A Wonderland of Arches…And So Much More

In southeastern Utah, near the town of Moab, is a wonderland of more than 2,000 sandstone arches, set in a picturesque landscape of soaring fins and spires

Five miles east of Moab in southeastern Utah, the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches are preserved at Arches National Park. The arches come in all sizes, ranging from an opening of only 3 feet to the 306-foot span of Landscape Arch, one of the largest in North America.

Arches National Park is a red, arid desert, peppered with oddly eroded sandstone forms such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. The 73,000-acre region has over 2,000 of these “miracles of nature.”

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures unlike any other in the world, the park also features massive sandstone fins, giant balanced rocks, and hundreds of towering pinnacles—all in vibrant oranges, reds, and other colors.

Visitor Center and entrance road to Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The visitor’s first stop should be the visitor center, located just inside the park entrance. The modern center offers excellent interactive exhibits and a film that highlights Arches and nearby Canyonlands National Park. Park rangers are available to assist in planning hikes and other activities, answer questions, and provide maps and other materials.

Park Avenue area at Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once inside the park, the 18-mile Scenic Drive climbs a steep cliff and winds along the arid terrain along the first amazing glimpses of red rock features. The road initially passes the Park Avenue area and then Courthouse Towers. The road then comes to the rolling landscape of Petrified Dunes before arriving at Balanced Rock, where a 55-foot-high boulder sits precariously on a narrow pedestal.

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After Balanced Rock, a turnoff leads to the Windows section, home to the first concentration of arches and some of the parks largest. Short trails lead from the road to Cove Arch and to Double Arch. This side road ends at the site of the North and South Windows and Turret Arch.

Along the 18-mile Scenic Drive in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the parking area, a one-mile trail loop leads visitors around and through three massive arches. The two Windows arches, when viewed together, look like giant eyeglasses resting on a nose; they are also known as The Spectacles.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Returning to the main park road, the Scenic Drive continues for 2.5 miles to another turnoff which leads to Wolfe Ranch and the Delicate Arch viewpoints. One mile past Wolfe Ranch, you can access two viewpoints for the iconic 52-foot Delicate Arch, which is commemorated on the centennial Utah state license plate.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once again on the main road, the Scenic Drive provides overlooks for Salt Valley and Fiery Furnace. Fiery Furnace is home to a fascinating labyrinth of ridges and narrow canyons. Due to the maze-like canyons , it’s best explore the area as part of a ranger-guided tour.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Scenic Drive ends at Devil’s Garden area, site of the park’s campground (reservations strongly advised) and the trailhead for the popular Devils Garden Trail.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Open year-round, the campground offers 52 sites, flush toilets, and water. Evening campfire programs are presented at the campground several times per week in season. Camping fees are charged. Please note that this campground is not suitable for large RVs.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Devils Garden Trail showcases many of the park’s best arches and can be hiked from 1.6 miles to 7.2 miles, depending on your time, fitness level, and number of arches you wish to see. The shortest leg takes visitors to the Famous Landscape Arch, an amazing ribbon of rock that spans more than a football field from base to base.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is hard to believe that a piece of rock like this can exist. In its thinnest section the arch is only 6 feet thick, yet it supports a span of rock 290 feet long. In 1991, a 73-foot slab of rock fell out from underneath the thinnest section of the span, thinning the ribboned curve even more. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1995, a 47-foot mass of rock fell from the front of the thinnest section of the arch, followed by another 30-foot rock fall less than three weeks later. Due to these events the Park Service has closed the loop trail that once led underneath the arch.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As part of the Colorado Plateau, the park’s elevation ranges from 4,085 feet to 5,653 feet. Summer daytime temperatures often exceed 100 degrees.

When hiking all trails in Arches, it’s important to drink plenty of water, regardless of the season. The park recommends visitors drink a minimum of 1 gallon of water a day.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe.

It has symmetry, elegance, and graced—

those qualities you find always in that which the true artist captures.

You can find it the turning of the seasons,

in the way sand trails along a ridge…

—Frank Herbert, Dune

Utah Runneth Over With National Parks

America’s southwest is home to lots of jaw-dropping scenery—how do you decide where to go and what to see?

The days are getting warmer, there’s more daylight hours, and school will soon be out. A great formula for a summer vacation, for sure.

BUT, where to go and what to do?

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you enjoy wide open spaces, room to stretch your legs, and unlimited opportunities to observe Mother Nature at its finest—consider UTAH.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a state that is 13th in area, Utah has an amazing number of locations managed by the National Park Service. These parks include seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, one national historical site, and five national parks. It is these “crown jewels,” the BIG FIVE, we’ll briefly describe in today’s post.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the southwest corner of Utah is magnificent Zion National Park. Highway access is prime at this incredible park, as I-15 rims the park on its western edge. SR-9 runs through the southern portion of the park, and 12 miles east is the community of Mt. Carmel Junction.

Located at the park’s southern entrance, Springdale offers numerous visitor facilities.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV camping is available inside the park at South Campground (117 sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites) near the south entrance of Springdale. Reservations are strongly suggested as both campgrounds are full every night during the reservation season. Several private RV parks are available a short drive from the park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To help ease traffic congestion, a shuttle service runs from early March through October. There are two shuttle loops. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale. The Springdale Shuttle will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion is all about hiking, and the beauty of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This famous drive runs from the visitor center to the famous Temple of Sinawava.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is located northeast of Zion.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. The most famous of these is the Bryce Amphitheater (pictured above), which is filled with irregularly eroded spires of rocks called hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion). Their colors vary, giving the area unusual hues during the changing daylight hours. The largest collection of hoodoos in the world is found in Bryce. Descriptions fail. Bring your sense of wonder and imagination when visiting Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds, North (99 sites) and Sunset (100 sites), located in close proximity to the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Bryce Amphitheater. Sites fill by early afternoon during the busy summer months.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive to Rainbow Point (18 miles one way) and stop at the 13 viewpoints on your return trip. Hiking trails are numerous. Since park elevations reach over 9,000 feet, even mild exertion may leave you feeling light-headed and nauseated.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park preserves 337,598 acres of colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires in the heart of southeast Utah’s high desert. Water and gravity have been the prime architects of this land, sculpting layers of rock into the rugged landscape you see today.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands preserves the natural beauty and human history throughout its four districts (Islands in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, Horseshoe Canyon) which are divided by the Green and Colorado rivers. While the districts share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character and offers different opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Island in the Sky is the most accessible district, offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, several hikes of varying length and a moderate four-wheel-drive route called the White Rim Road.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is available in the Islands of the Sky District at Willow Flat (12 sites) and Needles District at Needles Campground (27 sites).

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Almost next door, is smaller, unusual, Arches National Park. It is located 5 miles northwest of Moab. Visitor services including several RV parks.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This red-rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 18-mile scenic road passes the many outstanding natural features. Parking is limited at all destinations, and popular trailheads like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden may fill for hours at a time, especially on weekends and holidays. Tent and RV camping is available at Devils Garden Campground (51 sites), 18 miles from the park entrance.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park’s main driving tours include the paved Scenic Drive and two long, mainly unpaved, loop tours through the park’s Cathedral and Waterpocket Districts. The Scenic Drive starts at the park Visitor Center and provides access to Grand Wash Road, Capitol Gorge Road, Pleasant Creek Road, and South Draw Road. The Scenic Drive is a 7.9 mile paved road with dirt spur roads into Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 71-site Fruita campground is the only developed campground in the park, located south of the visitor center in the Fruita Historic District.

Utah national parks bring superlative sights like no other state. It’s one of the few where someone can look at a picture and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s Utah.”.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

America’s 10 Most Popular National Parks, Ranked

The top 10 national parks according to which ones are the best

The national parks system is arguably the best idea America ever had. More than 300 million people visit every year, pouring over $35 billion into the national economy.

Many parks offer free entrance days—for some, every single day is a free entrance day—and if you want to go all out, an $80 annual pass gets you unlimited access to all the national parks for the entire year.

But which parks to visit? There are currently a whopping 60 national parks in America. To help narrow the playing field, we have thusly ranked what are, per to National Parks Service’s 2017 data, the 25 most-visited.

Now, it should be noted that the least-visited national parks are often the least-visited not because they are uncool, but because they are geographically inconvenient for most visitors to reach (like Virgin Islands National Park or Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic). By the same token, Great Smoky Mountains National Park wins “most-visited” year after year on a technicality (basically, people drive through it a lot just to get from Point A to Point B).

But while it is widely known that there is nothing bloggers love more than to put things in numerical order according to how good they are, I don’t love it enough to do 60 things or even 25 things. I will be doing 10 things.

Did we rank the parks according their uniqueness, or photogenicness, or diversity of flora and fauna, or for the level of adventure contained therein? Yes. We ranked them according to which ones are the best. Let’s begin.

10. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Canyonlands, near Moab, has always been upstaged by its more famous neighbors, Grand Canyon to the south and Arches to the north; and yet it merits a visit just as much as they do. Ancient waters and relentless winds have carved intricate canyons, pillars, stairs, and narrow paths through the sandstone, creating a stunning park that’s best explored on foot or bicycle. There are very few paved roads throughout the park’s 527 square miles.

9. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Lassen Volcanic is one of few locations on Earth where you can see all four types of volcanoes—plug dome, shield, cinder, and cone. While Lassen Peak is the most famous, as well as the dominant feature in the park, there are numerous other—literally—hotspots to explore including mud pots, stinking fumaroles, and hot springs.

8. Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The iconic Pioneer Cabin Tree is no more, but we’ve still got General Sherman—the biggest tree in the world, weighing in at 275 feet tall and 60 feet wide. We’ve also got the underground stalactites and stalagmites of the Crystal Cave system. This is a park where you go to be fully immersed in nature; most of it isn’t accessible by car.

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserv

The Clingman’s Dome observatory tower offers truly incredible panoramic views of the whole mountain range and to really cap things off you can pick your fill of wild strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries while you’re hiking around.

6. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


Zion is a perennial favorite. Backcountry hikers and climbers come here for The Subway, a nine-plus-mile hike that can involve rappelling, depending on which direction you try to tackle it from. The slot canyons here, set off by rust-red rocks and waterfalls (don’t miss Weeping Rock) are undeniably iconic, and Angel’s Landing is a great underrated hike.

5. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One of the most beautiful places in America, this park contains a massive collection of naturally formed amphitheatres and spire-shaped features called hoodoos that are some of the most distinct-looking geological features you’ll ever see in your life.

4. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Joshua Tree become more beloved every year. Climbers enjoy the wide variety of rock faces available to them here. The dry, arid desert is notably home to 501 archaeological sites and camping among the rugged geological features and famously twisted Joshua Trees—to say nothing of the stargazing—is something everyone should do at least once.

3. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Most of the meager attention that gets paid to Capitol Reef—it’s competing with four other national parks in the state of Utah alone—revolves around the Waterpocket Fold, a unique 100-mile-long wrinkle in the Earth’s crust. But you don’t have to be a geology nerd to enjoy what this park has to offer.

2. Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Thanks to millions of years of sandstone erosion, we’re blessed with the beauty that is the Arches National Park. There are over 2,000 natural stone arches in this 119-square mile park, the most famous being the 65-foot Delicate Arch.

1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Truly a sight beyond words, the Grand Canyon should be on every RVer’s bucket list. You can’t describe in words what takes your breath away with each view.

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

Arches and Canyonlands: Two Parks Contrasted

The vast and rugged desert surrounding Moab is known for its starkly beautiful red-rock country and fantastic rock formations

Moab is unique in that it has two national parks just outside city limits: Arches and Canyonlands, about 10 miles apart, and each represent different visions of what a national park can be.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Five miles east of Moab, the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches are preserved at Arches National Park.

Natural arches abound at the park and come in all sizes, ranging from an opening of only 3 feet to the 306-foot span of Landscape Arch, one of the largest in North America.

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arches National Park is a red, arid desert, peppered with oddly eroded sandstone forms such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. The 73,000-acre region has over 2,000 of these “miracles of nature.”

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once inside the park, the 18-mile Scenic Drive climbs a steep cliff and winds along the arid terrain along the first amazing glimpses of red rock features. The road initially passes the Park Avenue area and then Courthouse Towers. The road then comes to the rolling landscape of Petrified Dunes before arriving at Balanced Rock.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Continuing on the park road, a turnoff leads to the Windows section, home to the first concentration of arches and some of the parks largest. Short trails lead from the road to Cove Arch and to Double Arch. This side road ends at the site of the North and South Windows and Turret Arch.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Returning to the main park road, the Scenic Drive continues for 2.5 miles to another turnoff which leads to Wolfe Ranch and the Delicate Arch viewpoints.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once again on the main road, the Scenic Drive provides overlooks for Salt Valley and Fiery Furnace, home to a fascinating labyrinth of ridges and narrow canyons.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Scenic Drive ends at Devil’s Garden area, site of the park’s campground (reservations strongly advised) and the trailhead for the popular Devils Garden Trail.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Devils Garden Trail showcases many of the park’s best arches and can be hiked from 1.6 miles to 7.2 miles, depending on your time, fitness level, and number of arches you wish to see. The shortest leg takes visitors to the Famous Landscape Arch, an amazing ribbon of rock that spans more than a football field from base to base.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Canyonlands National Park covers a vast area of wilderness, centered round the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. The park preserves an immense wilder­ness of rock, in which water and gravity have carved hundreds of canyons, mesas, buttes, spires, arches, and other spectacular rock formations.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Green and Colorado rivers have carved two large canyons that serve as the centerpieces for the colorful but smaller canyons that sur­round the area.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Over millions of years, the rivers and their small tributaries have carved the flat sandstone rock layers into many amazing forms with an immense variety of colors.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Although there are some paved roads, much of Canyonlands is still largely inaccessible. The best way to see most of the park is by 4WD vehicle, but many roads are rough, and huge areas lack any access.

Two Parks Contrasted

One makes the vast and rugged desert accessible to all; the other makes exploration more work, but worth it.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arches attracts large crowds because of a paved road that brings you a short distance from all the major attractions. Delicate Arch, the red-rock wonder that adorns Utah license plates, requires the most work to see: a 3-mile hike round trip.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In contrast, most of the 520 square miles of Canyonlands cannot be accessed by road. The park is divided into four sections: Island in the Sky, the most accessible and popular area; the Needles, a more remote area with spectacular rock formations; the Rivers, where people raft the Colorado and Green rivers; and the Maze, the least accessible area in the park.

Worth Pondering…

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

—Edward Abbey

The Absolute Best Places to RV This April

April is an amazing month for RV travel

April pops to life after a long stretch of colder months and it welcomes outdoor exploration before the heat and humidity of summer step in. April is all light showers, cool breezes, and flowers galore, making it the perfect time to hit the road in an RV.

Here are five of the absolute best places to find you and your family in the merry month of April.

Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Texas

There is a lot to see in Texas, and you’ll definitely want to take it in before May, that’s for damn sure. Texan summers range, but you can bank on serious heat rolling through the cities and countryside—and it’s not like a coastal breeze tumbles across the state. So April’s your last month to do up Texas right for a good spell.

San Antonio Riverwalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Don’t worry, though, because April features an incredible score of festivities throughout the entire Lone Star State, including the Andrews Wild Wild West Fest, Fiesta San Antonio, Austin Reggae Festival, Celina Cajun Fest, Dallas International Film Festival, Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival, Galveston Island Food & Wine Festival, Grapevine Jazz Wine Train, Houston Comedy Film Festival, Katy Jazz Festival, Kilgore Film Festival, and on and on and on. The whole state is a party in April and anyone’s welcome.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is regularly described as one of America’s most beautiful places. Nowhere else will you find a landscape as dramatically colorful. The towering red rocks and jagged sandstone buttes matched against an almost always blue sky have beckoned to professional and budding artists for years

Sedona Red Rock Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The best time to visit Sedona is from March to May when the temperatures are warm—but not scorching—and the area is in full bloom. Hikers love this season, as desert flowers add a pop of color to the rust-colored trails.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park encompasses a collection of red rocks that make visitors feel more like they’re on Mars than near the northern edge of Moab. Sandstone monuments like Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock scatter the park, which spans nearly 77,000 acres.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The otherworldly atmosphere draws avid photographers in droves, while the wonky landscapes attract adventurous hikers and rock climbers. Note that Arches National Park is in a high desert region, meaning temperatures can vary widely throughout the day, sometimes by as much as 40 degrees.

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Parker Canyon Lake, Arizona

This medium-sized 132 acre lake is nestled in the gentle Canelo Hills east of the Huachuca Mountains. Just seven miles north of Mexico, Parker Canyon Lake was created in 1966 by the Coronado National Forest and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Parker Canyon Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ringed with cottonwoods, juniper, piñon pine, scrub oak, and manzanita, Parker Canyon Lake offers a number of recreational possibilities for those willing to drive the dirt roads that lead to it.

From just about any point along the shore, Parker Canyon Lake doesn’t look very big. Take off on the trail around the lake, though, and you’ll find it’s a heck of a lot bigger than you thought.

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Florida

Before the entire state turns hot, humid, and expensive, you can have the time of your life in Florida. There are an estimated billion things to do across the state, though Orlando’s metropolitan area obviously holds many of the big-time sights—Walt Disney World, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, to name a few. There’s also the Florida Film Festival as well as the Florida Music Festival and Conference in April.

Lake Okeeochobee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you’re looking for less chaos, though, spring is also the best time to visit the Everglades. It may be peak season, but it’s still the best stretch of months weather-wise for such a swampy (and seriously beautiful) national park. Meanwhile, the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral will blow your mind, Busch Gardens will bring you to Tampa, and the reef islands of Dry Tortugas National Park is definitely something to see, and the Florida Keys are unreal fun and wonderful—especially Key West.

Worth Pondering…

Beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, beauty is below me, beauty is above me. I walk in beauty.

—ancient Navajo poem

10 National Parks to Visit Now That the Government Shutdown Is Over

Come along and visit these 10 national parks that don’t always get enough love

Good news! The government shutdown is over! Not only will you be getting your tax refunds, but you can also visit— trash free—America’s most treasured scenic and historically important federally-administered land. Of course, we’re talking about the National Parks Service sites.

But instead of talking up Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, two of which you’re already familiar, below are 10 national parks that don’t always get enough love.

Petrified Forest National Park

Most visitors come to see the ancient tree trunks which are preserved by minerals they absorbed after being submerged in a riverbed nearly 200 million years ago. And they’re quite a sight: Over time, the huge logs turned to solid, sparkling quartz in a rainbow of colors—the yellow of citrine, the purple of amethyst, the red-brown of jasper. This mineral-tinted landscape also boasts painted deserts and striated canyons.

Pinnacles National Park

California has so many well-known national parks that smaller parks tend to be overlooked. But Pinnacles should be on your must-visit list. Its unique landscape of towering rock formations that form “pinnacles” is the result of volcanic activity in the area some 23 million years ago.

Congaree National Park

Congaree offers the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern U.S. This South Carolina park includes the area where Congaree and Wateree Rivers converge. Canoeing, hiking, and fishing are all popular pastimes and may be enjoyed in peace thanks to the sparse number of fellow travelers.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

With its multiple stems the organ pipe cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ.

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals including its namesake.

Capitol Reef National Park

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles. The park’s main driving tours include the paved Scenic Drive and two long, mainly unpaved, loop tours through the park’s Cathedral and Waterpocket Districts.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

A Nor-Cal beaut, Lassen is home to numerous active volcanoes which include fun, fumaroles (openings in or near a volcano, through which hot sulfurous gases emerge). RV here, if you really want to “blow up” on social media.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

A one-of-a-kind landscape and the cherished homeland of the Navajo people, Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a truly special place. Sheer cliffs rise on either side of this flat-bottomed, sandy ravine, an area created much the way uplift and water formed the Grand Canyon.

Arches National Park

Another reason to hit up southern Utah? Arches. And not like the St. Louis “Gateway Arch.” We’re talking an area that includes over 2,000 natural arches formed over 100 million years by a combo of water, ice, and extreme temperatures.

Big Bend National Park

Few national parks can match the scenic variety of Big Bend. A land graced with desert, mountain, and river environments makes for a compelling study in contrasts. The Chihuahuan Desert, with its vastness and stark beauty, is joined by the abrupt canyons of the Rio Grande and the forested peaks of the Chisos Mountains.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Located in the Badlands of western North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named for the 26th President. This austere landscape is home to a surprisingly dense population of wildlife including bison, pronghorn antelope, elk, wild horses, and bighorn sheep. Theodore Roosevelt is unique among the scenic parks in that it preserves not only an extraordinary landscape but also the memory of an extraordinary man.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?