Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico
Anton Foltin/Shutterstock Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks is one of the newest national monuments, established in May of 2014 by presidential proclamation. This is not a national park, but is a national monument that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management Las Cruces District Office. This monument lies in southeastern New Mexico and is made up of the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains. Home to several rare species of plants and animals, ancient Native American petroglyphs, and lava flows, these desert mountains look like nowhere else on Earth. There are excellent opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and nature photography in the 496,330 acre monument, as well as overnight camping. The Aguirre Spring Campground is the only developed campground in the monument, with first-come-first-serve family campsites available for $7 per night. You can also go primitive camping anywhere in the monument for free. Either way, bring plenty of water and sunscreen (there’s very little shade out in the Chihuahuan Desert!), and know your fitness level before attempting any long or strenuous hikes. (Find out unusual facts about every one of the 50 states.)
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine
Zack Frank/Shutterstock The Katahdin Woods is an even newer National Park site, created in 2016 on the eve of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. Located in northern Maine, the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument preserves more than 87,500 acres of wild rivers and lush forests. In addition to hiking and camping, Katahdin is a great spot for hunting, fishing, and kayaking. The newness of this monument means that it has little infrastructure relative to older, more established national parks: there’s no official visitor’s center, and some trails aren’t well-marked or -maintained. However, it also means that there will be much smaller crowds than some of the more popular national parks. Be sure to check the weather conditions before your trip, and come prepared: You’ll need some sturdy, well-maintained hiking boots and perhaps some trekking poles to traverse these rocky forest trails.