Lesser-Known National Parks Mean Less Crowds, Safer Vacations

As more and more travelers seek off-the-beaten-path destinations that are remote enough to provide safe social distancing, and on the heels of the soon-to-be-approved Great American Outdoors Act, campsites and national parks have become a very popular vacation choice. However, the most well-known national parks, such as Yellowstone and The Grand Canyon National Park, can be somewhat intimidating for people who prefer a remote setting. After all, the top ten national parks in the country welcomed 45 million visitors last year. As such, these lesser-known parks are a great option for travelers to enjoy all the beauty, and none of the crowds. Before visiting any national park, be sure to check with the website in order to determine the park’s current status.

Cherokee National Forest, Tennessee

Located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee, the Cherokee National Forest is divided in half by the Great Smoky Mountains and contains 650,000-acres of forest – the largest tract of public land in the state. Over 600 miles of non-motorized trails traverse Cherokee National Forest including nearly 150 miles the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. After a day of hiking, mountain lovers can book a stay at The Bristol Hotel, situated 40 minutes outside of the park straddling the Virginia and Tennessee border, to enjoy 360-degree views of the Appalachians while sipping on craft cocktails at the only rooftop bar in the Tri-Cities area.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida 

Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote destination only accessible by plane or boat with an unbelievably unique coastal environment including rare birds, loggerhead turtles and some of the best snorkeling in the nation amongst America’s only living barrier reef. Fort Jefferson, a coastal fortress located within Dry Tortugas National Park, is the largest masonry structure in the Americas. Sister properties Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and the newly renovated The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hiltonare nestled along the island’s largest private beach and the island’s only natural sand beach, respectively. When not jetting off to the Dry Tortugas, beachfront resort activities include sand sculpting workshops, kayak eco-tours, fishing charters and more.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

A lesser-known alternative to the tourist-laden Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Sawtooth National Recreation Area consists of 756,000 acres of scenic mountain country. Recreational pursuits include camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating, rafting, photography and observing nature. With over 700 miles of trails, 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet and 300+ high-elevation alpine lakes, the park is ideal for those looking to get back in touch with nature. Just a 20 minute drive from Sawtooth NRA, located within America’s oldest ski resort, is Exclusive Resorts Elkhorn residence in Sun Valley, Idaho. The private, 6-bed, 7.5-bath residence is surrounded by open space and stunning views and accommodates groups of up to a dozen people. The home boasts a large outdoor patio with a private hot tub; a steam room and plunge tub; and a spacious kitchen that backs up to a smaller butler’s kitchen.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska 

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest national park in the United States, and is the size of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the country of Switzerland combined. Northern Nights Campground and RV Park, owned by Alaskan natives, offers cabins, tents and trailer sites on a remote edge of the park that are perfect for exploring the Alaskan wilderness. The campground boasts exquisite views of not one or two, but three of Alaska’s major mountain ranges including Denali, the largest mountain peak in North America.

Saratoga National Historical Park, New York 

Located in upstate New York, Saratoga National Historical Park preserves the site of the Battles of Saratoga, the first significant military victory of the American Revolutionary War. Visitors can hike along many of the park’s trails including the Wilkinson Trail, Horse Trail and Victory Woods as well as explore the Saratoga Battlefield. The Roxbury at Stratton Falls is located less than two hours away and allows travelers the opportunity to become completely immersed in its whimsical, thematic accommodations such as the astronomy-focused Galileo’s Gate or the cavernous Crown of the Pendragons while also being in driving distance from the famed historical site.

Everglades National Park, Florida 

Everglades National Park is a 1.5-million-acre wetlands preserve on the southern tip of the U.S. state of Florida. Often compared to a grassy, slow-moving river, the Everglades is made up of coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes and pine flatwoods that are home to hundreds of animal species. The Atlantic Hotel & Spa and Conrad Fort Lauderdale are both located about an hour east, right on the Fort Lauderdale Beach strip, giving guests the ability to enjoy the famed beaches of Florida while also being driving distance from the park.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

The park is known for its spectacular high elevations and mountain terrain, which is peppered with cascading mountain streams, mountain lakes and bristlecone pine trees more than 4,000 years old. Half the park can best be experienced after dark as Great Basin National Park is home to what astronomers are calling the last true dark night skies in the United States. The skies are so dark that scientists have begun referring to them as an “endangered resource,” not only because of the park’s darkness, but also because of how quiet it is. Hidden Canyon Ranch sits on 375 acres of juniper, pinyon and sage where guests can view deer, wild turkeys and golden eagles throughout the year.

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