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Clean Air and Zero Crowds: The Least Visited National Parks in the USA

least visited national parks

Home to hundreds of national parks, the USA is a haven for all those looking to explore the great outdoors. Whether you are hiking mountains, looking for brown bears, sleeping beneath a fistful of stars, rock climbing, or just trying to escape the hustle of city life, national park and preserve spots across America offer clean air, dreamy vistas, and the chance to reconnect with nature.

If you want to swerve the crowds this summer we say dodge the likes of Grand Canyon National Park or Yellowstone National Park and opt instead for some of the less popular national parks. From the Canadian border to the Caribbean, you can find a whole host of parks without the people.

Take a look at some of the best least visited national park adventures for your next wilderness vacation.

 

North Cascades National Park Washington

 

Just three hours from Seattle, North Cascades earns the nickname as the Alps of America thanks to its snowy peaks and scenic vistas. With hiking trails to suit every skill set and not so many visitors, you can bask in the beauty of this remote wilderness.

State: Washington
Annual Visitors: 38,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Great Basin National Park

 

The Great Basin National Park is a feast of landscapes - from soaring mountains to simmering springs, the Lehman cave systems, and epic rock formations, there's velvet green conifers and all kinds of mammals. Because of the huge variety of natural environments, there's a ton of different flora and fauna to explore.

State: Nevada
Annual Visitors: 131,800
Permit Fee: none

Kobuk Valley National Park

 

You wouldn't sync up Alaska with the idea of sand dunes, but at Kobuk Valley National Park, this is exactly what you get. The great Kobuk sand dunes roll and rise and it's common to see caribou wandering across a sand dune. The Kobuk River is also a great spot for wildlife watching as it brings bears, wolves, and moose. The Kobuk Valley National Park Alaska is one of the least visited parks in the USA making it a must for those seeking a designated wilderness escape.

State: Alaska
Annual Visitors: 15,700
Permit Fee: none

 

Dry Tortugas National Park

 

The Tortugas National Park Florida is a water world oasis with decadent flora and fauna and the third largest reef system in the world. From Fort Jefferson to garden key, this is one of Florida's least visited national parks that boasts beautiful stargazing, swimming, camping, and exploring. Just 70 miles out of Key West, Dry Tortugas is a dream.

State: Florida
Annual Visitors: 79,200
Permit Fee: $15

 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

 

Desert, dunes, and some of the tallest mountains in the state of Texas, The Guadalupe Mountains National Park can be bright and barren and full of bats. Crisscrossing trails, climbing up to the Guadalupe Mountain Peak, and visiting the cultural ranch museum are all musts at this lesser-known national park.

State: Texas
Annual Visitors: 188,000
Permit Fee: $10

 

Virgin Islands National Park

 

Most visitors may be surprised to hear that the US Virgin Islands is home to one of the lesser-visited national parks. A whirlwind of old sugar plantations, rum-soaked style, white sands, and bright blue seas, The USVI is a paradise playground. From snorkeling across the coral reef to taking a tropical hiking trail, this the national park service we dream of.

State: USVI
Annual Visitors: 133,000
Permit Fee: $5

Voyageurs National Park

 

Lakes and waterways and a wealth of islands make the Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota a perfect haven for exploration. Scenic river swims and a glut of blueberries to pick make this an idyllic summer haven but winter also brings the bright burst of northern lights and frozen lakes for skating and skiing.

State: Minnesota
Annual Visitors: 233,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Wrangell St Elias National Park

 

With glaciers covering a huge swathe of 13 million acres, the Wrangell St Elias National Park is home to a host of wild and unbridled sights and is another lesser visited national park in Alaska. Home to one of the largest active volcanoes in the world and with glacier trails, the national historic site of Kennecott Mines, and no less than sixteen highest peak mountains in the USA, there's plenty to pull you in.

State: Alaska
Annual Visitors: 75,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Isle Royale National Park

 

An island lapped at the shores by Lake Superior, the Isle Royale National Park can only be reached by private boat or float plane. Once landed, you have soothing shores, scuba diving down to sunken wrecks, and hiking trails through coves, lakes, and lush forests.

State: Michigan
Annual Visitors: 26,400
Permit Fee: $7

 

Katmai National Park and Preserve

 

Home to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the Katmai National Park is full of brown bears, salmon-rich streams, former lava flows, and remote wilderness wonders. Sitting southwest of Anchorage it is one of the least visited national parks as it can only be accessed by air meaning that more visitors will head for the easier accessible parks instead.

State: Alaska
Annual Visitors: 37,000
Permit Fee: none

Lake Clark National Park

 

Smoking volcanoes, still-water lakes, brown bears, and moose - the Lake Clark National Park is the very vision of rare and remote Alaska. A great spot for kayaking across turquoise waters, biking or hiking national preserve trails, and gazing in awe at rugged mountains, Lake Clark is epic grace.

State: Alaska
Annual Visitors: 17,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Gates of the Arctic

 

Guarding the Arctic Wilderness, the Gates of the Arctic is one of the least visited national parks in the USA. This is not one of the national parks for the faint of heart, with limited access and unmarked hiking trails it's important to plan ahead and stay safe in the midst of this pristine wilderness. Intrepid adventurers will be rewarded with midnight sun and true arctic circle vibes.

State: Alaska
Annual Visitors: 10,500
Permit Fee: none

 

National Park of American Samoa

 

Far out in the South Pacific, the National Park of American Samoa truly feels a world away. Scattered across three islands, the park is home to a plethora of marine life and an excellent spot for secluded snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors can stay with Samoa families and soak up cultural history and heritage in this far-flung national park.

State: American Samoa
Annual Visitors: 60,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Congaree National Park

 

South Carolina’s least visited national park is a frenzy of fabulous hiking trails, primitive campground spots, meandering boardwalks, and even the chance to paddle out on the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. The magical waterways, one of a kind geography at every turn, and the feeling of being plummeted back into the simple pleasures of southern nature makes Congaree a must.

State: South Carolina
Annual Visitors: 120,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

 

While Colorado may be brimming with natural beauty, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers soaring two thousand foot tall walls, south rim and north rim trails that offer both long and short hikes to suit your energy levels, and a couple of well developed campgrounds for sweet and silent end of day slumbers. Fishing enthusiasts can cast their line in the Gunnison River and the park itself boasts more than enough space while still feeling like a manageable national park.

State: Colorado
Annual Visitors: 175,852
Permit Fee: $15

 

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Alaska

 

With cruise ships on hold it’s no surprise that Glacier Bays annual visitors took a nosedive from 600,000 to less than 6,000 last year. It may be some time before the numbers rise again making this a perfect time to head out to admire the wild coastline filled with otters, bears, sea lions, and eagles.

State: Alaska
Annual Visitors: between 6,000 – 600,000
Permit Fee: none

 

Which less popular parks are you going to be hitting up this summer? Will you be driving hours north to a remote arctic national park or will the warmer southern temperate rain forest spots suit your soul instead? Share with us in the comments.

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