11 Best National Monuments to Visit in 2024

Often left in the shadows of big-name national parks, national monuments are an underrated gem that not enough people are talking about… for now! Take advantage of the same great perks as visiting a national park without all the crowds before the word gets out. Whether you want to immerse yourself in natural beauty, dive deep into cultural history, or check out some really cool dinosaur bones, there is bound to be a national monument for you!

Besides, most national monuments border those national parks that you already have plans to visit, so why not take a little side trip to spark a new love affair?

Chiricahua National Monument

A morning view at Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona, USA
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Larry Barrett

In the running to be America’s newest national park, Chiricahua National Monument has many things working in its favor. Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Arizona, this sleepy monument is one of the least visited sites on this list, and that’s just part of its appeal. As you drive through a canopy of forest, leaving the barren desert behind you, you will be transported into an oasis filled with breathtaking geology and abundant wildlife. Watch for coatimundi, cousin to the raccoon, as you drive the scenic road and find yourself surrounded by a “Wonderland of Rocks” the moment you hit the trail. It’s no wonder the country is looking at this marvelous monument with national park glasses!

  • Where: Arizona
  • Nearby: Saguaro National Park

Jewel Cave National Monument

Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota, USA
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Traveller70

Because Jewel Cave National Monument is larger and deeper than its national park counterpart, Wind Cave National Park, it is surprising how few people plan a visit here, especially when it’s just down the road! With more than 200 miles of cave passages and a maximum depth of 832 feet, Jewel Cave is ranked as the 4th largest cave system in the world and the deepest cave in the region. And if that wasn’t enough to have you schedule a cave tour, Jewel Cave also has jewels!

  • Where: South Dakota
  • Nearby: Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park

Colorado National Monument

Beautiful Fall Sunrise Hike at Colorado National Monument
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jeremy Janus

A miniature version of the towering red cliffs that make up Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the Colorado National Monument offers the same incredible views without, you guessed it, all the people! Within proximity to the city of Grand Junction, you won’t find yourself completely alone at the Colorado National Monument, but there are plenty of places to find solitude. Take the scenic drive or go for an adventurous hike, but keep your eyes peeled for the plethora of bighorn sheep that call this place home!

  • Where: Colorado
  • Nearby: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

A beautiful view at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Zack Frank

Tucked away in the northern corner of Maine, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument speaks to the adventurer in all of us. With limited services and a vast wilderness of lush greenery, scenic waterways, and towering mountains, Katahdin Woods and Waters is the ultimate place to reconnect with nature. Hike the countless trails, take to the water, or stay after dark to marvel at a truly dark sky. It is safe to say that America made the right choice by putting this monument in the running for national park status.

  • Where: Maine
  • Nearby: Acadia National Park

Craters of the Moon National Monument

A view at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Zack Frank

Considering the diverse beauty of Idaho state, it’s quite shocking that it hasn’t been awarded a national park – but that could change soon! Another contender in the race for naming America’s next national park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, is sporting some fierce competition. With dramatic mountain peaks out in the distance and a sea of ancient lava flows within your grasp, it’s hard to decide where to focus your attention. Walk along a trail once booming with volcanic activity and head underground for a chance to stand in a lava tube!

  • Where: Idaho
  • Nearby: Grand Teton National Park

Devil’s Tower National Monument

An amazing morning colorful view at Devil's Tower, Wyoming.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / anthony heflin

Established as the first national monument in 1906, Devil’s Tower National Monument has more than just seniority. This geologic wonder stands 867 feet tall and has been around for over 50 million years. Surrounded by a picturesque valley, you’ll never lose sight of this iconic formation as you hike along the trails, and the sunsets here are as breathtaking as they get. Pitch a tent and stay awhile for a view of Devil’s Tower both day and night!

  • Where: Wyoming
  • Nearby: Wind Cave National Park

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Perfect sunset on Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Sara Edwards

An undeniable look-alike to Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks is where you go when you can’t get enough of the naturally-carved rocks known as hoodoos but you’ve had enough of the people. Resting at 10,000 feet elevation, Cedar Breaks rises above Bryce Canyon and introduces a larger variety of deciduous and conifer trees. The vibrant red rock beautifully contrasts with these green giants, and various hiking trails let you hike around and down into this dramatic amphitheater. Just don’t forget to pack a sweater!

  • Where: Utah
  • Nearby: Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park

Aniakchak National Monument

Alaska road sign
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Pincasso

While Aniakchak National Monument is not for the faint of heart, it’s great to put on the bucket list for die-hard adventurers. This monument prides itself on being one of the country’s least visited park service sites and one of the most remote places in Alaska, which is really saying something! In an already wild state, Aniakchak challenges even the most experienced travelers. Inaccessible by road and riddled with bad weather, flights here are unpredictable. Travelers lucky enough to make the journey will be rewarded with an untouched wilderness complimented by the roaring Aniakchak River and a six-mile deep caldera.

  • Where: Alaska
  • Nearby: N/A

Dinosaur National Monument

A view from top of the Dinosaur National Monument
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Zack Frank

Dinosaur National Monument might be spread over 210,000 acres and feature some of the most unique geology in the area. Still, there is no denying that people come here to see one thing – dinosaurs! Over 1,500 dinosaur bones can be admired along the monument’s quarry wall; even more have been discovered throughout the area. As you walk along the trails here, imagine a time when dinosaurs called this place home. Petroglyphs and homesteads tell us this iconic monument has changed hands throughout its rich history.

  • Where: Colorado
  • Nearby: N/A

Muir Woods National Monument

Hiking trails through giant redwoods in Muir forest near San Francisco, California
Image Credit: Shutterstock / MNStudio

Dedicated to the man who got the ball rolling for preservation and advocated for the protection of some of the most beloved national parks today, Muir Woods National Monument is worth a visit for the history alone. Walk amongst a dense forest of old-growth coastal redwood trees and feel connected to nature as John Muir had nearly two hundred years ago. Find yourself at the beach looking out at the ocean and reflecting on how proud Muir would be to know that the National Park Service now protects 84 million acres of pristine beauty.

To maintain this reflective and serene experience, Muir Woods National Monument limits the number of people allowed on the trails simultaneously. Be sure to make a reservation beforehand if you want to experience this magical place!

  • Where: California
  • Nearby: Pinnacles National Park

Bandelier National Monument

Cliff Dwellings in Bandelier National Monument.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / LHBLLC

Steeped in history, Bandelier is the national monument that every history buff will love. The monument protects a wide array of ancestral pueblos and invites visitors to learn more about the lives of the ancestral people who lived here. While just a small moment in a larger scale timeframe, the use of this monument during the Manhattan Project also reels in lovers of World War II history. After your brain has absorbed as much knowledge as possible, take to the trails to enjoy the monument’s wild landscape. Bandelier has it all!

  • Where: New Mexico
  • Nearby: N/A
Nicole Westcott

Author: Nicole Westcott


Nicole Westcott is a freelance travel writer who loves traveling and hiking in some of America's most beautiful places. Whether it be backpacking through the iconic Grand Teton range or going for a relaxing stroll amongst a fairytale rainforest, I am in my happy place. I enjoy all types of travel and I am always planning my next adventure!

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