by Scott VanZalinge, Warehouse Manager

There are 58 National Parks in the US, many of which are visited often, and are known even to those who haven't visited them. Among the most visited parks are: The Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier Bay, and The Grand Canyon. But how much do we know about the rest of the parks? I've chosen a handful of lesser visited National Parks which I find very interesting and worth making a trip.

Capitol Reef
I've started in Utah, my home, and the home of RidgeCrest Herbals, and I've chosen the two least visited National Parks in the state - Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. Capitol Reef National Park is an extraordinary place, which encompasses the "Waterpocket Fold" a 65 million year old warp in the earth's crust, and the largest exposed monocline in North America. It offers vibrantly colored cliffs, arches, white domes shaped like the US capitol building (for which this park is named), and hundreds of miles of trails and unpaved roads that allow you to access the all-encompassing beauty.

Canyonlands National Park
It is just east of Capitol Reef, both of which are located in South Central Utah. Canyonlands is broken into four districts - the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers that course through the park. The districts share a primitive desert atmosphere while they each retain their own character. The park is suited for many recreational uses including mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and four-wheeling. Both parks are full of historical and cultural remnants, and both are absolutely awesome places to visit. Whether sticking to the highways or hiking deep into the backcountry, you're sure to find something spectacular.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison
It is a very narrow and deep canyon located in western Colorado. Through the canyon flows the Gunnison river, which drops an average of 34 feet per mile, making it the 5th steepest mountain descent in North America. What I like about a place like this is its ability to make you feel small - this is what drives me to visit National Parks. Upon their magnificence, they have the ability to make one feel insignificant. In these moments, when I'm a speck in size compared to my surroundings, I find tranquility.

Congaree
This park in South Carolina preserves the largest portion of old growth floodplain forest left in North America. I chose this park because it is unique, and living in Utah does not subject me to a lot of swampland. I would very much like to experience this unique environment. Some of the trees in this forest are the tallest in the Eastern United States, and there are a wide array of animal species, including bobcats, deer, coyotes, armadillos, turkeys, feral dogs, and pigs. The waters have amphibians, turtles, snakes, alligators, and many varieties of fish. There are both primitive and backcountry campsites available, and many trails to navigate your way through the forest, including both land and mapped out waterways which are accessed via canoe. There is also a 2.4 mile elevated boardwalk which you can use for strolling or bird watching.

Dry Tortugas
This national park is one of the most interesting I have read about. It is a small group of islands located in the Gulf of Mexico, near the Florida Keys. On one of the islands holds an old civil war fort, Fort Jefferson. The fort is the largest masonry structure in the Americas, constructed from over 16 million bricks. There's a lot of history here, stories about Fort Jefferson, shipwrecks, early Spanish explorers, island battles, and even tales found in fictional literary works like "Treasure Island" and "The President's Shadow". Another thing I found interesting about Dry Tortugas is the disappearance and reappearance of some of its smaller islands. Its former islands include Southwest Key, Northeast Key, and North Key, which all disappeared by 1875, while Bird Key disappeared in 1935. The islands are only accessible by boat or plane.

There is so much to do in this world, so many places to see, and so many experiences just waiting to take place. Yet, these experiences don't need to come at the higher cost associated with more popular parks such as higher priced hotel accommodations, having to drive further distances, or putting up with a crowd. Solidarity is held high in my book, and I'm finding that just because a place (whether a National Park or some other attraction) is less visited, doesn't mean it's any less extraordinary or enjoyable. I encourage everyone to find a National Park near you, one you haven't visited, and go. I've made it my New Year's resolution to visit all of the National Parks in Utah that I haven't been to, and I hope you make it out to explore the world. Safe travels!