The Best Parks You Have Never Heard Of

We all know about the Nation’s great national parks: Yellowstone, Yosemite and Death Valley. But there are others that don’t get as much attention as they deserve! Did you know there are more than 400 national parks and thousands of state parks across the nation? Travel editor Peter Greenberg appeared on CBS This Morning: Saturday to talk about parks that offer the same views and amenities as larger parks, but are under the radar.

Park in Hudson River Valley

Image: www.hudsonrivervalley.com

First up is Bear Mountain State Park, located an hour north of Manhattan in the rugged mountain rising from the west bank of the Hudson River. Greenberg said Bear Mountain is ideal for visiting in both the summer and winter.

“It’s a great day trip,” he said. “It has hiking, biking, fishing, swimming and [it’s] totally un-crowded. And the cool thing is in the winter, they have skiing and ice skating.”

The 5,067-acre park is also accessible, offering all visitors entry to its beautiful trails, picnic areas, playing fields and fishing areas.

Take full advantage of the park’s zoo, which only houses animals native to New York. The website says all animals are either permanently injured or orphaned and wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. Want to know more about this park? Plan a trip using The Pocket Ranger® Guide for New York State Parks.

Bird Watching At A Park

Image: www.wildlifesouth.com

Congaree National Park is for the birds. Greenberg said the park, located in Hopkins, South Carolina, is known for its immense array of birds, especially nocturnal ones. The Carolina Bird Club says the park has just under 200 species. While not a high number, it’s made up for by the number of individual birds present at all times of year, the website says.

Formerly known as Congaree National Swamp Monument (who would have wanted to go to that?), Greenberg said the park features great, old growth forests and unbelievable biodiversity. Congaree also has the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern portion of the U.S., according to the park’s website.

As far as activities, Congaree offers camping, hiking, canoeing and kayaking.

Spotted Sandpiper bird (Actitis macularia)  sp...

Spotted Sandpiper bird (Actitis macularia) spotted-sandpiper_3 [Photo credit: mikebaird]

According to Greenberg, “More than two million people a year go to Mount Rushmore—enough with the statues…now, go 40 miles south and guess what you get? The same great black hills of South Dakota, but one of the longest caves in the world.”

Wind Cave National Park

Image: thedailyexplorer.files.wordpress.com

Greenberg is referring to Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Wind Cave is steeped in history, starting with the Native Americans, who lived and hunted in the Black Hills for hundreds of years. The “Wind” in Wind Cave comes from the movement of the wind in and out of the cave—a popular attraction. Wind Cave is also known for its boxwork. The National Park Service defines boxwork as thin blades of calcite that project from cave walls and ceilings, forming honeycomb patterns. The fins intersect one another at various angles, forming “boxes” on all cave surfaces.

Wind Cave offers daily cave tours, hiking trails, horseback riding and backcountry camping.

Oh, and don’t forget your sweater! Cave temperature stays at 53 degrees all year.

“These are affordable vacations; they don’t always have to be day trips like Ear Mountain. You can do three and four day trips but you’re not going to be ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.”

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