Discover America: Country Magazine Presents 2nd Annual List of the Nation’s Hidden Gems
Milwaukee, WI (June 2, 2014) – The search for serenity this summer is over. Travelers seeking an outdoor adventure that is off the beaten path, filled with fresh air and beautiful scenery can burrow into the great American interior waiting to be discovered. For the second year in a row, the June/July issue of Country—the magazine for readers who love the land and life of the countryside—unveils a special section, “Hidden Gems of the National Park System,” where readers can view the Top 10 most magnificent, unheralded parks across the country.
Country turned to their talented scenic photographers to help create this collection of coveted parks hidden among our very own countryside. Photographers were required to adhere to three criteria: the locations must be public, not among the 100 most-visited national parks and of course, beautiful! Country editors then cut down the list to deliver this list of the most stunning and unexplored places in America. New this year, the magazine shares useful information and tips on each area’s offerings, including canoe rentals, treetop tours and zip lining, putting extra emphasis on the untapped opportunities our National Parks offer.
“While it might seem incongruous to call a 10,000-square-mile national forest a ‘hidden’ gem, this country is so big that even a scenic wonder larger than seven of our 50 states can disappear into the vastness,” said CountryEditor Robin Hoffman. “Looking to the expertise of our photographers for the second year in a row, many of the gems featured in Country’s June/July issue are well off the beaten path and some are simply hidden in plain sight. This list is another way to note that nature’s beauty surrounds each and every one of us—if you know where to look.”
Discover some of the spectacular sights that made the Hidden Gems list:
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (WI): Here you can explore a world of magical sea caves, old lighthouses with eight historic towers on six islands and maritime treasures tucked into Lake Superior. Eighteen of the park’s 21 islands boast campgrounds ideal for anyone looking for adventure and especially those who love to kayak. Be sure to watch out for the winds—while they can be unpredictable, they definitely add to the adventure.
- Baxter State Park (ME): Located in north-central Maine, this precious land was a vision of former Maine governor, Percival Baxter. There are 10 campgrounds offering lean-tos and tent sites only, plus a few bunkhouses and primitive cabins. Part of the park’s beauty is its natural state and a system of unpaved roads makes it a park best explored on foot. Besides an abundance of hikers, brace yourself to witness the park’s biggest attraction—the moose population.
- Myakka River State Park (FL): This Gulf Coast oasis offers an unmatched opportunity to watch and photograph wildlife. Habitats range from prairie and pineland to wetlands, providing home to an incredible array of wildlife. The park is bustling with wild residents of all sorts, but human visitors can enjoy hiking trails, boardwalks, swimming, fishing, canoeing, camping, boat tours and more.
- Red River Gorge Geographical Area (KY): With more than 100 natural sandstone arches, plus towering cliffs and plunging ravines, it’s essential to explore Kentucky’s rocky wonderland. Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest and one of the state’s most popular hiking areas, the Red River makes a fabulous avenue for canoeists and kayakers to wind through the gorge.
- Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (WA): While the Northwest offers a feast of scenery, consider the often overlooked, slightly out-of-the-way drive to this soul-satisfying landmark. The only challenge, whether you’re driving, hiking or rafting, will be choosing which spectacular view to look at first.
- Makoshika State Park (MT): Soaring rock formations and prehistoric relics make this state park a dramatically colorful destination. Erosions have been artfully at work in the gullies and hills, leaving formations that reach to the sky like elegant spires. The park is home to many attractive birds…as well as some dinosaurs—10 species of fossils have been discovered, validating the prehistoric feel.
- Mesa Verde National Park (CO): Tucked in the southwest corner of Colorado, just 10 miles from New Mexico, Mesa Verde—which means “green table” in Spanish—is 8,572 feet above sea level. Park Point is the highest spot and affords views that stretch across the Southwestern landscape. The real treasures of the park are those engineered by ancestral Puebloans, sometimes called Anasazi, who built the community several generations ago. With restored structures, the national park has also been deemed a World Heritage Site.
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park (TX): Encompassing 29,182 acres of the northernmost section of the canyon, the site is mostly hidden from view—a sunken treasure with clear, winding rivers, red sandstone ramparts and graceful cottonwoods. The name, Palo Duro, is Spanish for “hard wood,” which reflects the area’s mesquite and juniper trees. Follow along the park’s many miles of marked trails for hiking, biking or horseback riding.
- Chugach National Forest (AK): This beautifully diverse area is home to scores of glaciers and ice fields, lush rain forests and magnificent mountain ranges that descend to meet the ocean. Chugach is also home to rarely seen wildlife, including bald eagles, moose, black bears and grizzly bears. Whether you are hiking, taking pictures, trail running, cross-country skiing or camping in the forest, there’s a ton of options and scenes to be seen.
- Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (CA): In the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada lays a land almost entirely accessible only by foot or horseback. The park dates back to 1890, making it the nation’s second-oldest national park. The land is filled with the world’s largest trees, glaciated granite mountains and more.
To view the rest of the list and the stunning photos of each site, visit Country’s website here or download the digital version of Country on your iPad, Kindle, Google Play or Android.
Country’s June/July issue also includes a feature on beautifully preserved barns; a tutorial on how to bake pioneer bread; a reader-submitted story on a cross-country road trip to California; and much more.
For more than 25 years, Country has celebrated the breathtaking beauty and enduring values of the American countryside. The magazine and its website, country-magazine.com, blend photos from some of North America’s finest scenic photographers with authentic reader-written stories that celebrate the rewards of rural life, including country kids, favorite animals, memorable country neighbors, small towns with character, and treasured traditions. Digital editions are available for iPad, Kindle, Google Play or Android. Follow Country onFacebook and Pinterest.
Country is part of the Home & Garden Group of The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., a global multi-brand media and marketing company that educates, entertains and connects consumers around the world with products and services from trusted brands.