National parks are an incredible treasure for landscape photographers. While popular parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Grand Canyon tend to get the most attention in regards to photography, there are plenty of other parks with amazing scenery.
Some of the less popular national parks are a little (or a lot) more remote and may require a little more effort to plan a trip. But the rewards of visiting these parks are more unique photos and smaller crowds of tourists and photographers.
Here we’ll take a look at ten national parks that are often overshadowed. These parks may not attract millions of visitors each year, but they will all present you with plenty of opportunities for great photos.
Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is located in northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border. The main reasons this park does not attract more visitors is because much of the park is accessible only by boat. Many visitors use kayaks or canoes to explore the lakes of the park, and guided boat tours are also available. Those who are willing to make the effort are rewarded with views of tall bluffs and beautiful lake shores.
Voyageurs National Park by jck_photos / CC BY 2.0
Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale National Park is one of the least-visited national parks in the U.S., but it is incredibly beautiful. The park consists of Isle Royale, an island on Lake Superior, and many small adjacent islands. It is near the Canadian border and a part of the state of Michigan.
Isle Royale is about 45 miles long and 9 miles at its widest point. There are two developed areas of the park, and the rest is beautiful wilderness. One of the developed areas (Rock Harbor) can be accessed by ferry from Michigan, and the other (Windigo) can be accessed by ferry from Minnesota. The island features a rocky shoreline and miles of hiking trails.
Isle Royale National Park by Ray Dumas / CC BY-SA 2.0
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park in northern Washington offers stunning mountains and lake views. North Cascades Highway (Washington State Route 20) provides access to part of the park, but there are very few roads in the area. If you are up for some backcountry hiking and camping you will love this park.
Diablo Lake by Jeff Gunn / CC BY 2.0
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is one of the more popular parks on this list (in terms of number of annual visitors), but it is still not that well known or recognized in photos. This rugged badlands landscape is somewhat similar to what you would find at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt National Park consists of 3 separate units and is easier to access than the other parks mentioned so far. Both the north and south units have scenic drives with overlooks that provide easy views of the landscape.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park by Justin Meissen / CC BY-SA 2.0
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern Texas, along the Mexican border. The park includes more than 100 miles of the Rio Grande. The location of the park is very remote and requires a drive through the desert. You’ll want to be sure to have what you need, because gas and supplies are few and far between. There are some paved roads in the park, but for the best views and to really experience the park you’ll need to hike.
Big Bend National Park by Alison I. / CC BY-ND 2.0
Saguaro National Park
While many other national parks in the southwest get more attention, if you want to photograph beautiful cacti in a desert landscape, Saguaro National Park is the place to go. The park is located outside of Tucson, with one unit of the park east of Tucson and another unit to the west of Tucson. Both units of the park are easy to access from Tucson. The 8-mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive is a great way to see the area.
Photo by Saguaro Pictures / CC BY 3.0
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park sometimes gets overshadowed by other national parks in Utah, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. The main reason those other parks attract more visitors than Canyonlands is ease of access. Canyonlands National Park consists of 4 separate units that are not connected by roads. You have to exit the park to drive from one unit to another. However, this park is well worth the effort. If you want amazing canyon photos you skip the crowds at the Grand Canyon and visit Canyonlands instead. Island in the Sky is the easiest section of the park to visit quickly, and its paved scenic road provides plenty of amazing views.
Canyonlands National Park by Chao Yen / CC BY-ND 2.0
Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park consists of 5 islands off the coast of southern California. The islands are accessible only by boat or plane (visitor’s centers on the mainland are accessible by car). so only a small number of people visit the islands. Here you’ll find stunning scenery and wildlife including sea lions and seals. You can hike and camp on the islands, kayak to beautiful sea caves, and find plenty of amazing photo opportunities.
Channel Islands National Park by Aaron Zhong / CC BY 2.0
Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park in central California is home to spectacular volcanic rock formations. The pinnacles are popular with rock climbers, and they are also great for photographers. Spring often brings wildflowers that add even more beauty to the scene. There are east and west entrances to the park, but no road inside the park connects the two entrances. The east side is more developed than the west.
Pinnacles National Park by Stanislav Sedov / CC BY-SA 2.0
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California is home to Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. Here you can find beautiful mountains, lakes, and wildflowers to photograph. The 30-mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway provides easy access to a lot of great views. The park is also known for it’s dark night skies, making it ideal for stargazing and night photography.
Lassen Volcanic National Park by Steen Jepsen / CCO