|Canyonlands National Park, Utah|
So there your are... you've saved up money for this trip, planned it out, gotten time off from work, and driven 9 hours to get to that national park.... and when you get there, you realize that 100 million other people have the same idea as you. Wilderness experience ruined! There's no problem with crowed national parks, but it can be disappointing when you have to share a gorgeous view of a waterfall with a human traffic jam. So if you want to REALLY get away from it all, here are five of the wildest, most open, and least crowded national parks of the contiguous United States.
|Wandering the Utah desert|
Annual Visitors: 604,811
Capitol Reef National Park is located in the dead center of Utah. Ironically enough, its located near two of the most visited national parks in the country; Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. The park was established to preserve a unique geological formation called a "waterpocket fold". Essentially, its somewhat of a canyon that has been warped by water over the millennia. Imagine what warped wood looks like and make it 100 miles long; that's Capitol Reef. In addition, you can follow in the footsteps of the real "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" by hiking to Cassidy Arch. The Zion Narrows are often crowded and its difficult to get a permit, why not have the same thing to yourself and hike The Narrows of Capitol Reef? This park has everything that Utah is known for with a quarter of the visitors.
|Canyonlands National Park|
Annual Visitors; 438,715
Canyonlands National Park marks the major confluence between two of America's wildest rivers; the Green River and the Colorado River. Essentially, it is America's other Grand Canyon. In many ways, I think this park is just as beautiful. First of all, it is completely rugged and out there. The southern districts of the park "The Maze" district and "The Needles" district are areas that are not easily accessed but contain a great amount of archaeological finds and ancient petroglyphs. The Island in the Sky District is easily reached from nearby Moab, and provides sweeping views of the canyons created by the Green and Colorado rivers. Mesa Arch is also in this district. In my opinion, pictures of Mesa Arch tend to be the most photo shopped pictures of any national park feature, which I suppose speaks to its allure.
|Upon the summit of Mt Lassen, looking eastwards|
This national park is perhaps the most accessible of the wild bunch. It's located only about 50 miles from Interstate 5 from North and South. Lassen Volcanic preserves California's most recently erupted volcano and all the thrills you could find in Yellowstone. You can challenge yourself in climbing the 10,457ft Mt Lassen for a great view of the southern Cascade Mountain Range. Cinder Cone which is much less of a challenge is a similar recent volcano. The alpine lakes of the park are picture perfect; clear, blue, and incredibly reflective. Lastly, Bumpass Hell is an area of active boilng mudpots and fumaroles. Best of all? Even on summer days, you could be completely alone in many of these areas.
|Sutil Island off the Coast of Santa Barbara Island|
Annual Visitors: 322,177
|Wheeler Peak and Great Basin National Park in the Winter|
Ooooh boy, you know you are going somewhere wild when you're in eastern Nevada. Great Basin National Park is the most remote and least crowded national park you can reach by car in the country. A ranger made a humorous and very true comment when I visited; "First, I'd like to thank you for coming here. We're so far out here that you don't exactly wind up here by accident!" Yes, Great Basin NP is the wildest of the wild. A true adventure would be to climb Wheeler Peak (NV) which is 13,026ft tall and the tallest "true" mountain in Nevada. Also, you can see Nevada's only glacier which flanks the eastern slopes of Wheeler Peak. Caving is also possible by going on a guided trip through the famous Lehman Caves. This is a park for anyone who wants to have a real wilderness experience in a place that is absolutely devoid of crowds.
|Wandering in the North Cascades National Park|