Some people are skipping Black Friday shopping to spend time outdoors - here are 8 underrated national parks to visit over the holiday

Read full story

Lassen Volcanic Center (Lassen Peak)Shutterstock

  • The #OptOutside campaign beckons people to explore the outdoors the day after Thanksgiving instead of indulging in Black Friday sales.
  • Some of America's most spectacular national parks are also the least visited, providing serene escapes from the shopping mall crowds.
  • Late fall is the perfect time to visit parks in the south due to the sweltering temperatures they can reach in the summertime.

Some people find pleasure in rising from their turkey-induced slumbers in the wee hours of the morning only to battle the notoriously frenzied hordes of sleep-deprived shoppers over discounted toys and television sets. If you're not one of those people, there's a place for you.

Many places, in fact, provide refuge from the madness of Black Friday. America's national parks offer innumerable opportunities to work off that second helping of Thanksgiving stuffing or just a beautiful backdrop to ride out the post-holiday bloat.

REI started encouraging people to #OptOutside four years ago, when the outdoor retail brand closed its doors the day after Thanksgiving to encourage both employees and shoppers to enjoy the outdoors instead. The National Parks Service hopped aboard the movement in 2017, offering free entry on the shoppers' holiday. And while the parks will maintain their fees this year, they're sure to be less expensive than a 2 a.m. shopping trip.

Here are eight underrated national parks to visit on Black Friday.

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Michigan's Isle Royale certainly isn't among America's most-visited national parks — by no means does it have crowds comparable to Yellowstone or Yosemite — but its superintendent, Phyllis Green, told CBS News that it does, however, have "one of the highest repeat-visitor rates."

A park highlight, Mount Ojibway looks out over the rugged island and surrounding Lake Superior. The lakeside escape offers quiet camping, kayaking, and multi-day hikes.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

More than 4 million people flock to the Rocky Mountains each year, according to the Denver Post, and Colorado's famed park will undoubtedly attract even bigger crowds around the holidays. The nearby Great Sand Dunes are a less congested alternative with views that are severely underrated.

Here, visitors sandboard and sled down what the National Park Service calls the tallest dunes on the continent against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. The mother of all sandbanks, Star Dune, is 750 feet and takes the average person an hour to ascend.

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Kentucky is keeping a big secret: it's home to the longest known cave system on the continent. So far, more than 400 miles of this underground network have been explored, according to National Geographic, and even more of it remains uncharted. Mummified bodies, ancient artifacts, and thousands-of-years-old petroglyphs have been found in Mammoth Cave, ABC News reported. Visitors can also see the limestone caverns by lamplight on one of the park's lantern tours.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park, Texas

If you want to get as far away from the crowds as possible over the holiday weekend, steer the car west and don't stop until you meet the Mexican border. Here, along the banks of the Rio Grande River is Texas' Big Bend.

If you think deserts don't have mountains, this park will prove you wrong. The Chisos range offers hiking in abundance — with its highest summit being Emory Peak at 7,825 feet — and when the sun goes down, you'll be treated to "the best place in America to fall asleep under the stars," according to The Washington Post.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

There are few places on earth where you can see a moose and a whale in the same day, and Acadia National Park is one of them.

Whether it's dense woodland or a rocky beach you seek for a holiday getaway, this East Coast gem is suited to satisfy everyone in the family. The park spans over 47,000 acres along the Atlantic, encompassing Cadillac Mountain and the charming bayside village of Bar Harbor.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Further down the coast, South Carolina's Congaree National Park is home to one of the loftiest deciduous forests on earth, according to Condé Nast Traveler.

This is the largest patch of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the country, yet according to the National Park Service, less than 200,000 people explore the rare landscape each year.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

You've never seen watercolor-hued sand dunes like the ones in Lassen Volcanic National Park. This desert wonder gets less than an eighth of the number of visitors to Yosemite each year because of its remoteness but it hosts some of the most colorful nature in the country.

Aside from the picturesque Painted Dunes, Lassen Volcanic National Park is known for its hydrothermal features — namely Bumpass Hell, which boasts a smorgasbord of boiling hot pools, mudpots, fumaroles, and more.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

The world's "most extensive" Permian fossil reef is in West Texas. Visitors to the Guadalupe Mountains will be treated to true wilderness experience, because the park attracted only 225,257 people last year.

There are 80 miles of hiking trails, 10 backcountry campsites, and three different ecosystems here, according to the National Park Foundation. Not many parks in America can offer both ponderosa pines and cacti, vast canyons and sand dunes, but the Guadalupe Mountains do.

Add Comment()

Comments ()

X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.