Head to These 10 Least Visited National Parks to Avoid the Crowds

Plenty of national parks see millions of visitors each year. Getting a campsite has become something you need to plan months in advance. Sometimes, you must also make a reservation to get into a park. However, the ten least visited national parks provide an excellent opportunity to explore a new area away from the crowds.

The National Park Service recently released its 2023 numbers, highlighting some of the quietest national parks on the map.

Here’s what you need to know about each destination.

Ten Least Visited National Parks

10. Great Basin National Park

(Source: John Bewlay)

Despite being the tenth least visited national park, Great Basin is not far from some popular destinations. However, sitting in northeast Nevada has kept the park very quiet. Like other western parks, you’ll find endless beauty and a mix of desert and mountain terrain. The park is named for the Great Basin Desert and contains the South Snake Mountains. Caves are also within the park, making endless areas to explore and discover. The park is more or less a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

9. Dry Tortugas National Park

dry tortugas campground
(Source: Christopher Osten)

On a map, Dry Tortugas doesn’t look too far from the thriving metropolis of Miami. However, to get there, you need to go to the end of the Florida Keys and then take a long ferry ride. The park is fairly quiet. Visitors shouldn’t also expect a lot of hiking. The actual parkland is small. But the true magic of the park can be found underwater. With shipwrecks and abundant marine life, this is a snorkeling paradise. 

8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

unpopular national parks
(Source: Grace Simoneau)

Many of the parks on this list will bring you to Alaska. With endless wilderness, you’ll find endless ways to avoid national park crowds at Wrangell-St. Elias. The park is the largest in the National Park Service system. The area is more than 20,000 square miles. The massive park sits between Canada and the Gulf of Alaska. Two roads run through the park, but be prepared. You won’t find places to stop for gas or other needs along the way.

7. North Cascades National Park

visiting north cascades for the glaciers
(Source: NPS)

North Cascades National Park often surprises outdoor enthusiasts that it doesn’t get more visitors. The park isn’t too much further of a drive from Seattle compared to Washington’s other two parks, Mount Rainier and Olympic. However, accessing North Cascades is tricky. Visitors must hike or canoe for miles to truly explore the landscape. Once inside, they’ll find beautiful mountains and alpine lakes. The park sits along the Canadian border and is about two hours from Seattle.

6. Katmai National Park 

(Source: Rebecca Harding)

Katmai is another destination in Alaska. Getting there requires taking a plane or a chartered boat. But if you want to see a grizzly bear, this is your park. Katmai is best known for the Brooks River and the salmon that draw many brown bears in. The park holds its yearly Fat Bear Week contest. More people tune into the live streams than actual visitors to the park. 

5. Isle Royale National Park

5 Beginner Friendly Backpacking Trips
(Source: Nelson Decker via NPS)

Isle Royale is the least visited national park in the lower 48 states. The park is an island off the coast of northern Michigan. Getting there requires a boat. The island sits in Lake Superior, full of wildlife and lush green trees in the summer. Isle Royale is the only national park in the country to shut down for the winter months. Although it’s rare, occasionally, visitors can enjoy the Northern Lights in the park.

4. Kobuk Valley National Park

alaska national parks
(Source: NPS)

Despite having more visitors than other destinations, getting more remote than Kobuk Valley is hard. The park sits north of the Arctic Circle. The Alaskan destination is only accessible by plane. Once you arrive, there aren’t any amenities or trails. Being here is only for true wilderness adventurers. 

3. Lake Clark National Park 

If you like fishing, this other Alaskan park may be your best destination. On a map, Lake Clark doesn’t look far from Anchorage, but you’ll still need a plane ride to get there. The park is full of rivers and salmon, and that means there’s also plenty of grizzly bears, so be prepared. Another cool feature of Lake Clark is the Redoubt Volcano. The volcano is still active and erupted as recently as 2009.

2. National Park of American Samoa

visiting samoa
(Source: NPS)

It’s probably not a surprise that the national park on American Samoa is one of the least popular. You’ll have to catch multiple flights just to get there and most likely fly to Hawaii first. The tropical destination is full of beauty that’s not found at any other national park. Plus, the destination highlights Samoa’s culture. 

1. Gates of Arctic National Park

Source: NPS

Finally, Gates of the Arctic was ranked the least visited national park. Just over 11,000 people visited in 2023. Similar to Wrangell-St. Elias, this park sits near the Arctic Circle in Alaska. It also stands mainly as a true wilderness you’ll need to fly in and out of. Wildlife found in the park include caribou, brown bears, lynx, and muskox.

Which national parks are you visiting in 2024?

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