Expect the Unexpected at these National Parks

From cultural hot spots to urban oasis, you never know what you'll find when you venture out into our national parks. In the National Park Service's hundredth year, there are all kinds of ways to #FindYourPark in surprising places. This is especially true at these lesser-known parks:

Hot Springs National Park

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As Instagrammer @8tskid discovered, Hot Springs National Park is not a typical park. Built around the natural hot springs in Arkansas, the park sits side-by-side with the city of Hot Springs, highlighting the area's history and unique natural resources. Many of Hot Springs' historic bathhouses from the early 1900s are still open, and hot water bubbles from fountains year-round.

Tumacácori National Historical Park

In the seemingly desolate landscape of Arizona, Tumacácori National Historical Park is a vibrant cultural and religious center that has seen many types of settlers come and go over the centuries. This beautifully framed shot by @thewanderingwolfe shows a stunning Catholic church at Tumacácori National Historical Park. The church was built as a part of a religious settlement during the 1800s, but was abandoned after an Apache invasion in 1848.

Fort Smith National Historic Site

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You might not think of Arkansas as the Wild West, but Fort Smith was at the very edge of the frontier at one time. @trishwymore captured a perfect picture of the brick buildings and period artifacts at Fort Smith National Historic Site, a place that played a major role in the westward expansion of the United States in the 19th century.

Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

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On the west coast of the island of Hawai'i, Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a beautiful tropical paradise that harbors a rich history. Pu'uhonua was a place of refuge in ancient Hawai'i, and as this gorgeous Instagram shot by @summerramblr shows, the palm trees and historic ruins of this national park have not changed much in the intervening centuries.

Hampton National Historic Site

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Even a place as well-traveled as Baltimore County, Maryland, still holds some surprises, as @somanyparks discovered on a trip to Hampton National Historic Site. The site preserves a remnant of what was once a vast 18th-century estate, including a palatial Georgian manor house, lush gardens, and the original stone slave quarters.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Michigan's Upper Peninsula is still one of the wildest places in the lower 48 states, and Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore perfectly highlights the area’s rugged shoreline. You might not expect to find natural arches carved out by the waves of Lake Superior, but places like Lovers Leap Arch are full of surprises. You can even kayak under the landmark, as @julitmart did during a family trip. In fact, Pictured Rocks is home to some of the best freshwater fishing and kayak routes in the country.

Lowell National Historical Park

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As @flourishcafe learned, the history of Lowell, Massachusetts, dates back to well before the settlement was known by its current name. Case in point: You might walk by the Pawtucket Canal every day and never realize its significance, but did you know it was built in the 1790s and served as a crucial transportation route for shipping goods up the coast? The canal is just one of the many surprises waiting at Lowell National Historical Park.

Take a trip to a national park near you this year, and see what you can discover. Some of America's hidden gems are waiting just off the beaten path. Interested in learning more about other lesser-known parks? Check out our free Owner’s Guide, “The Places Nobody Knows.” And be sure to share your adventures at FindYourPark.com, and add your experiences to a conversation that's been going strong for 100 years.

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