A couple of weeks ago I told you I was worried about visiting two of the most popular National Parks, Zion and the Grand Canyon, and plenty of other popular sights and destinations along the way. I was worried. And, in all honesty, I was being a grump about it. Sure, I knew I could wake up early enough to beat the crowds on the most popular trail on my list, but what about all the other trails and sights? By the time I finished the first one, the rest would be swarmed.
Going into this trip, I expected the worst. I really did. I braced myself for crowds, trash, children breaking rules, adults breaking rules… But you know what? I was pleasantly surprised.
Sure, the drive up 179 into Sedona looked like this:
The Grand Canyon at lunchtime looked like this:
But the Grand Canyon also looked like this:
We talk a lot here on RVtravel.com about crowding. Crowded campgrounds, sights, destinations… Nanci Dixon’s column on Campground Crowding is one of our most popular week after week. Thousands and thousands of you read it, and hundreds and hundreds of you write in to Nanci telling her about your experiences. Many of you are hanging up your beloved RV’s keys because it’s just too hard to get a reservation anywhere. It’s becoming exhausting.
Before I continue, let’s acknowledge a few things first. I’m much younger than the majority of you. I also don’t spend a lot of time in an RV. I live in a cute little house with a dog, a cat and chickens in the back yard, and I travel when I’m able. You all are out there living my dream! Someday… Anyway, that’s all to say that I live much differently than you do. Perhaps if I had to deal with those crowds 24/7 or spend the majority of my time fighting for a campsite, my rose-colored glasses would sit, maybe like yours, in a glasses case tucked away.
But, that being said, I did grow up spending a lot of time in a motorhome. I did grow up spending a lot of time in our National Parks. I know what they used to be like, and I know what they’re like now. Even here at my home in Washington, where I spend my weekends and evenings hiking, I battle crowds. I hate what social media has done. Stupid geotagging!
The point of my photos above is this: Yes, there are crowds, but it doesn’t have to take away from the sights.
As I said above, I tend to be on the grumpier end of the spectrum when it comes to things like crowding. If it were up to me, I’d be the only one outside… ever! Ha! I like my peace, quiet, and solitude. You probably do too. But I didn’t let my grumpy side come out on this trip. Instead of looking at those crowds, I simply put one foot in front of the other, swiveled around, walked out to the edge, and enjoyed the view. Not a person in sight.
One last little glimmer of hope to note: In Zion this time of year, the only way to access Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is by shuttle. I spent one whole day hopping on and off the shuttle: trails here, there, and lunch at the lodge. It was busy, but not overwhelmingly so. However, both evenings I was at Zion, I hopped in my rental car and drove east (then back west) across 9, the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for sunset. The road looked like this:
It seems as though the tourists stick to the shuttle route. After all, it’s easy to assume that the shuttle would visit the best parts of the park, right? If only they knew…
I do believe, one day, this will all pass. No need to go into detail about 20-year loans, RVs falling apart … you know, all that stuff. But I do believe someday the National Parks will get to rest.
In the meantime, if I can keep my grumpiness zipped up in my backpack, you can too. There are ways around the crowds. Wake up early and stay out late. Find a place to sit and enjoy your afternoon in the shade while the rest of the tourists sweat half to death on a trail with thousands of others. You can laugh at them knowing you’ll have that trail to yourself that evening or the next morning.
I’d tell you to take the road less traveled, but you already know that.
Next time you’re in a crowd at a National Park do this: Simply put one foot in front of the other, swivel around, walk over to the edge, and admire that beautiful, gorgeous, absolutely jaw-dropping view.
Don’t you dare let the articles online, on this website and others, the photos on this website or others, deter you from traveling to these places. Despite the crowds, they are still so unbelievably special. And Zion and the Grand Canyon at sunset? It doesn’t get much more magical than that.
Plus, if you don’t visit these places, you won’t get to see baby bighorn sheep. How can you resist this little face?!
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