How to avoid National Park crowds?

National Park crowds is a worldwide phenomenon and is especially noticeable in the USA and Canada . Yet, despite the congestion, you can still enjoy a trip to the beautiful National Parks of the USA and Canada, and avoid National Park crowds, if you follow a few suggestions detailed bellow.

Where does the congestion become unbearable?

  1. When visiting popular parks on busy days – Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months, weekends of national holidays, vacations, etc.
  2. When looking for parking during the busy hours in the busy parks (Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Acadia, Arches, Grand Canyon and more and of course in the Canadian Rockies in western Canada), especially if you travel in an RV.
  3. When standing in the entry queues for the busy parks during peak hours.
  4. When you have not booked overnight lodging in advance.

What can you do to avoid the crowds?

  1. Build an itinerary that it does not include a visit to the popular parks on busy days.
  2. Start you day early! A magic rule that solves almost all problems and is always the winner in dealing with congestion in the national parks.
  3. Have you heard of night trips? Walking in the dark on the promenade adjacent to southern cliff of the Grand Canyon on a full moon night is an amazing experience. So is a ride in the Yosemite Valley at night when the moonlight illuminates El Capitan and the cliffs surrounding the valley.
  4. If traveling in an RV (or tent) – sleep in the public campgrounds inside the parks (and not in private campgrounds outside the parks). Thanks to this, you will not have to stand in the morning in the queue of cars at the entrance of the park, you will not have to look for parking (assuming you stay two nights in the campground or hike before check-out time). There are also hotels in the parks that will save traffic jams and queues (especially recommended in Yosemite). There are also places where there are hotels outside the parks that are very close to the entrances (for example in Zion it is highly recommended to stay in this hotel from which you can walk to the visitor center and hop on a shuttle, and save the entrance queue and the search for parking).
  5. Use shuttles (in Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Acadia and more) – a great way to avoid having to look for parking.
  6. Travel in transition seasons when there is less congestion in national parks. One of the most recommended months in terms of transition seasons is October – Yosemite for example is perfect for hiking in October (before the snow and cold start and while most roads are still open; much less crowded and with marvelous fall foliage). Traveling to Bryce in October is also highly recommended. In Zion and Arches and the Grand Canyon (which are slightly lower than Bryce) you can even hike and travel in early November (afterwards the chance of snow increases). Even in the Acadia October is great (mainly the first half of this month) – much less crowded with great fall foliage. Transition months in the spring (April and May) can also be great for some national parks traveling.
  7. Going on long hikes – the longer the hike, the smaller the number of hikers you will see along it. On every mile walk 90% of the people are left behind. Sometimes small differences in the length of the hike can make ah huge difference. For example the Navajo-Queens Garden hike in Bryce is very busy, while the Fairyland trail, which is a little longer (and as beautiful) is usually not busy at all.
  8. Visitor the touristic regions of the National Parks. For example – most visitors to Zion for example focus on Zion Canyon but Zion has other beautiful hiking areas that are much less touristic such as Kolob Canyons and sites around Kolob Terrace Road. In Yosemite most hikers concentrate on the valley and Glacier Point when the Tioga Pass Road and the hiking sites along it are much less crowded.
  9. Add less crowded Parks to your travel route. – these parks are usually less familiar and iconic but still charming, and can provide the experience of tranquility in nature. There are a lot of of parks of this type (less crowded and still charming) such as the state parks of the Utah (which can be combined with a trip to famous national park such as Zion, Bryce and Arches) and like for example many national parks that are less known such as Capitol Reef and Canyonlands (especially the Needles district which is easily accessible and beautiful).
  10. Do in-depth research regarding hiking options on the outskirts of the parks (sometimes you can also ask for information from the rangers of the parks – relevant only if you have consulted a professional ranger who really knows more than the basics).

To conclude – even though I personally hate crowds, I would not suggest you give up visiting the busy parks, despite the hustle and bustle. As long as things are going pleasantly (people stand in line for the bus in an orderly fashion, people do not litter, are not very noisy etc.) you can definitely travel and enjoy even in the crowded places (if you follow the rules I detailed above). I personally find it much more annoying to walk in crowded and commercial places (like Antelope Canyon – a place I really can’t enjoy) then crowded non-commercial places, and thankfully the USA and Canadian National Reserves are relatively not very commercialized (perhaps except for Yosemite Valley which can feel commercialized).

Enjoy your travels, Neta Degany

בלי עומס בפארקים הלאומיים - שמורת קניונלנדסIn the Needles District of the Canyonlands National Park. Crowds in national parks? not here. Fortunately some off the beaten track parks are usually quite empty

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