9 States With the Least Crowded Hiking Trails

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Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina
Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina, photo credit–Jonathon Engels

The United States is abundant with beautiful hiking trails across the country. You’ll find every type of environment, including lush mountains, serene deserts, picturesque seaside locations, and more. However, popular trails often draw large crowds, and the abundance of visitors can lead to frustrating feelings.

In this blog, we will explore the states with the least crowded hiking trails, in no particular order, so you can get your fix of nature without the crowds.

9. Arkansas

When you think of great hiking, most of you probably don’t think of Arkansas, but the state is filled with nature. The Ozarks are the crown jewel of Arkansas, where you can find some of the best hiking trails in the United States. 

Mirror Lake Trail
Mirror Lake Trail, Arkansas, photo credit–Chris Avery on Alltrails

Insider Magazine puts Mirror Lake Trail as the least crowded trail in the state, where you can swim and fish and see some beautiful cascading waterfalls. There’s also the lesser-known Ouachita National Forest for some great camping, hiking, and rugged mountain terrain. 

8. Michigan

Surrounded by the Great Lakes, Michigan is an ideal spot for outdoors people of all kinds. Winters in Michigan are harsh, but the summers are lush and green throughout the state, with a plethora of rivers and lakes. 

coastline of a lake
Hiawatha National Forest, photo credit–Charles W. Bash Flickr

Michigan is also home to some remote areas like Hiawatha National Forest on the upper peninsula, where you’re sure to find some peace and quiet. Some other under-the-radar areas include Rosy Mound Natural Area, Saugatuck Dunes North Loop, and Nordhouse Dunes Extended Backpacking Loop. 

7. Nevada

It’s true that Nevada is a desert, but it’s the high desert with many mountains. It ranks in the top 10 most mountainous states, right up there with California, Colorado, and Washington. The Sierra Nevada Mountains run along the western border, but those aren’t the only mountains. 

Ruby Mountains, Nevada
Ruby Mountains, Nevada, photo credit–Janis Knight

You can find some great hiking with fewer crowds in Central and Eastern Nevada in the Ruby Mountains, Great Basin National Park, and the Black Rock Desert.

6. North Carolina

North Carolina is home to some of the best outdoor adventures in the Southeast. The Appalachian Trail runs along the border of Tennessee, there are beautiful mountain ranges, remote forests, and some great surf breaks along the coast. 

Mountain peak view in North Carolina
Mount Mitchell Summit, photo credit–Bret Love and Mary Gabbett

Apart from the Appalachian Trail, you can find some uncrowded hiking trails in the Nantahala National Forest, the Blue Ridge Mountains in Pisgah National Forest, and the lesser-known Stone Mountain State Park.  

5. New Mexico

New Mexico is another beautifully diverse state with a heap of public land for all types of activity. You’ll fully understand why it’s the land of enchantment when you see the high desert mixed with mountainous terrain and obscure rock formations. 

Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest, photo credit–Marie Wilson

New Mexico as a whole is off the beaten path, which makes it more attractive to those looking for uncrowded hiking trails. Some of the best hiking in the state will be in the Carson National Forest, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and Gila National Forest. 

4. Arizona

Arizona is home to Grand Canyon National Park, which, admittedly, is a crowded area, but there is much more to explore than that. Just south of the Grand Canyon are Kaibab National Forest and the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott. Other options include the Petrified National Forest, Sedona, and Apache National Forest.

Petrified National Forest
Petrified National Forest, photo credit–Visit Arizona

3. Idaho

Idaho is well known for its hiking, but there are some very remote parts of the state where you can get away from the crowds. It’s home to the second largest wilderness area in the U.S. behind Alaska, known as the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, with 2.3 million acres of untouched wilderness. 

Salmon-Challis National Forest
Salmon-Challis National Forest, photo credit–National Forest Foundation

The Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho are some of the most rugged mountains in the country, where you can find remote backpacking routes along with less crowded, moderate trails. The high volume of national forests keeps the crowds spread out in an already low-density populated state. There’s also the Salmon-Challis National Forest, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, and the Boise National Forest to explore. 

2. Montana

Montana is another state well known for its outdoor access, but it’s a massive state with a ton of national forests and mountain ranges. According to Travel and Leisure, Montana has the highest number of hiking trails of any state. 

Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Montana
Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, photo credit–Peak Visor

It’s the fourth largest area in the United States and ranks 48th for the most densely populated state. Depending on where you go, you can definitely escape the crowds. Of course, there are Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks that are frequently visited, but there are also many other less visited parks to explore, including Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Lolo National Forest, and Medicine Rocks State Park.

1. Alaska

Alaska is the least densely populated state in the U.S., with only 1.3 people per square mile. If you’re looking to get away from people, then Alaska is your place. It obviously gets busy with tourism during the summer, but it’s so big that you can find areas with no crowds. 

Resurrection Pass, Alaska
Resurrection Pass, Alaska, photo credit–Andrea Kuuipo

Insider Magazine puts Resurrection Pass Trail near Cooper Landing as Alaska’s least crowded hiking trail. Other less crowded areas of Alaska include Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic. Check out Alaska.org’s 8-day itinerary for Alaska’s most and least visited national parks for some inspiration.

People have dedicated their entire lives to exploring the vastness of the United States, yet even a lifetime proves insufficient to uncover all its hidden gems. There are tons of opportunities to escape the crowds and venture off the beaten path. The next time you find yourself complaining about the crowded hiking trails, do some research, and you’ll undoubtedly stumble on some lesser-known areas to be discovered. 

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