One thing that makes America a great country to behold is its network of national parks. National parks of the US help to showcase what is uniquely beautiful about the country. National parks are considered to be treasured pieces of land to be protected by federal law against being significantly altered. When one thinks of national parks in America, they might think of national parks like Grand Canyon or Yellowstone.
But as it turns out, there is more uniquely beautiful lands in the country than meets the eye. In an effort to highlight more of America’s treasured beauty, new national parks have been designated in recent years. Here are the most recent national parks you should visit.
White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park was designated in December of 2019. This is the most recent national park to be established in the US. The national park is located in the southern portion of the state of New Mexico, near the border with the state of Texas. This national park is noted for its sweeping field of white sand dunes. The white sand dunes are composed of gypsum.
This is the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. The white sand dunefield is shaped to resemble great waves. The white sand in the national park is in fact so white that it looks like snow. One interesting thing about the white sand dunefield is that it can change its appearance. That is because strong winds will shift the white sand around the national park, varying up its appearance.
This national park is home to more than 800 species of animals. These include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and invertebrates. They all have developed skills for adapting, surviving, and even thriving in what is considered to be a very harsh environment for them in which there is very little surface water and highly mineralized ground water.
Also, if you look closely, you can notice the tracks in the white sand left by the animals. That indicates that they must have headed in those directions recently. There are five established trails for you to hike on at the national park. They are Interdune Boardwalk, Playa Trail, Dune Life Natural Trail, Backcountry Camping Trail, and Alkali Flat Trail.
They vary in term of challenge level and the length of time it takes to complete the hike. The Interdune Boardwalk is the easiest trail to hike on and takes on average about 20 minutes to complete. On the other end of the spectrum is the Alkali Flat Trail. This is the most challenging trail to hike on and will take on average about three hours to complete.
The entrance fee for the national park are $25 per vehicle, $15 per person, and $20 per motorcycle. It should be noted that the per person fee is only charged if there is only one person in a given vehicle. Also of note is that the entrance passes are good for up to seven days after being purchased. There is also a visitor’s center at the national park.
There is a museum within the visitor’s center where you can learn all about the national park and its history. A store called White Sands Trading Company is located onsite. You can also find restrooms and shaded picnic tables at the visitor’s center.
Hotel Suggestion: Comfort Suites Las Cruces I-25 North
This hotel is located on North Telshor Boulevard in Las Cruces, New Mexico which is located just to the southwest of White Sands National Park. Complimentary breakfast is offered at this hotel. If you are looking for nearby restaurants to dine at, a few of them include The Pecan Grill & Brewery, Farley’s Food & Fun Pub, and Corner Bakery Cafe.
There is an indoor swimming pool and hot tub at the hotel. A fitness center is also available for your workout needs. All of the hotel’s suites come with WiFi and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $98 to $161. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dune National Park was established in February of 2019. So, this is the second newest national park to be designated in the US. The national park is located in the northwestern part of the US state of Indiana on the shore of Lake Michigan. It is noted for its rugged dunes that hug Lake Michigan for about 15 miles.
In addition to the rugged dunes, there are also wetlands, rivers, forests, and prairies available to explore within the national park. There are 50 miles of hiking trails in total within the national park. Indiana Dunes National Park is home to a total of 14 hiking trail systems for you to choose from based on your hiking skills and preferred hiking length. I will share a few of them right here with you.
The first trail system is called Bailly Homestead, Chellberg Farm, Little Calumet River, and Mnoke Prairie. This trail system will have you hiking through a variety of environments. You will get to explore a forest of maple, beech, basswood, and oak trees, the Little Calumet River, and the Mnoke Prairie. You can also check out the historic sites Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm.
This is an easy to moderate trail system that will take on average two and a half hours to complete. Another trail system is the Paul H. Douglas (Miller Woods) Trail. This is a trail system where you can soak in the breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and the dunes. This trail system will also have you exploring an environment that is rare on Earth. It is called the black oak savanna.
The black oak savanna’s native grasses and wildflowers, including lupine, are known to thrive in the sunlight and open forest floor. Indiana Dunes National Park is also a great place for viewing the gorgeous sunsets over Lake Michigan. Oh and also, you can go swimming in the lake during the summer. The fee for entering the national park via the West Beach entrance is $6 per car per day.
There is also a visitor’s center at the national park. There are lobby displays and brochures that showcase Indiana Dunes National Park. You can also shop at the Eastern National bookstore located inside the visitor’s center.
Hotel Suggestion: Comfort Inn & Suites
This hotel is located on West US Highway 20 in Porter, Indiana which is where Indiana Dunes National Park is located. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. If you are hungry, a few nearby dining options include Octave Grill, Wagner’s Ribs, and Third Coast Cafe. There is an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub. A fitness center is also available for your usage at the hotel.
All of the hotel’s rooms and suites have WiFi, coffee makers, mini refrigerators, and microwaves. The average rate for a standard room range from $61 to $122. You can head here to explore your booking options and/or browse some photos.
Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch National Park is the third most recent national park to be established. It was established in February of 2018. The national park is located in downtown St. Louis on the front of the Mississippi River. It is the home of the iconic Gateway Arch which is what strikes people the most when they think of St. Louis. The Gateway Arch is the symbol of the United States’ push to expand westward during the early 19th century.
Gateway Arch National Park is also a memorial to the first civil government to be established west of the Mississippi River and the debate surrounding slavery spurred by the Dred Scott case. The arch measures at 630 feet high. That makes it the tallest arch in the world. The Gateway Arch is made of stainless steel.
There is a tram ride that will take you to the top of the arch where you can soak in the sweeping views of downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi River. The ticket prices for that are between $12 and $16 for adults and between $8 and $12 for children aged 3 to 15. The tram ride is free for those aged under 3. You can buy the tickets for the tram ride here.
Located underneath the Gateway Arch is the museum. During your time at the museum, you can learn about the westward expansion of the US, the construction of the Gateway Arch, among other topics. The museum also houses a gift shop and a cafe. Also located within Gateway Arch National Park is the historic Old Courthouse. This is where the first two trials of the Dred Scott case took place in 1847 and 1850.
It was also there that Virginia Minor pleaded her case, in the 1870’s, for a woman’s right to vote in the country. The Old Courthouse is also open to the public as a part of the national park. The general entrance fee for Gateway Arch National Park is $3 for adults. It is free for these aged under 16.
Hotel Suggestion: Drury Plaza St. Louis at the Arch
This hotel is located on South 4th Street in downtown St. Louis, right by Gateway Arch National Park. The hotel takes up three historic buildings which are all on the National Register of Historic Places. Distinct features of the hotel include matching millwork, Italian marble, and Waterford crystal chandeliers.
Also, recently in 2017, a terrance was added on the eighth floor to allow for breathtaking views of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. For the hungry, an onsite restaurant known as 5:30 Kickback is available. Free popcorn and soda are given in the hotel’s lobby daily. There is an indoor swimming pool along with two hot tubs at the hotel.
You can head to the hotel’s fitness center for your workouts. Many rooms and suites at the hotel will offer breathtaking views of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. All of them will have WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $144 to $286. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.
These are the newest national parks of the US that you should visit. Before these national parks received their designation, they were previously designated as a national monument, a national lakeshore, or a national memorial. What are your thoughts? Are you planning a trip to feast your eyes on any of these national beauties? Feel free to leave a comment here.