While some national parks have long lines outside the ticket windows, others stay off the public’s radar and preserve their untouched beauty.
So before you hear about one of these parks from a friend, grab a map and get ready to make your Instagram followers jealous.
In the middle of Lake Superior is Isle Royale, a group of 450 islands surrounding a larger central island.
Isle Royale, Michigan’s largest national park, offers not only log cabins and panoramic views, but also a host of adventure activities ranging from hiking and kayaking to scuba diving.
Along with freshwater clams, sponges, and snails, the park waters contain the most genetically diverse lake trout populations in Lake Superior.
A visiting permit for overnight camping can be obtained at Houghton, Rock Harbor, and Windigo visitor centers or online at the National Park Service website.
A boating license is also required for those planning to fish, and that document can be obtained online as well.
National Park of American Samoa
The National Park of American Samoa is 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii.
This 10,500-acre park covers three islands, and instead of the usual gamut of commercial adventure activities, the park offers explorers a chance to discover secluded villages and observe tropical flora and fauna in its natural habitat.
Take the opportunity to live with a Samoan family in the village and learn how to weave pandana leaves to create a mat or to catch a fish — Samoan style.
As long you are using only hand-held equipment for photography, the only permit required is a special-use permit for park activities. The permit can be obtained at the National Park Service website.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The Black Canyon in Colorado can overwhelm you with its steep cliffs and sculpted spires. This is a park that fulfills an adventure enthusiast’s every wish.
Follow a hiking trail to be rewarded with spectacular views or climb up on the many vertical walls of the canyon. For a calmer experience, take a scenic drive along the rim of the canyon or ride horseback along the Dead Horse Trail.
The Gunnison River also provides a number of angling opportunities for large trout. A free backcountry permit that can be obtained at the park is required for anglers fishing along the inner canyon route.
Great Sand Dunes
It may be called the Great Sand Dunes, but this national park in Colorado offers visitors a chance to explore grasslands, forests, lakes, and alpine peaks along with the dunes.
Choose between hiking over sand dunes, along forested trails, and up Mount Herald, or sand boarding down the dunes and splashing in the Medano Creek.
To make the most of your experience, pitch a tent on the sand and stay up all night gazing at the stars above. Most importantly, remember to take your camera along to capture the park’s beauty.
Congaree National Park
A visit to the Congaree National Park in South Carolina is certain to make you feel one with nature. The park is known mostly for its unique bottomland hardwood forest communities and its biologically diverse river floodplain ecosystem.
Relax in its tranquil surroundings or take a ranger-guided walk among the towering pines and giant hardwoods before paddling your way down Cedar Creek to feel completely cut off from the chaos of city life.
As a place becomes more popular with tourists, it loses some of its charm and its beauty is marred by signs of human occupation. The best time to visit one of these parks is right now before they become this year’s hot destination.