5 Lesser-Known National Parks To Avoid Large Crowds This Summer 


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

A record number of Americans are planning on traveling this year, and many are hoping to visit some of the United States’ amazing national parks. 


With 63 national parks and 424 national park sites located all across America, those who are planning a visit are spoiled for choice.

Not to mention more sites are constantly being added, helping to expand the 85 million acres that the parks system is comprised of.

While there are a number of national parks to see, the majority of travelers tend to stick to about half of them. Over 300 million people visited the U.S. national park system in 2022, but about half of these visitors were concentrated in the 25 most popular parks.

Tourists at an overcrowded overlook at Grand Canyon National Park

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

While the increased attention to America’s national park system is great, the overcrowding and over-tourism that occurs in the clusters of the most popular sites make for an unpleasant visit and harm the environment. 

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

While the most popular parks are stunning and very much worth a visit, planning a trip in the off-season (if possible) can make for a better experience for both the visitor and the ecosystem. 

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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA over crowding cars

With over-tourism impacting these popular national parks at a somewhat alarming rate, there has never been a better time to check out 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 see much fewer visitors, a trip to these places can leave you with some peace and quiet and the ability to take in the stunning landscape surrounding you without the massive crowds of people. 

Here Are 5 Lesser-Known National Parks To Avoid Large Crowds This Summer:

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

With bits of the Painted Desert, 225-million-year-old fossils, archeological sites, and one of the world’s most colorful and largest concentrations of petrified wood, this national park is a must-see for those looking for some epic sights.

About 800,000 people visit Petrified Forest National Park each year, meaning there’s loads of room to spread out amongst the over 200,000 acres and enjoy 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 the imposing Lake Michigan, you can find Indiana’s coastline and the underrated Indiana Dunes National Park. For a state with only 45 miles of shoreline, Indiana packs a lot of scenery in for people to enjoy.

The national park takes up about 15 miles of shoreline, with 50 miles of trails to explore the diverse ecosystem here. Wetlands, dunes, prairies, and an old-growth forest all offer natural beauty to take in. 

West Beach Dune Succession Trail, Indiana Dunes National Park lake shore in Summer

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

As America’s newest national park, this beautiful area of southern West Virginia boasts over 70,000 acres of wilderness, with the rushing whitewater river cutting through deep canyons along the way.

The New River is actually one of America’s oldest, and visitors can walk the Canyon Rim or check out Sandstone Falls. The park offers some of the best rock climbing in America, with over 1,400 established sites to get your heart rate up. 

The New River at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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

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

Capitol Reef is probably Utah’s lesser-known park, making it the perfect place to come take in the stunning rock cathedrals towering above you, with almost no crowds to disturb you.  

Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

In northeastern California, you can find the underrated Lassen Volcanic National Park, where the largest plug dome volcano in the world can be seen.

In fact, this national park is one of the few places around the globe where all four types of volcanoes can be witnessed, shield, stratovolcano, cinder cone, and plug dome.

It’s not only about the volcanoes here, though. Visitors come to enjoy the clear mountain lakes, wildflower fields, epic hiking, and geothermal activity as well.

Emerald Lake located in Lassen Volcanic National Park

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

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