November 20, 2018

Guest post by Dustin Walker

“National Parks Are Being Loved To Death.”

This headline has been repeated by media so often in 2018 that it’s become almost a cliché.  

And it’s all because of recent statistics showing a more than 21% spike in visitors to U.S. national parks over the past decade. Canada is no different. Park attendance there jumped 27% in the past decade.

All this extra foot traffic means more pressure on park infrastructure, increased human-wildlife conflicts and added stress on the environment (check out the infographic below for more details on this).

What’s causing the surge? No one seems to be certain. However, theories range from social media influence and demographic trends to successful state ad campaigns. But one solution to the problem — at least, from my perspective — is far more obvious:

We need to seek out the trails less traveled.

Much of the overcrowding in parks is happening at the most well-known outdoor “hotspots.” Places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite in the U.S. Or Banff and Jasper in Canada.

And yet, there are plenty of lesser-known backpacking and hiking trails throughout North America that offer an amazing experience — without the crowds.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you avoid the best hikes altogether — I’d hate to dissuade anyone from trekking the West Coast Trail or the John Muir Trail.

But I do think that tourism organizations, governments and — to some extent — the media should put more effort into promoting North America’s hidden gems. Whether it’s a little-known hiking trail, a rarely explored park or a lake that’s simply left off the typical tourist map.

Not only would this help alleviate some of the pressure on crowded national parks. It would also introduce more people to the thrill of exploring off-the-beaten path.

This infographic was made by Slick & Twisted Trails

DUSTIN WALKER’S BIO:

Dustin runs Slick & Twisted Trails – a blog for hikers & backpackers who shun the beaten path. Based on Canada’s Vancouver Island, Dustin is always on the hunt for those rare, less-traveled routes through the wilderness.

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