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The Best National Parks For Getting Away From It All

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Drive to Yellowstone and push your way through the crowds to see Old Faithful erupting. Then hit the gift shop and head home. It's the classic American national park vacation but wouldn't you rather go somewhere more remote? Here are five of the best national parks for getting away from it all.

You don't need hiking boots to visit Dry Tortugas National Park. Pack your swim fins instead. This small national park off the south Florida coast is almost entirely underwater. To get there, you'll have to take a ferry, charter boat or seaplane from Key West. Your reward for making the journey: snorkeling on the pristine reefs and shipwrecks, visiting historic Fort Jefferson and exploring a unique national park few get to see.

Isle Royale National Park in Michigan's Lake Superior is one of the nation's least visited national parks. It sees fewer people in a year than Yellowstone gets in a day. Isle Royale consists of one large island inhabited by wolves and moose and more than 450 smaller islands. Visitors arrive by boat or seaplane, and no vehicles are allowed. Activities include hiking, kayaking (for experienced boaters only) and even scuba diving on some well-preserved wrecks.

Think Yellowstone's big? Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is six times bigger, making it the largest of America's national parks. "Remote" doesn't even begin to describe this park: Only two roads venture into its 13 million acres. But even if you're not an intrepid backcountry hiker, Wrangell-St. Elias offers many opportunities to see stunning scenery. Get up close and personal with a glacier. Explore Kennecott, a copper mining ghost town. See bears, moose, and perhaps a ptarmigan.

If two roads are too many, in your opinion, head to an even more remote national park: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. There are no trails or campgrounds in this pristine wilderness, although there are plenty of bears, caribou, birds and mosquitoes (don't say we didn't warn you). Visitors can reach Gates of the Arctic one of two ways: by bush plane, or by hiking in from the Dalton Highway or the village of Anaktuvuk Pass.

If you really, really want to get away and you prefer warm sand to frozen tundra visit the National Park of American Samoa. This tropical treasure lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. This remote national park includes sections of rainforest islands Tutuila, Ta'u and Ofu as well as 2,500 underwater acres. The only native mammal species is the (harmless) fruit bat, but visitors can look for exotic birds and more than 950 species of fish. To get the most out of your national park vacation, the park service recommends staying as a guest in a Samoan home, called a fale.

For some great tips on visiting America's national parks, you'll be interested in our travel tips article "7 Insider Tips for Visiting National Parks".

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Feb 28, 2013