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Going to a big resort or a well-known destination like the south rim of the Grand Canyon is undoubtedly going to mean bigger crowds, but there’s a collection of uncrowded alternatives to popular spots in the U.S. While the time of the year affects traffic greatly, with summer being most popular for a multitude of escapes, there are some places that are less traversed, whether because of lack of tourism media, or modern amenities. Our picks for the top uncrowded destinations in the United States offer nature, loads of activities, and even lovely lodging options, and as a bonus – a smidge more solitude.
Deer Isle is a romantic getaway in Maine, slightly separated from the central part of “Vacationland”. Far different from say, Bar Harbor, Deer isle is just disconnected enough to be able to kayak waters and take hikes without the overload of cruise passengers and “one-day” tourists trying to hit the top spots. Enjoy the occasional pop-up market with farm-grown goodies and fresh oysters, or stay at the historic Pilgrim’s Inn with spa-quality accommodations and gourmet breakfasts.
North Cascades National Park is one of the best national parks for camping without crowds. While it’s one of the lesser traversed national parks, but it still offers lodging and an absolutely beautiful driving route throughout. Mountains, glacial lakes, and expansive tree lines all await just a few hours from Seattle. The northern portion of the park is quiet, offering peaceful escapes for vacationers. Stehekin, which is considered to be more populous, is still undercrowded and awesome for a relaxing getaway.
If you’re looking for a remote national park, Minnesota houses Voyageurs National Park near International Falls. Being one of the least visited parks as well, vacationers get all the perks more popular destinations offer without the crowds. Gorgeous waters connect to provide vast recreational terrain—swim, fish, or rent a boat to spend endless hours floating and soaking up the sun. Forests, wildlife hot spots, and campsites add further excitement to a family getaway. Oh yeah, the northern lights can sometimes be spotted as well.
Islamorada, Florida is a part of the “Keys” and is higher up, closer to Miami. While Key West can really buzz year-round, Islamorada has largely been able to retain significantly more serenity. Here, it’s about fishing, swimming, and nature largely, while plenty of fresh seafood restaurants is available to visitors. Small resorts with a tranquil ambiance embody the laid-back feel of this undersung Key.
Orcas Island, Washington is part of the San Juan archipelago and is accessible out of Seattle via seaplane or car ferry. Once out on the island, crowds diminish greatly from what is found among city hot spots, and the full beauty of the Pacific Northwest is revealed, uninterrupted. While the summer is certainly the most popular, Orcas never becomes overwhelmed by people. Come stay in a cozy hotel, spend days hiking, whale watching, and bridge jumping.
The Black Hills of South Dakota sits on the western side of the state. While Mount Rushmore can be quite the popular place during the summer, so much surrounding forest and mountain terrain offers plenty of other cool spaces to spread out. Caves, zip lines, trails, and more have made this slice of South Dakota an often overlooked wilderness haven. Keystone is a nearby town with cozy lodges and places to eat. Three miles away is Mount Rushmore, which is less crowded during the fall.
Located high in the Eastern Sierra region of California, Mammoth Lakes is a ski resort town and place of pristine alpine beauty. To avoid crowds, you can visit this destination outside of the winter ski season and spend your days hiking and camping. The fall season is particularly beautiful here with the changing leaves. Even in the winter, Mammoth Lakes is a less crowded ski destination than Lake Tahoe or other resort areas. Nearby June Lake is a tiny town in the vicinity that is worth visiting, too, if you are trying to have a low-key vacation away from lots of people.
Finger Lakes, New York is an expansive region complimented by an accumulation of lakes. Formed by glacial melt, the crystal clear bodies of water support a wealth of activities, come summer or winter. From skiing and ice fishing to kayaking and hiking, it’s an outdoor paradise. However, Finger Lakes has been compared to wine regions such as Napa Valley and is noted to be a phenomenal alternative. This part of New York is thought of as a foodie region, with farmers market goodies and artisan eats to pair with Chardonnay or Cabernet.
Among all of the Hawaiian Islands, Molokai is an ideal destination for a nature paradise that is not packed with large resorts or cruise ships along the shore. This is the island to come to if you want to experience Hawaii like a local resident and spend time among the beautiful landscapes. The island is just 38 miles long and 10 miles wide, so you can easily explore it all on a short trip. Book a trip here to get off the beaten path and into rural Hawaii, with far fewer crowds than the other islands typically see.
Located in a remote wilderness area of Texas, Big Bend National Park is filled with approximately 150 miles of hiking trails and landscapes that range from deserts to rivers and mountains. El Paso is the closest large city and 300 miles away. Therefore, this is an off-the-beaten-path national park that travelers must go out of their way and really make a point to visit. To avoid the most crowds, visit in the summer or winter. The most popular times to visit are in the late fall and early spring because this is when the temperatures and weather conditions are more moderate.
One of the most charming towns in Maine, Camden offers waterfront beaches, parks, great restaurants, and a historic downtown area. If you want to avoid crowds, visit in the spring to early summer (April through June) for a more relaxed pace and fewer people around before July and August roll around. Mid-September is also typically a less-crowded time to visit Camden. For an authentic experience, pack your itinerary with B&B inn stays and plenty of fresh seafood restaurants. Other fun things to do here include boat tours in Camden Harbor, visiting the Merryspring Nature Center, and hiking at Camden Hills State Park.
Jekyll Island is one of the islands off the coast of Georgia and a popular summertime destination. However, fall is a great time to plan a trip here because the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds dwindle after Labor Day. This is a place where you can enjoy white-sand beaches, an outdoor tennis complex, horseback riding tours, and bike trails. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is worth visiting, and walking along the iconic Driftwood Beach is essential for any trip to Jekyll Island. For accommodation, there are luxury resorts, chain hotels, and campgrounds to pitch a tent or park your RV.
Stowe has consistently been voted one of the best small towns in America, but if you plan it right, you can experience Stowe for yourself without too many crowds. It is sometimes called the “ski capital of the east” but a hub for year-round outdoor recreation. The area is typically most crowded and expensive between September and February, so plan a spring trip here for the most relaxed time. Spend your days taking scenic drives, hiking trails, and sipping local brews to end your adventurous days.
Stanley, Idaho is a tiny town just above buzzing Sun Valley/Ketchum. Along with spectacular scenery, this charming getaway is known for its opportunities for fishing in its alpine lakes and scenic hiking trails. Get off the grid as you marvel at the banks of the Salmon River and the Sawtooth and White Cloud Mountain Ranges. Explore the state’s picture-perfect backcountry, then retreat to one of the area’s cozy lodges.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is located near Bettles, Alaska, and is one of the most remote national parks in the United States. No roads run through, just endless glacial valleys, rivers, and alpine lakes. The experienced can backcountry camp, but newbies will want to hire an outfitter to take them into the wilderness. Spot wildlife, camp under northern lights, and find true solace along the disconnected journey. The best bet for traditional lodging will be in Fairbanks.
Crested Butte was once a mining community, and today much of the historic charm is found downtown. The charming Colorado mountain town also happens to be an extreme skiing hub, with heart-pounding routes, but plenty of more relaxing activities to follow. Nordic skiing, fishing, and hiking can all be enjoyed with fewer people than hotter destinations like Jackson Hole. In the summer, wildflowers carpet valleys, and mountain biking routes open up.
Ogden, Utah is home to three drastically different ski resorts just outside of the city’s center. Public transportation runs to some of the skiing hot spots. One of the resorts, Snowbasin, has exciting summer activities like open-air dining as well. Like most ski areas, these convert to accommodate summer fun. Ogden itself is loaded with artisan eateries, cozy hotels, and a super cool historic street with a train station museum at the end.
To get to Block Island, you have to take a ferry from the mainland of Rhode Island. This commute makes the crowds fewer while giving adventurous travelers an island experience with white-sand beaches. This is a charming destination where you can spend your days kayaking, walking, and biking everywhere to get around. Visit Block Island mid-week for fewer crowds, and travel here outside of the summer season for New England charm without all the people.
Leavenworth, Washington is a Bavarian village-themed town that makes travelers feel like they’ve taken a trip to Europe without ever leaving the Pacific Northwest. Leavenworth is much more popular at certain times of the year than others. To avoid crowds, do not plan your travel dates during the annual Oktoberfest celebration or the annual Bavarian Christmas celebration. The spring season and the month of November are good times to visit Leavenworth for fewer crowds and lower accommodation prices. In addition to walking around the adorable downtown shops and restaurants, hike the Enchantments Trail or up to Colchuck Lake once the snow melts to see the wildflowers and mountains.
New Bern is a North Carolina destination where you can learn about the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, shop at unique boutiques, and have dinner along the waterfront. It is also a small town where you can see and do a lot while avoiding the larger crowds of Asheville and other cities in the region. You can stay in a quaint B&B inn and check out annual events if you feel like being social, such as the Mumfest celebrating beautiful fall flowers in October. Walk around the downtown area to visit locally owned businesses, and stop by the small museums to learn more about the town.