Unknown National Parks

ByABC News
June 23, 2004, 10:09 AM

June 28, 2004 -- The last time I visited Glacier National Park the hiking trails were so worn nothing grew on them. On the last trip to Yellowstone, fellow campers trying to photograph a feeding bull elk near the highway created a traffic jam.

No wonder people problems exist: In 2003 some 1.9 million people went through Glacier and 2.9 million visited Yellowstone.

Many of our 50-some national parks are overrun by the nearly 70 million people who come every year to camp, fish, hike and photograph wildlife. Along with Glacier and Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain (2.9 million), Yosemite (3.3 million), and Grand Canyon (4.1 million) are especially hard hit.

The good news is that other parks are relatively free of crowds, and full of relatively solitary adventure, as well as wildlife. Here are five good ones to consider along with contact information for your next vacation.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

Many national parks commemorate not only American history, including battlefields and monuments, but the history of earlier people as well. The 38 sites of the Nez Perce National Historical Park, which are located in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana, pay tribute to the legends and history of the Nez Perce people, first met by explorers Lewis and Clark.

The park sites are mostly small pockets of land surrounded by a patchwork of private, local, state, tribal, and other federal ownership. They also display the diversity of their tribal lands ranging from the sweeping prairies in Montana to the high-country cirques of Idaho and Oregon, to the desert-like regions in Washington. Touring many of the sites is the best way to take in how land contributed to the cultural heritage of native people.

Surprisingly, only 204,000 people used the park's sites in 2003. The lack of campgrounds is likely a key reason; however, tourist accommodations are available throughout the region. Also, campsites abound in Montana's nearby Beaverhead and Bitterroot national forests, in Oregon's Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, and in Idaho's Clearwater and Nez Perce national forests.