Want to really get away from it all? With the exception of Mount Rushmore, most of these National Park Units see relatively little traffic.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota: This park is broken up into three separate areas: the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Unit, each of which is intersected by the Little Missouri River. Fly to the appropriately named Dickinson-Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport to access the South Unit. Medora, near the South Unit’s entrance and park headquarters, is a small Western-themed town with wooden-planked sidewalks. Take a buggy ride, have an ice cream, visit the museums, play golf, and, on summer evenings, see a musical in the outdoor amphitheater. Stay in Medora or camp inside the park.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota: No trip to the Black Hills is complete without visiting this gigantic stone carving of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the design to honor those who helped birth the United States (Washington), expand its territory (Jefferson with the Louisiana Purchase), preserve the Union (Lincoln), and increase America’s world influence and preserve its resources (Roosevelt with the Panama Canal and our national parks, refuges, and monuments).
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan: Isle Royale is the least-visited national park in the lower 48 states, averaging around 17,000 visitors per year. It’s also a designated wilderness, so there are no motor vehicles. It therefore offers deep solitude for backpackers, kayakers and canoeists (you can rent kayaks and canoes on the island), hikers, and scuba divers. It is legal to land your floatplane at three sites around the island; these are shown on the sectional. Otherwise, you can land at Grand Marais/Cook County in Minnesota or Houghton County Memorial in Michigan and board one of the ferries that offer both overnight and day trips to the island. Ferry trips are 1.5 to six hours one way, depending on route and ship chosen; a commercial seaplane ride is 35 minutes. There’s a lodge at Rock Harbor, a pair of rustic camper cabins in Windigo, or you can camp on the island, which has 36 campgrounds across its 40-mile length.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota: International Falls is the jumping-off point for Voyageurs National Park, a vast park along the Canadian border known for its forests; waterways; and huge, island-dotted Rainy, Kabetogama, and Namakan lakes. The even-more-vast border area between the park and Grand Marais is almost all taken up by the spectacular Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Together, the park and canoe area form a wonderland of lakes, rivers, and boreal forest, inhabited mostly by moose and intrepid canoeists. In the park, rent a houseboat or take a ranger-led boat or canoe tour. The Ellsworth Rock Gardens, created by artist Jack Ellsworth, are a series of abstract sculptures that rise from a terraced outcrop above Lake Kabetogama. The remote Kettle Falls area has an old dam and historic red-roofed hotel and restaurant.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park preserves the rural landscape along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail is a restored section of the canal's original towpath and perfect for bikers and hikers. Seasonally, you can take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad along the towpath and hop off or on at any of seven stops. This is especially popular with bikers and for viewing and photographing fall colors. Fly to Akron Fulton International, grab a taxi to the train station a few miles away, and ride the train into the park. In the park’s north, the Canal Exploration Center details the 19th-century waterway’s history. Towering Brandywine Falls is one of several waterfalls.