Yellowstone is busier than ever – but these lesser-known national park sites offer similar views, according to someone who’s visited all 423 of them

Left: 'Instead of Yellowstone National Park' pictures with recent crowds at Old Faithful. Right: 'Visit Craters of the Moon National Monument'
Since Yellowstone National Park is so packed with people, Mikah Meyer told Insider that travelers should consider visiting a nearby monument. Natalie Behring/Getty Images, Courtesy of Mikah Meyer
  • Yellowstone National Park has experienced record-breaking visitor numbers so far this summer.
  • Mikah Meyer, who’s visited all 423 National Park Service sites, suggested less-crowded alternatives.
  • Instead of Yellowstone, Meyer recommended Craters of the Moon or Lassen Volcanic National Park.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This summer, many national parks have experienced crowds of visitors comparable to theme parks like Disneyland. Some popular sites, like Arches National Park in Grand County, Utah, have closed their gates due to crowding more than 80 times so far this year, the Associated Press reported in June.

Another popular park, Yellowstone, which sprawls across parts of three states – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho – has seen more visitors than ever since reopening all entrances in 2021, the Billings Gazette reported in May.

June, July, and August are usually the busiest months of the year at Yellowstone, The New York Times reported. According to the Nationall Park Service, if you don’t already have parking and camping reservations at Yellowstone, the nearest accommodations may be hours away from the park.

Luckily, iconic Yellowstone is just one of more than 400 national park sites to explore.

Mikah Meyer, who has been to every National Park Service site in the US, previously shared with Insider his favorite underrated parks to visit. He suggested skipping hot spots like Yellowstone for a quieter, wilder experience.

A long line of people on a trail at Yellowstone, with a river in the background and a road full of cars.
Tourists crowd in to the Midway Geyser Basin on July 14, 2021, at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Natalie Behring/Getty Images

Meyer recommended visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, a lesser-known site in Idaho that is a three-hour drive from Yellowstone. He said Craters of the Moon is just as other-worldly as Yellowstone.

“It sort of feels like you’re on the moon,” Meyer said of visiting the national monument and preserve.

Mikah Meyer stands on the right side of a vast scene with black dirt, red rocks, and mountains in the background. The sky is blue with a few clouds.
Meyer at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Courtesy of Mikah Meyer

Craters of the Moon is filled with lava flows, according to the National Park Service, making it especially scenic.

The park also has lava caves that are open for exploring, according to the National Park Service.

A woman stands in a scene of a vast lava tunnel with light peering through from the other side.
Indian Tunnel Cave in Craters of the Moon National Monument. Don Mammoser/Shutterstock

Yellowstone draws visitors who want to see its Steamboat Geyser erupt – but the National Park Service says to expect delays because of road construction and the recent influx of visitors, and the geyser recently stopped erupting, as Yellowstone Insider reported in July.

Instead, Meyer told Insider that people can visit California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park for a less-crowded view of bubbly, steaming natural wonders. Located about 13 hours west of Yellowstone by car, this park has eight hydrothermal areas, from geysers to boiling springs, according to the National Park Service.

A murky, bubbly pot at Lassen Volcano National Park.
Lassen Volcano National Park. Courtesy of Mikah Meyer

Hot water and past eruptions have shaped the land filled with volcanoes, lakes, meadows, and bubbly mud spots where steam and sulfur rise from, according to the National Park Service.

At the time of writing, the National Park Service warns that certain areas in Lassen Volcanic National Park are temporarily closed because of a nearby wildfire, including Warner Valley and Juniper Lake. Before visiting, travelers should check the park’s website for updates.

Steam and sulphur rise from a bubbling mudpot on the slopes of Mt. Lassen with trees in the background.
Steam and sulphur rise from a bubbling mudpot on the slopes of Mt. Lassen, an active volcano that last erupted in 1915, on July 20, 2015, in Mt. Lassen National Park, California. George Rose/Getty Images

For photos of Meyer’s expeditions around every National Park Service site in the US, visit his Instagram page.