Lonely Planet Writer

Lesser-known US National Parks contest: the results

Last week, we challenged you to provide some inspiration to visit a lesser-known US National Park by comparing it to one of the more famous parks (for example, "If you liked Yosemite National Park, you would also like..."). We received many excellent entries, but we had to choose a winner for the contest.

The winning entry by unanimous decision of the judges was submitted by April N. who suggested this surprising and inspiring comparison:

"If you loved the coral reefs of Biscayne National Park near Miami, you will also love Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the West Texas desert. Housing a marine fossil reef, Guadalupe is what Biscayne might look like if the ocean dried up. Don hiking boots instead of scuba gear to discover the amazing variety of life hidden inside the park. Scorpions and snakes replace lobsters and eels. At 8,749 feet atop El Capitan, imagine the expansive ocean here 250 million years ago as you gaze out over a sea of desert and see the large salt flats that remain."

biscayne1
guadalupe_peak
New reef (Biscayne) vs. old reef (Guadalupe Mountains)

There were many other inspiring entries, so here are a few of our favourites:

bryce_snow"If you liked the Grand Canyon, you’ll love Bryce Canyon in Southern Utah. Bryce consists of rock formations called hoodoos which native Americans believed were people turned to stone by a trickster coyote. Go out of season; you may not see another person. I visited beginning of December with a dusting of snow on the ground; air so completely still you could hear the wind under a bird’s wings. First glimpse of the hoodoos will take your breath away; entire place is achingly beautiful. Stand on the edge of the vast canyon; you might be on the edge of the world." - Christianna M.

pictured_rocks"If you loved Acadia National Park, you will adore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Cliffs as rocky and dramatic as at Acadia overlook water that's even bluer and clearer. The forest is as inviting, the views are as breathtaking, and you'll wonder for the life of you how a coast this beautiful can be that empty. True, it doesn't have anything like Bar Harbor as a draw, but in a way that's a plus: no nearby quaint village means no crowds, even in high season." - Mark P.

littleriverfalls"If you love Grand Canyon National Park, you will also love Little River Canyon National Preserve. Tucked away in Northeastern Alabama, this is the Grand Canyon of the East, with stunning views of the country's longest mountaintop river. Be shocked that such a spectacular canyon is located in the Southeast, with three beautiful waterfalls to complement the canyon. Plus, this park offers great fall foliage, which is quite different from the barren landscapes of the Grand Canyon, while the lack of park infrastructure ensures that you do not have to share this evocative beauty with hordes of tourists." - Michael B.

capitolreef"If you loved Zion National Park, you should visit Capitol Reef NP. In addition to a beautiful drive there along Highway 12, you get rewarded with the sight of some of the most beautiful rock formations thanks to the Waterpocket Fold section of the park. And if you arrive near sunset, the light seems like it's a Hollywood special effect. But better." - Bob T.

petersburg"If you loved Gettysburg National Military Park, you should visit Petersburg National Battlefield. The storied three days at Gettysburg may have all but decided the Civil War, but the months at Petersburg pointed the direction towards wars to come. Trench warfare. Grinding stalemate. A war of attrition. Petersburg encapsulates the lessons that the world failed to learn about modern war, to its sorrow 50 years later. The contrast couldn't be more complete: Gettysburg today is a forest of monuments to military glory, but at Petersburg, there are almost none, for there was no glory to be had." - Mark P.

Many thanks to all who entered the competition!

[Snorkelers on elkhorn coral, Biscayne NP, by John Brooks; Guadalupe Peak by Rob Garland; Bryce Canyon with Snow by Rob Lee; Pictured Rocks by Hilarywho; Little River Falls by K. W. Sanders; Road to Sunset by CFBSr; Petersburg backroad by bdinphoenix]