Top 10 Most Beautiful Places that Aren't National Parks (USA)

Updated: Feb 20

The National Park Service gets a lot of love, 318 million visitors to be exact, but here are some beautiful places outside of our beloved 62 National Parks:

10) Prince William Sound

Alaska has 8 National Parks accounting for 60% of the entire country's national parklands. Despite all this, one of Alaska's most beautiful and accessible areas, the Prince William Sound, has none. Much of the sound is managed by the Chugach National Forest Service and there are 14 Marine State Parks scattered throughout. If you find yourself in Whittier or Valdez, be sure to book a tour of any of the many tidewater glaciers that dump icebergs across the sound. Several of Alaska's largest and most active glaciers can be found in this area, along with some of Alaska's tallest waterfalls.

Don't Miss: Surprise Glacier in Harriman Fjord, the most active glacier in the sound!

9) Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Hidden in the cascades of northern Washington, a series of stunning glacial lakes dot the landscape in the alpine meadows. Dozens of trails weave around the lakes and viewpoints providing visitors with incredible photo opportunities. One of the most famous of these trails, the Enchantments, is a permit-only trek above some of the most stunning lakes in North America. Some of these areas can get crowded, so be sure to visit early in the morning or during the week for a chance to find solitude above the magnificent cascades.

Don't Miss: Lake Ingalls, a lake in the Enchantments accessible from a trailhead without a permit!

8) Green River Lakes

Tucked away in the Wind River Range of Western Wyoming, the Green River Lakes is a hidden gem managed by the Bridger National Forest. This mountain oasis, accessible down a 20-mile dirt road, is a paradise for hikers, boaters, kayakers, and photographers. Avoid the crowds in Yellowstone and Grand Teton with a day trip to the Wind River Range and explore a lesser-known corner of the Wyoming Rockies.

Don't Miss: Paddling the lakes all the way up to the end of the trail!

7) Maroon Bells

Probably the most photographed peaks in Colorado, it's no secret the Maroon Bells are beautiful. Unfortunately, the White River National Forest manages mandatory shuttles during the busy season, restricting travel freedom. When the road closes in early November, consider snowshoeing or cross country skiing for a peaceful experience at one of Colorado's most beautiful natural sites.

Don't Miss: Conundrum Hot Springs, also in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

6) Reflection Canyon

A strenuous 20-mile unmarked route across the unforgiving desert, slot canyons, ravines, and river beds leads to a magical overlook in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Lake Powell's pristine waters carve through sheer sandstone cliffs forming breathtaking reflective pools. You can day hike from sunrise to sunset or camp on the outcrop, either way, you won't be disappointed.

Don't Miss: The opportunity to deviate your path through impressive slot canyons on your way to Lake Powell; there is no trail!

5) Valley of Fire State Park

Only 50 miles from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is a unique conglomeration of canyons, sandstone outcrops, dunes, and petroglyphs. Valley of Fire Road, a Nevada Scenic Byway, runs through the park around towering sandstone monuments and fiery landscapes. In the summer months, prepare to endure extreme temperatures well over 100°F, so pack in plenty of water and hike earlier in the morning.

Don't Miss: Firecave in the southwestern corner of the state park!

4) Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park forms the mountainous skyline of Anchorage, Alaska. Hidden just beyond the city, this park protects nearly 500,000 acres of jagged peaks, massive glaciers, wildlife, and alpine lakes. There are dozens of trailheads dotted around the city limits and Seward Highway, providing an easy escape into this mysterious and incredible world beyond the front range.

Don't Miss: Take an aerial tour of Knik Glacier and see the incredible mass of ice sitting just above the city!

3) Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

The cascade volcanoes tower over their surroundings. In Washington, one of the most well-known of these peaks is Mount St. Helens, which famously covered half the country in ash in 1980. Today, it is protected by the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, managed by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. There are several viewpoints and access roads into the monument, allowing visitors to see the grandeur of the mountain from all sides. Mount St. Helens makes a wonderful day trip for anyone wanting an escape from the crowds at Mount Rainier.

Don't Miss: Climbing to the summit! Climbing permits are required.

2) Hanksville, Utah

Hanksville is a small, desolate town in southern Utah, tucked away in the seemingly inconspicuous desert between some national parks. Hidden just a few miles south, you'll find rocks of incredible colors, landscapes resembling mars, and overlooks that trump any you'll find in the national parks. All of this land is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is free to access and camp in anytime. Explore countless miles of dirt tracks in this windy wonderland and you're sure to leave inspired.

Don't Miss: Moonscape overlook, one of the most impressive views in Utah!

1) Alabama Hills

This picture-perfect backdrop for so many movie scenes is where the wild west meets the mountains. On the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the hot, low lying deserts of southern California meet impressive slopes and the famous Mount Whitney. The Alabama Hills National Scenic Area is protected by the Bureau of Land Management. In the area stretching from the town of Lone Pine to the Mount Whitney portal, you'll witness sandstone arches, desert sagebrush plains, boulder fields, and petroglyphs, all beneath the stunning backdrop of the Eastern Sierras. California's backyard is arguably the most beautiful place in the Golden State.

Don't Miss: Big Pine Lakes Trail for some beautiful alpine glacier-fed lakes.


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