Monday, June 16, 2014

Skip the Crowds: Visit this Not That

This article was originally posted on Yahoo! Travel, to read the whole article click here

Instead of Yellowstone National Park, try Lassen Volcanic National Park.  While Yellowstone has the iconic Old Faithful geyser and herds of buffalo, it also has herds of visitors in summer, which can be as pleasant as a close encounter with some bison. In Northern California, the under-visited Lassen National Park has an equally entertaining collection of thermal features, including the always-popular “Bumpass Hell” and “Fart Gulch.” For those with a hankering for buffalo, you can get your fill at the rugged and remote Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. 

Instead of Maine’s Acadia National Park, try White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire.  With 2.2 million visitors to Acadia National Park on the shores of Maine last year, it’s going to take a lot of work to find some solitude. Peter Potterfield, author of Classic Hikes of North America, recommends the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountain National Forest as one of his all-time favorite hikes for its rugged beauty. The full hike can be pretty extreme on the windswept peaks above tree line, but campgrounds that abound in the area provide peace and spectacular views.

Instead of Kaua’i’s Na Pali Coast, try Waimea Canyon. The fluted seaside cliffs of the Na Pali Coast are spectacular, starring as background scenery in King Kong, Jurrasic Park, and Lost. Because of this fame, the trails can be packed, campground permits impossible to obtain, and approaching roads a mess of rental cars. Waimea Canyon, in the center of the island, doesn’t have ocean views, but instead during my visit, I was treated to a rain-forest version of the Grand Canyon, discovering wildlife scampering along mountain ridges, bubbling brooks, and hidden swimming ponds. I spent three days hiking and saw two other people—locals on horseback. The only downside was when the daily helicopter tours started, the incessant buzzing made it feel like I was an extra in a Vietnam war movie. Please, when in Kauai, skip the heli-trips, and go for a hike.

I'm going to have to disagree with the author of this article - You should see the Na Pali coast by boat and by helicopter. In Hawaii taking a helicopter is the only way to see the WHOLE island (an any of the islands). We saw Na Pali by boat, helicopter and we hiked to the lookouts in KoKe'e State Park. We only saw 2 other couples on our hikes and you can get a look at Waimea Canyon on your drive up!

{KoKe'e State Park hikes and Na Pali Coast via boat ride}
Instead of Michigan’s Mackinac Island, try Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Mackinac is a quaint town on an island in Lake Huron without cars, but plenty of visitors during summer, enough to feel oppressive even when I was visiting on a family trip at age 7 (but I did enjoy the fudge). The shores of Lake Superior are full of beauty and solitude that comes as a pleasant surprise to visitors from the East or West coasts. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has 114 square miles of nature to explore, and as the name suggests, the 42 miles of shoreline feature many photo-worthy rock formations.

Instead of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains National Park, try Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania:  Smoky Mountain Park regularly ranks as the most-visited park in America, with over 9 million people passing through the area each year. For a more secluded experience, venture farther north to Ricketts Glen State Park in central Pennsylvania, and enjoy a similar array of waterfalls and woodlands, albeit on a smaller scale and with less prevalent wildlife (and fewer camper vans).

Instead of the Grand Canyon, try Canyon de Chelly National Monument:  The millions of visitors at the Grand Canyon can make it feel like Disneyland at times, with the associated costs and traffic. Take a detour instead to explore Arizona’s Canyon De Chelly National Monument, which not only has beautiful sandstone canyons, but also ancient cliff dwellings as well as the current homes of the Navajo Nation (who help manage the park). There are no entry fees, and Park Rangers lead free hikes and evening programs. 

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