Getaway Compass

5 Most Underrated National Parks in the U.S. You Must Visit

The United States has 59 incredible national parks. You have probably heard of the popular Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone. Not far from all these well known national parks are breathtaking parks that are often missed. After spending time exploring the west coast and visiting many national parks, this is a a list of the 5 most underrated national parks that you must visit. The highlights of each of these parks can be explored in just one day, so you can easily visit without taking vacation time and just using your weekend.

Petrified Forest National Park

Location: Arizona
Closest Airports: FLG, PHX, TUS, ABQ

Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park Hike

Petrified Forest National Park is located along route 66, one of the original highways in the US established in 1926. This national park has the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Petrified wood was formed when the trees died or were knocked down and were carried downstream and buried by layers of sediment. Then the wood soaked up water and silica and crystallized into quartz. You can see some of the largest petrified logs in the park along the Giant Logs Trail. In the north part of the park you will find the Painted Desert, desert badlands with layers of colorful sediment. Painted Desert is an incredible place to hike and explore the miles and miles of badlands and petrified wood deposits. Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the U.S that you must visit. Continue to our Petrified Forest National Park One Day Itinerary to start planning your trip.

Kings Canyon National Park

Location: California
Closest Airports: FAT, SMF, SJC, SFO

Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park View

Although Kings Canyon National Park is located right next to the more well known Sequoia National Park, it gets about half the visitors. Get away from the crowds at Sequoia National Park, and spend a day exploring this deep canyon. Start your visit by driving down Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, a 50 mile drive into the canyon. On the way down you will see many panoramic points where you can stop for breathtaking views. Further near the bottom of the canyon there are several waterfalls, some a quick stop and others requiring a hike. If you are looking for a nice long hike, Mist Falls Trail at 8 miles is the perfect trail to explore the canyon floor and be rewarded with a large waterfall at the end.

Channel Islands National Park

Location: California
Closest Airports: FAT, SMF, SJC, SFO

Potato Harbor View
Caven Point Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park is located off the coast of California and is made up of five islands: Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, San Miguel Island, and Santa Barbra Island. The islands were formed by plate tectonics, underwater volcanoes, and changing sea levels. Santa Cruz Island is the largest island in Channel Islands National Park and is located only about an hour away from the mainland. On Santa Cruz Island you can go hiking, swimming, snorkeling or kayaking. You can get to the Channel Islands by taking an Island Packers boat, booking a flight with Channel Islands Aviation, or using a private boat. If you are ready to explore Channel Islands National Park, take a look at our guide for how to do a day trip to Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz Island

Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Utah
Closest Airports: LAS, SLC, FLG, PHX

Bryce Canyon National Park Hoodoos
Bryce Canyon National Park Viewpoint

Located in Utah only about an hour away from Zion National Park, the less known Bryce Canyon National Park is a must-see. Bryce Canyon National Park has the largest concentration of hoodoos than anywhere on earth. You can enjoy the main viewpoints looking down into the canyons, including Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. If you want to get a close view of the hoodoos, hike down into the canyon on the Queens Garden Trail and then continue to the Peek-a-boo loop trail to see more of the canyon. On the way back you can climb up on the Navajo trail for more breathtaking views.  

Canyonlands National Park

Location: Utah
Closest Airports: SLC, FLG, DEN, ABQ

Grand View Point Overlook
Mesa Arch Canyonlands

Offering incredible canyon views, Canyonlands National Park makes you feel like you are on a different planet. The canyons were formed by millions of years of erosion of sedimentary rock. The Green River and Colorado River carved into the rock and thunderstorms eroded the softer rock creating the canyons seen today.  The best time to visit is during the spring or the fall as it gets crowded and hot in the summer. Canyonlands is made up for 3 districts, and the most popular is Island in the Sky district, a mesa that is about 1,000 feet above the surrounding land. The Island in the Sky district is the easiest region to get to and allows you to visit the park in just one day. Some of the most popular hiking trails are Grand View Point Overlook Trail and White Rim Overlook Trail, both of which provide views of the canyon below. Continue to our guide to Canyonlands National Park to start planning your trip.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase and the income goes towards maintaining this site. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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