As the summer gradually comes to a close, it’s no surprise that we try to cram in as much nature as possible before the cold, winter months. Visiting a National Park is a great way to soak up the last bits of nature before the season’s over. National Parks allow us to get out of dodge and explore some of Mother Nature’s most impressive features. Maybe it’s a family vacation, friend’s retreat, or a spontaneous road trip. There’s just one issue: a lot of other people have this same idea, which results in overcrowded trails and full parking lots. Let’s face it – people are great, but nature is best enjoyed when you’re not tripping over other tourists on a hike. Here are 5 absolutely beautiful National Parks that don’t get as much traffic, so you can focus on the beautiful sounds of nature free of excessive noise pollution. Plus, we can show our other beautiful national parks a little love and allow popular sites like the Grand Canyon to breathe a bit this Summer.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
North Cascades National Park is located in northern Washington, under three hours from Seattle. The park is home to the rugged mountain peaks of the North Cascades Range, which happens to be the most expansive glacial system in the country. The North Cascades Highway passes through breathtaking views and leads to intense trails such as the Thunder Creek Trail. This park offers enormous forests with the highest degree of flora biodiversity out of any national park in the United States. The park is home to grizzly bears and gray wolves, plus over 200 bird species – a birdwatcher’s paradise. If you’re hankering to see some conifer trees, mountains, glaciers, and stunning lakes, this park has you covered! You can learn more about this awesome Park here.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho
This National Recreation Area is no hidden treasure with 1.3m annual visits a year, but it still needs a little love! Located at the North end of the Sawtooth National Forest, Sawtooth National Recreation Area is amongst the largest and most beautiful in the country. Sawtooths, Boulders, White Clouds, and Smokies are the four mountain ranges that provide a sweet panoramic view. With over 50 major peaks over 10,000 feet, 300 lakes, and 250 miles of trails, you’ll never run out of spots to explore! A visit to Sawtooth National Recreation Area might include trail rides, pack trips, stunning scenic drives, hiking, and boating – but we’ll let you decide that. Sawtooth is also the perfect spot for camping, with 37 campgrounds and a total of 700 individual sites. If you’re really trying to get out of dodge and are looking to camp outside of a developed campground, Sawtooth National Recreation Area permits it with certain restrictions. Get some more information about planning a trip to Sawtooth here.
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Saguaro National Park is located in southern Arizona and it’s split between two districts: The Rincon Mountain District on the east side of Tucson, and the Tucson Mountain District on the west side of the Tucson. These districts were created to preserve fauna, flora, and showcase forests of the Saguaro Cactus, which (surprise, surprise!) happens to be what the Park is named after. However, don’t be fooled, there is plenty more to Saguaro National Park than just cacti. Both sections offer scenic drives, lots of wildlife, and about 100 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. It’s an awesome place to backcountry hike and camp, as well. Saguaro National Park is known for its unbelievable sunsets, so make sure you catch one! If you’re in Rincon Mountain District, you can hike half a mile to Tanque Verde Ridge trail or stop by the Javelina Rocks pull out. On the west side of the park, the best spot to watch the sunset is Gates Pass (the end of Speedway Blvd to the west). This park is stunning but isn’t just a place to take pictures for your Instagram (although, we don’t judge). It’s also rich in history. If you end up in the western Tucson Mountain District, you can take the Signal Hill Trail to see petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam people. If you find yourself in the eastern Rincon Mountain District, take your car down Cactus Forest for some gorgeous views of the unique desert landscape. Learn more about this underrated National Park here.
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Cedar Breaks is at an elevation of over 10,000 feet and it peers into a deep geologic amphitheater. This park looks similar to Bryce Canyon, but it’s smaller in size and even more colorful. The summer is the perfect time to visit due to the beautiful wildflowers in bloom. The formations found in the amphitheater include one of a kind spires, columns, and arches. This national monument is an eye-catching wonder, and if you like star-gazing, Cedar Breaks is the perfect place to set up camp. The park has short trails including the Alpine Pond Trail and the Spectra Point Trail, both great for hiking. While these trails are only short, generally easy walks, they can be strenuous for many due to the high elevation. Find out more about this absolutely alluring national monument here.
Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument, Utah
Grand Staircase-Escalante is the largest national monument managed by the Bureau of Land Management, so you’re welcome to hike, camp, hike and explore as you please. There are tons of trails, cliffs and stunning rock formations across its whopping 1.9 million acres. It’s impossible to run out of things to do and see. You can hop on your Jeep, mountain bike, ATV, or horse and wander through this gorgeous monument. It’s the perfect place for a scenic drive. Hikes through the backcountry of Escalante National Monument pass through waterfalls, arches, oases, sculpted slickrock and the largest network of narrow slot canyons in Utah. The area offers lots of camping options, whether you prefer a developed campground or something a little more rustic. Check out more about the park here.