Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip with Viator, Florida Keys

Our Favorite Underrated National Parks in the United States

In honor of National Park Week in the United States, we wanted to share our favorite underrated national parks with you. While you have most likely heard of at least a few of these parks, they aren’t typically included in the “popular crowd” and they don’t get near as much attention as the more well known parks like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.

In total, we have visited 16 of the 59 national parks, many of them over the past year. Also, we have plans to continue working on our goal to visit every national park in the United States. There are so many gorgeous parks out there, and here are our favorite ones that we feel are a bit underrated and deserving of a little more attention!

Dry Tortugas National Park

Perhaps one of the most gorgeous national parks we’ve ever visited, the Dry Tortugas had us in awe for our entire visit. We were short on time, so a day trip was our only option, but next time we are definitely spending a few nights camping on the island.

Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip with Viator, Florida Keys

The Dry Tortugas are mostly made up of water, but there are several small islands throughout the park. Garden Key is the island where the boats dock, and it is home to the campground, the old historic military fort called Fort Jefferson, white sandy beaches, plentiful birdwatching and great snorkeling. The island is accessible by either boat or seaplane–we took the Yankee Freedom boat out to the island and spent the day soaking up the beautiful scenery and warm sunny weather.

Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip with Viator, Florida Keys

We love that the Dry Tortugas are so remote and take a little bit of effort to reach–it makes the park feel secluded and like your own slice of island paradise. One of our favorite parts of the island was the moat that surrounded the fort. The moat creates the perfect walking path around the island, and the views overlooking the ocean are absolutely spectacular.

 

Isle Royale National Park

Another island based park, Isle Royale, is located on Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes. This park is also only accessible by boat or seaplane, and no wheeled transportation is allowed on the island. That means, the only ways to explore Isle Royale are on foot or via a boat. We had to take a day trip to this island as well, but we managed to fit in a hike to –, and we had the chance to explore the shoreline, visitors center and listen in on one of the ranger talks detailing the history of the island.

Mini Guide to Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, Michigan

One of the best ways to explore this park is to go on a backpacking camping trip. There are several campsites located throughout the park, and you can hike from site to site while crossing and exploring the island.

Mini Guide to Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, Michigan

We love that Isle Royale is also an island park, but it’s so opposite from the Dry Tortugas–one is filled with north woods forests and the other is palm trees and beaches. They are very similar in theory, but worlds apart in actuality!

 

Voyageurs National Park

There appears to be a theme in our list of favorite parks–they are all largely water based and you need to boat through the parks to completely enjoy all they have to offer. Maybe it’s because we grew up in the land of 10,000 lakes, or maybe it’s because these parks feel more secluded and remote, but whatever the reason, Voyageurs is no exception. Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota and it is a water based park.

Camping at Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Mini Guide to Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota

While the park has ranger guided tours on the water, the best way to explore is with your own boat or a rental boat. Our favorite aspects of the park are the boat-up campsites and the houseboat camping, but the park also has beautiful wildlife, plenty of hiking trails and even an ice road in the winter!

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

This last park on the list is completely opposite from the others–this one is practically a desert! Nestled in the mountains of Colorado, this park seems to get a bit overshadowed by the Rocky Mountains. We love that this park is so different than the majority of parks out there and to us it is completely unexpected to find towering sand dunes in the middle of mountains.

Sandboarding and Sand Sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

One of the most exciting ways to enjoy this park is to fly down the dunes on a sand sled or sandboard. We had a blast hiking the dunes and then dropping off the steep edges, often tumbling to a stop off our sleds at the bottom. While the park isn’t extremely large, it’s packed full of adventure and sandy fun!

 

What are your favorite underrated national parks?

 

26 Comments
  • Julie
    Twitter:
    Posted at 10:43h, 19 April Reply

    I had never heard of Isle Royale until today and this is the second time I’m reading about it. Dry Tortugas looks amazing. I love Glacier and Yellowstone. Would love to go to Denali and Joshua Tree.

  • Carol Anne
    Twitter:
    Posted at 13:20h, 19 April Reply

    Dry Tortugas looks epic! Did you stay in the keys when you visited? Any recommendations on where to stay or what the camping options are at the park? Thanks for sharing such a fun post 🙂

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 02:25h, 23 April Reply

      We did stay in the Keys when we visited. You can camp at the park–we just took a day trip to the island but really want to camp next time because it looks really great! As far as places to stay in the Keys–there are some really great spots. A few of our favorites in Key West are the Casa Marina, the Artist House on Fleming and the Hyatt Key West, but there are a ton of great places to stay, especially close to Duval Street!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Our Favorite Underrated National Parks in the United StatesMy Profile

  • sarah
    Twitter:
    Posted at 15:31h, 23 April Reply

    I’ve actually never heard of any of these! You’ve inspired me to plan a US road trip in the near future and check out some of the 59 National Parks! Surfing on the sand dunes look like a blast.

  • Brianna Simmons
    Twitter:
    Posted at 20:02h, 23 April Reply

    National Parks always seem to be at the heart of some of my favorite vacation memories. I’ll never forget kayaking along the coast of Olympic National Park.

  • Bernard Tan
    Twitter:
    Posted at 02:56h, 24 April Reply

    OMG! the Dry Tortugas National Park is so beautiful and heavenly! Would love to visit it soon.

  • fiona
    Twitter:
    Posted at 10:28h, 24 April Reply

    I havent heard of any of these either! Your parks are actually bigger than our counties I think! I love the idea of Island parks. You have so much space in the US…I need to come back!

  • Christina
    Twitter:
    Posted at 14:31h, 24 April Reply

    We make it a point to visit national parks whenever we can. Great Sand Dunes has been on our list for awhile but I hadn’t hear of the others on your list. I love being by the water so these are certainly great additions to our bucket list.

  • Mags
    Twitter:
    Posted at 20:03h, 24 April Reply

    So glad you featured Dry Tortugas! Its one of my favorites. Just gorgeous. I haven’t checked out the others on the list, but I’ll have to add them to the itinerary.

  • Karilyn
    Twitter:
    Posted at 00:09h, 25 April Reply

    We are huge national park fans! We live in CA so have only been to the ones on this side of the country. I’m dying to visit dry tortugas though. Looks fabulous!

  • Kristin Henning
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:40h, 25 April Reply

    You’ve named some good ones, a couple of which are in my neck of the woods. Isle Royale is, I believe, the least visited of all the National Parks. We were just in Grand Portage, but too early in the season to head out to the park. We enjoyed Lassen in California last fall–also little known.

  • Chris
    Twitter:
    Posted at 12:42h, 26 April Reply

    I can’t believe that the Dry Tortugas place is underrated. I’ve heard of it before and the place looks stunning. Sometimes being underrated is good for peace and quiet…

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 04:06h, 09 May Reply

      Yeah, I said they aren’t necessarily unheard of parks, just much less talked about than the more popular parks like Glacier, Yellowstone, etc. And agree, that’s exactly why we love all of these parks–they are much quieter and more peaceful than many of the others 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Kayaking the San Juan Islands in Search of Orca WhalesMy Profile

  • Trisha Velarmino - P.S. I'm On My Way
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:49h, 02 May Reply

    America’s topography and selection of outdoor activities seriously never fails to captivate me. I’ve been researching on the varied national parks for weeks now and I still stumble upon more and more options. Thank you so much for this list! I hope I get to visit a couple soon!!! More power to your travels!

  • Michelle
    Posted at 01:20h, 27 June Reply

    I love this list! I have an ever-growing list of national parks to visit, and it’s full of the big ones like Glacier and Denali, but I am hoping to visit Dry Tortugas in the next year or two!! That is a park that has always captivated me, and I’m so excited to hear that it had the same effect for you upon your visit! I have started to realize that one day in a national park is simply not enough, and will hopefully heed your advice to stay longer!
    Michelle recently posted…Spreading Wings of Joy in Savannah, GeorgiaMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 01:33h, 02 July Reply

      I know–one day is never enough!! We’ve started to realize that too. There’s always so much to see and do that it’s hard to see everything! Hope you make it to the Dry Tortugas soon–such a great spot!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Travel Fashion: Go Anywhere with Anywhere ApparelMy Profile

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