TravelDestinationsNorth America

Monumental Thrills

Five superlative rivals to our national parks

As the country begins to reopen, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

WITH ALL OF THE MAJESTY and often none of the crowds, the 161 U.S. national monuments are excellent vacation destinations in their own right. Here, a handful of our all-time favorites.

Online Resource

For more excellent adventures in our national parks, check out the parks resource from GORP.COM

national parks, state parks

New Mexico's Moonscape: White Sands National Monument

Grand Canyon–Parashant National Monument
With much of the same grandeur as Grand Canyon National Park, this 1,054,264-acre monument adjacent to the North Rim encompasses the remote lower portion of the Shivwits Plateau.
Choice Adventure: Hike the two-mile trail up 8,028-foot Mount Trumbull for sublime Grand Canyon views.
Base Camp: Stay at wilderness campsites for up to 14 days without a permit. 435-688-3246,

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
This 52,947-acre monument, where the Siskiyou Mountains intersect with the Cascades—old-growth groves of Douglas fir and sugar pine meet sagebrush-dotted desert—is a mélange of landscapes.
Choice Adventure: Trout-fish in Jenny Creek, surrounded by willows and ponderosas.
Base Camp: The Hyatt Lake campground (sites starting at $12 per night) even has its own fish-cleaning station. 541-618-2200,

White Sands National Monument
New Mexico
This is the world's largest gypsum dune field—a 275-square-mile yucca-studded sea of snow-white dunes, some as high as 60 feet.
Choice Adventure: Hike the dunes on the 4.6-mile Alkali Flat Trail.
Base Camp: The Good Life Inn Bed and Breakfast (505-682-5433,, near Alamogordo, has rooms for $120–$170. 505-679-2599,

Carrizo Plain National Monument
On the arid Carrizo Plain, this 250,000-acre monument shelters 15 plant and animal species listed as threatened or endangered.
Choice Adventure: Watch for California condors and San Joaquin kit foxes as you hike the eight-mile Caliente Mountain Ridge Trail.
Base Camp: Stay at one of two free primitive campgrounds. 805-475-2131,

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
At the center of this 750,000-acre playland for geology nuts lies the Great Rift, a 60-mile-long crack in the earth's crust with a perfectly preserved volcanic landscape.
Choice Adventure: Explore lava flows and lava tubes on the four-mile Wilderness Trail.
Base Camp: Stay at the 52-unit campground near the visitor center for $10 per site. 208-527-3257,

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
From Outside Traveler 2004
Filed To: ArizonaFlagstaffGrand CanyonCaliforniaIdahoNew Mexico
Lead Photo: PhotoDisc
More Travel