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Reader Participation Day: How Crowded Are The National Parks?


Have you enjoyed uncrowded views of the national parks this summer, such as this one at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, or has it been elbow-to-elbow with fellow park travelers?/Kurt Repanshek

We're halfway through summer vacation season, with Labor Day on the horizon, which brings up the question: How crowded, or uncrowded, are the national parks?

Some parks might be construed to be at the breaking point -- Yellowstone National Park had a record year last year, and is ahead of that pace -- while others might have lots of elbow room to enjoy. So what has your experience been like this summer? Too crowded to unwind and relax, or perfect? Tell us, travelers.


Acadia National Park was extremely crowded in July and had I not been willing to do sight seeing very early in the morning, it would have seriously detracted from my experience. Cadillac Mtn sunrise had hundreds of visitors at 5 AM, each trying to one up each other, and move in front for pictures without other people in view. It was extremely upsetting and soured a moment that should have been magical. 

As with my previous visits to other parks, the more willing you are to do physical activities, the less crowded it is.  I  honestly can't imagine visiting and just sticking to the well traveled sights. 

Overall I loved it though, and will definitely go back! 

We are in Acadia NP now. Luckily, we have a site in Schoodic Woods Campground, away from the chaos on MDI. It is packed there and at every parking lot for hikes or carriage roads or views, the traffic is like bear jams in Yellowstone. Over here on Schoodic, we might see five or six people at any given time, though there may have been twenty at Frazer Point for sunset. I'd love to do some hikes and walks over on MDI but I fear it would be more akin to being on the national mall for Fourth of July than a nice walk in the woods.

Great point, schoodic was wonderful with absolutely no crowds! But if you don't mind getting up early, mdi works too. I did bee hive and sand beach at 6.30 and saw literally 3 people 

Glacier's ridiculously crowded!  ALL campgrounds are constantly filled by 8-10am. Often at 6:30am cars are driving through waiting to pounce like vultures on someone leaving. Parking is non-existant.  Over the past 2 years they added more/extended parking areas for the crowds. Not much help:  people still have to park along the sides of the road a mile way, then walk on the road to the trailheads.  And forget Logan Pass:  might find a parking place 4pm or later.  Take the shuttle, you say?  Some have waited 2-3 hours to get a seat on the shuttles.  Maybe it's time to give the parks "breathing room" and shut them down for a summer.

We currently live just outside the Highway 20 entrance to North Cascades NP. Traffic in, in particular the motorcycles who love the windy roads as well as a lot of the oversized houses-on-wheels who shouldn't, is steady. A visit to the New Halem visitor center last weekend showed a nearly full, but not overflowing, parking lot.

 We have been to 17 national parks  this year starting in January in Hawaii and just finishing with the badlands and they all have been busy, with cheap gas prices and the fact that people just want to get away from the real world for a while and enjoy life makes for very busy parks......

I'll second mtgnppics comments regarding Glacier.  June set an all-time record of nearly 430,000 visitors; overall visitation to Glacier is up 8.7%. Logan Pass fills by 9am and even the illegal parking spots are full at Avalanche Creek during the day. Many Glacier, however, is respectably busy but not overwhelmed like the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor is.  Yellowstone visitation is up 10% so far this year.  Mount Rainier -- forget going there on a sunny weekend -- schedule your trip mid-week, though still expect crowds at Paradise and Sunrise.  As Kurt's photo above shows, going to the lesser-visited national parks is still a great option as the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt NP in late June the campground never filled and very few people were on the trails.  If you want to get away from the crowds head to Canada: Riding Mountain NP (Manitoba), Prince Albert NP (Saskatchewan), and Elk Island NP (Alberta) each average only 250,000 visitors for the entire year (though campgrounds do tend to fill up in July/August, so reservations are recommended), but these are great places to get away from the crowds of the U.S. National Parks.

There are a higher number of windshield NPS tourists here in the Smokies this summer.  By that I mean folks who drive from Cherokee to Gatlinburg and get out of their car at Newfound Gap to punch a ticket on "visiting the Smokies".  And the NPS is very happy to count them coming and going.

However, the backcountry remains empty.  Spent a lot of time there this summer.  And the NPS is lying about the numbers back there.  As proven by this link.

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