12/15/2010 02:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

10 Less-Crowded National Park Alternatives (PHOTOS)

There's good reason why Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and their ilk are among the top crowd-pleasing national parks: They're all drop dead gorgeous, with plummeting waterfalls, dramatic chasms, fiery rock domes, spewing geysers and other magical features. Too bad you often have to share this beauty with the throngs. But these and other mobbed protected parks don't have a monopoly on awe-inspiring treasures. In fact, for every national park that's a magnet for the masses, there's a lesser-known alternative with equally wondrous botanical and geological gems, and where you can escape the crush of visitors.