“Park use statistics”: Where others imagine boring spreadsheets, you should see a golden opportunity for peace and quite. Head to the National Park Service’s statistics page and click on “National Reports,” then “Annual Park Ranking Report.” From here, you can sort all the parks by number of backcountry campers- and figure out where you’ll be fighting for sites and where you can waltz away with a walk-in permit. (For national forests, state pars, and other agencies, you’ll have to do a little original research: Call the nearest ranger station and ask which district, trail, and campsites attract the fewest people.)
That’s how we found this gem on the north side of the Tetons: The stats show John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, on the park’s northern border, issues a fraction of the backcountry permits that Grand Teton does. And the parkway’s lone trail, the Glade Creek Trail, connects to a network of under-the-radar canyons inside the Tetons’ boundaries. “I’ve worked here for 25 years, and those canyons have never filled,” says Backcountry Supervisor Sara Petsch. Head 5.3 miles south on the Glade Creek Trail, then turn west on the Berry Creek Trail and hike through a lodgepole forest dotted with meadows (flush with lupine and columbine in midsummer) where your chances of spotting grizzly bears, wolves, and elk are excellent. Connect to Owl Canyon via the 1.6 mile cutoff trail, then follow it counterclockwise to crest 9,718-foot Moose Basin Divide for big views of Mt. Moran. Exit via the steeper, rockier Webb Canyon and swing north at Jackson Lake for a three-to-four-day, 34.2-mile loop.
Season Mid-July to September Trailhead 44.089844, -110.724330; Glade Creek trailhead off Grassy Lake Rd. Permit Required; $25 for a walk-in permit Info http://nps.gov/grte