Seven National Parks to Visit to Avoid the Crowds
Over tourism in major attractions around the world is a big problem. Crowds can cause damage to historical monuments, ruin local neighborhoods and make the travel experience overall unpleasant for everyone involved. Over tourism and overcrowding isn’t just an issue in places like Venice and Rome, though. It’s occurring right within the U.S. National Park system, as long lines of cars wait for hours to enter destinations like Yellowstone and the overabundance of travelers cause damage to both landscape and infrastructure.
If you plan to visit a U.S. national park this year and want both a pleasant travel experience and to avoid contributing to this major issue, here are seven national parks to visit to avoid the crowds.
Indiana Dunes National Park
The newest national park in the system, Indiana Dunes National Park, is easily accessible as it lies just south of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. The pristine scenery is lined with high-reaching sand dunes, but the dunes aren’t the only spot of interest in this ecologically diverse landscape. There are also lush woods and prairie.
Beyond hiking, swimming, camping and other activities, the free-entry park, with its unique ecosystem, is also a fantastic location for birding.
North Cascades National Park
In Washington State, North Cascades National Park offers just as much dramatic scenery and sweeping mountain vistas as some of the other, more popular national parks. And just like Indiana Dunes, this park is easily accessible from a major city, with Seattle only being three hours away. Boating, fishing, hiking and camping all await amid the more than 300 glaciers.
Lake Clark National Park And Reserve
When you think of national parks in Alaska, your mind probably immediately goes to Denali or Kenai Fjords, but what about Lake Clark? Lake Clark National Park and Reserve is in southwest Alaska. The jaw-droppingly gorgeous slice of wilderness is spotted with crystalline lakes, rough mountain peaks and even a volcano or two.
Note that while there aren't any road connections to Lake Clark, it is accessible via a short flight from Anchorage. The wildlife is just as vast and potentially dangerous as the landscape itself, but that shouldn’t keep visitors away. If you have plans to visit Alaska at all this year, Lake Clark is a must for your itinerary.
Dry Tortugas National Park
If your national park daydreams also feature some sun and sand alongside history and the great outdoors, then you could always head to the Caribbean where, yes, it is possible to find an uncrowded destination. At Dry Tortugas National Park, you can snorkel above the coral reefs, island hop and even lounge about in the sand. The park is made up of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West and is home to Fort Jefferson, an 1800's masonry fort.
Virgin Islands National Park
Not too far away, Virgin Islands National Park doesn’t receive too many more visitors, partially because of decreased tourism numbers following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. However, the U.S. Virgin Islands are on the rebound so you’ll want to visit this national park soon before it becomes crowded once again.
The park encompasses approximately 60 percent of the land on Saint John. It's also home to aquamarine waters filled with interesting marine life like sea turtles, lush tropical forests, sugar plantation ruins and spectacular views.
Isle Royale National Park
Back in the Lower 48, Isle Royale National Park sits surrounded on all sides by Lake Superior. The largely isolated island is an introvert’s dream, far from civilization and a great getaway for back-country camping, hiking, boating and even scuba diving. The beautiful park, however, is only accessible via ferry, seaplane or private watercraft, so don’t expect to drive there.
Once you’re within the park’s confines, though, you can find more than 150 miles of hiking trails, 36 campgrounds, guided boat tours and even multiple inland lakes.
Congaree National Park
In South Carolina, Congaree boasts the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast. The diverse landscape is best seen either via the boardwalks that crisscross through the marshes or by boat. You can rent canoes and kayaks and take to the creeks with ease, navigating the marked canoeing trails as you enjoy the calm waters.
Beyond the fascinating ecosystem, Congaree National Park also offers a little historic intrigue. The floodplain has existed on human record for more than an astonishing 13,000 years. It has proved useful to everyone from prehistoric natives to escaped slaves, Spanish explorers to Revolutionary War soldiers.
As you can see, there are plenty of options available if you want to visit a destination that isn't overcrowded but still has much to offer. Additionally, many of these destinations are near major cities or other areas of interest, so getting to them isn't going to be a journey unto itself. Which of these will you visit next?
This article is reposted from Forbes.com