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Perfect Substitutes: Crowd-Free Destinations

You know that the big-name parks draw big-time crowds. But each of those outdoor icons has a lesser-known replacement that offers some of the same classic features and epic scenery–and you get it all to yourself.

The numbers don’t lie: Backpackers are brand-conscious about hiking destinations. On summer weekends, the marquee parks–Great Smoky, Grand Canyon, Yosemite–are understandably crammed with people, frontcountry and back. Go in peak season, and you run the risk of paying retail for that park brand.

We can get it for you wholesale. The fact is that popular hiking spots like New Hampshire’s White Mountains can be replicated elsewhere. The rugged hiking above treeline for which the Whites are renowned can be duplicated 25 miles away in Maine. Yellowstone’s otherworldly thermal features have a proxy in northern California. Glacier’s dose of active ingredients–mountain crags and megafauna–comes undiluted in another Montana wilderness.

So consider switching brands. You might forfeit some justifiably famous photo ops, but it’s yours for less: less crowding, less red tape, less frustration–and more bang for your backpacking buck.

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