Many people dream of a National Park vacation, and five unique parks in the United States are not as well known as the famous Grand Canyon and Zion and Bryce National Parks. When you explore these parks, you will feel like you have traveled to another country (or planet).
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
If you ever thought of going to a huge sand dune and exploring, here is a great option. White Sands is the largest dune field in the world and encompasses 275 square miles in the desert. The area is also known as the Tularosa Basin and has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years. There is so much history in this park from the first settlers searching for shelter and explorers mining for salt and gypsum. The military also used the Basin after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for scientific research. One fun activity to do here is sledding down the dunes.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
When you are looking for two adventures in one, a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park will give you caves and beautiful forests. This park has the longest underground cave in the world and is over 400 miles. You can take a cave tour with a park ranger and explore this underground wonder and maybe even see some of the caves bat inhabitants. If going underground is not your thing, the park has a vast forest of nature trails and two rivers, the Green and Nolin River. The Green River gets its name from the color of the water, and these two rivers are a great place to canoe or kayak for the day.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park is about 70 miles west of Key West and is only accessible by the ferry or private boat. This national park is closer to Cuba than it is to the US mainland. This park offers some incredible marine life to explore. Once you get to the park, you will be amazed at the 19th Century Fort Jefferson that resides here. The fort is located on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas and is the largest 19th Century fort in the United States. The fort is surrounded by a moat to protect itself from invaders during an attack. The park is surrounded by an ecological preserve that you can enjoy snorkeling and relaxing on the beautiful white sand beach.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Arizona is home to several national parks, but the Petrified Forest National Park is one of the lesser-known parks to explore. The park is located in the Greater Painted Desert, but both are included in the one national park. The Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area is located at the southern end of the Colorado plateau and has several different geological formations. The entire park is made up of prairie lands, semi-arid grasslands and mountain basin’s with many species of animals to catch a glimpse of. If you are visiting a great time to be in the park is in the early morning or at dusk when the sun shows off the colors of the Painted Desert.
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
This park is like visiting another planet since it resembles what the moon’s surface looks like. Craters of the Moon was formed over 2000 years ago when lave erupted from the Great Rift volcanic rift zone and created this lava field that covered hundreds of miles. There are three lava fields to explore within the park, and there are unique natural features like the lava tubes caves to be explored. These lava tubes are named after its color, such as the Blue Dragon flow. Did you know that back in 1969, several astronauts explored the monument in preparation for their visit to the moon?
As you can see, there are several unique national parks to visit that will make you think you have been transported to Antarctica or the Sahara Desert and then onto the moon or a remote tropical island. Be sure to check the National Park website for the most up to date information on the park reopening’s. Some of the parks listed above are not yet open to the public due to Covid19.
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