3 Alternative National Parks to Visit this Summer


RelayRides blogger Amanda L. Grossman shares three alternative national parks for you to visit this summer if you’d like to beat the crowds. 

America’s national parks are a popular destination in the summer. And why not? These protected nature reserves hold some of the most treasured and magnificent outdoor fixtures you’re likely to lay eyes on.

Some of the more popular parks average a whopping 3-4 million visitors each year, and you can guess when the bulk of those visits happen: summertime when kids are out of school and people are itching to use their vacation days.

However, there are lesser known, alternative parks offering amazing views and amenities that will meet and exceed your expectations without having to wait in long tourist lines.

Popular National Park #1: Yosemite, CA

Alternative: Sequoia and Kings Canyon, CA

While Yosemite boasts 3.8 million visitors a year, Kings Canyon National Park, also located in the Sierra Nevada region of California, has around 500,000. And you’ll still get the same amazing views with plenty of giant sequoia trees (the largest in the country), alpine peaks, deep canyons, and caves to feast your eyes on.

The Car to Get You There: The nearest international/national airport is Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT), 110 miles away. You can rent Lorrie’s 2002 Nissan Xterra for $38/day, with free delivery to the airport.

Popular National Park #2: Grand Canyon, AZ

Alternative: Bryce Canyon, UT

At 4.7 million visitors a year, the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited parks in the United States. You can beat the crowds and still stand in awe at seemingly endless canyons by visiting Bryce Canyon National Park instead. Bryce Canyon gets a quarter of the visitors of the Grand Canyon, and not only can you gaze at some amazing canyons, but you can take in the Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) as well as dramatically starry skies during their moonlit guided tours.

The Car to Get You There: The nearest international/domestic airport is Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS), 270 miles away. You can rent Charlotte’s 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport for $129/day with free airport delivery.

Popular National Park #3: Yellowstone, WY

Alternative: Lassen Volcanic, CA

At 3.5 million visitors a year, Yellowstone is one of America’s most treasured and sought after parks. An alternative park to consider is Lassen Volcanic, where approximately only 432,000 people flock to each year to visit the largest plug dome volcano in the world. You’ll also find steaming fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), lakes, other volcanoes, and lots of hydrothermal activity.

The Car to Get You There: The nearest international/domestic airport is Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), 153 miles away. You can rent Nick’s 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee for $75/day with free airport delivery.

No matter what kind of outdoor experience you’re looking for from National Parks this summer, know that you can find them in the lesser-visited ones and not just in the iconic, overly-visited set. Visiting one of the less touristy parks will get you in tune with nature a lot faster than having to wait in lines to be escorted by bus shuttles. Besides, the likelihood of you seeing true wildlife in their habitat is much more when the hiking trails aren’t so crowded.