Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Vermont
American history fills this narrow, steep pass. What was smuggled across the Canadian border here? Cattle and goods slipping past trade embargoes, fugitive slaves reaching freedom on the Underground Railroad, liquor finding thirsty Americans during Prohibition. “Smuggle” a picnic and your sense of adventure into this gorgeous place in history.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
This “Superior Wilderness” is surrounded by Lake Superior and is only accessible by boat or plane, but the views and the story are worth the effort. Step into a stunning landscape, complete with a lake lighthouse, an old copper mine, and a long list of potential wildlife sightings.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Even if “largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States” and “astonishing biodiversity” don’t mean anything to you, taking a walk down this boardwalk and soaking up the depth of beauty at Congaree National Park will stay in your heart forever.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
The National Park Service promises “splendid isolation” in Big Bend, a massive park in the state where everything’s bigger. Locals recommend a long list of adventures: Kayak the Rio Grande through enormous canyons, explore the Chisos Mountains (the only mountain range entirely in a national park), rent a kiva house or yurt, soak in hot springs, gaze at the Mexican Chihuahua Desert from America, go birdwatching, and bask in incredible sunsets.
Sinks Canyon State Park, Wyoming
“The Sinks” is a cave in which a river just dives underground…only to bubble back up a few hundred yards away in a pool called “The Rise.” While pondering this disappearing act, look upward at the dramatic cliff walls and wild spaces that stretch out of sight into the mountains.
Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park, Washington
Dry Falls is the American geological wonder you’ve never heard of. Once four times the size of Niagara Falls, the long-gone waterfall was formed by Ice Age floods. Today, you can see the 400-foot tall, 3.5-mile wide cliff where melting ice once cascaded while playing on the lake shores.