Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ghost Towns: Escaping Crowds at US National Parks

August is the most crowded time to visit most western US national parks, which overflow with families taking last-ditch summer vacations before school starts. How do you escape the crush? Scattered around many iconic western national parks (or even right inside the park's boundaries) are deserted ghost towns to explore. Left over from the pioneer mining rushes of the 19th and 20th centuries, these abandoned settlements with their dusty streets and propped-up landmarks have Old West atmosphere in spades, which kids will love. 

Although you'll need a GPS and possibly a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to visit the remotest ghost towns, many are surprisingly easy to get to (paved roads! signposts!) from national parks that regularly top family summer vacation itineraries, including Yosemite, Zion and the Grand Canyon. Check out my top 5 picks for Old West ghost town hunting over on Lonely Planet

What are your favorite Western ghost towns? Tell us by leaving a comment below. Thanks!

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Photo credits: Grafton, Utah (Michael Connolly Jr.)