve parking online and there’s free cancellations up to the start date of your reservation. If you have questions, customer service is available Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm ET. You can call at 888-487-2754 or text 424-532-8940. You can also reach out via email at hello@noson.io.