The summertime is a perfect time to explore the beauty America has to offer in its 84 million acres of national park land. Unfortunately, hiking trails can get pretty packed with traffic. If you’re looking to unplug from society and reconnect with nature but want to avoid getting poked with selfie sticks, check out these less-traveled hiking trails this summer.
1. North Vista Trail at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado.
The Grand Canyon saw nearly six million visitors in 2016 alone. Colorado's Black Canyon, on the other hand, saw a little over 200,000. Everyone knows about the Grand Canyon, but few have even heard of this gorgeous canyon in a quiet, peaceful national park down the dusty backroads of Montrose County, Colorado. Take the North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point for a moderate hike and breathtaking view of steep canyon walls and the roaring Gunnison River (3 mi. roundtrip). If you're still feeling adventurous, press on further for a more strenuous hike with rewarding panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains, the West Elks, Grand Mesa, and the Uncompahgre Plateau from atop Black Canyon (7 mi. roundtrip).
2. Alpine Lakes Loop Trail in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.
The Great Basin National Park sees less than 150,000 visitors a year, and though a little out of the way, it’s worth it if you truly crave solitude. The Alpine Lakes Trail is an easygoing walk, just under three miles roundtrip, yet chances are the space will be all yours. Explore the glacial shores of Stella and Theresa Lakes, take in the scent of blooming wildflowers, and marvel at the formidable Wheeler Peak above, the second-tallest peak in Nevada. Consider spending the night at the park – it’s known for phenomenal stargazing.
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3. Libby Creek Trail #415 in the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Washington.
Some of the most gorgeous hiking trails can be found in the North Cascades of Washington, yet the Lake Chelan wilds saw less than 50,000 visitors in 2016. To really get away from it all, challenge yourself with a steep 5.3-mile hike to Libby Lake. Run your fingers through wildflowers, check in at an old cabin along the trail, and breathe in the crisp, wild air.
4. Mount Franklin Trail at the Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.
The Isle Royale saw less than 25,000 people in 2016, and that was the most traffic it had seen since the ‘80s. Visiting the park requires a ferry over and you might want to invest in a camping reservation while you’re at it, but the peace and serenity is worth planning ahead for. Take the Rock Harbor Trail to discover cliffs, an inland sea arch, and forests of spruce, fir, and birch. Then merge onto the Mount Franklin Trail for a gorgeous view of the island, its north shore, and Canada in the distance.
5. Literally anywhere in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
The Gates of the Arctic is the second-largest national park in the U.S., yet it saw only about 10,000 visitors in 2016. The park is free of roads, hiking trails, or campgrounds - so you can create your own. According to the National Park Service, this is a place where “wild rivers meander through glacier-carved valleys, caribou migrate along age-old trails, [and] endless summer light fades into aurora-lit night skies of winter. It remains virtually unchanged except by the forces of nature.” You would be hard-pressed to find a more sublime or untouched wildland in the United States. So, how adventurous are you?
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