With more than 423 sites in the US National Park System, only 63 constitute the most visited National Park in the US, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, which holds record-setting visits.
Yellowstone, Zion, and the Grand Canyon are other top visitor attractions. Not surprisingly, 7 out of the 15 least-visited national parks in the USA are LOCATED in Alaska- the 49th state of the country. Spread over 665,000 sq. miles – much of Alaska is just wilderness and frozen; therefore, traveling around the state can be challenging, and there’s a lot of wilderness to see.
The least visited national parks, such as Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, have no roads or trails connecting them, and visitors must fly or hike into the park, as per the National Park Service.
Nonetheless, even though they don’t feature in the list of famous attractions in the US, these places are no less when it comes to their landscape, flora and fauna, biodiversity, and ecosystems.
We bring you a list of the 15 least visited national parks in the US-
15 least-visited US National Parks
1. Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Alaska
The least visited national park has no roads or lanes. Wild rivers meander around the valleys; caribou migrates to the old trails, and endless summer light fades into the night sky illuminated by winter aurora.
As an independent traveler or as part of a guided tour, a visit to the Gates of the Arctic National Park requires careful planning and booking in advance.
Many hikers and backpackers follow long, open valleys for long trips or work their way up to the higher ground, where open tundra and scattered trees offer a beautiful view of the mountains and experience nature in all its splendor. Guided tours are available. No matter where you go, hiking in the Arctic is a rewarding solitude, fun, and therapeutic to both mind and body.
Kobuk Valley National Park is spread over 1.75 million acres of boreal forest and mountains in northwestern Alaska, including the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes—the largest active, high-latitude dune field on Earth. The dunes were originally formed during drier climates of the ice ages when strong winds and sparse vegetation favored the winds to carry sand from sandbars of the Kobuk River.
Around a million caribou migrate through, their tracks crisscrossing sculpted dunes.
This caribou migration is the only remaining of the large mammal migrations on Earth unoccupied by roadways.
The Kobuk River entwines throughout the park, offering visitors a rare vantage point to behold flora and fauna by boat. So, plan your next visit to this least visited national park in the US.
2. American Samoa National Park
The National Park of American Samoa will take you into the heart of the South Pacific, to a place of sights, sounds, and experiences unmatched, not available in any other national park in the United States.
Discover the National Park of American Samoa’s dazzling scenery—the beach, volcano, rainfall, forest, and coral reefs all combine to weave a truly extraordinary experience.
The Samoan culture is considered to be the oldest in all of Polynesia. The first people to the Samoan islands arrived by sea from Southeast Asia some three thousand years ago. American Samoa consists of 5 inhabited volcanic islands clothed in tropical rainforest.
The National Park of American Samoa, implying “sacred earth,” is the only US national park situated in the Southern Hemisphere.
Being one of the most isolated national parks, it’s not unusual that it gets too few visitors per year. As per NPS records, it recorded just 4,819 visits on an average in a given year. However, just because it’s not the most-visited doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of a visit.
3. North Cascades National Park, Washington
Just 3 hours from Seattle, an alpine landscape distinguished by spiky peaks, thickly forested valleys, cascading waterfalls, and around 300 glaciers — more than any other US park outside of Alaska, awaits to tantalize the human eyes.
The park is managed alongside the nearby Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas and is the largest in the North Cascades National Park Complex.
Visitors today can engage in a range of outdoor activities, scenic landscapes, and educational opportunities — miles of trails calling for hiking or biking. Travel to the least visited national park of North Cascades, an expanse of the wilderness of conifer-clad mountains, massive white glaciers, and lakes.
4. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Glacier Bay became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and was listed as a Biosphere Reserve in 1986. A park, Glacier Bay stands as a globally exceptional marine and terrestrial wilderness sanctuary. A place that promises human solitude and presents a wilderness with snow-capped mountains, spectacular glaciers, and lush forests.
It is regarded as a place of hope, with the goal of imparting wisdom, restraint, and humility in order to preserve a sample of wild America, the world as it was. Glacier Bay is a land, live laboratory, national park, designated desert, nature reserve, and world heritage site.
5. Lake Clark National Park
Stretched over 4 million hectares of the Alaska Peninsula in southwestern Alaska, Lake Clark is one of the most remote parts and consequently the least visited national park.
Established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) on December 2, 1980, the Lake Clark National Park also preserves an enduring culture of volcanic activity and a shiny part containing habitats for fish and wildlife-based wildlife species.
Lake Clark offers great opportunities for fun, exploration, reading, and just having fun! Start planning your visit using the links below to learn about the park. It may be the nation’s second least visited national park, but avid travelers who have seen all of America’s national parks regard it as one of the best.
6. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Take a glimpse into the unseen abyss at Colorado’s least visited national park – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park proffers adventure, splendid geology, with nature’s blessings.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is attractive, but do not expect mules, jeeps, or even trails to help you get to the bottom of Colorado’s little-visited national park. Black Canyon’s metamorphic rocks — lined with strips of pink granite — are nearly 2 billion years old. Although Precambrian rocks like these are usually buried deep, 2 million years ago, the Gunnison River began to pierce the “bottom” rock by an inch every 100 years.
7. Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska
The place lives under our feet, full of creatures that remind us of what it is like to be wild.
Katmai was founded in 1918 to protect the volcanic area around Novarupta and the Ten Thousand Hills Valley. Katmai was announced as a national monument in 1918 to preserve the living laboratory of its catastrophic volcanic eruption in 1912, especially the Ten Thousand Smoke Valley.
Today, Katmai National Park and Preserve are also home to 9,000 years of human history and an important salmon landmark with thousands of brown bears. You can also plan a tour at Brooks Camp – a popular destination in Katmai.
8. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Isle Royale is known as an island of the Great Lakes, situated northwest of Lake Superior, and was declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. It can be reached by ferry, seaplane, or private watercraft.
Recreational activities are available on Isle Royale; it offers hiking, backpacking, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and enjoying nature. Dive sites available in the lake include a collection of well-preserved shipwrecks accessible to scuba divers.
Isle Royale National Park is an isolated island cluster, and it’s a car-free wilderness of forests, lakes, and waterways. There are a plethora of lakes and streams. Chlorastrolite greenstone is the Michigan state gem that is also named Isle Royale Greenstone. Numerous species of plants thrive on the island, including many mentioned on the threatened or endangered list.
How can one miss visiting this fabulous location? The least visited national park of Isle Royale has every aspect interesting to human sense and beautiful to our vision.
9. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska
The largest US national park, it equals six Yellowstone’s, overloaded with high peaks and shimmery white glaciers. Follow any stream of water or river to its source, which is more often than not a receding tidewater glacier.
Hike its mountains, float around in its rivers, ski those glaciers, or fly over this expansive landscape and witness the lively geology. You experience the beauty and rugged splendor in a way not known before.
Tourist services at the park are limited compared to other major parks such as Denali National Park and Preserve. Still, visitors willing to spend more time and effort to reach this spectacular national park will have endless opportunities for mountain climbing, camping, boating, a snow trip, wildlife watching, and a breakthrough in Alaska’s mining history.
Four majestic mountains converge on the park, covering nine of the 16 highest peaks in the United States. The Saint Elias Mountains abruptly ascend the Gulf of Alaska and head north past Chugach toward Wrangells.
The Saint Elias Mountains abruptly ascend the Gulf of Alaska and head north past Chugach toward Wrangells.
The eastern boundary of the Alaska Range — mapped as the Nutzotin and Mentasta Mountains — forms part of the reserve’s northern boundary.
You will not regret visiting here; it promises adventure, beauty, and peace all at one spot, the least visited national park of Wrangell-St. Elias.
10. Dry Tortugas National Park
Explore a 19th-century fort and snorkel in beautiful blue waters with spectacular coral reefs and marine life at this 100-square-mile park with seven small islands.
The National Park is about 70 miles west of Key West. You can reach there only by boat or a seaplane.
The park is renowned worldwide as the home of Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century coastal castle built of more than 16 million bricks, and the park also preserves natural wonders above and below the clear waters.
Tortugas National park is apt for bird watching, beach camping, and snorkeling; this National Park is an ideal remote getaway for fans of history and picturesque blue waters alike. Snorkeling, camping, boating, paddle boarding — Tortugas has it all to offer.
In this remote region, marine animals are indeed flourishing. Substantial communities of corals and seagrass provide habitat for a wide variety of marine mammals.
If you are willing to dive deeper, you will behold an abundance of fish and other marine life. So, this season takes time to pay a visit to this least visited national park with friends or families.
11. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
The Great Basin National Park has some exceptional features that are hard to come by these days: the absence of large crowds and the abundance of black skies.
Although it is hard to believe the list of features that this area offers, the Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks; your visit will be even more memorable. Here, you can climb Nevada’s second-highest peak, cross only overcrowded trails, or get the darkest sky due to the remoteness of the park.
Apart from camping and climbing, the sky is the limit when it comes to recreational activities in the Great Basin. Whether horseback riding, rock climbing, skiing, fishing, or wildlife watching, the park seems to have it all.
For more information on all the ways in which you can enjoy the park, contact a guard at one of the two Tourist Centers of the park.
12. Congaree National Park, South Carolina
The mosaic of freshwater lakes, sloughs of the season, forested peatlands, perennial and seasonal streams, permanent freshwater lakes, and wooded swamps contain the most significant surviving example of the strongest tropical rain forest in North America.
The park supports a wide variety of endangered species under the National Endangered Species Act. Covering some 11,000 acres, the Congaree National Park is the largest evergreen forest in the United States. Located in central South Carolina near the provincial capital of Columbia, the National Park is home to rich biodiversity.
One of the most popular activities in the Congaree is walking about 4 miles on hiking trails or 40 miles of hiking trails. On trails, keep an eye on the animals that find habitats here, such as wild boars and tortoises.
If you would like to learn more about the park’s rich biodiversity, tap into the guided tours. One way to get to this swampy park is by kayaking or canoeing in the swamps or fishing along its rivers.
So, why not plan a trip to this least visited national park and enjoy the wide range of flora and fauna living there.
13. Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska
The golden eagle can be seen flying from the colorful rocks of the Polychrome Pass, or the Dall flock can be seen resting on the green shoulder of the Primrose Ridge. A large black bear may strike over a tundra at Sable Pass in the Denali National park.
Maybe the caribou will stand on top of the peak, illuminated by the warm sunlight, or the loon will cry across Wonder Lake. Perhaps the National park’s famous clouds — and often the infamous ones — will split to reveal the den of Dennis itself, some 12,000 feet [20,320 m] high on the North American roof.
Even though the snow-covered Denali surrounds the National park, the whole park often leaves a lasting impression on visitors: the boreal and tundra forests, wild rivers and glaciers, and the creatures that roam this amazing Alaska region, especially the fearsome brown bears home of Denali.
14. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park is a water-based park with 218,054 hectares, and more than 1/3 of that acreage is water. The park has 4 large lakes and 26 small indoor pools.
With an area of 218,055 hectares, Voyageurs National Park is a magnificent year-round land of rocky outcrops, cliffs, swamps, forests, streams, and lakes.
It is a transition point between natural and aquatic habitats, between the southern and northern boreal forests of hardwoods, and between wild and developed areas. Whether you explore the land, water, or ice, there is something for everyone.
15. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
The Guadalupe Mountains National Park was approved by Congress (Public Law 89-667) in 1966 to maintain “a place of outstanding natural features and landscapes and other important natural features.” The park was officially established in 1972 and covered an area of 76,293 hectares.
Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas, and beneath it is a park that offers amazing natural beauty, rugged trails through tropical forests, spectacular history, and the world’s largest Permian rock.
Explore deserts and dunes, ravines and mountains, a variety of plants and animals, and much more in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Campers, hikers, and fun-seekers are welcome.
These National parks often see fewer visitors owing to their remote locations and difficult terrains; however, it is all worth the efforts that would be invested.
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