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Trip Planning

9 National Parks (Not One Of The Major 59) You Shouldn't Miss

Did you know that there are 423 national park areas out there? A lot of people have a bucket list item of visiting the 59 main national parks like Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and Yosemite, but ever since learning that there are so many more, we’ve decided to upgrade that bucket list item to visiting all 423.

We are still a long way off, but we’re starting to chip away at the list. We’ve enjoyed exploring some of the lesser known parks because they are typically far less crowded and you can easily see most of them in a day or two. Here are 9 that we’ve visited that you shouldn’t miss.

White Sand Dunes National Monument, New Mexico

This is easily one of our favorites. Walk, hike, or sled on what seems to be endless rolling hills of white sand. It’s a great site for photographers and you can see more about our visit here.

Pro Tip: Avoid visiting in the summer, since it gets brutally hot.

Cabrillo National Monument, California

While living in San Diego for a year, we had a lot of fun exploring Cabrillo National Monument. You can go tide pooling, check out the lighthouse, or enjoy amazing views of the city.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for more adventure, look for the secret sea cave. Keep in mind that it may be closed certain times of the year due to wildlife or safety reasons.

Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado & Utah

Hovenweep is made up of six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. Explore the structures, ruins, and get a glimpse of how the people lived then.

Pro Tip: The villages are quite far apart so if you want to see all of them, give yourself a few days.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, Ohio

Being a relatively young country, we quickly forget how rich our history is. There are a ton of historic sites and parks part of our national park system to explore. We especially enjoyed the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, which is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. It’s where the Wright brothers perfected controlled flight and why we can travel so easily today!

Pro Tip: This park is made up of 5 sites. Start at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center and they will point you in the right direction.

Colorado National Monument, Colorado

You can drive through the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive to enjoy the views or venture onto one of the hikes to get a closer look at the beautiful rock formations.

Pro Tip: Enter through the Fruita side so you can swing by the visitor center to get info and plan your trip. 

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Kansas

We stopped by this national preserve early on during our Endless Caravan and had a great time hiking through the fields. A short walk from the street leaves you surrounded by rolling hills and there are certain sections where you’ll find bison freely roaming around.

Pro Tip: Bring a long lens to photograph the bison so you can keep your distance. They are wild animals and will charge.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Montana & Wyoming

This national recreation area offers a wide range of scenery in a relatively small area. It spans over two states and gives you plenty to explore.

Pro Tip: The most iconic spots to photograph are on the south side (Wyoming) of the national recreation area. 

Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico

While in Mesa Verde National Park, we took a day trip to Aztec Ruins National Monument. The ruins are a lot of fun to explore and it’s amazing to read about the history of this location. See our experience here.

Pro Tips: Talk to the ranger to find out more about the history of the site. Even the visitor center itself has historic significance.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Utah is all about the mighty 5 national parks, but there are other hidden gems to explore too. Natural Bridges is much less crowded and you can hike down to see the bridges up close.

Pro Tips: If you’re limited on time, stop by the visitor center and the ranger can help you plan which hike will work best with your timeframe.

Let us know if you have any to add to the list. We can’t wait to explore more of them and be sure to follow along our adventures here.

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Local Adventurer

Local Adventurer

Esther & Jacob of LocalAdventurer.com are photographers, videographers, and bloggers. They believe that adventure can be found anywhere, and their blog focuses on finding adventures both near and far. They are ATLiens who have been on the move in their RV, trying to discover the world one new city at a time: LA in 2013, Las Vegas in 2014, San Diego in 2015. Most recently, they spent three months living on the road in an Airstream.