There are now 63 national parks in the US that are spread out over 29 states and 2 US territories. The national parks provide endless opportunities for adventuring in any season. Come along as we give you trip itineraries and tips for visiting the national parks. Learn how to choose the right park, beat the crowds, and plan a visit to a national park with kids.

How to pick which national park to see?

You can search by state to see which one is closest to you or close to somewhere you’ll be visiting. Search by state here.
Temperature and time of year also play an important role in planning and understanding what type of a visit you’ll have. For example, plan a visit to Death Valley from May-September and the average temperature high is over 100 degrees F which likely requires modifying activities and early mornings for hiking. But if you plan a trip there in December you will have an average high of 65 degrees F making for a much more enjoyable experience. Another factor might be selecting a park that is more drivable if you’re traveling with young kids or those with mobility issues. National Parks that tend to be more drivable with easy viewpoints within a short walk are Yellowstone, Arches, Olympic, Crater Lake and so many more.

How to avoid crowds in the National Parks?

If you’re looking to steer clear of crowds here are a few great tips:

  • Go during the off-season if you can. Every park is different for when their peak time is, but often spring, fall, or even winter can be great options if your schedule can accommodate it.
  • Go during the week and early morning or evening times. If you can get into the park early this can help with wait times at the entrance gate and parking near the most popular spots. We like to get there early and then leave during peak times and then come back in the evening for a sunset hike and picnic.
  • If you do get to the park early, consider going to the most popular attraction or driving to the furthest point in the park first. This can save a lot of time waiting in traffic or looking for a parking spot.
  • Use Google maps. When you search for a national park in Google maps, there’s a section (example below) that shows live updates of the park’s attendance and what times/days of the week are most popular. You can view live information on current crowd levels or check the historic data on the day/time you plan to go.
google maps crowd level national parks
  • Follow and check the Twitter account for the park you’ll be visiting. The national parks often tweet updates on closures, peak times, or wait times to expect.
  • Hike past the main attraction. You might see a full parking lot and a crowd at popular attractions, but if you hike a short way past the main viewing area you quickly can leave the crowds behind. For example, at Old Faithful in Yellowstone, the crowds all stand right in front, but if you walk a short distance past Old Faithful on the trails that surround it, you actually get a far better view and often have the area to yourself. This is also true for viewing Mount Rushmore from the Presidential Trail behind it.
  • The list of most popular parks is here if you want to choose a less popular park steer clear of the ones on this list.

Respect the wilderness.
When visiting the parks always follow Leave No Trace principles when exploring the outdoors. Stay only on marked trails only, do not trespass, and follow all marked signs. This is both for your safety and for the preservation of the National Park that you’re there to visit. Our kids are watching, let’s show them the right way to explore nature so it’s there for future generations.