Last year, over 282 million people visited a U.S. national park -- that's up about three million from 2011 and the sixth highest attendance of all time. Yet despite our love for what historian Wallace Stegner called "America's best idea," most of us would be hard pressed to name more than a dozen of our national parks. While marquee parks like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Great Smoky Mountains are certainly worth visiting, they come with drawbacks -- namely higher admission fees and larger crowds, especially in the high summer season. By comparison, these six lesser-known national treasures can be blissfully uncrowded while still delivering outstanding natural landscapes and wildlife viewing.
For children, a park visit can be extra special. Most of our national parks offer a free Junior Ranger program that typically includes a booklet of questions and scavenger hunt-like activities. Once tasks are completed, each kid receives a Junior Ranger certificate and badge. Can't make it to a national park this summer? Some parks will even let kids earn a Junior Ranger badge online.
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