Valdosta Daily Times

Features

August 4, 2013

Hidden Gems: Visiting underrated national parks and monuments

(Continued)

- — North Cascades National Park (Washington): With elevations from near sea level to over 9,000 feet, the natural features of this park in northeastern Washington are sometimes compared to Europe’s Alps. Glaciers continue to grace some of the park’s mountains. The park is actually a complex of three units including North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Kayaking, white-water rafting, and fishing are popular activities. Boat transportation provides access to the park’s two lodging facilities, Ross Lake Resort and North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin. North Cascades Highway (U.S. 20) bisects the park and offers great mountain vistas for travelers. Numerous campgrounds for boaters, hikers, and RVers are scattered throughout the park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota): Named for our 26th president who in 1883 bought a ranch here, this 70,000-acre park in the scenic North Dakota Badlands is divided into three separate sections. The South Unit near the small town of Medora includes a 36-mile paved loop drive. Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin sits outside the South Unit visitor center. The Elkhorn Ranch unit is 35 miles north of Medora with access via gravel roads. We particularly enjoy the North Unit where a 14-mile scenic drive leads to an overlook of the Little Missouri River. The park is home to bison, elk, pronghorns, feral horses, and prairie dogs, the latter of which provide great entertainment. Campgrounds are available in both the North and South units.

National Monuments

Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Arizona): This 84,000-acre monument in northeast Arizona preserves the ruins of ancient Indian villages built in steep-walled canyons. Navajo continue to live and farm in the canyon. North Rim Drive offers three overlooks as it follows Canyon Del Muerto. South Rim Drive along Canyon de Chelly provides access to seven scenic overlook points and White House Trail, the only hike into the canyon permitted without a park ranger or authorized guide. Tours of the canyon’s backcountry by vehicle or horseback are available. A nice lodge and free campground are near the visitor center. The lodge cafeteria is in the original trading post built here in 1902. The monument is an ideal stop for travelers driving between Mesa Verde National Park and the Grand Canyon.

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