Top 5 Tips For Avoiding the Crowds

Observation Point - Zion National Park - Utah

Better experiences at National Parks & Scenic Attractions

It’s no secret that people have discovered the value of visiting scenic destinations, especially in the western United States. Over the past five years, places such as Utah’s Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and other major attractions have seen large increases in visitation.

So how do you avoid the crowds? Here’s five tips that will bring more serenity and even solitude to your next visit to a national park or scenic attraction.

  1. Visit In The Off-Season.
  2. Start Early In The Morning.
  3. Find The Back Door.
  4. Start In Late Afternoon.
  5. Travel With A Guide.
Angels Landing – Zion National Park – Winter Mist

Off-Season: Right now the crowds in most scenic destinations are starting to dwindle down and December through February will be the slowest time for visitation.  Understand that this generalization is dependent on factors such as weather, elevation, and location.

Overlook Trail – Zion National Park

Start Early: Depending on the time of year, early can range from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. Using Zion National Park as an example, you’ll want to be on the first shuttle, and by starting early you can get parking space for your own vehicle close to the shuttle stops. For other parks you’ll find better access to parking, and you’ll be one of the first people out on the trails or at scenic points of interest. The light is also better for taking photographs at this time, and wildlife are most active in the early morning. Double bonus.

Sunrise or sunset – it’s a great time to be outdoors.

Back Door: Many parks have more than one point of access, and Zion National Park is again a good example. There’s the Kolob section on the east, the central access through the town of Virgin, the primary entrance through Springdale, and the eastern entrance. Check for businesses on the boundaries of the park that have even better back door entrance access. Parks like Bryce Canyon even have a secret access point from the town of Tropic. Their are at least five or six different ways to access portions of Grand Canyon National Park and a little research will pay dividends on your quieter experience.

Zion National Park
Exploring the plunge pools on the east side of Zion National Park

Late Afternoon: Most travelers get some breakfast and then head into the park or destination of choice in late morning. Subsequently these same travelers are leaving the park in mid to late afternoon. Parking can start to free up as these folks leave and if you stay till the sunset you’ll find that your chosen location is much quieter, and the light is better for photos.

Gazing up at the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park.

Guided Adventures: Local guides know the best locations and travel patterns. Quiz these guides about what they would recommend. Chances are they know of points of interest, hiking trails, or other adventure activities that will take you to the seldom seen spots on the map. Plus you’ll have the advantage of traveling with a local expert who knows about the history, geology, and biology, of the region you are visiting.

Corona Arch – Near Arches National Park – Moab, Utah

These are five simple tips. You may have others to suggest and we encourage you to send your comments or recommendations.

Visit these sites to learn more about travel to the sites shown in this story.

Snow Canyon State Park – Near St. George, Utah (copyright 2017)