You could travel across America and fill all of your time seeing anything but national parks, if you wanted.
You could travel across America and fill all of your time seeing anything but national parks, if you wanted. (illustration: Margaret Kimball)

351 Amazing Places that Aren’t National Parks

There's a bounty of other amazing sights in the park system—beyond the national parks


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Yes, we’re crazy about our 59 National Parks. but the Park ­Service manages 351 other worthy properties, so follow our road map, pack a beach towel, and ditch the masses.

10 of the Most Iconic Monuments Across the U.S.

(Margaret Kimball)

Besides serving as the entrance to the big red bridge, it incorporates Alcatraz and San Francisco’s Presidio.

(Margaret Kimball)

The former headquarters of the United Farm Workers and longtime home to the iconic labor leader.

(Margaret Kimball)

The fort was a vital gathering spot for trappers and traders on the Santa Fe Trail.

(Margaret Kimball)

Explore ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings 200 feet off the valley floor.

(Margaret Kimball)

Where the Atomic Age began, for better or worse. 

(Margaret Kimball)

It's a longer detour than you think it's going to be, but it's worth it. 

(Margaret Kimball)

Take a ride to the top of the arch—Manifest Destiny!

(Margaret Kimball)

Includes King's birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he preached until his assassination.

(Margaret Kimball)

The oldest masonry fort in the country, completed by the Spanish in 1695. 

(Margaret Kimball)

We cannot tell a lie; here's where the first president was born. 

(Margaret Kimball)

A preserved tenement building shows how the other half lived at the turn of the 20th century, when the Lower East Side of Manhattan was the most densely populated place in the world. 

(Margaret Kimball)

The site of the shot heard 'round the world. 

Go Coastal

One big gap in the parks? Beaches. Which is why we're so grateful for national seashores (and their oysters). 

Point Reyes ­National Seashore, California

Stay: Point Reyes Seashore Lodge can have a bike waiting for you to explore Marin County’s empty roads. From $155

Hit the Beach: The rocky points at McClures are good for churning surf and marine-life-filled tide pools.

Eat Oysters: Grab a bag of Kumamotos at Tomales Bay Oyster Company. BYO shucking knife. 

Fire Island ­National Seashore, New York 

Stay: Limited development means small bungalows and few hotels. Check Airbnb. Agoraphobes can camp in the designated wilderness on the island’s east side.

Hit the Beach: Fire Island is so ­narrow, you’re never more than a few ­hundred yards from the ­Atlantic.  

Eat Oysters: Maguire’s Bayfront in Ocean Beach is the place for bivalves and kitsch.

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Stay: The old-school Greyfield Inn, the reno­vated mansion of a Carnegie scion, is the only lodging. Don’t expect Wi-Fi. From $475, all-inclusive

Hit the Beach: Greyfield Beach is a 15-minute walk from the inn. The odds of seeing wild horses are high. Seeing other people? Minuscule.

Eat Oysters: The inn has roasts every Sat­urday night in winter. 

Lose the Crowds

There’s often a good reason to forgo a ­park for a monument.

What You’re After: A big canyon in Arizona.
Skip: Grand Canyon National Park. It’s swamped.
Head To: Canyon De Chelly ­National Monument. It boasts 5,000 years of Navajo history. 

What You’re After:  Fossils.
Skip: Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. Petrified wood is only kind of cool.
Head To: Dinosaur National Monument, in Colo­rado and Utah. Dinosaurs are the coolest. 

What You’re After:  Crazily shaped sandstone.
Skip: Utah’s Arches National Park. It’s consistently mobbed. 
Head To: Rainbow Bridge National Monument, also in Utah. One of the world’s ­largest natural bridges, acces­sible only by boat or multi-day hike.

What You’re After: Multipitch climbing.
Skip: Yosemite. The place is often overrun by tour buses and Tommy Caldwell wannabes.
Head To: Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. More than 100 of the best crack routes in the country. 

What You’re After:  Instagram-worthy shots of impressive sand dunes.
Skip: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. Brown sand doesn’t pop on the ’Gram.
Head To: New ­Mexico’s White Sands National Monument. The crushed gypsum is blinding and otherworldly. 

From Outside Magazine, May 2016 Lead illustration: Margaret Kimball