Summer 2023 is predicted to be yet another busy travel season as the dust from the pandemic settles and travelers try to make up for lost time. A report by the U.S. National Park Service predicts that visitation will continue on an upward path this summer, making for potentially crowded parks as numbers return to pre-pandemic levels.

Most people visit national parks to escape the city and immerse themselves in a serene, hushed landscape, but when thousands of people have the same idea, the peace of a national park visit might be interrupted by full parking lots and long lines. However, for those planning on visiting national parks this summer, there are a few tricks that can ease the stress.

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Tips to beat the crowds: Our country’s most popular national parks are busy for a reason — they’re home to some of our nation’s most notable natural landmarks. For those who prefer nature without people, here are some ways to lower the chance of encountering large crowds, even at the busiest parks.

The Denver Post provides several ways travelers can avoid crowds at Zion National Park, but many of these tips can be implemented at other parks. If offered at the park, taking a shuttle to a destination or riding a bike is a way to eliminate the hassle of parking and experience the park up close and personal.

The Post also suggests visiting public lands just outside of the parks, which can offer the same scenery with a fraction of the people. According to KOA, national parks are busier during the weekend and holidays, and in the middle of the day. Visits mid-week, or at sunrise or sunset could produce a lighter crowd.

Another way to experience the parks without crowds is to visit a park with lower visitation numbers. These hidden gems put the beauty of our nation on full display, and parkgoers probably won’t have to wait in long lines to experience it.

Busiest national parks: Forbes reported that the following parks are the busiest in the country. If traveling to any of these parks, expect crowds, have patience, be flexible and allow time for delays.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  2. Grand Canyon National Park.
  3. Zion National Park.
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park.
  5. Acadia National Park.
  6. Yosemite National Park.
  7. Yellowstone National Park.
  8. Joshua Tree National Park.
  9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
  10. Glacier National Park.
  11. Indiana Dunes National Park.
  12. Grand Teton National Park.
  13. Hot Springs National Park.
  14. Olympic National Park.
  15. Bryce Canyon National Park.

Parks that require reservations or timed entry: After being stuck inside during the pandemic months, Americans were eager to get outside, flocking to our country’s parks. 2021 and 2022 saw record-breaking visitation numbers in several U.S. national parks, which caused many parks to implement reservation and timed-entry services in order to mitigate the influx of people. The following national parks still have some of these systems in place, and require timed entry or reservations for certain roads, trailheads, or other landmarks, per USA Today:

  • Arches National Park: Timed entry vehicle reservations are in place until Oct. 31 at $2 per vehicle.
  • Zion National Park: To hike Angels Landing permits are required year-round. Seasonal lotteries are closed, but daily lotteries are still available. Entry to the lottery is $6 for up to six people, and winners pay an additional $3 permit fee per person.
  • Acadia National Park: Timed entry vehicle reservations are in place for Cadillac Summit Road through October 22 at $6 per vehicle.
  • Glacier National Park: Timed entry vehicle reservations are in place for Going-to-the-Sun-Road, the North Ford, Many Glacier and Two Medicine until September 10 at $2 per vehicle.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: Timed entry park access permits are required until October 22 at $2 per vehicle, depending on the permit.
  • Shenandoah National Park: Day-use tickets are required for entry to Old Rag Mountain until November $30 at $1 per person.
  • Haleakala National Park: Reservations are in-place year-round to visit the sunset at sunrise, for $1 per vehicle.

Least visited national parks: For those who want to get off the beaten path in an attempt to avoid the masses, here are some of the least visited parks in the U.S, according to CNN.

  1. Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve (Alaska).
  2. Kobuk Valley National Park (Alaska).
  3. Lake Clark National Park & Preserve (Alaska).
  4. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan).
  5. North Cascades National Park (Washington).
  6. Katmai National Park and Preserve (Alaska).
  7. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve (Alaska).
  8. Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida).
  9. Great Basin National Park (Nevada).
  10. Congaree National Park (South Carolina).
  11. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas).
  12. Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota).
  13. Pinnacles National Park (California).