» Hike when the crowds stay home. Go during shoulder seasons or in winter. If you have a flexible work schedule, hit the trail on weekdays and save office time for the weekend.
» Go five miles farther. Even in popular areas, most foot traffic peters out beyond the first five miles from the trailhead. Continue another five miles to put some distance between you and the masses.
» Hike at night. Even on perennially crowded trails, like in the Grand Canyon’s inner corridor, you can find unexpected solitude simply by venturing out when others are sleeping. Go when the moon is full, and you may not even need to turn on your headlamp.
» Leave the trail. Want solo time, guaranteed? Head cross-country.
Let the masses have the Fourteeners. The views from the next-highest peaks are just as good, the alpine terrain just as exciting, and you can have it all to yourself. Combine a hike on the Colorado Trail with a climb of Vestal Peak.
Avoid national parks. Instead, seek out under-used BLM wilderness areas, which are common throughout the West but receive a fraction of the foot traffic seen on other federal recreation lands. Find one near you: blm.gov.
Native American land
Unknown but not off-limits: the Navajo Reservation’s Little Colorado River canyon (navajonationparks.org) in Arizona, and lonely trailheads in Wyoming’s Wind Rivers (try St. Lawrence Basin; wrfishandgame.com), on the Wind River Reservation.