Solo travel is made that much better in natural places. The combination of the freedom of being solo along with the healing properties of time spent in nature is, at least for me, like pressing the ‘reset’ button.
For some it may seem intimidating to visit a National Park alone. However, taking the leap and deciding to go by yourself just might be the best way to enjoy everything these places have to offer. Here’s a list of the best National Parks to visit solo:
9. Zion, Utah
Zion National Park is one of the most popular National Parks in the country and Utah’s first! Given its popularity, you’re likely to run into plenty of hikers, which is enough to ease anyone’s nerves who might be hesitant about taking on such a big park solo.
Almost all of the hikes at Zion are suitable for those hiking alone. If you’re nervous about the famous Angel’s Landing, with its dangerous rock ledges and steep cliffs, get the view from even higher up at Observation Point.
The park’s free shuttles make it easier to travel between each location and could even be a good place to meet other travelers. You can also check out any of their ranger-led activities for more ideas on how to spend your time there.
8. Yosemite, California
Another hugely popular National Park, Yosemite is a bucket-list destination for anyone looking to get outdoors in the USA. Whether you’re looking to use up the last of your vacation days at the end of the year or planning to take a summer trip, this national treasure makes for a great solo adventure.
At any time of the year, you’re sure to cross paths with other visitors due to the popularity of the park. There are also plenty of shorter hikes like Mirror Lake and The Mist Trail in case the longer treks are intimidating.
You can also hop on one of the park’s bus tours to take the pressure off of trying to explore on your own or check out one of their ranger and nature programs to learn more about the park’s culture and history.
7. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Located along the Appalachian Trail, The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the United States, making it a great choice for solo visitors because it’s likely you’ll cross paths with other people as you hike.
The trails are well travelled and monitored, with plenty of resources available to make your trip planning a bit easier. Because of its popularity and high traffic, the park is fairly well built up and offers plenty of activities to keep you busy, such as guided tours, cycling and wildlife watching.
6. Acadia, Maine
Acadia National Park is popular enough to ensure you’ll run into other hikers–ranking in the top-10 most visited National Parks in the USA–but challenging enough to be exciting to do alone.
Known as the crowned jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, the park boasts some killer ocean views along with winding forest trails and even a few islands. One island in particular, Bar Island, is only accessible during low tide when you can cross the gravel path.
It is recommended that travelers stick to high season if traversing the trails alone, as winter can be treacherous there.
5. Badlands, South Dakota
This stunning National Park is known for its rich fossil beds and unique wildlife. The length of the trails and proximity to the highway is what makes Badlands National Park ideal for solo travelers. The vast majority of the trails are under 3 miles (the longest is 10 miles) and never stray more than a half a mile from the nearest road. While the trails may be short, they are still full of exciting views and glimpses of wildlife and fossils.
The park also has two options for camping–backwoods in the wilderness, or at either of the Badlands campgrounds. This really is the best of both worlds for solo travelers as there is an option to be as isolated or social as one would like.
4. Hot Springs, Arkansas
For those solo travelers who aren’t quite ready to take the leap of exploring one of the bigger National Parks in the USA, Hot Springs is the perfect place to get your feet wet–literally.
Hot Springs is one of the smallest National Park in the United States, making it a great intro to solo travel. So small, in fact, that you could visit all of its main attractions in one day. Even more, the attractions tend to be geared towards solo visitors, with both ranger guided and self-guided tours!
3. Great Basin, Nevada
While most of the other parks on this list are ideal for solo travelers because of their high foot traffic, Great Basin National Park offers something different, in case you want your solo adventure to truly be solo.
Great Basin is known for being quite underpopulated, despite its beauty and availability of activities, so you’re not likely to run into other hikers on the trails. Known for its incredible stargazing, the park is part of the International Dark-Sky Association and there are plenty of opportunities to get out at night to see the stars.
If you want to balance your solo stargazing with some guided activities, check out the Lehman Cave ranger-led tours to learn more about the cave’s history, ecology and geology.
2. Mesa Verde, Colorado
While not as focused on hiking and more geared towards archaeological sites and history, Mesa Verde National Park is a great destination to travel to alone due to its popular ranger guided tours.
Make sure to plan your trip for late spring to early fall in order to see the incredibly preserved cliff dwellings at the park. There are several different types of tours to choose from where you can meet other travelers: ranger assisted cliff dwelling tours, backcountry hikes, and special tours.
Not only is there plenty to see at the park itself, but the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum is a must-stop for anyone wanting a more in-depth history lesson on the surrounding archaeological sites.
1. Petrified Forest, Arizona
There truly is nowhere in the world quite like the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Famous for its petroglyphs and for having the largest collection of petrified wood in the world, it’s a marvel.
The park is fairly small in size and the trails max at 3 miles long which is ideal for a quick solo trip. The Crystal Forest and Giant Logs trails are both under a mile, but with lots to see on either one.
There are also plenty of guided activities to choose from, making it possible for solo travelers to get out in nature and backcountry hike safely.
Getting out into nature at any one of these stunning National Parks is not only accessible to solo travelers, but ideal in so many ways. No travel companion? No problem! Don’t let the fear of going it alone stop you from having the solo trip of your dreams!