The lesser-known US National Parks waiting to be discovered
Audley Travel reveals top five under-the-radar destinations
26 September 2023 — Vast, rugged landscapes, awe-inspiring mountains, and untamed wilderness and wildlife make many of our National Parks bucket-list travel locations, however Audley Travel’s destination experts have revealed the under-the-radar parks that deserve to join the big hitters in the travel stakes.
Due to such popularity, several of our 400 National Parks are limiting visitors numbers for 2023. As responsible tourism continues to grow in consideration for travelers planning trips, there has never been a better time to explore one of the lesser-discovered gems.
Lauren Coppola, USA Product Manager at Audley Travel said: “Not following the crowd, so to speak, is what Audley is all about - planning bespoke and custom trips that inspire clients to find experiences and adventures that are authentic to the destination they’re visiting but also to places they may not have known about before.
“Many of the National Parks are a popular choice, and rightly so. However our specialists’ knowledge of these stunning natural sites means clients have the opportunity to get immersed by gigantic rock formations, canyons, rivers and forests in parks, often close to other major must-visit landmarks or attractions, perhaps not typically considered as part of a trip.
“And through this approach of steering clients to discover a road less traveled, such as the iconic National Parks, we aim to play our part in helping to protect areas of natural beauty for years to come.”
Below Audley Travel has shared its curated list of recommended, lesser-visited National Parks still to discover:
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Lorded as a highlight of the region is Saguaro National Park, home to many of the Sonora Desert's monumental saguaro cacti including the nation’s largest. Its desert landscape makes for a favorable environment to explore against the panoramic backdrop of the Ricon Mountains, including the nearby city of Tuscon which is rich in Native American history, culture and turn-of-the century architecture. Saguaro is an easy park to visit with short hikes and scenic drives on offer.
A 22-day National Park Explored itinerary, including a visit to Saguaro National Park costs from $9,838 per person (based on two sharing) including accommodation, rental car and park entry. 855-435-1768 / www.audleytravel.com/us.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
The Rockies are arguably one of the most iconic ranges in the world, however Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a contrasting landscape to its famous sister. The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, forests, and alpine lakes that make up Great Sand Dunes National Park. This sandbox of mountains makes for a fun playground of sandboarding and sand-sledging, and the wonder of the park continues as night falls when it plays host to some of the darkest skies in the country and a whole other identity is revealed as the stars and wildlife come to life.
A 17-day Colorado Explored itinerary, including a visit to Grand Sand Dunes National Park costs from $4,600 per person (based on two sharing) including accommodation, rental car and park entry. 855-435-1768 / www.audleytravel.com/us.
Arches National Park, Utah
The striking landscape of Zion National Park often hits the top spot when it comes to Utah, however only 2.5 hours drive away is Arches National Park, where 2,000 natural sandstone arches have dramatically formed around red-earthed canyons. Short hikes are plentiful and some routes pass by formations such as the hoodoo-like stacks of the Three Gossips. In just a mile-round route visitors will find world-renowned Delicate Arch, the most striking arch in the park and a favorite spot for gazing at the sunset. Other Utah National Parks to put on the radar include Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef.
A 9-day Utah National Parks self-drive tour costs from $3,960 per person (based on two sharing) and includes visits to Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. The price includes hotel accommodation, vehicle rental and park entry. 855-435-1768 / www.audleytravel.com/us.