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Escape the crowds in these 5 peaceful US national parks

Recently updated on April 22nd, 2024 at 03:43 pm

From the red rock cliffs of Zion National Park to the frequent yet awe-inspiring eruptions of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, the National Park System showcases some of the most spectacular regions of the country. Beat the crowds in these five protected areas and discover the wild beauty of some of the largest national parks in the US.

For other domestic holiday ideas, look no further than our new Domestic Tours page – and find inspiration for your next short-haul escape.

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

It may not be the biggest national park in the US by size nor is it the largest in the US by annual visitors, but Yellowstone is regularly regarded as the one of the best in the country. 

After all, it was the first national park established in the United States. Of its roughly 500 geysers, Old Faithful always draws the largest crowd. Avoid the eruption between lunch and dinner when viewership is at its highest. Early morning and late evening are quieter times to observe. You could always opt to see other predictable geysers erupt in the Upper Geyser Basin, instead: Riverside, Castle, Daisy, and Grand tend to have fewer eyes on them.

Horseback riding, trail hiking, and wildlife watching are popular summer activities for families, though the most fervent of Yellowstone supporters will urge you to explore this area in winter. A snowmobile and pair of snowshoes will take you to most corners of the park while trails like Black Sand Basin Ski Trail provide a two-hour round trip sightseeing experience around Old Faithful.

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Grand Teton National Park

Hiker overlooking Gran Teton mountain range, Wyoming

Despite its northern edge being mere minutes away from the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton unfairly plays second fiddle. Historically, Grand Teton receives several hundred thousand fewer visitors than Yellowstone annually, but don’t think that a crowd-free visit will be a walk in the park. More than 2.5 million outdoor lovers visit Grand Teton each year. 

Summer is the best, and justifiably most popular, time to visit as October through May sees many roadways and facilities closed. Mid-May and mid-September treat you to tolerable temperatures without as many visitors, especially when entering the park just after dawn or just before evening. Lunch Tree Hill is an easy hike you can manage in under an hour near Jackson Lake Lodge, offering undisturbed Teton Range views without working up too much of a sweat. Trade the trails for Snake River cutthroat trout fishing and the chance to spot elk, bison, moose, and beavers, rather than tourists.

You won’t have to weigh the decision on whether to miss out on time at Yellowstone to visit Grand Teton when you join Trafalgar’s National Park Wonders tour. You’ll begin your nine day adventure through Wyoming and South Dakota with a full day of exploration in Grand Teton. With an aerial tram to the peak of Rendezvous Mountain and an optional float trip down Snake River, you’ll see the literal top and bottom of Grand Teton in a single day.

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Zion National Park

Hiker overlooking canyon, Zion National Park, Utah

Embracing the paths that wildlife, native peoples, and early pioneers walked, Zion is a maze of hanging gardens and sandstone canyons. Its diverse topography stretches 232 square miles with as much as a 5,000 foot elevation difference between Horse Ranch Mountain’s summit and the lowest point of Coal Pits Wash. November is a cold, yet rewarding time to see Zion thanks to thin crowds around the Narrows.

Canyoneering, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, boating, bicycling and more can fill a full holiday’s itinerary. A convenient shuttle service runs from Zion Canyon Visitor Center to eight convenient stops like Temple of Sinawava and The Grotto Trail; so convenient that millions of visitors rely on these shuttles. It’s best to get an early start and build in wait time on your return lest you miss a seat on the shuttle and are forced into a nine-mile walk back to the visitor center.

Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks tour with Trafalgar offers two opportunities to enjoy Zion’s diverse landscape. Spend the final days of this ten-day holiday hiking Hidden Canyon and Watchman Trail on one day then end your visit the following morning with a sunrise hike and leisure time before departing for the airport.

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Yosemite National Park

People walking between giant sequoia trees, Yosemite national park, California

You don’t need to be an Ansel Adams expert to have seen his stunning black and white photographs of Yosemite. Ancient forests of sequoia trees, cascading waterfalls, and granite cliffs still dominate the backdrops of visitor photographs. Getting your own shot of intrepid travelers climbing Half Dome is reason enough to venture to the Yosemite Valley.

However, Hetch Hetchy is the quintessential hidden gem of the park. In the northwest corner of Yosemite, this area is ideal for visitors who want to escape the crowds for four-season solitude. Day hikes are best managed in the spring or falls as hot summer temperatures can make even the short two-mile Lookout Point Trail rather unbearable.

Beyond the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles, you’ll find natural beauty throughout the Golden State. Pack a bag and let California’s Great National Parks set the scene for this Trafalgar tour. You’ll lace up your books for a hike through Yosemite National Park and speak to a climber during your visit, enjoying a day in this iconic wilderness. Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Death Valley National Park round out your eight day experience.

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Saguaro National Park

Explore even the largest national parks in the US and you’ll be hard pressed to find one of the most enduring symbols of the American west: the giant saguaro. It’s the nation’s largest cacti and Saguaro in Arizona is one of the few places in the country where you’ll find it. 

With the park divided into two districts by the city of Tucson, planning your visit to Saguaro is relatively easy year-round, particularly if you don’t sweat the heat. The desert weather convinces most visitors to make as few tracks on the trails as possible, leaving you and your gallons of water to wander without interruption. Winter’s mild temperatures draw in the most visitors, and while summer’s heat is quite unforgiving, your empty campsite will grant you serene silence for stargazing.

 Wander through America’s Greatest Desert National Parks on Trafalgar’s ten-day tour and uncover the magic of the American Southwest. A Saguaro National Park visit and a spa experience in Joshua Tree National Park bookend this desert adventure. Between trekking through Red Rock Canyon and traveling around the Salton Sea, your tour group will also venture into the biggest national park in the contiguous US: Death Valley National Park.

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How do you escape the crowds in your favorite national park? Let us know in the comments below!

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