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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.
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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.
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 lesser traversed national parks, while 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.