As spring has unfolded across North America, the memories of being terrorized by the polar vortex have slowly but surely begun to fade into the background. Additionally, with Victoria and Memorial Day rapidly approaching in Canada and the United States respectively, thoughts of getting out into the wild for the first time this year to welcome the arrival (or imminent arrival) of summer have started to crop up in the heads of outdoors enthusiasts.
One thing they may not be looking forward to however, is battling with throngs of other people looking to do the exact same thing they are. With tonnes of other folks cramming the roads, and then the campsites of popular national parks and recreation areas, a getaway from the city for the weekend may suddenly not be as relaxing as they had envisioned it.
In order to combat this conundrum, seeking out less trafficked national parks is an ideal solution. For one reason or another, perfectly fine natural areas with great scenery get passed over by the masses for other parks, allowing the savvy traveler to zip in and spend time in these places, finding the ideal outdoor experience that many of us so desperately crave.
Below, we have given three prime examples of beautiful parks that get low visitation numbers, yet offer amazing scenery and a prime camping experience for those smart enough to seek it out.
1) Calgary, Alberta, Canada → Waterton Lakes National Park
For many in this rapidly growing petro-driven metropolis, an escape to places where the wild things are involves hopping in the car for an hour and a half, arriving in Banff National Park. While this place is undoubtedly beautiful, it is also the most visited national park in Canada (averaging over 4 million visits per year), ensuring that you’ll have plenty of (unwanted) company during your time here.
For those prepared to stay in the car for an extra hour, driving due south to Waterton Lakes National Park offers a Rocky Mountain experience with far fewer interlopers than the former place (400,000 per year). Here, the classic Prince of Wales hotel is the centrepiece in the old townsite at the park’s heart, and the mountains that rise straight up from the Prairies make for a dramatic sight on approach to the park. A boat cruise offers a sail across the lake, giving you unparallelled views of the peaks of the area.
2) Los Angeles, California → Channel Islands National Park
Of all the cities in North America, frenetic Los Angeles is one that many strive to escape when time off presents itself to the many hardworking people of this thriving urban mass. Many head off to Yosemite National Park, one of the busiest national parks in the Western United States, and Catalina Island is a bit too easy and convenient for those looking for a marine break.
However, the little heard-of Channel Islands National Park offer coastal solace to those prepared to camp in basic conditions, with craggy low mountains, hidden beaches, and unique wildlife being the reward for this bit of temporary hardship.
3) Miami, Florida → Dry Tortugas National Park
You might think that once you reach Key West, that you have reached end of the Florida Keys … wrong! About 110 kilometres due west of this lively town lies Dry Tortugas National Park, which protects the natural environment and old fortifications from its past as a military outpost in centuries past. Additionally, it also served as a prison, but in the present day, it allows the intrepid traveler the opportunity to stake out their slice of a deserted island paradise, if only for a few nights.