Nothing boosts the desire to go somewhere quite like being told you can't. As restrictions were slowly lifted on national park visitations in 2021, tourists flocked to witness all the beauty they'd been deprived of the previous year. Several parks became so congested that visitors felt the experience was less enjoyable than it could have been, as a lot of time was spent in lines of traffic waiting to enter the parks or hunting for spots at scenic lookouts.
Fortunately, there are thousands of places on earth as beautiful as national parks, and so many of them are colossally underrated. These less-visited parks around the world are an oasis for travelers in search of a more private show of Earth's natural beauty.
8 Valbona Valley National Park
The Valbona Valley National Park is known as "the gem of Albania" for a reason. It's the largest protected area in the country, with no shortage of scenery worth defending. The mountainous terrain of the Albanian Alps is complemented by deep river valleys and dense forests. The varying elevations in the park create diverse climates that support a wide array of plant and animal life, including rare chamois (a species of goat-antelope), grey wolves, and wild boars.
7 Chugach State Park
Alaska has a reputation for being a cold and barren open tundra, but in the summer months, temperatures are high enough to be comfortable in a light jacket during the day. A lot of the snow melts at Chugach State Park, a 453,000-acre stunner located only 17 miles outside Anchorage.
During the thaw, guests will notice an increase in wildlife activity, from bears foraging for berries along mountain faces to fish making splashes in turquoise-tinted waters. There are 280 miles of trails to choose from, winding in and out of a rugged terrain dotted by lakes, valleys, glaciers, mountains, and everything in between.
6 Pālāʻau State Park
Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, but the island of Moloka‘i receives far fewer visitors than its more popular counterparts. The Pālāʻau State Park features dense ironwood forests and the highest sea cliffs in the entire world.
The area has a history as rich as its scenery. Visitors can look out from the Kalaupapa cliffs to the peninsula where over a thousand people suffering from leprosy were exiled through the 1960s. The park is also home to the phallus of Nanahoa, a curiously shaped rock formation said to increase fertility.
5 Gawler Ranges National Park
For many people, Australia calls to mind a hot, unforgiving expanse of sand and sun. Though that may be true in some places, Gawler Ranges National Park is a 631-mile area of protected land with a diverse terrain that needs to be seen to be believed. The well-loved Organ Pipes are large, red, finger-like rock formations caused by volcanic eruptions 1500 million years ago.
Gawler Ranges is quite literally teeming with wildlife, and visitors will likely come across more animals than people as they explore the remote area. Groups of wallabies bound across fields of rocks. Kangaroos, emus, parrots, and wombats have all found their home in this underrated national park.
4 Valley Of Flowers National Park
It's unbelievable that a place this beautiful gets less than 20,000 visitors annually. The Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand, India is known for its lush vegetation and, of course, sprawling fields of wildflowers. Its location in the transitional zone between the Himalayas and Zanskar mountain ranges creates the perfect alpine environment for a wide variety of plant life. Hike down a narrow path blanketed by colorful flowers on either side, a view of green mountains kissed by clouds in the background.
3 Makoshika State Park
Imagine trekking through the same spot the dinosaurs roamed 65 million years ago. Montana's Makoshika State Park tells a story about the planet that can't be told in any other place. Fossil remains from several different dinosaurs have been found at Makoshika.
Guests will enjoy unimpeded views of multi-colored badland formations, which display a clear demarcation of eras separated by a dark, black line. The flatlands are filled with fields of prairie grasses and cacti. Every year, 100 types of wildflowers bloom, painting the landscape in bright yellows, purples, and whites.
2 Smith Falls State Park
Nebraska isn't exactly known for its stunning landscapes, but maybe it should be. Smith Falls State Park is named for its remarkable and unexpected 70-foot waterfall. The cool canyons support the growth of birch and spruce trees that slowly disappeared from the United States after the Ice Age. The surrounding forests are home to the Smith aspen, a hybrid tree that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Visitors might get lucky and spot an otter floating down the 76 miles long Niobrara River that flows through the park.
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1 Tuktut Nogait National Park
Located in the Northwest Territories of Canada, the Tuktut Nogait National Park receives an incredibly low number of visitors each year- between 2 and 21! Due to its remote location, it takes an entire day just to reach the park, but the scenery is worth the trip. It's highly unlikely that visitors would encounter another living human while exploring the vast landscape marked by steep canyons, waterfalls, rivers, tundra, and rolling hills.
There is evidence of Inuit life dating back to 1000 AD. Remnants of manmade wells and food caches used to store meat can be found throughout the park. A wide variety of wildlife, including caribou, wolves, and grizzly bears thrive in the diverse landscape. For a majority of the time, they have the entire place to themselves.