national parks, state parks
New Mexico's Moonscape: White Sands National Monument (PhotoDisc)

Monumental Thrills

Five superlative rivals to our national parks

national parks, state parks
Amy Marr

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

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

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,