10 National Park Hidden Gems

by | Mar 18, 2018 | National Parks and Public Lands

I recently wrote a guest post for Wild Tribute about five little known national park hidden gems. With over 400 units, the National Park Service is home to a variety of cultural, natural, and historical gems. However, there are many national park hidden gems that the average park visitor doesn’t know about. The following post builds on those first five hidden gems from my guest post (listed below) and adds five additional hidden gems I didn’t include in the guest post. I hope you find something to add to your next trip!

First Five Hidden Gems Shared on Wild Tribute

I won’t share the first five in full length here as you can read them in detail over on Wild Tribute, but I have included a list of them below:

1) Test your endurance in Everglades National Park by completing the Tamiami Trail Triathlon.
2) Embrace your inner artist in Yosemite National Park by taking an art class through the Happy Isles Art and Nature Center.
3) Build a new skill in Prince William Forest Park by participating in an orienteering course.
4) Try a new sport in Great Sand Dunes National Park by learning how to sandboard.
5) Rejuvenate your body in Big Bend National Park by soaking in a historical hot spring along the Rio Grande.

Five More National Park Hidden Gems

Building on these five, I wanted to share with you five additional hidden gems from America’s National Park Service. These national park hidden gems come from various unit designations and are spread throughout the US. I would love to hear from you if you have visited or completed any of the hidden gems mentioned in this post.

Complete the Kentucky National Parks Pentathlon

The Kentucky National Parks Pentathlon was created to “encourage individuals and families to explore national parks in the state of Kentucky.” Launched in 2015 (and continuing until they run out of patches according to one park service volunteer), the five partnering National Park Service units are Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Fort Donelson National Battlefield, and Mammoth Cave National Park. Park visitors participating in the pentathlon can earn a commemorative patch if they complete at least one activity in each of the five parks. 

To participate in the Pentathlon, stop by any of the visitor centers at the five parks listed above to get a pentathlon card. Document your visits to each park on the card and then present it to a ranger at your final stop to receive your patch. 

Kentucky2014” by Adrian Moy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Climb Old Faithful Inn’s Crow’s Nest

Due to damage from an earthquake in 1959, the Crow’s Nest of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn is no longer open to the public. However, a limited number of visitors are granted access to it twice daily. With advance reservations, visitors can join the inn’s bell staff in the Crow’s Nest while they raise and lower the inn’s flags. 

Reservations must be made in advance with this Inn’s bell desk. The bell desk does not open until May and I’ve been told by staff that they fill up quickly. So be sure to make your reservation as soon as you know your travel dates!

Go Tidepooling in Acadia National Park

Tidepooling is the act of exploring the intertidal zone or the shoreline that is uncovered at low tide. When the tide is low, the shores of Acadia National Park uncover a new place for adventure and observation. Visitors can carefully explore the pools of water while looking at the small sea creatures and plants. Tidepooling can be a real treat for children as they can make close observations.

The best time to go tidepooling is during full and new moons when the tide is at an extreme low. However, the staff at Acadia National Park have a tide chart for helping visitors determine daily times for tidepooling. In addition to wet rocks, visitors should be prepared for changing tides and rouge waves. Visitors should also watch their step and should not move sea creatures. 

Take a Scenic Train Ride in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers visitors a unique opportunity for visitors to take a scenic train ride. Trains began passing through the valley on this line as early as 1880. They carried coal and passengers. Scenic excursions have been running on this line since 1972.  The there-and-back train ride takes 3.5 hours. However, riders on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad can hope on and off the train while they explore the length of the park. 

A variety of train tickets are available for prices ranging from $23 to $35 for adults. For the best views of the Cuyahoga Valley, upgrade to the Premium Upper Dome Ticket. The dome includes a glass ceiling for optimal viewing. Tickets can be purchased in advance. 

Go GeoCaching in Petrified Forest National Park

Simply put, geocaching is a form of outdoor recreation in which participants locate hidden caches using GPS that we placed by other geocachers. nature-based caches are hidden in waterproof containers. Each typically has a logbook for cachers to document their find. Some cachers leave behind small trinkets that other cachers will trade. Geocaching is popular and accessible for all age groups. Families with children who want to add a sense of adventure to their outdoor time.

While caches are generally prohibited in national parks, Petrified Forest National Park has park-supported caches. The park supports not only earthcaches (geographical points of interest) but also traditional (physical) and virtual caches. It is important to note that visitors cannot leave their own caches behind. The caches are available during park hours. Some of the caches in Petrified Forest National Park are also part of the Historic Route 66 Geocaching Project and the Find Your Park Geo Tour

Geocaching” by Petrified ForestNPS is in the public domain.


Click here to view other ICB posts related to National Park.

By Sara Beth

Sara Beth is a wanderlust soul who is focused on simplistic and mindful living. She is passionate about National Parks, road trips, and board games. Her early years were spent in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin. After graduating from university, she moved to Las Vegas, fell in love, and adopted a dog. Today, she lives with her husband and their dog in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

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  1. terra @ terragoes.com

    I love this!

    I went tidepooling at Cabrillo NM in San Diego and loved it. I hadn’t even heard of it before, but it was like being on a scavenger hunt looking for usually-hidden creature friends.

    • Sara Beth

      I have yet to go tidepooling, but it is totally up my alley! I’ll have to remember to add tidepooling in Cabrillo NM to my Cali list!


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