We passed a survey around the office and, yup, just as we thought, the Humps Fam are total suckers for high tides and good vibes, so you can imagine the euphoric scenes when we heard all 62 of America’s National Parks are now open. Of course, there being a global pandemic and whatnot, each park has its own restrictions, but they have all adopted the Boy Scout model of "be prepared" and a “safety-first”, which has given us a warm fuzzy feeling in our bellies.
Now, if you’re anything like us, your brain is probably sparking like a fireworks finale on NYE as you dream of all those super-popular parks you’ve been desperate to explore once more -- and we get it. Oh boy, do we get it? Hiking the trails of Yellowstone, trying to spot Alex Honnold at Yosemite, losing our minds at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and realizing Utah is basically just one massive park, we love exploring ‘em all in equal measures.
But (*and it is a Kim K sized BUT) with the world still not safe from the pandemic, we’re all about leaving the crowds behind and going in search of some truly epic parks in the middle of nowhere; parks in remote places; parks where you can wear your fanny pack with pride; parks where the only life-threatening danger is stopping for a selfie with some rare species of who knows what.
So, in that spirit, here are 8 of the most epic and little-known National Parks for anyone looking to jump into the wilderness and live their wildest life:
Channel Islands National Park
Canyonlands National Park
With everything from Zion to Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley to Moab, the state of Utah could change its name to Canyonlands and we’d totally understand their decision. But there’s a reason why the name has been awarded to this patch of the landscape -- it makes you splutter the word WOW! Whether you’re into solo-hikes, racing 4X4s with your buddies, or just filling your IG feed with desert panoramas that look like the surface of Mars, this small but mighty National Park is something really-really special. And if you are a little concerned about heading to that place where Aron Ralston amputated his own arm in 127 Hours, we recommend you watch the movie in reverse, that way it becomes an uplifting story about a disabled James Franco finding an arm in a desert.
Big Bend National Park
For somewhere so awesome, you won’t believe how few backpackers come and explore Big Bend. Go on, guess? Nope. You’re wrong. It’s less than 400,000 people in a whole year, which is fewer folks than you get going to anyone NFL stadium in three weekends. The result: this ridiculously remote national park on the Rio Grande River feels even more remote, which is epic because there is so much cool s**t to see and do. Explore the canyon rivers in a kayak, hike through the Chisos Mountains, and then pitch a hammock come nightfall and slip into slumber beneath one of the clearest, darkest, most forget-me-not night skies in all of America.
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone may get all the attention thanks to its glorious geysers, but who wants to get Yellowstone by that crazy stench when you can hike the dramatic trails of the Tetons. With peaks reaching over 7,000ft to tickle the sky’s belly, there are a million places to stop, stare, and feel your brain melt out of your ears. There’s Static Peak for those that are more into easy, not-so-technical climbs, and there is the Grand Teton for those that want to take on a tricky two-day climb up one of America’s most iconic summits. Take that, Yellowstone.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
If you’ve ever thought to yourself (while sobbing uncontrollably), “The problem with summer is there’s nowhere to strap on your board and shred” then we have some good news for you, buddy: this national park has thirty square miles of mammoth sand dunes and a bunch of local shops renting sandboards and sleds for you to enjoy some snow-free shredding. And if you’re not into that (because the hike back up is hefty), you can always explore the San Luis Valley Floor and then go sink your toes in the glacial waters of nearby Zapata Falls.
Voyageurs National Park
If you’ve never heard of Voyageurs, don’t worry. Most people that live in Minnesota have never heard of it either; that’s how freakin’ underrated it is. We’re talking about a paradise in Northern Minnesota that’s made up of thousands of lakes and interconnected waterways with scattered islands dotted about, giant cliffs erupting from nowhere, huge waterfalls and a rock garden that’s absolutely perfect for an adventure. Basically, if you’re a lake-loving canoeist with a soft-spot for stargazing, you’ve just found your new mecca.
Crater Lake National Park
This is it. The one. Like nothing else, you’ll ever see... or dive into. And because it’s a hidden in a pretty remote place, it’s never attracted too many visitors, meaning you can enjoy Crater Lake’s crazy-deep (and crazy-blue) water while also soaking up that much-needed solitude as you explore places like Wizard Island in the middle of the lake, and let out an involuntary “whoa” as you take in the towering cliffs surrounded this super-stunning body of perfect water. There’s no wonder this scenic spot was one of the first National Park draft picks.
Isle Royale National Park
Hiding in the middle of Lake Superior, Isle Royale is a 45-mile long island that is only accessible by boat (or really brave/elite swimmers) and barely anyone visits. Like, literally, barely anyone. But it’s not just the lack of human beings that makes this place so awesome, it’s the all-natural adventures that make this a backpackers paradise. Camping, kayaking, boating, scuba diving, wild camping, hiking and, err, well, Ummm, a pack of 15 wolves (that were purposefully restored there due to dwindling numbers).