• From 2016 to 2019, Mikah Meyer visited all 419 National Park Service sites.
  • His favorite site is Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles Utah and Colorado.
  • The national monument resembles more famous national parks, but is less crowded, he said.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

From 2016 and 2019, Mikah Meyer embarked on a three-year journey to all of the National Park Service (NPS) sites.

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Meyer told Insider that of the 419 sites he visited, his favorite was Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah.

He first visited in May 2017 for two days and was so captivated that he returned three months later, driving 10 hours out of his way to spend four days rafting through the park, he said.

This summer, famous national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton are predicting record-breaking attendance, according to a report from the Associated Press published in May.

While visitors at popular parks can expect crowds, Meyer told Insider that travelers shouldn’t overlook other NPS sites. Here’s why he said everyone should visit Dinosaur National Monument, which, despite not having a national park designation, still gives famous sites a run for their money.

It has all the trappings of more famous parks without the crowds

Dinosaur National Monument receives significantly less foot traffic than nearby parks, such as Zion National Park in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, according to the NPS.

According to data from the NPS, in 2020, Dinosaur National Monument received 264,145 visitors – a fraction of Zion’s 3.6 million and Rocky Mountain’s 3.3 million visitors.

This is partly due to name recognition and the fact that the park is not on a famous road-trip route or path between cities, Meyer said.

Even when he was hiking on easily accessible roads, Meyer said that he was often the only person there and enjoyed the feeling of being “completely alone and completely at peace.”

Dinosaur National Monument “offers all the things that you would find in Zion National Park or Acadia National Park” but “still has that feeling of discovery,” he said.

Video: The Best Times to Visit Yellowstone National Park (Travel + Leisure)

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The best way to experience its beauty is by water

Like many of the large national park sites, Dinosaur National Monument offers a diverse range of activities, Meyer said.

These include accessible ridge line and canyon hiking, two rivers you can raft down, an exhibit hall filled with more 1,500 dinosaur bones, and multiple campgrounds.

While there are many ways to experience the park, his top recommendation is to take a multi-day rafting trip because it allows you to see areas that are otherwise inaccessible.

“Since [the park] is such an undeveloped site compared to a lot of these bigger, more famous sites that have a national park designation, you just can’t see a lot of the park by only driving,” he said.

The views are constantly changing

Meyer described the views in Dinosaur National Monument as “spectacular” because the landscape and colors shift depending on the time of day and where you’re located in the park.

When you start rafting on the Green River, the rocks are “maroon-colored, sort of peppered with green bushes, and the water can look everything from blue to green,” he said.

Halfway down the river, the landscape becomes drier, and the colors change to beige, orange, and red, he said.

One of Meyer’s favorite places to see the park’s colors and unique geologic features is at Rainbow Park Campground where layers of red, white, and orange rock combine to look like brushstrokes.

Another of his favorite vistas is from Harpers Corner Trail, which offers birds-eye views of the park.

Meyer said that Harpers Corner was the first hike he took in the park. He said he remembered the park looking like “a totally different landscape” when he turned 180 degrees.

“I just looked over this amazing place and was like, holy s—, I have to come back,” he said.

To help visitors plan their trips, Meyer offers customized presentations about all of the NPS sites and posts photos of his national park adventures on Instagram at @mikahmey.

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