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Beat the crowds at national parks

SmarterTravel

Summer in national parks can mean jammed campsites, packed parking lots, and views obscured by the crowds. However, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the beauty and quiet of the great outdoors.

  • Get up early: In the hours around dawn, you’ll find solitude, fresh air, and the chance to see wildlife at its most active. At most parks, early risers have the run of the place, so it’s an ideal time to visit sights that tend to get crowded during the day.
  • Time your visit well: Visit midweek and you may be able to avoid the weekend crowds and the worst bumper-to-bumper traffic. Summer is peak season for national parks, and July and August are especially busy, so consider timing your trip for June or early September.
  • Get off the beaten path: Many national parks are huge, but visitors tend to concentrate within a few square miles. Get away from the most popular spots, and you’ll find nature and wildlife without the lines.

    In Yosemite, trade the gridlock of the Yosemite Valley for the peaceful Hetch Hetchy Valley. After you’ve watched the water show at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, hike out to Lone Star, where a lesser-known geyser performs to a smaller crowd. Another tactic for avoiding big crowds is to visit an under-the-radar national park.

For even more tips about avoiding crowds in Acadia, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone national parks, read this older but still useful article.

Have a great travel tip you’d like to share? Send your insider travel strategies to editor@smartertravel.com.

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