Secrets of the National Parks: An Insider's Guide

Rangers from the top parks share their favorite hidden hikes, wildlife hideouts and scenic vistas

Sunset reflects in the Snake River at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

When it comes to the national parks, no one knows them better than the park employees who call these remarkable places home. While a ranger or other park gig can be hard to secure (The National Park Service only has enough funding for about 13,000 full-time workers nationwide), those lucky enough to be hired have daily access to some of the largest and most breathtaking outdoor playgrounds in the world. [slideshow:702]

Click here for Rangers' secret spots in popular national parks. 

Over the years, NPS employees come to know their parks very well. Just as any New Yorker has their out-of-the-way watering holes, so too do these park gurus have their own secret haunts.  Whether it’s the best spot to see sunset in Yosemite or the most incredible place for bird watching in the Everglades, these areas are as special to them as Half Dome or Old Faithful.

Click here for photos of lesser-known (but just as amazing) national park attractions. 

In 2012, the national park system attracted more than 282 million tourists.  Because our secret finds fly under the radar of the average visitor, these spots are also an ideal place to connect with nature, unwind, and see the beauty and quiet that attracted us in the first place.  To help you ditch the crowds, we asked park officials from popular parks for a few tips. In this slideshow, we will introduce you to the lesser-known places they recommend. While some spots are remote, others are simply unfamiliar to most tourists.  The suggestions cover all four seasons and all ability levels.