6 Underrated National Parks in the Western US To Add to Your List

If the last two years have shown us anything, it is that you don’t need to travel to a different country to have incredible adventures. In fact, the United States offers an incredible array of adventures for every type of traveler.

If you want to put your adventure van to good use and hit the road exploring this year, then one of the best ways to have an epic time is by exploring our country's National Parks. But with 63 parks to choose from and all offering something a little bit different, it can feel overwhelming at times to know where to start.

If you are looking to beat the crowds and really be one with nature, then you should look outside the most popular parks and consider adding a more underrated one to your bucket list

Not only will you enjoy the silence and expansive beauty uninterruptedly, but you can take the time to truly connect with those you love and not have any distractions around you.

To help you plan your next big adventure, we have rounded up the most underrated national parks throughout the western part of our country.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park

Remote Riverside Camping

Texas is known for rodeos, incredible BBQ, but also… beautiful camping destinations.

Big Bend is probably one of the best-undiscovered gems in this state. Not only can you enjoy it at any time of year, but you can gaze upon nearly 100 different animals who call this park home. 

A Perfect Spot for Kayaking

With a dramatic combination of desert and rivers throughout this park, you can choose to hike or even explore it by canoe or kayak during the day. Pause your road trip, park your adventure van, and enjoy a soak in a historic hot spring at night.

Leave the crowds to the Hot Springs in the Redwood Forest of Northern California — Texas is your personal swimming pool in a national forest. 

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park

Giant Petrified Logs

Known for its nature, archaeology, and architecture, this undiscovered gem often gets overlooked for the likes of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. But the Petrified Forest National Park is a true one-of-a-kind camping experience. 

Over 220,000 Acres of Sprawling Prairies 

It’s not just the logs, hiking trails, and biking trails that are worth going to check out. Discover overlooks best accessed by an adventure van (best equipped with a pull out bike tray).

The Petrified Forest National Park is perfect for van weekend warriors who travel with their families or pets. In fact, you can sign up to make your dog a Bark Ranger!

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park in Utah

The stunning state of Utah is most famous for Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Park. 

Utah has yet another park that is simply not to be missed: Canyonlands National Park.

Four Massive Sections To Explore

The sheer size of this park enables you to have so many different adventures throughout the day, such as river rafting, hiking up canyons, and even having a go at canyoneering.

The Best Camping and Adventure Activities

While there can be quite a waitlist to have a rafting adventure down the Grand Canyon, it is much easier to have a similar rafting adventure in Canyonland. 

This North American national park has two camping spots: The Needles and the Island in the Sky. You can reserve individual campsites at The Needles and group spots at the Island. So, if you’re heading on a camping trip with a group of van buddies and fellow hikers, try the Needles. 

Or, if you want to really get away from it all, try their unique backcountry camping options.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park

Stay at Wheeler Park Campground

Another fantastic spot to stay if you are looking for a campervan adventure without the crowds is Great Basin National Park. One of the best spots to pull up for the night is in Wheeler Park which happens to have some of the best dark sky in America.

Drive far, far above sea level to this stunning van and RV park. While this recreation area is beautiful, there are no showers or water, so be prepared if you want to wash off after a long day enjoying the views on the Wheeler Peak Trail.

Visit Lehman Caves

If you are after an underground adventure then you will definitely not want to miss out on this ranger-led tour through these historic caves in Nevada. With over two miles of underground wonders to explore, you will be in awe of what lies below the surface of our soil. Just don’t forget to reserve your tickets in advance. 

Pinnacles National Park, California

Pinnacles National Park

The great pacific state of California has a whole range of national and state parks to choose from; perhaps the most famous is Yosemite National Park.

One undiscovered gem is Pinnacles National Park in Northern California. The landscape here offers a super unique vista of both caves and rock spires and vast deserts similar to Joshua Tree National Park. 

If you are an avid rock climber, this is one of the best parks to have a go. Even if you just want a pretty trail to hike, there are plenty to choose from that will cater to any level of experience. It is hard to visit this park and not fall in love with the crazy rock formations here.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

While millions of visitors annually visit national parks, Black Canyon is one of the lesser known and least visited national parks. This park is also the smallest national park in Colorado at 47 square miles, but don’t let that deter you from discovering the solitude and dramatic views this park has to offer.

The small size pays off at this park - in just 7 miles you can visit all of the 12 overlook viewpoints. There is plenty of hiking trails around the rim with amazing views, and advanced hikers can even hike down to the bottom with the required wilderness permit. But if you’re not into extremely steep terrain, don’t worry, you can also drive to the bottom of the 2,000ft canyon.

Once you’ve spent your daytime exploring the dizzying beauty, you can enjoy the dark skies all night long since this park never closes. Depending on the moonlight, the summer months will get you amazing views of the Milky Way like you’ve never seen before. 

The Ultimate Van Getaway

Having the freedom of a camper van means that you can have an immersive outdoor adventure in any of the national parks throughout this country. ‘

With a fully sustainable home on wheels, you can go to the more unexplored ones, not have to deal with the crows, and still feel truly at home wherever you decide to park up.  



10 Underrated National Parks You Should Visit in 2022 | AFAR

The Top 25 National Parks in America| Travel & Leisure

Pets - Petrified Forest National Park | US National Park Service

Backcountry - Canyonlands National Park | US National Park Service

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