Looking for one last gasp of summer vacation but without the crowds? Hundreds of millions of tourists flood America's national parks every year, but for every Yosemite, Grand Canyon or Great Smoky Mountains, there's a lesser-known — but no less stunning — place to reignite your sense of wonder about the beauty and history of the United States. Here are 11 worth your time:
First State National Historical Park | Delaware
Established in 2013, First State National Historical Park became the first national park in Delaware. It consists of seven sites that take visitors through the history of the state, which was first settled by the Dutch in 1631. Highlights include New Castle, where William Penn first arrived, and the Dover Green, where Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution.
Golden Spike National Historic Site | Utah
Those who visit the Golden Spike National Historic Site near Brigham City, Utah, can witness where the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad took place in 1869. The site is named after the last spikes that were driven into the rails to complete the tracks, and the site holds re-enactments of the ceremony throughout the year.
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park | Ohio
The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park celebrates the accomplishments of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who developed their crafts near the area. It features the Wright Cycle Company, the brothers' bicycle business, and the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, where the Wrights helped print Dunbar's early writings. Visitors can also tour the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial, Dunbar's former home that's been turned into a historic museum.
Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park | Georgia and Tennessee
The battle site in north Georgia and south Tennessee is where the Union and Confederate armies fought in 1863 for control of Chattanooga. At first, the Union army was defeated at Chickamauga, but in the coming months, the Union took control, and the Confederate army retreated back to Georgia. The largest Civil War military park marks the last major Confederate victory before the end of the war.
Lassen Volcanic National Park | California
Climb an active volcano at Lassen Volcanic National Park. It last erupted in 1914, and today, visitors can explore the area located in northern California. In the summer, there are hiking trails, and in the winter, snow for skiing and snowshoeing.
Nez Perce National Historical Park | Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington
Visitors to Nez Perce National Historical Park can learn about the history of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu) people. The park, established in 1965, is spread out over Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, and features battlegrounds and museums. It also connects with parts of the Lewis and Clark Trail.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site | New Hampshire
The Saint-Gaudens National Historical Site features the home and art studios of August Saint-Gaudens, an American sculptor who completed works such as the copper statue "Diana" and a bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. The site displays more than 100 of his works and also holds concerts and even sculpting classes. In the areas surrounding the home, you can hike nature trails or explore the gardens designed by Saint-Gaudens.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park | New Mexico
Visitors to the Chaco National Historical Park in New Mexico can explore the creations of the Pueblo peoples. Places to see include Hungo Pavi and Una Vida, Chacoan houses that remain close to their original form even centuries after being constructed. There's also a night sky program featuring an observatory where you can learn about how the Chacoan people studied the skies.
Biscayne National Park | Florida
Biscayne National Park at Biscayne Bay in southern Florida is the largest marine national park and features two main islands: Elliot Key and Boca Chita Key. Activities include snorkeling to shipwrecks, camping in the forest or by the bay, or taking a guided boat tour to the park's historic lighthouse. The islands allow guests places for wildlife watching, picnicking and hiking.
Dry Tortugas National Park | Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park is a series of seven small islands located 70 miles west of Key West, Fla., making it only accessible by boat or seaplane. It's made famous by Fort Jefferson, where Dr. Samuel Mudd was held when he was captured as an accomplice to John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Visitors can boat, camp, fish, snorkel along coral reefs, view wildlife and tour the islands.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
To explore the route of famous explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, you've got your pick of states in Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon and Washington. The parks offer hiking, whitewater rafting, canoeing and horseback riding, allowing visitors to experience Lewis and Clark's journey and travel by similar means. Popular stops include Spirit Mound in South Dakota, Beaverhead Rock in Montana and Camp Dubois in Illinois, where the expedition prepared for and began their journey west.
Wherever you're thinking of visiting as a last-chance trip for summer — or starting to plan for next year — any of these sites deserves a spot on your must-see list.