The Joys of Shoulder Season in America’s National Parks

Traveling shoulder season is my favorite way to travel. Prices are lower, crowds are smaller and, if you’re lucky, the weather hasn’t begun to turn.

Although peak season and crowds are the whole reason to go to a location in some cases–such as the Greek Isles, Pamplona, Oktoberfest–most other places are far superior without the omnipresent gaggle of tourists shadowing your every move.

When you’re talking about the Great Outdoors, however, not only do I want it to be tourist free, but I don’t even want to see any locals milling about. Just me, my friends, and a bunch of trees.

This is not often the case in America’s National Parks, however. During the summer months the more popular ones can be crammed with Winnebagos and Boy Scouts. Communing with nature suddenly becomes very difficult with Troop 505 running amuck like a bunch to pre-pubescent savages.

Thankfully Vani Rangachar of the Los Angeles Times also recognizes the magic of shoulder season travel and has put together a thoughtful list of the very best National Parks to visit at this time of the year when crowds are sparse and nature blooming.

For example, one of her suggestions is Yellowstone National Park. Rangachar points out that 905,639 people visited the park in July 2005. That’s about the population of Detroit, Michigan. Can you imagine visiting this lovely park with the entire city of Detroit hassling the bison and geysers?

February, on the other hand, saw only 61,991 visitors. The geysers are still there and so are the bison. Throw in a touch of snow and far less people and you’ve got a whole different National Park to enjoy.

Thanks Vani! You’ve given me some very nice vacation ideas for this winter.