National Parks Sans Crowds

Alaskan brown bear/Katmai National Park

Alaskan brown bear looking for lunch/Katmai National Park

Don’t know about anybody else, but I’m looking forward to this weekend’s premiere of Ken Burns’ latest documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

The six-part series, which starts this Sunday night on PBS stations everywhere, was filmed over the course of six years in wildly diverse locations ranging from the seemingly endless river of grass that is the Florida Everglades to the frozen fjords of Alaska.  Along the way Burns and writer/producer Dayton Duncan chronicle the birth and development of the uniquely American notion that these extraordinary places—now totaling 58 national parks and 333 national monuments and historic sites—should be preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy.

The downside, of course, is that many of this country’s most impressive national parks have become victims of their own popularity.  But we’ve found a few unique ways to leave the crowds of tourists behind at four of these national treasures:

Katmai National Park

Sorry, but watching an Alaskan brown bear on television—even if it’s in a Ken Burns documentary—just can’t do these magnificent creatures justice.  To see what I mean, sign yourself up for one of these amazing bear-viewing expeditions.

Canyonlands National Park

While I haven’t been to every national park, I have been to quite a few.  And this rugged landscape in southern Utah remains my favorite.  See it up-close-and-personal on these backcountry four-wheel drive tours.

Everglades National Park

If you’ve spent any time in south Florida, you may be find it hard to believe that there’s any wilderness left here.  Which is precisely what makes these airboat tours so remarkable.  The fact that they use a smaller airboat that can get into places those huge propeller-driven barges other operators use just sweetens the deal.

Grand Canyon National Park

Anyone who’s ever stood on the rim of the Grand canyon has wondered what the view would be like from the bottom looking up.  Find out on these helicopter flights that land you on the banks of the Colorado River.


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