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8 under-the-radar gems of the National Park Service

By: Matt Hickman on April 2, 2010, 6:38 p.m.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Photo: NPCA Photos/flickr

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Want to raise some eyebrows? Declare you are visiting one of the most awe-inspiring national parks in the U.S. but don't tell anyone exactly where. When you return, friends and family will ask how the Grand Canyon was, what the weather was like in Yellowstone, or how the crowds were at Carlsbad Caverns. To this reply: "I have no idea. I was at Black Canyon of the Gunnison." Expect dead silence. However, there are perks of being the only person you know who has been to a national park that no one's ever heard of... it keeps the crowds away and the experience singular. Remoteness is the name of the game at Black Canyon of the Gunnison, as is extremity. In terms of sheer, dizzying decent — an average of 43 feet per mile — this canyon makes its "Grand" neighbor — an average of 7.5 feet per mile — look like an amateur.