It’s no secret that the U.S. national parks attract visitors from around the globeand for good reason. Their rich histories and culture, awe-inspiring vistas, and well-preserved lands have inspired people for generations to explore the outdoors.

Iconic parks like Yellowstone, America’s first national park, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon receive millions of visitors each year, and these parks only continue to increase in popularity.

In 2022, the Great Smoky Mountains tracked a whopping 12.94 million visitorsmore than any other park by a landslide.

Grand Canyon received 4.73 million, Zion 4.69 million, and Rocky Mountain at 4.3 million.

And while it’s incredible that so many people are able to access our public lands each year, this can make finding solitude in the national parks a bit of a challenge.

As expert guides in 26 of the US National Parks, however, we know our way around! There plenty of hidden gems and ways to escape the crowds in these popular parks.

Or, you could visit a different park instead! Read on for some of the U.S.’s most popular parks, and some less popular parks to visit instead.

Swap Yellowstone for Lassen Volcanic National Park

Like Yellowstone, Lassen is full of steaming hydrothermal features, epic lava flows from past eruptions, stunning lakes, and wildflower-freckled meadows.

This Northern California park is a hidden gem of unique landscapes and geological history, minus the crowds. Even on some of its most popular trails, you may find yourself completely alone to enjoy its scenery.

While Yellowstone reported about 4 million visitors last year, Lassen only receieves about a half million. 

Swap Grand Teton for North Cascades National Park

Nicknamed the American Alps, Washington’s rugged beauty is encapsulated in the North Cascades‘ jagged, sky-high peaks and crystal blue lakes. 

This free national park (you read that right!) is home to gushing waterfalls, and more than 300 glaciers. If you’re looking for a true wilderness escape, find complete solitude in the Cascades.

Don’t get us wrong, Grand Teton is truly a gem. But while the Wyoming park reports about 4 million visitors per year, the North Cascades get about 50,000. 

Swap Yosemite for Kings Canyon National Park

Just a hop, skip, and jump away from famed, bustling Yosemite, Kings Canyon is known for having similar terrain to the Valley. Enter the land of granite peaks, deep canyons, and endless alpine lakes. 

This park is also home to the largest grove of giant sequoia in the world. Visit for the scenery, but stay for the quiteness that encompasses you!

Again, with Yosemite’s visitation numbers pushing 4 million, Kings Canyon offers more options for solitude with 1 million visitors. It’s far from the least visited park, but worth the trip.

Swap Glacier for Glacier Bay National Park

Whereas Montana’s Glacier National Park can be overcrowded and, frankly, lacking in glaciers, Alaska’s Glacier Bay is an alternative that won’t leave you disappointed.

3.3 million acres make it far too easy to escape people in this park, which encompasses rugged coastlines, towering peaks, abundant wildlife, and sheltered fjords. The park is also still home to over a thousand expansive glaciers.

Part of a protected World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay only welcomes about a million visitors, while Glacier receieved three times that in 2022.

Swap Arches & Canyonlands for Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The fossilized reef peaks of Guadalupe Mountains are very reminiscent of features you would see in Moab’s popular parks, just without the reddish hue. 

This park protects Texas’s four highest peaks, the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, and spectacular desert vistas like no other. 

Arches gets about 2 million visitors per year, and is even so busy that they’ve implemented a Timed Entry System. However, plan a trip to Guadalupe Mountains gets fewer than 200,000 visitors per year.

Swap Acadia for Voyageurs National Park

Like Acadia, Voyageurs is a national park made up of islands with beautiful rocky shorefronts, dense forests to explore, and exposed cliffsides. 

This mesh between land and aquatic ecosystems makes for fascinating wildlife, and you can hike, kayak, or swim your way around this park. 

While Acadia receives 4 million visitors per year, Voyageurs only sees about 200,000.

Swap Great Smoky Mountains for Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Smokies are iconic for good reason, but as the most visited national park, saw nearly 13 million visitors last year.

If you’re drawn to the Smokies’ mixed forests with gorgeous fall colors, serene rolling hills, and cascading waterfalls, check out Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley.

Cuyahoga Valley is still quite popular due to its close proximity to the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, with just under 3 million visitors. However, that’s just a small chunk of the Smokies’ massive visitation numbers.

Swap Grand Canyon for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Western Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison will leave you speechless, with some of the steepest cliffsides, oldest rock formations, and craggiest features on the continent.

Two million years of impressive geological history can be found here, and with plenty of space to find solitude!

The Grand Canyon, which is one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, is no secret of the west, clocking in at almost 5 million visitors per year. Half that number, and you’ll find the amount of people who visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison per year.

Swap Zion for Capitol Reef National Park

Zion has dealt with overcrowding for many years, and the park has tried to implement solutions with shuttle systems or permits for their more popular hikes. 

But nearby Capitol Reef has many similar rock features to Zion, minus the crowds! This other Utah region boasts thrilling slot canyons, rocky red cliffs, and incredible stargazing. It’s iconic Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extends almost 100 miles. 

Zion frequently makes the top 3 list for most popular parks, with 4.69 million visitors in 2022; Capitol Reef typically gets just a quarter of those visitors in a much larger park.

Swap Joshua Tree for Pinnacles National Park

Also located in California, Pinnacles is famed for its unusual, funky rock formations created by erosion. 

Hike through talus cave and immerse yourself in the land of rock spires teeming with wildlife. 

Joshua Tree recieves about 3 million visitors per year, whereas Pinnacles gets about 300,000. Finding yourself alone on the trails is not uncommon here.

Despite the crowds, our country’s spectacular National Parks are amazing ways to experience and interact with public lands, and witness firsthand why its so important to protect these wild spaces.

Another great way to avoid the crowds is to hire a local guide, like Good Trip!

Our guides are skilled at discovering off-the-beaten-path trails and paths based on your interests in the park, and will give you a guarenteed adventure of a lifetime.

If you’re interested in exploring a National Park with us, give us a shout! We’d love to take you on a good trip.