Southern National Parks You Should Visit

Time for another road trip, y'all!

When you're itching to get out of the house and explore, national parks are the perfect escape. There's nothing better than spending unencumbered time in the great outdoors, and lucky for us, some of the country's most beautiful natural features are located right in our own backyards. While you've likely made a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which happens to be the country's most visited park, there are several other wonderful destinations to add to your national park bucket list. Here are five Southern national parks to visit.

Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is made up of seven small islands situated 67 miles west of Key West, Florida. The islands were discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513 and were named after the lack of fresh water on the islands and the abundance of sea turtles. Visitors arrive by ferry or seaplane and can hop between islands to check out Fort Jefferson—a fortress and prison used during the Civil War, snorkel amidst vibrant coral reef, and partake in some incredible bird watching. The islands are a designated layover point for migrating birds, which means more than 300 species of birds fly through here. Dry Tortugas National Park is a tropical Southern paradise and a must see on any adventurer's list.

A sunset viewed from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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Shenandoah National Park

Virginia is for lovers ... nature lovers that is, because Shenandoah National Park, located in the heart of the state, is nature at its finest. Frequented for hiking, fly fishing, rock climbing, and camping, this park's most iconic feature is the historic Skyline Drive. It's a 105-mile stretch of road along the Blue Ridge Mountains. This scenic byway provides visitors with spectacular views of the Virginia mountain tops year-round from the comfort of their cars. It is especially popular during fall when the abundant foliage is at its fiery multicolored best.

Congaree National Park in South Carolina
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Congaree National Park

Established in 2003 and often referred to as the "Redwoods of the East," Congaree National Park is home to the largest and tallest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States. This designated wilderness area is located in central South Carolina and is a sanctuary for diverse plant and animal life. It's also historically significant, as it was once home to Native Americans and later a refuge for escaped enslaved people. Congaree National Park also offers an accessible boardwalk hike for everyone to enjoy, as well as numerous canoeing, birding, and camping experiences.

Big Bend National Park
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Big Bend National Park

Although practically unreachable and uninhabitable at one point (think dirt roads in the middle of the Texas desert), Big Bend National Park is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Texas. Located along the sweeping 118-mile curve of the Rio Grande, Big Bend offers more than 800,000 acres of biodiverse land to explore, including preserved Native American historical sites. On a visit, try to spot as many of the 450 species of birds and other animals in the park is home to and get ready for unmatched stargazing at night. Big Bend was named one of the top 10 places in the world for stargazing.

Mammoth Cave National Park
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Mammoth Cave National Park

Located in west central Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park provides visitors with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This world heritage site is famously home to the longest known cave system on Earth. Its limestone formations and underground passageways make up the 400-mile long cave systems that showcase Earth's evolutionary stages and contain a multitude of rare flora and endangered species. Mammoth Cave National Park has a wide range of cave tours for guests, including the physically demanding crawling tour and nighttime tour by lantern light.

Have we convinced you to lace up your hiking boots yet?

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