Ten Must-See National Sites

Nation­al parks take cen­ter stage with­in the Nation­al Park Ser­vice (NPS), but also with­in their des­ig­na­tion are oth­er NPS units that deserve your atten­tion. There are bat­tle sites, memo­ri­als, seashores, pre­serves, and reserves just to name a few. Here are ten of the best sights with­in the Nation­al Park Sys­tem that aren’t nation­al parks.

Get­tys­burg Nation­al Mil­i­tary Park, Pennsylvania
On July 1st, 1863, Robert E. Lee and his Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers encoun­tered oppo­si­tion as they marched into north­ern ter­ri­to­ry. Over the next three days, one of the most influ­en­tial bat­tles of the Civ­il War took place as count­less Amer­i­can sol­diers laid down their lives to defend their val­ues. It is also where Abra­ham Lin­coln deliv­ered his famous Get­tys­burg Address that reshaped the bat­tle­field into a liv­ing memo­r­i­al. A trip to Get­tys­burg Nation­al Mil­i­tary Park is a life expe­ri­ence that you will remem­ber forever.©istockphoto/aimintang

Nez Perce Nation­al His­tor­i­cal Park; Ida­ho, Mon­tana, Ore­gon, & Washington
Before the con­cept of des­ig­nat­ed wilder­ness or of nation­al parks, the Nez Perce peo­ple roamed the land that we asso­ciate with Ida­ho, Mon­tana, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton. They hunt­ed bison, gath­ered berries, and lived in accor­dance with what the land­scape pro­vid­ed. They were stew­ards of the land and it shaped their reli­gion and cul­ture. The Nez Perce Nation­al His­tor­i­cal Park is spread through­out 38 sites, and it pre­serves not only the land­scape, but also the val­ues and beliefs of the Nez Perce. It offers us a remark­able glimpse into how their liveli­hoods and the land­scape were intertwined.©istockphoto/stevegeer

Apos­tle Islands Nation­al Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Lake Supe­ri­or gains its name for obvi­ous rea­sons; with approx­i­mate­ly 350 miles of lakeshore, this mas­sive body of water con­tains many scenic des­ti­na­tions and worth-while adven­ture oppor­tu­ni­ties. Per­haps the best place to start explor­ing is the 21 islands and 12 miles of lakeshore that make­up Apos­tle Islands Nation­al Lakeshore. Fea­tur­ing sail­ing, hik­ing, kayak­ing, SCUBA, light­house view­ing, (just to name a few), the only thing that this Nation­al Lakeshore is miss­ing com­pared to its Nation­al Park part­ners is the big crowds and over­crowd­ed campsites.©istockphoto/JMichl

Coro­n­a­do Nation­al Memo­r­i­al, Arizona
While the exact path of the Coro­n­a­do Expe­di­tion remains a mys­tery, this nation­al memo­r­i­al com­mem­o­rates their his­toric expe­di­tion. In Coro­n­ado’s quest for wealth, of which he was ulti­mate­ly denied, he head­ed north from mod­ern-day Mex­i­co through the Amer­i­can South­west. The memo­r­i­al makes for a good place to expand your own hori­zon, and imag­ine what it must have been like to explore this wild land­scape cen­turies ago. ©istockphoto/kwiktor

Blue Ridge Nation­al Parkway
Tak­ing you back to an era where Sun­day dri­ves were a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion, the Blue Ridge Park­way winds through Appalachi­an Moun­tain scenery for 469 scenic miles. With an aver­age speed lim­it of 35 mph, it brings a slow­er pace back into your life. Like any good adven­ture, a trip down the Blue Ridge Park­way isn’t about the des­ti­na­tion, it’s all about the jour­ney you took to get there. With plen­ty of pull-offs and scenic stop­ping points, the Blue Ridge Park­way offers plen­ty of chances to take your time and enjoy the ride.©istockphoto/LightScribe

Muir Woods Nation­al Mon­u­ment, California
Named after one of the most notable men in wilder­ness con­ser­va­tion, the Muir Woods Nation­al Mon­u­ment con­sists of a large tract of land that was first bought by William and Eliz­a­beth Kent in an effort to pro­tect its rugged land­scape. The Muir Woods is a very pop­u­lar day trip from San Fran­cis­co where vis­i­tors wan­der among enor­mous old growth red­woods. By tak­ing advan­tage of the free shut­tle ser­vice that is offered by the mon­u­ment, you can do your part in pre­serv­ing this tree-lover’s paradise.©istockphoto/philipdyer

Craters of the Moon Nation­al Mon­u­ment and Pre­serve, Idaho
Craters of the Moon Nation­al Mon­u­ment and Pre­serve was formed by an ancient erup­tion that result­ed in a mas­sive lava flow. This oth­er­world­ly land­scape hosts a num­ber of recre­ation­al and sci­en­tif­ic activ­i­ties for explor­ers young and old. There are numer­ous trails to explore, like the Bro­ken Top Loop or Tree Molds Trails. Any way you choose to explore it, the Craters of the Moon will leave you amazed at the art­work cre­at­ed by our earth’s geography.©istockphoto/artiste9999

Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Nation­al His­toric Site, Georgia
Dur­ing a vis­it to Atlanta, you can see where Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. was born, where he went to church, where he spoke out on the streets, and where he ulti­mate­ly was laid to rest. Along the way, you can treat your­self to a slice of his­to­ry through the visu­al and stim­u­lat­ing infor­ma­tion dis­played through­out the his­toric site. Any trip to the his­toric site pro­vides a look back into time for inspiration.https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/

City of Rocks Nation­al Reserve, Idaho
Whether you go tra­di­tion­al, sport, or like to hang from the top rope, City of Rocks is a climber’s dream come true. With over 14,000 acres to explore, whether you hike the trails, climb the rock, or just soak in some south­ern Ida­ho scenery, City of Rocks is always look­ing to add to its bustling pop­u­la­tion of geo­graph­ic for­ma­tions. A great place for rock climbers or any­one who likes gaz­ing up at great rock for­ma­tions, City of Rocks lives up to its name and can pro­vide you with those high views your life has been wait­ing for.©istockphoto/Jason Lugo

Gold­en Gate Nation­al Recre­ation­al Area, California
Just look­ing at an image of Gold­en Gate Nation­al Recre­ation­al Area should get you excit­ed to vis­it this icon­ic site. With San Fran­cis­co as the back­drop, you can explore the trails in the morn­ing, grab some fresh seafood at lunch, and spend your night explor­ing the San Fran­cis­co scene. Split between the moun­tains and the sea, Gold­en Gate Nation­al Recre­ation­al Area has trails, his­toric struc­tures, beach­es, and enough things to do to make mov­ing to Cal­i­for­nia one of the eas­i­est life deci­sions you’ll ever have to make.©istockphoto/Jamalrani