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5 Least Crowded National Parks in America

5 Least Crowded National Parks in America

By Lydia, guest blogger and outdoor travel expert

The United States has 63 incredible national parks scattered across the country. Each one is special in its own way, but a handful of the parks are visited much more than the others. 

The over-tourism of some parks has led to huge crowds, lines of cars to get in, reservation systems and damage to the natural landscapes in some areas. While you should absolutely visit places like Zion and Yellowstone at least once in your lifetime, you may have a better experience in less crowded parks.

This list covers details on five incredible national parks that tend to be less visited and crowded than others. Use this as a guide if you’re interested in avoiding the crowds on your next national park trip. 

FlipFuel_Guadalupe Mountains National Park Texas_Lost with Lydia

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

  • Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle for 7 days 
  • Open year-round but best in the Fall or Spring 

The Guadalupe Mountains are home to beautiful mountains, extensive backpacking opportunities and the tallest peak in Texas.

This park is a hiker’s paradise and a perfect place to go if you’re looking to escape the crowds. The park is remote so you will want to plan ahead by bringing food, filling up your car with gas and downloading offline maps.

How To Get There

If you are flying, the closest major airport to the park is in El Paso. From El Paso, it is about a 2 hour drive to reach the park.

Things To Do 

The most famous trail in the Guadalupe Mountains is the trail to Guadalupe Peak, the tallest peak in Texas! There are incredible views at the top. The trail is 8.4 miles and has a lot of difficult and steep elevation gain. If you are able, the hike is incredibly rewarding. 

For a trail that is a little easier, don’t miss Devil’s Hall. This 3.6 mile trail will lead you through a wash, over boulders and into a hall with 100 foot tall limestone rock faces towering up on both sides.

In addition to the incredible hiking throughout the Guadalupe Mountains, it is also worth visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad is located under an hour from the Guadalupe Mountains. 

FlipFuel_Capitol Reef National Park Utah_Lost With Lydia

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

  • Entrance fee: $20 per car for 7 days
  • Open year-round but best to avoid the hottest time of summer

All of the Mighty Five Utah national parks are incredible, but Capitol Reef is one of the most underrated.

While the park gets more visitors than the others on this list, most people only spend a day, yet the park has so much more to offer.

Capitol Reef has an interesting mix of natural beauty and history to explore. The park has beautiful hiking trails, off roading adventures, petroglyphs and even fresh baked pie! Don’t skip out on this park during a trip to Utah.

How to Get There

There aren’t any major airports close to Capitol Reef. You will likely need to rent a car and drive about 3 hours, but you have some options. If you want to combine your Capitol Reef trip with Moab, fly into Grand Junction, CO.

If you want to combine your trip with a visit to Bryce or Zion, fly into Cedar City or St. George. All of these airports are small, so you will find the most flight options if you opt to fly into Salt Lake City.

Things To Do

While most visitors only spend a day in Capitol Reef, there is so much to do if you have enough time and a 4x4 vehicle. With any vehicle, you can visit the main area of the park and eat a slice of pie from the Gifford Homestead, stop by the scenic overlooks and see historic petroglyphs. 

A couple of the hikes that are accessible by any car include Cassidy Arch and Hickman Bridge, both are under 4 miles and considered moderate. 

If you have a 4x4 vehicle, spend a day driving the Cathedral Valley loop or drive the Loop the Fold route that drives south around the park. Capitol Reef has endless hiking and adventures no matter your abilities. 

FlipFuel_North Cascades National Park Washington_Lost with Lydia

North Cascades National Park, Washington

  • Free entry 
  • The main road through the park, the North Cascades Highway, is typically closed due to snow from November to April or May. The best time to visit the park is in August or September. 

North Cascades is the least visited national park in Washington but it’s full of beauty and hiking opportunities. Whether you are visiting to enjoy the scenic overlooks or go on a backpacking trip, the park offers no shortage of adventure. 

How to Get There

The closest major airport to the park is Sea-Tac and it is located about 3 hours away.

Things To Do

Spend some time driving the North Cascades Scenic Highway and stopping at the scenic overlooks. The most famous spot is Lake Diablo, which has an incredible turquoise color. Other great stops include Cutthroat Pass and the town of Newhalem. 

There are so many hiking trails in the area for all abilities. One easy trail is the Trail of the Cedars, which will bring you through an old growth forest with moss covered trees.

A more challenging yet still popular trail is Maple Pass. This loop is 7.4 miles and offers an incredible view of a lake and the surrounding mountains. This trail is best for experienced hikers, but there is an easier path to see Rainey Lake from the same trailhead.

In addition to hiking, you can also paddle in some of the lakes around the park. Bring your own paddle board to explore Lake Diablo or rent a kayak to explore Ross Lake.

No matter what you do, it will be easy to be left in awe of this park's beauty.

FlipFuel_Congaree National Park South Carolina_Lost With Lydia

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

  • Free entry 
  • Open year round but the best time to visit is in the fall or spring.

Congaree National Park is a gem in South Carolina with ample opportunities for paddling and hiking. The park is home to the largest intact area of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern USA and is full of wildlife and beautiful trees.

How to Get There

Congaree is located just about 30 minutes from the Columbia, South Carolina airport or two hours from Charleston. 

Things To Do 

The most popular thing to do in Congaree is to hike the main boardwalk trail. The trail is less than 3 miles long and the flat surface is accessible. This is a great way to enjoy the views of the surrounding forest.

If you have more time and energy, there are many more trails to explore inside the park. Options include the Weston Lake trail, the River trail and more. Be sure to check trail conditions at the visitor center before heading out, as flooding is very common here.

Along with hiking, canoeing or kayaking is a great way to explore. There are a few different outfitters that offer guided paddling trips up and down Cedar Creek. This is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the environment.

FlipFuel_Everglades National Park Florida_Lost With Lydia

Everglades National Park, Florida 

  • Entrance fee: $30 per car for 7 days 
  • Everglades experiences two many seasons: Dry season and wet season. Dry season is from December to April and this is when the conditions will be most favorable. Hot weather and mosquitoes make the park very unpleasant during the wet season.

Everglades National Park is a Florida park that has a lot more variety than you might imagine. While you may expect swamplands full of alligators, there are actually nine distinct ecosystems that make up the park. The park is a beautiful place to explore and see a range of wildlife.

How to Get There

You have several airport options in Southern Florida. You can fly into Fort Myers and visit from the west, or fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale and drive in from the east. 

Things To Do

The Everglades are vast in size and it’s worth spending time in each area. One popular area to explore is Shark Valley. Here you can either rent bikes or take the shuttle to the Shark Valley Observation Tower for expansive views from above the Everglades.

Another popular area of the park is the Royal Palm Visitor Center. There are two short, beautiful trails that begin here. Be sure to not miss the short and easy Anhinga trails for a great chance to see wildlife. 

For a unique experience in the Everglades, take a ranger led wet walk, where you’ll walk into the swamp and to a cypress dome. This is an excellent way to get up close and personal with the landscape and learn about the plant life and ecosystems more deeply.

Lost With Lydia_FlipFuel_Least Crowded National Parks

Least Crowded National Parks: Final Thoughts 

As you can see, there is so much variety in our national parks and it might be worth looking for a less crowded experience during your next national park road trip.

No matter where you go, be sure to respect the land you’re visiting and follow the principles of leaving no trace. Our national parks deserve to be protected for generations to come.

Lost with Lydia FlipFuel national parks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: LYDIA

Lydia is an outdoor travel blogger and digital nomad who has been to 27 national parks. She loves to share unique outdoor experiences and help you add more adventure into your life. Discover more national park guides at www.lostwithlydia.com and follow along with daily outdoor adventures on Instagram

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