The 12 Best U.S National Parks to Visit Solo
YOU DON'T NEED A TRAVELING PARTNER TO ENJOY THE BEST THAT NATURE HAS TO OFFER AT THESE ICONIC PARKS.
Whether you love exploring new places on your own or simply don't want to pass up the adventure of a lifetime because you don't have a traveling partner, there are plenty of reasons why you may be looking to book a solo trip or vacation. And we're 100 percent here for it.
There are plenty of places throughout the U.S. you can choose as your destination… but might we suggest a national park? These beautiful natural wonders of the U.S. are pretty spectacular spots to get some "me" time in.
So ditch the crowds and find some peace and quiet at one of these 12 best national parks to visit solo. And once you're ready for some human interaction again, we've got recommendations for populated parks, too. Keep reading, and next, don't miss The 10 Best National Parks That Need to Be on Your Bucket List.
Hot Springs National Park
Just because it's one of the smallest national parks doesn't mean that Hot Springs National Park in central Arkansas isn't filled with things to do for solo travelers. In fact, its prime location in the middle of the city of Hot Springs makes it ideal for exploring alone, says Ugur Yurt of travel website Wingie.com.
"You can do the usual activities such as hiking, biking, bird watching, swimming, fishing and picnicking, scenic drives, and photography," Yurt says. "But enjoying the hot springs, as the city is named after, provides a unique experience." Take a soak and stay awhile at one other park's several bathhouses.
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Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of the top parks for escaping other people or finding new ones to surround yourself with—the choice is yours.
"Zion uses a shuttle system to manage traffic in the park, but the shuttle also serves as a great way to meet fellow travelers," says Christina Pate, an RV writer and the founder of the travel blog Travels with Ted. Pate says the park's many hiking trails are also well-trafficked, so solo travelers don't have to be concerned about finding themselves completely isolated in the wilderness if they don't want to be.
Isle Royale National Park
If some beautiful solitude is what you're looking for, few parks do it better than Michigan's Isle Royale National Park—a remote island cluster near Michigan's border with Canada. It's so remote, in fact, that the only way to get to the park is by boat or plane.
"This 45-mile-long island attracts outdoor enthusiasts looking for an experience of a lifetime with promises of unmatched beauty and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, such as moose, eagles, loons, and a variety of waterfowl," says Kayleigh White of Visit Keweenaw.
The park also offers some of the best stargazing in the midwest. "Isle Royale's absence of light pollution makes it a fantastic spot to view the dark sky and provides plenty of opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis and the Milky Way," White says.
Yosemite National Park
Daniel Vine Photography/Shutterstock
If you're determined to see something amazing, even if no one else can go with you, head to Yosemite National Park. Not only has it been named the best national park in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, but it's also been ranked the best national park in the entire world, as well as one of the best places to visit on the planet.
"There is so much majestic natural beauty in Yosemite that it makes you feel humble in front of its grandeur," says Anu Agarwal, owner of the travel blog Destination Checkoff. "You really don't need company to experience Yosemite—it's a soul-warming and therapeutic experience in itself."
"Yosemite National Park is very popular, which means it's very crowded," Agarwal adds. "So, ideally, you'll never be totally alone, which makes it very safe. Some of the activities you can enjoy in Yosemite as a solo traveler are backpacking, hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, camping, birdwatching, and of course taking in the sights." There are also plenty of affordable accommodations and camping spots around the park.
RELATED: 10 Best Cities in the U.S. for Outdoor Adventures.
Badlands National Park
With its dramatic landscapes and steep canyons, Badlands National Park in South Dakota should be at the top of every traveler's bucket list. It's easy to get to—located just outside of the town of Wall, South Dakota, and an hour from Rapid City Regional Airport—and wow, is it worth it.
An accessible park with good signage on hiking trails, two visitor centers, and plenty of wildlife viewing, Badlands makes for an ideal place to take a solo trip, says Katlyn Svendsen, of the South Dakota Department of Tourism. "Plan your arrival early or stay late to take in the sunset and sunrise that paints the land. The numerous hiking trails range in skill, accommodating new hikers to the most experienced. The park is home to bison, antelope, deer, prairie dogs, numerous bird species, and much more," she says.
Plus, you'll be able to slow down and take it all in while traversing the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway and designated overlooks.
North Cascades National Park
Many people use travel as a time for introspection and self-reflection, which makes Washington's North Cascades National Park—one of the least trafficked national parks in the country —an ideal locale to think inwardly.
"Located just 100 miles north of Seattle, the park is one of the most isolated and undeveloped national parks in the U.S," says Luisa Favaretto, the founder and editor of the travel research site Strategistico. "It's one of the least-visited national parks and there are few roads or other structures within the park, so you can ditch the crowds and truly focus on self-reflection."
With a multitude of trails and beautiful scenery, the park, which has part of the Pacific Crest Trail running through it, is also a hiker's paradise. "You can enjoy the vast expanses of green forests blended with alpine lakes, waterfalls, and the largest system of glaciers in the contiguous U.S.," Favaretto says.
Gateway Arch National Park
It's hard to argue against Gateway Arch National Park being the most accessible park in the system. Gateway Arch, probably the most defining feature of the city of St. Louis, is located right in the middle of the city, meaning a lot of people have probably walked on the park's 91 acres without even realizing it.
"Standing 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch, the nation's tallest man-made monument, anchors Gateway Arch National Park and stands as the iconic monument symbolizing the westward expansion of the United States," says Anna Rossetto, a destination marketer at Development Counsellors International.
While traveling up to the top of the arch is always a fun time, visitors shouldn't stop there. Make a point to see the Old Courthouse across the street, also part of the park. It was the site of the Dred Scott v. Sandford trial in which Dred Scott, a former slave who moved to the free state of Illinois, sued and argued that he and his wife, Harriet, were legally emancipated.
Big Bend National Park
Many parks are known for the mountain ranges that run through them, but Big Bend National Park is the only park to have an entire range within its boundaries—the Chisos Mountains, the southernmost mountain range in the continental U.S. that spans 40 square miles.
Aptly named for a big bend in the Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas alongside the Mexico border. Because the park is a bit remote, it's one of the less-traveled parks, which is why Tim White, the CEO and founder of MilePro, says it's a great one for solo travelers to check out. "You'll be away from all the tourists and large groups, which allows you to enjoy the amazing scenery to the fullest."
Glacier Bay National Park
Who would have thought that a remote park in Alaska would be one of the friendliest national parks to visit in the country? Glacier Bay National Park, which was ranked the 9th best thing to do in Alaska by U.S. News & World Report, covers 3.3 million acres of mountains, fjords, and of course, glaciers. In addition to being a beautiful park filled with activities, it's also relatively free of crowds, as most of the visitors stop by on cruise ships, according to travel writer Jennie Flaming.
"There are so few people and everyone is extremely friendly," Flaming says. "The lodge doesn't have that many rooms and the campground is never full, so it's never that busy and people enjoy chatting in the lodge or on the day boat tour of the bay and glaciers. The rangers and lodge employees are incredibly friendly and excited to interact with independent travelers."
Flaming doesn't recommend hiking solo, though, as the park is too remote and there's rarely good cell service in case of an emergency (the park's lodge is a great place to meet people to kayak or hike with). Other activities that the park offers, like kayaking, can be just as fulfilling if you're solo.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park on Washington's Olympic Peninsula is the perfect destination for a solo adventurer.
"The park is incredibly unique, offering snow-capped mountains, craggy beaches, and lush rainforests—all of which you could easily hit in just one day," says Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler. One of the key features is the park's immense size at more than 1,400 square miles. Because it's so big, the park is able to find itself near plenty of small towns, like Port Angeles… and for Twilight fans, Forks.
"Stop into the small towns and explore some of the park's most popular points of interest, like day hikes to Hurricane Ridge, the Hoh Rainforest, and the Tree of Life on Kalaloch Beach, along the way," says Schmit.
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The country's most popular national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, covers areas in both Tennessee and North Carolina and is home to more than 100 different hiking trails. "This park is renowned for the animals, waterfalls, and mist-covered mountains it contains," says Matthew Bowley, the marketing manager at Solmar Villas.
The park has been ranked as both one of the best fall and summer travel destinations in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. It's also been ranked as the 10th best national park because of the opportunities it offers to view wildlife like black bears.
"Even while it's worth going all year round for the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities like hiking, the park truly comes into its own in the fall when the trees put on a colorful show of red, orange, and gold leaf," Bowley says.
Glacier National Park
With a name like Glacier National Park, you'd think that visiting the park would consist of just looking at a bunch of glaciers. Of course, you can do that, but there's also so much for you to enjoy.
"Glacier National Park is a great place to visit alone as it's easy to safely experience it through a variety of activities that are offered—from guided hikes to boat tours and whitewater rafting along the park's southern border and horseback trail rides," says Diane Medler, the executive director of Discover Kalispell.
Medler recommends Glacier National Park for solo travelers looking to make friends through its abundance of activities. "Visitors are encouraged to hike with a buddy, but it's easy to find a buddy when you book one of the guided experiences," Medler says.