The United States is home to some beautiful national parks. And as Americans head out on summer road trips, many travelers may be looking for the parks less visited to avoid the crowds.
“With at least 423 national parks across the country, and with at least one in every state, there are plenty of opportunities for our visitors to have an incredible experience while outdoors,” said the Cynthia Hernandez of the National Park Service. “Summer months are typically busy for our national parks, and this time many folks are staying closer to home.”
If you’re trying to avoid crowds, Hernandez offers a few recommendations.
“Some options are Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, Stonewall National Monument in New York, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia, Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska," says Hernandez. "Those are just a few options, but we encourage you to head out during the week or early in the morning to avoid crowds."
Travelers are encouraged to begin the planning process for a national park vacation at NPS.gov. The website allows users to search by state and activity – such as hiking, biking, or fishing. As you search by activity, Hernandez recommends that you keep your physical capabilities in mind.
“If you haven’t been on a ten-mile hike in a while, I would research trails that are shorter and don’t have a steep incline,” says Hernandez.
Many parks also offer scenic drives, allowing travelers to experience the beauty of the national parks from the comfort of their vehicle.
Experts like Hernandez recommend early planning for national park vacations.
“Start planning at least two to three months before your trip,” says Hernandez. “I suggest sitting down and spending time on NPS.gov and really researching the park that you want to visit and the things you want to experience.”
Some parks require advanced reservations or entrance fees to get into the park. In addition, campground space during the summer months can be in short supply, so reservations are highly recommended.
This year, the National Park Service launched a new mobile app for travelers created by park rangers. The National Park Service App helps visitors get up-to-date information on every single national park in the U.S. so that users can plan their national park adventure directly from their phone or mobile device. With much of the app available offline for areas of national parks with limited cellular service, users can download resources before their trip, including interactive maps.
"[The app] helps you find all the necessities, like the visitor's center, entrance stations, and bathrooms," says Hernandez.
The National Park Service App is currently available to iOS and Android users in their respective app stores.