America’s national monuments have been under the spotlight lately due to efforts to both save and eliminate a few of them. With over 100 Monuments spread across the country you probably haven’t heard of, we thought now would be a good time to highlight some of the least visited.
Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
The Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona is a designated wilderness accessible by foot and horseback. It contains roughly 17 miles of day-use trails for the intrepid explorer with various forests, meadows and towering rock pinnacles to wind through. Though illegal, we hear it’s also popular with climbers; we don’t recommend tempting fate or the authorities with that one, though. Otherwise it’s a wonderful, unique monument with fascinating rock formations and great hikes like the Echo Canyon Trailhead.
Aniakchak National Monument, Alaska
Aniakchak National Monument sees fewer visitors than even Cape Krusenstern, averaging less than 300 a year. Access to the park is not easy, requiring a combination of flying, boating and backcountry hiking very few can complete. That, combined with the large number of wolves and grizzlies in the region make most potential visitors weary of making an attempt. If you can hack it, you’ll be rewarded with an extensive array of hiking up Vent Mountain along with sport fishing and epic rafting in the Aniakchak River. The region is also home to the 2,000-foot deep volcanic caldera to explore.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona
Organ Pipe Cactus was mostly closed to the general public for 11 years due to it being considered the most dangerous national monument in the country. Its location next to the border of Mexico made it a prime stomping ground for the drug trade, so hiking here was pretty unsafe. Now that it’s reopened, it provides some of the country’s most scenic hiking trails. The surrounding Puerto Blanco Mountains and Alamo Canyon contain dozens of hiking trails as well as camping spots where you can spend the night. Organ Pipe is in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and contains unique wildlife you won’t find anywhere else; it’s the only place on Earth you can find the cactus for which it’s named.
Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska
Cape Krusenstern is one of the most remote regions in the United States and is located along 70 miles of the Chukchi Sea in Alaska. Getting there is no easy task and only the most experienced backcountry explorers should even attempt it. Once there, however, you’ll find the 540,000-acre monument is loaded with Eskimo artifacts dating back 5000 years and plenty of natives still living in the region. The wilderness is as rugged as it gets with blistering winter colds presenting the biggest threat, but during the summer months it’s a great place to explore the rolling limestone hills and coastal plains peppered with lagoons. Cape Krusenstern is also a kayaking heaven.
Buck Island Reef National Monument, Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands are virtually teeming with adventure, thought not a lot of people choose to wade into the Buck Island Reef National Monument. The region is a spectacular spot for those who enjoy spending time on the water. The coral grottoes are perfect for snorkeling throughout the day, while further offshore there’s plenty to discover for scuba divers at the two designated moorings. If you prefer to stay above water you’ll find great opportunities for hiking and bird watching throughout the area.