The National Parks' Roads Less Traveled

Drew Wright

From my experience exploring the national parks, there still remains a handful of paths that will lead you away from the crowds and surround you with wilderness, and you can get there without strapping on a backpack and hitting the backcountry.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I―
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost

It's a mistake that I've made far too many times. On this particular day I found myself sitting at Snake River Overlook typing into my phone "Best places to go in the Grand Tetons." The results only led me to disappointment... "Oxbow bend looks awesome! Lets go!" and I arrived to a riverbank full of photographers, young and old, trying to capture that classic picture that nearly anybody would recognize, and...well...I'd be lying if I said I didn't do so as well.  



YES these places were so beautiful and yet, somehow, someway, unfulfilling. "Maybe Mormon Row would be better," I thought, but it was more of the same. Something was missing even in this place where the entire landscape looks like a Bob Ross painting. I just didn't feel totally immersed in the seemingly infinite wilderness that sat before me and I didn't have the gear nor the time to do any serious backpacking or hiking (which everybody knows is a surefire way to surround yourself in the solitude of true wilderness). So what can you do? The answer: Drive.  

I closed out of my google searched and instead just drove down the road, but instead of looking for location marker signs, I did the opposite. I looked for roads that had a lack of signage. Some of them were gravel or dirt, and some were just small/one-lane roads. You know, the kind of roads with the broken sunbleached pavement that hasn't been maintained in years. These were the places that I had been looking for. I could pull off, step out of the car, and be greeted with silence...instead of other tourists. And much to my dismay, most of these pathways I had passed at least a half dozen times and given them no second thought. 

*However, if you decide to go this route, I really suggest checking on Google Maps to make sure the road you're about to "explore" isn't actually a private driveway!*  

One such road I found started out as a smaller marked road in GTNP and then led to a small town, I proceeded on the road until there was a turnoff, leading up into the mountains, which I took. It quickly turned to gravel and before long I was standing beside a lake with nobody else around. No sound besides the wind. This is what I had been seeking! Needless to say I kept exploring the area until dark. This day made for a fantastic way to end my stay in the Tetons.  


As I was laying in bed that night I couldn't help but to think of all the other times I had passed up these little roads in all of the other places I had been to. Turnouts that I had often wondered where they may lead. Although the aspect of possibly having missed some of the treasures like I had found that day was saddening, the thought of so many places left to explore was motivational to say the least! 

The purpose of this story? To remind you theres always a "nook and cranny" to explore, even without your hiking boots, and even in places you've been to a dozen times already. The coolest places you'll find aren't going to pop up on a Google search. So the next time you see a little road and you wonder where it leads, go find out! (It's called exploring!!)

Published: January 11, 2018

Drew Wright

Rock Climber, photographer, hiker, with a love of all things nature.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.

Climbing in 18-Degree Weather to Shoot the Sunrise

Vantage, Washington

One of the things that I love about photography is how the quality of light can make or break a photo. When shooting outdoors it is those early hours in the morning that I love the most.

1 Saves

6 Reasons Why You Should Use a Telephoto Lens for Landscape Photography

When most people start out taking landscape photos, they think they need to get a wide angle lens in order to capture the whole landscape. When I bought my first DSLR, I was one of those people.

6 Saves

Our Hike to Angels Landing: Dangerous? Maybe. Amazing? Definitely.

Angels Landing, Utah

Three weeks before my sister turned 24 she texted me to ask if I wanted to go on a trip for her birthday. She wasn’t sure where she wanted to go but she knew she wanted to be outdoors.

5 Saves