Have you ever considered what makes a National Park receive that special designation? As mandated by the National Park System, these large areas of land are given the prestigious title out of interest to protect and preserve their historical, recreational and often inspirational value.
Due to the strict criteria, only 61 sites in the United States are officially considered National Parks. Yes, the capitalization matters!
Although established with good intentions, it’s quite ironic to observe how overtourism to the most popular national parks somewhat defeats the point of giving them their title in the first place. Overtourism captures the impact that excess tourism creates on the environment as well as the socio-economic landscape of a given destination.
In 2017, The World Travel & Tourism Council partnered with McKinsey & Company to unpack the effect of overtourism to popular travel destinations. Five main challenges were found:
- Alienated local residents
- Degraded tourist experience
- Overloaded infrastructure
- Damage to nature
- Threats to culture and heritage
National Parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon typically receive over 11 million and 6 million visitors a year respectively. The mass influx of tourists contributes to increased water consumption and air pollution, along with the obvious rise in litter and waste products. However, it isn’t just the environment, natural resources and wildlife that becomes impacted. One has to consider the surrounding neighborhoods as well. As the 2017 study observed, overtourism leaves local residents at the mercy of rises in rent dues, changes to their community’s character and displacement of local small businesses. Although those tourists visiting may enjoy their destination on vacation, it is often at the expense of those who have lived there for years, if not decades.
To bring awareness to sustainability in the travel industry, Reservations.com has rounded up a list of the 20 of Least Visited National Parks in the U.S. The full article breaks the list down by offering amazing destinations from coast to coast, as well as their 2018 visitor count and characteristics that make each one unique. Although lesser known, their beauty, inspiration and recreational value can absolutely compete with those well-known national parks we mentioned earlier. You will also enjoy 20 vintage style posters that capture the essence of each destination! Browse on and be sure to take note of any that coincide with your next roadtrip or vacation plan.
By spotlighting these more quiet national parks, you’ll embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle and become a more sustainable tourist. Lead by example and share this info with friends and family so we all can enjoy the beauty in our backyard for generations to come.