The glories of the national park system draw hundreds of millions of visitors each year, even in normal times.
But in this upside-down year, with the pandemic still limiting much travel in and outside the United States, it’s likely that the National Park Service’s 419 sites, 62 with a “national park” designation, will attract even more people looking to get away.
For potential park-goers who wish to avoid these crowds (and this season, who doesn’t?), one strategy is to skip the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains and the other top 10 parks that typically receive the majority of visitors. There are alternatives that are still awe-inspiring for your summer and fall fresh-air retreats, ones that offer many of the Top Ten’s sights, sounds, wildlife and activities.
You may need to drive, either for safety or a lack of transit options, but these lesser-known crown jewels, all off the beaten path, are almost always mercifully free of the large groups and car traffic found in the more popular parks.
Wherever you decide to go, remember that this is a new world. As the majority of on-site visitor centers will remain closed, contacting the parks before your trip for up-to-date information and any necessary permits is highly recommended. For the parks’ main draws — the great outdoors — the reopenings are staggered and may be confusing; your desired destination may be limited to day-use, or welcome visitors during restricted hours or offer only backcountry camping. Local stores may be closed, too, so plan to bring food and all of your supplies. You might try camping to avoid crowded lodges, and even consider hauling a portable toilet. When you go, best to arrive early to avoid crowds, limited parking and the likelihood of being turned away at the gates.
Check out the full article from the Salt Lake Tribune here.