It’s a turbulent time for many Americans, but the U.S. National Park System (NPS) can act as a uniting force—a reminder that even the most diverse and varied landscapes can join together to form a beautiful country.
Over the last year, though, the U.S. government has moved to increase entrance fees to parks and open up some protected lands to mining development. The good news is there are steps you can take to help protect these lands: Show your support for the park service by contacting your local government reps to tell them that park protection matters to you (check out this guide on how to effectively get your message across before making the call) or donating to the National Park Foundation, the nonprofit that raises money for NPS. You can either make a general donation or choose to join a major campaign—right now the biggies are for the Yosemite Conservancy and Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
Of course, the well-known parks like Yosemite shouldn’t be the only ones that get love. In honor of July Fourth, we’ve rounded up some lesser-recognized parks that cover all different types of terrain to show just how much the NPS has to offer. Scenery that looks like it was extracted from a painting? Check. All the hiking your heart can handle? Check. Run-ins with friendly sharks and sea turtles? Check and check.
Get a little patriotic and add these parks to your travel plans this summer. And while you’re at it, consider taking action to ensure that they stay beautiful and thriving well into the future.