10 Crowd Free National Parks

Pinnacles NP

Do you love to visit U.S. National Parks or are you interested in doing so?

Great Smokey Mountains NP, located in Tennessee and North Carolina was the most visited U.S. National Park in 2013 with 9,354,695 according to the National Parks Conservation Association. Following in a distant second was Grand Canyon NP with 4,564,840 visitors and Yosemite NP with 3,691,191 visitors.

While I’m certainly no expert on the topic of U.S. National Parks, I would’ve expected the most visited parks to be Yellowstone or Yosemite. Kim and I have visited a limited number of  National Parks in the U.S. and hope to change this in the future.

I’ve always heard that the more popular parks can get quite crowded during the summer with lodging hard to come by or quite expensive.

Canyonlands NP

I can’t say that I enjoy visiting sites that get over-crowded but sometimes it can be unavoidable unless you decide to look to other options. I came across an article from Smarter Travel which gives great suggestions to visiting some lesser-visited NPs.

Smarter Travel put together a slideshow  of 10 Crowd-Free National Parks.

Here is the list:

  • Canyonlands National Park- Utah
  • North Cascades National Park- Washington
  • Dry Tortugas National Park- Florida
  • Kings Canyon National Park- California
  • Lake Clark National Park & Preserve- Alaska
  • Congaree National Park- South Carolina
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park- Texas
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park- Colorado
  • Pinnacles National Park- California
  • Great Basin National Park- Nevada

I haven’t been to any of the parks listed above but from what I read and the photos I’ve seen, they do look spectacular. I’d guess visiting these parks could be just as great of an experience as visiting the more popular national parks.

Have you visited any of the NPs from the list put together by Smarter Travel?

Find out about each of the parks listed by checking out the Smarter Travel slideshow here.

Don’t forget:

There are still 3 dates left in 2014 for Free Entrance Days at US National Parks.

6 thoughts on “10 Crowd Free National Parks

  1. I have been to quite a few of these parks, so let me weigh in. The author does not know much about crowds in US National Parks.

    Canyonlands National Park-Unless you are backpacking, it is a zoo. Popular trails are also a zoo.
    North Cascades National Park-Again, unless you are backpacking it is a zoo (can be visited only from July to Sept)
    Dry Tortugas National Park-Went on President’s day weekend, the ferry was sold out a few weeks in advance.
    Kings Canyon National Park- Visited last week: the main road was choked. We wasted a lot of time because there was very little parking.
    Pinnacles National Park- Not enough to do for one long weekend
    Great Basin National Park- Nevada – The only really crowd-free NP. But again, unless you are backpacking, it can be visited in a day.

    1. Asar- Thanks for sharing your experiences at the parks. It is definitely interesting to hear what it was like for you opposed to the author of the original article.

    2. Asar, is right about Great Basin, as well. Generally very light traffic, but unless you’re bagging a peak or backpacking, it’s a short visit. But then, I’m of Edward Abbey’s school of thought when it comes to NPs…if you’re only staying on the road and hitting the visitor’s center, you might as well go home.

  2. Canyonlands is a spectacular park, but not one you generally want to visit in Summer. It’s very desolate and very hot, yet very beautiful if you can bear the heat. It’s also in close proximity to Arches NP, so you can get a better bang for your buck. We backpacked the Needles District of Canyonlands one July, and it was awesome. We never saw another soul, so overnighting out in Chesler Park was very peaceful. It was just some effort in the heat getting there, and we had to pack all our own water.

  3. Pinnacles National Park is near Monterey, California. This is a place to visit talus caves and look for the rare California condor, the largest flying bird in North America with about fifty of less than 300 in the USA hanging around Pinnacles.

    There are two entrances with one approach from the west entrance in Monterey County near King City and another entrance on the east side of the mountains from San Benito County via Hollister. Paso Robles and Salinas Valley have wineries and old California missions at Soledad, San Antonio and San Miguel on the west side.

    San Juan Bautista is off Highway 101 and a nice state historic park and quaint town to spend a few hours.

    Pinnacles makes a good day trip.

    http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2013/04/18/pinnacles-national-park-west-side-entrance/

    Great Basin National Park: http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2011/07/17/earths-oldest-trees-in-great-basin-national-park-nevada/

    Kings Canyon National Park: http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2011/05/15/the-mountains-are-calling-and-i-must-go/ Highway 180 is a great drive. I was there before the summer crowds.

  4. HunnerWoof- Sounds like you’ve had some awesome national park experiences!

    Ric G.- Pinnacles sounds worthy of a visit if in the area one of these days! Thanks for sharing your NP reports here.

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