Must Do: Go snorkeling in the 350-acre coral reef of Ofu Island.
Samoa means "sacred earth", and with views like this, it's not hard to see how this cluster of volcanic islands and coral atolls got its name. Swimming, snorkeling, hiking, climbing–you can do it all here, year-round!
Must Do: Swim around the fort’s moat wall in search of lost treasure.
What used to be a prison that housed an accomplice in Lincoln's assassination is now a straight up tropical paradise for bird lovers, turtle enthusiasts, and history buffs alike. This archipelago in the Gulf of Mexico is definitely one of the most relaxing national parks, with plenty of space for sunbathing, picnics, and camping.
Must Do: Try your hand at surf fishing (while you're not fawning over the ponies).
A beautiful, easy escape from D.C., Baltimore, or even summer crowds at Ocean City, Assateague is known for the shaggy, adorable wild horses that roam free along the barrier island. In addition to the beautiful shoreline and beaches, there are fun trails through marshes, sand, and forests that are open to hikers, bikers, and even some off-road vehicles.
This park is actually an isolated wilderness out in the middle of Lake Superior; an entire year at Isle Royale sees fewer people than Yellowstone sees in a day. It's basically the ideal chance for some alone time and honing your camping skills. You'll be rewarded with incredible scenery and kept company by the plentiful wolves and moose.
Must Do: Take the trail alone the Kona-Kohala coast to take in crystal clear water and black lava cliffs.
This trail only became nationally protected 15 years ago, but it has been in continuous use since Polynesians first came to the big island of Hawai'i more than 1,500 years ago. Follow the trail through ancient Hawai'ian settlements as well as other gorgeous Hawai'i state and national parks.
Named for the land bridge that once connected Alaska to Asia, this preserve is now home to tons of unique wildlife and environments. There's hot springs, ancient lava flows, and huge maar lakes (lakes formed in volcanic craters), as well as muskox, caribou, and even seals!
Must Do: Stargaze on a clear night in the Lower Canyons.
This park got its name for the huge curve in the Rio Grande out in remote southwestern Texas. Encompassing desert, river and mountain, the real showstoppers are the limestone canyons that line the beautiful river. That is until the sun goes down; on clear nights it feels like the star-studded night goes on forever.
The most beautiful swamp you ever did see. Actually, it's a floodplain forest that floods about ten times a year, hence the circuitous paths of raised walkways and bridges. But all that water and muck make for some incredibly nourished plants and trees, and keep your eyes peeled for armadillos!
Nestled beneath Wheeler Peak, Great Basin is home to some of the oldest trees on earth: Bristlecone pines, worn smooth after years of facing the elements. After hours of exploring caves and navigating miles of trails, be sure to stick around for a ranger-led astronomy session under some of the darkest night skies in America, or just gaze in wonder on your own.
Must Do: Take some time to reflect (and admire the view) at Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island.
This park is composed of five remote islands of the coast of southern California, and it's a well-preserved and protected showcase of endangered marine wildlife. After exploring the ocean's kelp forests and hiking the breezy trails, take some time to learn about the Chumash Indians that used to inhabit the islands.
Sneakily hiding out between Cleveland and Akron is probably the most beautiful places in Ohio. The park is riddled with deep gorges and cascading waterfalls, and offers plenty of activities like symphonies in the summer and skiing in the winter. It's a pretty modern mix of natural and man-made attractions, making it pretty unique among national parks.
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