Spring and summer are rolling in, so it is time to make some travel plans that include some of the newest national parks the National Park Service has to offer.

Most years, the United States government works with the National Park services and grassroots organizations to claim and preserve areas for public recreation.

These spaces are then available for generations of travelers to enjoy.

A Little Bit of Background Regarding Newest National Parks

In 1872, Congress put together the Yellowstone National Park as the first park for the public to enjoy.

Since Yellowstone’s establishment, the United States added a tremendous number of national parks. However, it was not until 1916 when the National Park Service came into being to handle all the national parks and monuments.

The National Park Service is a federal bureau within the Department of the Interior.

Since its inception, the National Park Service (NPS) continues to work with Congress to create more national parks. Also, the NPS has an advisory board to help determine what should be under the NPS protection.

Plus, the NPS’s mission is to act as guardians to the cultural and recreational resources in the United States. Not only that, but the NPS works with communities to revitalize and protect those resources.

The 10 Newest National Parks

The NPS frequently adds parks to the growing list of public spaces, and while the park system handles monuments and memorials, we will focus on the newest public parks.

1. Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, Missouri

Image courtesy of NPS

Before Missouri became a state, the French used the Mississippi River as a trade route from Canada to New Orleans.

Ste. Genevieve, established in 1750, was the first European settlement in what we now call Missouri.

In October of 2020, Ste. Genevieve became the 422nd national park for the National Park Service.

There are two historic buildings at this new national park. The first is the Amoureaux house, and the second is the Jean Baptiste Valle House.

If you wish to view a historical park with creole culture, visit the Ste. Genevieve Park.

What is nearby?

Since you are at the park, visit the town of Sainte Geneviève. Here you will find French creole buildings, with many restored to reflect the combination of French architecture and southern Louisiana style.

The town has guided and solo walking tours of the historic district.

Also, the area has vineyards, a state park, and a natural spring, to name a few options.

2. Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, New York

There are three properties on the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park grounds, including her home, the home for the aged, and Thompson A.M.E Zion Church.

Harriet Tubman is well-known for her work with the Underground Railroad and her subsequent efforts as a women’s suffragist and a caregiver to the elderly.

There are elements of this park still in progress. For instance, the structures might still be under repair, so access to the insides may remain limited for a while longer.

The NPS has a partnership with Harriet Tubman Home, Inc, and they work together to provide guided tours of the park.

What is nearby?

There are plenty of other local attractions to round out your visit to the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.

Consider visiting the Auburn-Fleming trail for some hiking and the beautiful Owasco Lake.

There are tons of places to eat nearby, other museums to consider, and breweries.

3. New River Gorge National Park and Reserve, West Virginia

The New River Gorge had its original National River status in 1978. However, the redesignation in 2021 means it is the New River Gorge National Park and Reserve.

There are over 70,000 acres of land and 53 miles of the New River from a dam to a lake.

This river is home to the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachians.

The scenery here is spectacular, and the forests are old and full of diverse ecosystems. Visitors enjoy the trails, rafting, biking, and the unique culture of the area.

The history of the area is not just involved in nature. Generations of families, coal mines, railroads, and timber towns make up the area’s culture.

What is nearby?

If you run out of things to do in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve or want to add some local attractions, there are several options.

Check out the Babcock State Park and the Hawks Nest State Park. Also, the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District in Winona, West Virginia, is an exciting stop, as well.

4. Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, Massachusetts & Rhode Island

Newest National Parks

History buffs interested in the beginnings of the American Industrial revolution will love to visit the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.

The park’s location is in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

This area is where America shifted from farming to factory work. The first textile mill came to be on the Blackstone River, which prompted many more mills to begin.

Investors in the area built homes and schools for the workers, and industry replaced farmland.

As the boom continued, immigrants came from all over and flooded the area with a diverse culture, which is still celebrated today.

There are lots to do in the park other than visiting the river. Visit the Pawtucket Falls, the Blackstone Canal, and the various mills.

What is nearby?

Since the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park covers a large area, be sure to visit local attractions.

You have the town of Ashton, Rhode Island, and take a look at the historic district. Also, the village of Slatersville and its historic downtown area. Lastly, Whitinsville and Hopedale are nearby places to visit, as well.

5. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park is 15 miles along Lake Michigan’s shoreline in Indiana.

The area has water, beaches, dunes, prairie land, rivers, and forests.

If outdoor adventures are on your to-do list, consider going to the beach, camping, and biking.

Also, horseback riding is available, as is fishing and hiking.

If you prefer bird watching, this national park is a feeding and resting area during bird migrations. The birds headed south for the winter follow the shoreline. Also, hawks migrate over the dunes.

You can also watch waterfowl or wetland birds at the Indiana Dunes National Park.

With 15,000 acres of dunes, swamps, prairies, and rivers, the area’s biodiversity is significant. The park has self-guided walking tours so you can learn about the local environment.

What is nearby?

If you are visiting the park, you are in Chesterton, Indiana. While not a big city, the town has a lot to offer. Visit local wineries and breweries for some downtime. If you prefer to keep the excursions outdoors, visit the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve and Cowles Bog.

6. Pinnacles National Park, California

Image courtesy of NPS

Pinnacles National Park’s creation began 23 million years ago after several volcanoes erupted to create the area.

The indigenous people in California lived around Pinnacles and benefited from its natural resources. Also, the Spanish arrived in the area in the 1700s.

Today, Pinnacles National Park works alongside the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to preserve the area’s oral history.

There are no less than 30 miles of trails for hiking at Pinnacles National Park. Some of the trails are easy, but many are challenging. Therefore, no matter your experience, you can enjoy hiking. Also, there are Ranger programs, camping, rock climbing, and caves to explore.

If you want to take in the sights quietly, consider bird watching.

What is nearby?

While Pinnacles National Park has days’ worth of adventures, there are many other attractions in the area.

For instance, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is nearby. And Slates Hot Springs is off Highway 1, right near the coast. Also, you could take scenic Highway 1 up the coast towards Santa Cruz.

7. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserves, Colorado

If you wish to see the tallest dunes in North America, head to Great Dunes National Park and Preserves in Colorado.

The dunes are center stage at this park, but there is much more that makes the picture complete. The area has grasslands and wetlands, forests, lakes, and even tundra. The snow-capped mountains frame the background.

Activities include sand sledding and sandboarding. However, pay attention to local weather because the area gets so hot, the sand can burn your skin.

Consider spending time at the beach, renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle for primitive road tours, or hiking in the forests. And why not camp when you visit? The night sky is on full display because of the distance from urban areas with light pollution and the elevation.

What is nearby?

When visiting the park, consider some of these other attractions, as well.

Zapata Falls is a part of the United States Bureau of Land Management. The falls are an excellent place for visiting when it is hot outside, and there are views of both the San Luis Vallet and the dune fields.

Also, Fort Garland Museum is a historical site in Fort Garland that has restored adobe buildings.

Next, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area, and the wildlife refugees in San Luis Valley are all excellent choices for visiting.

8. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park is an old-growth forest, which means the forest naturally regenerates itself because it is left alone and undisturbed.

Before becoming a park, the area saw logging of the cypress trees. Eventually, the area received the wilderness designation, which helped stop the logging, and it became the Congaree National Park.

When visiting, be sure to check out the park activities such as hiking, canoeing, and kayaking. Also, fishing is permitted, ad there are Ranger-led programs if you want a guided experience.

If you can, camp at the park. Be sure to reserve your spot in advance and know that you must make your reservation in advance. Keep in mind, the park permits tent parking only, so leave your RV at home for this trip.

What is nearby?

During your visit, consider some local attractions. South Carolina has several state parks nearby.

Stop by the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, Cowpens National Battlefield, and the Kings Mountain Military Park, which are all nearby.

9. White Sands National Park, New Mexico

The White Sands National Park in New Mexico is the world’s largest gypsum dune field in existence.

The park is in the Tularosa Basin, within the Chihuahuan Desert next to the Rio Grande.

In 1933 the 275 square miles of the desert became a national monument, but in 2019, the redesignation made it a natural park. When you visit, plan for high heat, dust storms, and lots of sun. The evenings are usually very cold, as is expected in the desert.

Since part of the park is a wildlife refuge, expect to see species of animals that could adapt to the area’s climate.

There are no campsites available at the White Sands National Park, but backcountry camping without amenities is available.

What is nearby?

If you have time to add some side trips to your travels, look into the Chamizal National Memorial or the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Additionally, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park is nearby and offers respite from the heat.

10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is in the rural area by the Cuyahoga River. The area received a national Recreation Area designation in the 1970s but became a National Park in 2000.

Native Americans originally inhabited the area, but eventually, others arrived by the canal. Next, the Valley railway ended up helping to develop the area.

During more modern times, the Environmental Protection Agency identified the area as needing help because of a toxic local dump. As the area healed, it became even more popular as a recreational area. Today, visitors hike the numerous available trails, fish, golf, go biking, and stargaze.

If you prefer a guided tour, the ranger program has several options for adults and children.

The park has a scenic train ride and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Many visitors hike the trail and take the train ride back.

What is nearby?

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is in Brecksville, Ohio, which hosts several other excellent locations.

For instance, the Blue Hen Falls and the Virginia Kendall Park are worth a visit.

Also, the Brecksville Reservation is a fantastic place to take in nature. You can connect to the train station and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park from the Brecksville reservation.

Newest National Parks: Where Is Your Next Vacation?

The National Park Service’s dedication to preserving natural recreational resources is vital.

With so many parks to consider, it is wise to keep an eye on the newest national parks and newly redesignated spaces to visit.

In many cases, the newest national parks offer an abundance of outdoor adventures from camping, hiking, horseback riding, and swimming.

If you prefer a guided experience, many parks have experiences led by park rangers.

Which of the newest national parks are on your summer itinerary?

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