1685288145 5 Lesser Known National Parks to Avoid Big Crowds This Summer | phillipspacc

5 Lesser-Known National Parks to Avoid Big Crowds This Summer

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Summer is fast approaching and many are preparing to make their travel plans if they haven’t already.

A record number of Americans are planning to travel this year, and many are hoping to visit some of America’s incredible national parks.

Woman-Hiker-in-Yoga-Pose-Meditating-by-Canyon.-Goose-Neck-at-Capitol-Reef-National-park-Utah-USA1

With 63 national parks and 424 national park sites located throughout the United States, those planning a visit are spoiled for choice.

Not to mention, more sites are constantly being added, helping to expand the 85 million acre park system.

While there are a number of national parks to see, most travelers tend to stay in about half of them. More than 300 million people visited the US national park system in 2022, but about half of these visitors were concentrated in the 25 most popular parks.

Tourists at a crowded overlook in the Grand Canyon National Park

Too much of a good thing?

While the increase in attention in America’s national park system is great, the crowding and overtourism that occurs in clusters of the most popular sites make visiting unpleasant and damaging to the environment.

Zion National Park, for example, is a popular site that has recently seen a massive increase in visitors, with negative consequences for its ecosystem.

While the most popular parks are impressive and worth visiting, planning a trip in the off-season (if possible) can provide a better experience for both the visitor and the ecosystem.

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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA over crowded cars

With over-tourism hitting these popular national parks at a somewhat alarming rate, there has never been a better time to visit some of the underrated gems in the national park system instead of the mega-popular sites.

With so many national park sites that fly under the radar and receive far fewer visitors, a trip to these places can leave you with a bit of peace and quiet and the ability to take in the stunning scenery that surrounds you without the huge crowds of people.

Here are 5 lesser-known national parks to avoid large crowds this summer:

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

With fragments of the Painted Desert, 225-million-year-old fossils, archaeological sites, and one of the world’s largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, this national park is a must-see for those seeking epic views.

Nearly 800,000 people visit Petrified Forest National Park each year, which means there’s plenty of room to spread out among the 200,000-plus acres and take in the views.

A large piece of petrified wood in the Petrified Forest National Park along the Blue Mesa Trail that has been uncovered by decades of erosion

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

At the southern end of mighty Lake Michigan, you can find the Indiana shoreline and the underrated Indiana Dunes National Park. For a state with only 45 miles of coastline, Indiana includes a wealth of scenery for people to enjoy.

The national park occupies approximately 15 miles of coastline, with 50 miles of trails to explore the diverse ecosystem here. Wetlands, dunes, grasslands, and an old-growth forest offer natural beauty to be enjoyed.

West Beach Dune Chain Trail, Indiana Dunes National Park lakefront in summer

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

As the newest national park in the United States, this beautiful area of ​​southern West Virginia boasts over 70,000 acres of wilderness, with a whitewater river cutting through deep canyons along the way.

The New River is actually one of the oldest in the United States, and visitors can hike the canyon’s rim or visit Sandstone Falls. The park offers some of the best rock climbing in America, with more than 1,400 sites set to get your heart rate up.

The New River in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Utah is home to five national parks, often affectionately referred to as the Mighty Five.

Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Arches make up this state’s impressive park profile, with more than 10 million people visiting these sites alone.

Capitol Reef is probably the least known park in Utah, making it the perfect place to take in the impressive cathedrals of rock towering above you, with almost no crowds to bother you.

Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

In northeast California, you can find the underrated Lassen Volcanic National Park, where you can see the world’s largest plug-dome volcano.

In fact, this national park is one of the few places in the world where you can see all four types of volcanoes: shield, stratovolcano, cinder cone, and plug dome.

However, this is not just about volcanoes. Visitors come to enjoy the clear mountain lakes, fields of wildflowers, epic hikes, and geothermal activity too.

Emerald Lake located in Lassen Volcanic National Park

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com