National parks are a haven for adventurers seeking out the thrill of some of America's finest natural beauty. And yet, each and every year, they welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors, which can put a damper on your plans to feel one with nature. If you're on the hunt for incredible views, quiet wilderness, and memorable sunsets, you might have to think creatively about how you take in the sights. We put together a few tips for finding your own space in some of the most popular national parks in the United States: Bypass the beaten path (and the herds of tourists) in these lesser-traveled corners of our national parks.
For a coastal tour of Acadia National Park's Schoodic Peninsula, board a catamaran in Bar Harbor and glide across the bay. You'll lay eyes on glowing slabs of sunset-hued granite and spot ospreys soaring overhead. Aboard one of the jet-powered outings pioneered by Bar Habor Whale Watching, you'll see out-of-the-way shorelines that are visited by just 10 percent of those who travel to Mount Desert Island, as well as an up-close-and-personal view of two unique lighthouses.
At dusk, Yellowstone National Park comes alive, and you can take a bite out of Wyoming culture at the Old West Dinner Cookout. Get there on horseback, or hitch a ride in a wagon to Yellowstone National Park Lodges where cowboy grub awaits you—steaks and baked beans—as well as live tunes; a knee-slappin' good time.
Explore Mammoth Cave National Park's lush central region on the newly paved Echo River Springs Trail. Its glass-paneled overlooks—safe for kids and wheelchairs—offer picture-perfect postcard views of towering oaks and maples, and the flowing waters below. Plus, the park is equipped with exhibits featuring braille descriptions and touchable elements plucked from the park, which includes vision-impaired explorers in the fun.
Nestled in the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is playing host to a brand-new ferry service that will serve those in Florida's panhandle region. Catch a ferry from Pensacola Beach and take in the sublime views of aquatic wildlife found in national seashore waters; dolphins, pelicans, and manta rays abound.
Instead of making a beeline for Mount Rushmore, plan to spend some quality time roaming free in Badlands National Park, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. No trip to Badlands is ever the same, nor is it overcrowded: You'll find sweeping mazes of buttes, canyons, pinnacles, and spires that can be seen when traveling along the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway.