Discover America's 10 most-beautiful, least-crowded national parks.
Nature abhors a vacuum, but it’s not crazy about crowds, either. Water, earth and sky tend to share their sweetest gifts in private, or perhaps with a few kindred spirits. Just as when we were kids lying in the grass, giddy with the wonder of sunshine on our faces and clouds wheeling overhead, nature asks us to clear our minds of life’s petty distractions and open it to the deep, primal joy of being alive.
That’s hard to do when you’re sharing a scenic overlook with a bunch of desperately bored teenagers whining about going back to the motel pool, somebody’s Aunt Mildred who can’t shut up about her friend’s gout and the Menomonee Falls Single Mingle as it attempts to gather 47 lovelorn Cheeseheads for a group portrait.
Each year more than 30 million visitors flock to America’s 10 most popular national parks, and rightly so. They’re among the most beautiful places on earth. If you can travel only in peak tourist season, go anyway and take the time to find a quiet oasis away from the crowds. They’re big parks; it’s not that hard.
Or take the road less traveled and visit the “Hidden Gems” in our special section on page 30. We asked some of our favorite scenic photographers to help us find the 10 most beautiful, least crowded parks in the national park system, and wow, did they ever deliver! We’d barely heard of most of these places, and had no idea they were this spectacular. It’s yet another reminder of what an amazing country we live in. For more photos and information on each of these hidden gems, click the links below.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Washington’s North Cascades National Park
Big Bend National Park
Virgin Islands National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Great Basin National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pinnacles National Park
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park