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Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington: This magnificent volcano, which had lain dormant for more than 120 years, was brought to public attention by a devastating eruption in 1980.

According to American author and environmentalist Wallace Stegner, “National parks are the best idea we’ve ever had.” And the park system gained enormous popularity, just as many other outstanding inventions.
In 2022, there will be more than 300 million visitors to US national parks, a 75% increase since the 1970s. And while one of the main reasons the National Park Service was established in 1916 was to introduce so many people to the beauty of nature, it also has a drawback.

Popular sites like Yosemite and Zion had to enact reservation policies for simply accessing during the busy summer months. Automobiles slowing down to view bison and other wildlife have caused gridlock on Yellowstone’s roadways. More difficult than hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas is getting a high season campsite at many sites.
However, people who wish to avoid the crowds and see America’s great outdoors do have options. There are four additional park networks in the nation, four of which cover the entire country but are frequently incredibly underused

Agency for Land Management National Monuments & National Conservation Areas:                                                                               In 12 states, the BLM is in charge of 51 parks that are comprised of desert, prairie, forest, and coastal areas.

National Wildlife Refuges:                                                                                                                                                                                                          The US Fish & Wildlife Service is in charge of managing more than 560 pieces of land and water that are home to many iconic American species and offer fantastic opportunities for wildlife viewing.

National Forests:                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The system has expanded to encompass 439 wilderness areas, 122 wild and beautiful rivers, nine monuments, and more since President Benjamin Harrison established the first federal forest reserve in 1891.

State Parks:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         More than 10,000 state parks guard and preserve a wide range of American wonders, including the Big Sur coast, Lake Tahoe, Niagara Falls, and wild ponies.
While some alternative national parks suffer from the same resource shortages and overpopulation as the more well-known ones, many others provide you the option to get away from it all by yourself rather than elbow-to-elbow with other nature lovers.

Here are some of the best:

National Monument to the Grand Staircase-Escalante (Utah)
Less than a million people each year visit the large BLM park in Utah, and the majority of them stay close to State Highway 12 along the monument’s northern border or US Highway 89 in the south.
The Grand Staircase plateaus, which drop over southern Utah like enormous stone steps, and the sinuous Escalante Canyons, which were carved out by streams entering the Colorado River watershed, are where the park gets its name.

The park, which is most renowned for hiking, mountain biking, and canyoneering, also has a staggering 660 species of wild bees in addition to hundreds of Native American archaeological sites and numerous dinosaur digs.

Just passing through:                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Reserve an RV hookup, a cabin, or an Airstream trailer at hipster hangout Yonder Escalante and go on day outings to the easily accessible Devil’s Garden, Calf Creek Trail, or Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon.
Deep dive: Join Western Spirit Cycling Adventures, located in Moab, on a six-day guided mountain biking tour of GSENM.
Best season: Autumn, when temperatures are cooler and the canyon trees are turning vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow.

Information: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument


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The Lost Coast in Northern California has miles of wild, unspoiled coastline.

The Lost Coast, which stretches 25 miles (40 kilometres) from Mattole Beach to Shelter Cove, is among the country’s longest undeveloped coastlines (230 miles or 370 kilometers north of San Francisco).
The coast and its pristine backcountry are preserved within the boundaries of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and the BLM’s King Range National Conservation Area. They provide a vision of what Big Sur would look like if Highway 1 had never been built.
The region is home to a variety of wildlife, including coastal redwoods and enormous Douglas fir trees, as well as elephant seals and other marine mammals, bald eagles, black bears, and some of California’s last wild salmon streams.

Just passing through: Stay the night at Shelter Cove’s luxury Castle Inn or budget-friendly Inn of the Lost Coast before hitting the waves, fishing, or beachcombing.
Deep dive: Take a three-day, strenuous backpacking journey along the cliffs and beach on the Lost Coast Trail.
Summer offers the greatest weather and the least amount of precipitation.

S. M. National Wildlife Refuge (Florida)
The park, which covers 43 miles (70 kilometres) of Florida’s Gulf Coast, is centred on bays and bayous that are bordered by forest and coastal grasslands.
St. Marks, which was founded in 1931 and is one of the country’s oldest federal wildlife refuges, is home to a variety of wild animals, including alligators, manatees, and dolphins as well as bobcats, black bears, white-tailed deer, and hundreds of bird species, including the bald eagle and whooping crane.

The 1831-built St. Marks Lighthouse is a historic landmark in the reserve, as is the migration of the brilliant monarch butterflies.

Just passing through: From a stay at the Sweet Magnolia Inn, a bed & breakfast housed in a former general store, brothel, church, and St. Marks City Hall, drive to the reserve.
In-depth: St. Marks makes it simple to backpack 45 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail that meander over the reserve with its seven campsites for through hikers.
The refuge’s October Monarch Butterfly Festival is the ideal time to visit.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge further information

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Huge Mount Katahdin can be found in Maine’s Baxter State Park.

More than 25 million residents of New England and eastern Canada can find a wild and remote haven in Maine’s sparsely populated North Woods. More water and forest are present in the area’s 3.5 million acres than in Yellowstone and Yosemite combined.
The top parks in the area are Baxter State Park and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The two state reserves are great for getting away from it all, with just around 65,000 visitors annually, largely in the summer.
Baxter is home to Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin, which rises to a height of 5,269 feet (1,606 metres), as well as the northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. In contrast, Allagash offers a 92-mile (148-kilometer) stretch of untamed rivers and lakes that Henry David Thoreau praised in an 1864 travelogue about his own canoe trip through the North Woods.

If you’re just passing through:                                                                                                                                                                                               Book a bed at the charming Big Moose Cabins or another lodging option in Millinocket and take day hikes in Baxter State Park.  

Take a deep dive:                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Join Maine Trails Guide Service for a weeklong guided paddle along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
June to early October is ideal.

National Park of the Vermilion Cliffs (Arizona)

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The centrepiece of a sizable BLM park in northern Arizona, these chromatic cliffs are so-called for their purple colour, which is brought on by iron oxide and magnesium in the red sandstone.
There is a lottery mechanism in place to gain entrance to the spinning “Wave” rock formation because there are only so many people who can visit. However, there aren’t many social media influencers or selfie stickers in the rest of the national monument.
Dramatic gorges like Paria Canyon and other incredible rock formations like Toadstool Hoodoos, White Pocket, and the Alcove are tucked away among the rocks.

Just passing through: Stay at the Shash Dine Eco Retreat close to Page, Arizona, to combine Navajo culture with day hikes at Vermillion Cliffs.
Deep dive: The full length is a three to five-day backpacking expedition.

If you’re travelling through: Consider staying at the Shash Dine Eco Retreat in the vicinity of Page, Arizona, to experience both Navajo culture and day hikes to Vermillion Cliffs.
Deep dive: A three to five-day backpacking trip down the entire length of Paria Canyon from trailheads in southern Utah.
The best time is whenever it’s not summer because of the sometimes triple-digit daytime highs.

Information on the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument