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Helpful Hints: How To Enjoy Parks With Fewer Crowds

This story is one in a series designed to give RV and boat storage facility operators an opportunity to share helpful information with tenants. Providing travel tips for RV and boat owners is a great way to foster relations with tenants, ensuring they remain happy tenants for years to come.

RV enthusiasts take note: Camping in the nation’s most beautiful locations doesn’t always mean you need to suffer long lines to enter and struggle to find an exclusive site. If you want to enjoy a more peaceful natural experience during your national park visit, check out these tips to enjoy the great outdoors with less crowds.

Consider Visiting During the Shoulder Season

There is something magical about opening up or closing down the RV camping season each year. It’s the same with the national parks. Visiting in the spring or fall is the perfect time to hit the parks before the huge crowds arrive or as the season winds down. The weather is often perfect, and you can spend time in the parks without the peak-season traffic jam. If you want a national park visit with fewer people, consider visiting in the off-season.

Of course, it’s the same with visiting on a weekday versus a weekend. It’s better to go with crowds than not go at all. While that is true with national parks or any travel experiences, you will always have a more peaceful experience if you can skip the weekend crowds. While visiting typically busy sites during the week isn’t an option for everyone’s schedule, if you can squeeze in a weekday visit, that may be the best time to hit the most popular tourist spots within a national park.

Enter The Park in the Late Afternoon

The early bird gets the worm, and you want to enter first thing in the morning. While you may have to enter early if you go on a long day hike or participate in some other time-sensitive park activity, mornings are often more crowded. You can experience a long line trying to enter the park and more traffic on the park drives. 

Sometimes, though, not being on the ball early can be an advantage. During RV trips when you might be staying longer near a national park, think about coming into the park around dinner time and staying until after sunset. Not only is it phenomenal to enjoy the sunset in a national park, but many parks clear out when exhausted hikers and sightseers exit to have dinner. You might consider bringing dinner picnics to enjoy the scenery and soak in the peace and quiet.

Visit One of the Less Popular National Parks

Yes, there really are some parks that are still not widely known and visited. These parks are perfect to visit during the summer season while still enjoying more peace in nature compared to the more popular national parks. Let’s jump into some favorite less-crowded parks.

Some parks are visited less due to a remote location or simply because they aren’t as well known as the other parks. Here are a few favorite national parks that also happen to have some of the smallest annual park attendance. One of these choices may be exactly what you are looking for.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is located in a rural area of Central California, about 78 miles south of San Jose. This newer national park is spectacular, and many people simply don’t know about it yet. Or maybe the rural location has kept visitation down. Either way, it’s your gain if you want to explore a hidden gem park without the crazy crowds.

Pinnacles is the eighth least visited park in the lower 48, with an annual attendance of around 275,000, according to the NATIONAL PARK VISITOR DATA FROM 2022. Pinnacles didn’t become a national park until 2013, and its attendance has steadily grown since then. This place is stunning!

Pinnacles is a paradise for hikers and rock climbers. Named after its beautiful rock formations, as soon as you step foot in the park, you will see exactly why we love it. Some of the rock formations have tumbled down over time into rock talus caves that visitors can now explore. Bring along a headlamp or flashlight to walk through the caves. There are many talus formations to explore, and our family found this to be exciting to explore. Also, note that your shoes may get wet walking through some of the caves, and it helps to wear sturdy footwear for slick surfaces.

This park also has a unique program for the California Condor, which nests high in the park’s rock formations. We didn’t get the chance to view one during our visit, but other travelers we spoke to out on the trails did get a chance to see the rare, protected birds. Keep your eyes peeled along the rock ridges during your visit to try to spot the Condors. 

Also, make sure to check out Bear Gulch Reservoir. This lake, surrounded by pinnacle rock formations, almost appears to have black water. It’s a very unique place and a spectacular photo opportunity. Daredevil hikers that don’t mind heights will enjoy taking the 6-mile High Peaks Trail Condor Gulch Loop, which gives you a great chance to view Condors while heading up a steep and sometimes narrow path to 1325 feet in elevation.

 

Channel Islands National Park

Speaking of ditching the crowds, have you ever wanted to feel like you left the US completely? You can do exactly that with a national park trip to the Channel Islands. This stunning island off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, feels worlds away from the mainland. Island visitation is limited since it can only be reached by the national park concessionaire or private boat.

Not only is this scenic chain of islands worth the boat ride to reach them, but the boat ride itself is incredible. This channel is a popular area for spotting dolphins as whales in season. Dolphins can be spotted jumping and splashing in the water for a good portion of the ride out to the islands. It’s a huge thrill to see the whales and our family’s first time ever spotting one in the wild.

The islands are known for spectacular hiking opportunities alongside the coastal cliff sides, kayaking through island sea caves, and trying to spot the island fox that only lives here. We chose to visit the largest island in the chain, Santa Cruz Island. This island also has a campground for tent campers that would like to stay longer. The hiking on this island is simply breathtaking, and you might get a chance to see one of the rare foxes. Another popular island to visit is Anacapa Island, which features a lighthouse.

Although this is the 10th least visited national park in the lower 48, you will need to book your boat trip to reach the park well in advance to guarantee a spot. This park isn’t crowded because the boat limits the number of visitors, but you still don’t want to miss the boat! Also, bring along motion sickness medication for any travelers in your party that may experience sea sickness. The water can be choppy in this area.

Lassen National Park

Lassen is a hidden gem park that will knock your socks off both with beauty and interesting geological surprises. The scenic alpine lakes surrounded by the Cascade Mountains are postcard perfect. This park only sees around 359,000 visitors annually, partly due to its remote Northern California location and very short season. Some years the park roads didn’t open completely until July.

Even if you can only enter the park at one of the two entrances to reach one of the visitor centers, you will still be glad you came. Both park entrances offer spectacular features to the point of any snow-covered road closures. What makes this park so unexpected is the stunning volcanic features. It contains volcanic features such as bubbling mud pots and steam vents. You have to see this park to believe it!

Other Great Parks to Skip the Crowds

While many national park options have lower annual attendance, the three parks listed above are very special. Out of 37 national parks visited so far, you won’t be disappointed with these three less crowded parks. Some other great choices in the lower 48 are North Cascades National Park, Redwood National Park and Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park.

National Park travel may be more popular than it used to be, but that doesn’t mean you must sacrifice having an incredible time out in nature. With some advanced planning, you can find a park that meets all of your travel desires without dealing with the crowds. So, what are you waiting for? Pack up the RV and head out to enjoy a national park this summer! 

 

This story is made available by Go RVing.

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