6 Overlooked & Budget-Friendly National Park Destinations


America’s national parks and recreation areas have been iconic destination spots for generations. In recent years they’ve only gained more popularity as both COVID-19 and jaw-dropping #nofilter Instagram feeds have driven more people to seek entertainment and solace outdoors. 

Increased popularity has brought bigger crowds. Meanwhile, rising costs, for gas and food in particular, can make crossing these destinations off your bucket list seem a bit more daunting than it used to be. 

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Beyond the iconic parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, though, are hundreds (423, to be exact) of fascinating and beautiful sites within the National Park System that inspire awe. There’s at least one in every state, offering many affordable opportunities to take the roads less traveled. 

“There are so many sites that most people aren’t aware of that are great for a couple of hours or a couple of days,” said Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service. Plus, she said, “They’re often much closer than people realize.” 

The biggest expenditures of visiting a park are typically in getting there, if you have to drive or fly a long distance, paying for lodging and food along the way. Once you get to the park, just 108 of them charge entrance fees, and the maximum fee is $35. 

Kupper says if you’re planning overnight stays, whether you want to save money or splurge, “there’s something for every level,” from rustic camping and glamping yurts to world-class lodges. 

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The National Park Service’s free app (download it at nps.gov), shows you parks by location, including details on fees, activities and conditions or alerts to be aware of.

Read on for six destinations within the National Park System worth your time, plus tips on how to save money while you’re there, courtesy of Nedra McDaniel of the Adventure Mom blog.


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