Pick a longer hike
Choosing a trail with any elevation gain and/or is more than 4 miles round trip will weed out the crowds real quick. These trails often lead to more beautiful scenery than the main attractions because it’s just you and nature.
Find a destination NOT listed on the brochure
This one’s pretty key. You’d be surprised how little research people do before heading to a park. Most national parks have PDFs of their park map on the website. Consult that and your hiking book/blog of choice to find something literally off the beaten path.
Go early. Go late.
If you like rising at dawn or don’t mind driving back in the dark, visit the main attractions either very early or as the sun is setting. The light is much better for taking photos at these times than mid-day anyway.
Pick a less popular park
If you really want to avoid crowds, visit a less popular park. They’re still national parks – so they’re in no way boring. Plus – you’ll be able to explore the whole park at your leisure.
Have a safe word
It will happen. No matter how much planning you do, there will be a point where you’re standing at a crosswalk in Yosemite Valley that’s more packed than Times Square, and you’re about to lose it. For those moments, establish a signal with your travel companion so they know you feel overwhelmed. Have a plan of options to accompany it – skip this stop, eat a snack , have a beer – you can keep exploring without the stress.