At first, the numbers seem positive. There’s been a 57% jump in the number of Americans going hiking and backpacking over the past 8 years. Plus, national parks are seeing 21% more visitors.
That’s a good thing, right? More folks getting out and enjoying the outdoors.
Well, yes and no.
The downside of people’s rising interest in exploring the wilderness is that the most popular, well-known national parks tend to get hit with the biggest influx of hikers.
And that results in the parks essentially being “loved to death.”
More boots on the trails mean more pressure on park infrastructure, which already has a maintenance backlog of over $11 billion in the U.S.
Crowded trails also translate to increased human-wildlife conflicts. Plus, more people equals added stress on the environmental overall.
So should everyone just stay home then?
No. I’m not suggesting that at all.
But I am suggesting people seek out hidden backpacking trails instead, which are often just as amazing as more popular stomps.
Explore some of the lesser-known national parks on this list or ask local tourism bureaus for tips on how to get off-the-beaten-path.
Sure, exploring the trails less traveled will help North America’s park system (as the infographic below illustrates). But it’s also incredibly satisfying to experience a beautiful place that most people have never even heard of.
This infographic was made by Slick & Twisted Trails
Dustin runs the backpacking blog Slick & Twisted Trails, which helps hikers escape the beaten path. Based on Canada’s Vancouver Island, Dustin is always on the hunt for those rare, less-traveled routes through the wilderness.