Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Top 10 Places To Find Solitude

January 19, 2010, 11:29 am

Our nation’s National Park System offers some of the best outdoor recreation in the world. There are endless places, from Maine to California, Hawaii to Alaska, that you can hike, climb, camp, and see wild animals in their natural habitat. You visit the national parks to experience nature and reconnect with the land, so why not consider visiting somewhere off-the-beaten path this year, somewhere where you can beat the crowds and have a trail to yourself. Try these ten places, all operated by the National Park Service, and all guaranteed to exceed your expectations.

1.    Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona
Organ Pipe National Monument is located in southwest Arizona, on the Mexico border. This portion of the Sonoran desert, located in the middle of, well, nowhere, is a sanctuary for desert rats and contains a vast majority of our country’s organ pipe cactus, the namesake of the park. Our favorite, and probably the best time to visit is in the winter.

2.    Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Lassen Volcanic National Park is located 165 miles north of Sacramento. Named after Lassen Peak, which last erupted in 1915, the park has more than 30 volcanic domes.  The best time to visit the park is in the summer, when the park is hot and dry.

3.    Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Great Sand Dunes National Park is located halfway between Denver, CO and Albuquerque, NM. It is home to the country’s tallest sand dunes, some almost 750 feet tall. In addition to the sand dunes, which people ski, sled, and board on, the park is dotted with alpine lakes, forests and wetlands.

4.    Big Bend National Park, Texas
Named after the sharp northeast “bend” of the Rio Grande, which runs through the park, Big Bend takes up 800,000 acres in southwest Texas. The park is well known for its mountain, desert and river environments. Big Bend is one of the most isolated parks in the country, located hundreds of miles from the nearest cities and transportation hubs. Remember to plan your trip carefully and be prepared by stocking up on gas, oil, food, and water for your trip.

5.    Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Voyageurs, the men employed by the various companies who acted as canoe paddlers, bundle carriers, and general laborers and licensed fur traders once paddled canoes full of animal pelts and other goods through the lakes and rivers of Minnesota that now encompasses this national park. Voyageurs is a water-based park where you must leave your car and take to the water to fully experience the lakes, islands and shorelines of the park. Recreational opportunities—canoeing, kayaking and boating—abound. 

6.    Dry Tortugas National Park
The Dry Tortugas is a small group of islands, located at the end of the Florida Keys, about 70 miles west of Key West.  It is home to Fort Jefferson, a massive but unfinished coastal fortress located on Garden Key. The fort is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere and is composed of over 16 million bricks. The snorkeling and the birdwatching here are unprecedented.

7.    Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Congaree became the first national park in South Carolina in 2003. The Congaree River flows through the marshy region, which contains the largest intact remains of floodplain forests on the continent. The park is easily accessible, about 20 miles from Columbia, South Carolina’s capital.

8.    Isle Royal National Park, Michigan
Isle Royale National Park, which includes Isle Royal, the third largest island in Lake Superior, was established in 1940. The park is comprised of Isle Royale itself and approximately 400 smaller islands. It is a relatively small national park at 894 square miles, and is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Isle Royale's remoteness is one of the qualities that attracts adventurers to its hiking trails, waterways, rugged coast and shipwreck remains.

9.    Channel Islands National Park, California
Channel Islands National Park consists of five of the eight Channel Islands— Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara—off the coast of California, in the Pacific Ocean. Although the park headquarters are in Ventura, the islands only see about 60,000 visitors a year, making them a great place to escape the busy urban areas that surround them.

10.     Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
It’s not too likely that you’ll make it up to Kobuk Valley National Park. But in case you do, you will experience complete solitude. The park is located 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle and contains no trails, campgrounds or roads. Most of the park’s visitors are skilled explorers and locals who hunt caribou. The Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited national park in the United States.