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7 National Parks to Avoid in 2023

You may want to skip some of these national parks in 2023.

These are beautiful places worth checking out at the right time of the year. But in the summer, you could be in for a bad time with issues from overcrowding to the sweltering heat. 

Today we’ll explore the seven recreation areas you may want to avoid for your summer vacation.

Let’s get rolling!

Avoid These 7 National Parks During the Summer of 2023

We love heading out camping to enjoy some relaxing peace and quiet. Unfortunately, some of our favorite stops have become so crowded that we suggest not visiting these national parks in the summer of 2023. 

If you don’t like fighting for space, you’re not alone. Each of these seven destinations saw over three million visitors last year, most of them during the summer. Consider staying during a shoulder season instead of peak season. Usually, that means during the fall or spring. 

You might also consider selecting less popular places to explore over ones that see big groups in the summertime. 

While the national park system offers a great way to get out into nature, some popular spots can get quite crowded.

#1 Great Smoky Mountains

In 2022, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw over 12 million visitors. It’s the most popular NPS site in the country.

Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, it becomes a highly crowded hiking destination every summer. The 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail runs through the area, making it an iconic stop for backcountry explorers. 

In the fall, the Smokies continue to have a lot of foot traffic. The weather remains temperate, and the leaves begin to change. People from all over the world head to this region to do some leaf-peeping. 

You can avoid the crowds by visiting this national park in the winter or spring of 2023. Wear a few extra layers to stay warm, and you’ll still enjoy the views.

Pro Tip: If you do visit the Smokies, make sure to avoid committing any of these 7 Deadly Sins of Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains

#2 Grand Canyon National Park

This iconic destination spans over 1,900 square miles and nearly 300 miles of rivers snaking throughout. Over four million visitors flock to this canyon yearly to hike and white water raft. Less adventurous tourists enjoy gazing at the abyss from the rim. 

If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, you probably remember the buses overflowing with tourists and the crowded trails. Maybe you experienced a long wait at one of the restaurants on the rim. It can really detract from the experience.

The weather will probably deter you if the crowds haven’t already. In the summertime, temperatures can spike to well over 100 degrees. As you descend into the canyon, it becomes hotter. If you want to hike below the rim, you can expect temperatures over 110. 

We suggest hitting this park during shoulder seasons to avoid the crowds and the excessive temperatures. You can even visit the south rim in the winter for a unique experience.

#3 Zion National Park

The Narrows and Angels Landing at Zion National Park has become some of the nation’s most iconic hikes. This destination, situated in Southern Utah, is famous for its unique geology. It sits at the junction of the Great Basin, Mojave Desert, and Colorado Plateau making it like nowhere else in the world.

Zion National Park, however, sees 4.6 million visitors per year, and 2023 may have even more. The NPS recommends taking the shuttle because this area doesn’t have enough parking for all the guests. 

Obtaining permits for camping or heading to the backcountry has become highly competitive. The overcrowding earned Zion a spot on this list of places to avoid. 

#4 Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rockies stretch from New Mexico up through Canada. This national park can be found in Colorado and has been known as the land of extremes. Low temperatures usually dip into the single digits during the winter. The pleasant summers bring hoards of tourists, 4.3 million to be precise.

You might be able to squeeze a trip in during the spring or fall, but some trails might be inaccessible, and the bears will be most active at this time. If you don’t like winter sports, you won’t want to visit this spot during the colder months. Those who don’t like crowds will also want to steer clear during the summer.

#5 Acadia National Park

Located on the shores of Maine, Acadia also sees a high number of visitors. In 2022, 3.9 million tourists made the trip to the coast. 

The Sand Beach and Echo Lake parking lots fill up daily by 9 a.m. during the summer. Cadillac Summit regularly reaches capacity during sunrise and sunset. Rangers encourage guests to have a backup plan. There isn’t room for more cars. Acadia continues to be popular during the fall because of its scenic fall foliage. 

If you want to check this national park out, you may have some luck avoiding crowds in the spring of 2023 before Memorial Day. Locals also suggest stopping by after Labor Day but before the leaves begin changing for a quieter vacation. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to visit Acadia, spend the night at one of these 5 Best Acadia Campgrounds for RV Owners.

#6 Yosemite National Park

The NPS manages this giant area in central California. It spans 759,000 acres and features forests, granite cliffs, and notable waterfalls. 

It may sound like a dream, but this destination becomes partially inaccessible in the winter. In the summer, the NPS limits the number of permits to preserve wildlife, making them nearly impossible to get. For example, you’ll have to enter a lottery to hike half dome.

We recommend seeing this gorgeous area but stay away during peak season. With 3.6 million annual visitors, the spots that don’t require permits get crowded quickly. You can forget about getting a camp spot if you didn’t book the first day reservations opened. 

#7 Yellowstone National Park

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Yellowstone National Park saw 3.6 million visitors last year, and the forecast for 2023 is no smaller. People travel from all over to check out the geysers, including Old Faithful. It becomes the most buys during the summer, especially in July and August.

You’ll find no shortage of hikes for all levels to check out. Explorers usually get to see exciting but dangerous wildlife like bison and grizzly bears. If you don’t have experience in bear safety, you might think twice before going into the backcountry. 

To avoid crowds and some dangerous wildlife, consider traveling to this area in the winter. It’ll be cold, but at least the bears will be hibernating.

Honorable Mention

Joshua Tree National Park also sees 3 million visitors annually, and 2023 looks no different. All other NPS sites experience fewer, earning this southern California recreation area an honorable mention. 

While experiencing the desert can be exciting, it can also be crowded. Campsites fill up fast, even in summer when temperatures soar over 100 degrees. Rock climbers and backcountry explorers flock to this destination for the unique landscape. 

You also can’t take your four-legged friends hiking with you. They can only be in camping areas and on paved roads. If you plan to travel with your dog, this park won’t be the right choice. 

Choose the Right National Park For Summer 2023

All eight of these destinations have consistently been the most visited spots in the nation for good reasons. They have exciting hiking and wildlife. You’ll get opportunities to experience unique landscapes and memorable adventures when you arrive. 

However, overcrowding, extreme weather, and dangerous wildlife will ruin your time. While a trip to these eight spots should probably be on your bucket list, consider avoiding these national parks in the summer of 2023.

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