5 awesome alternatives to popular national parks

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Check out these incredible parks and places with fewer crowds and major opportunities to explore.

You want to sneak in that epic National Park experience this year, but you're short on time to plan, or you want to break away from the crowd. That's cool -- we have a few National Park alternatives that have all the history, landscape, and adventure you're looking for.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Photo: Christin Healey

Alternative to Great Smoky Mountain National Park

What you'll find in Shenandoah National Park:

  • Just an hour and a half drive from Washington D.C.
  • Lush waterfalls and canopy-covered hikes
  • Rolling hills boasting bright foliage in Fall months

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Photo: Katie Lyons

Alternative to Grand Canyon National Park

What you'll find in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:

  • Hikes along the rim with incredible canyon views
  • Heart-pumping kayaking and rock climbing
  • Trout fishing with an unbeatable backdrop

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Photo: Carissa Trapp

Alternative to Yosemite National Park

What you'll find in Kings Canyon National Park:

  • Awesome scenery from the road (check out the Generals Highway Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park)
  • Ancient Sequoia trees
  • High Sierra meadows and pristine lakes

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Photo: Thomas Burton

Alternative to Zion National Park

What you'll find at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument:

  • Iconic Utah landscapes of sandstone cliffs, rock arches, and slot canyons
  • Hiking (navigating through tight spaces) along slot canyons
  • Photo opportunities galore

Wind River Range, Wyoming

Photo: Andrew Slaton

Alternative to Grand Teton National Park

What you'll find in the Wind River Range:

  • Incredible peaks throughout the mountain range
  • Sought-after climbing and winter skiing experiences
  • Big wildlife, like pronghorn deer and grizzly bears


Cover Photo: Carissa Trapp

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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