For those who enjoy the quiet sounds of nature, the national parks sound like a great place to find that quiet. Or at least they do until you learn that over 89 million people visited the 62 National Parks. While this number is huge, the top 10 most visited national parks account for 54% (49 million) of all visits. The 15 least visited national parks account for just under 1.5% of those 89 million visitors. Here are the best national parks to visit and avoid the crowds.
The least visited parks are a little more difficult to reach and require some extra planning to visit but for those avid national park junkies who make the effort. They are well worth the reward.
All visitation numbers and calculations in this post are from the National Park Service’s 2019 Annual Visitor’s Statistics report. Every year the NPS tracks the total number of visitors each park received and shares the most and least visited of their 419 units. This comprehensive document is released yearly by NPS and provides the visitation statistics for all 419 National Park Service units.
** This post focus on the least visited parks from the list of 62 that hold National Park.
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- Map of the Least Visited National Parks in 2019
- Fun Facts about 2019’s least visited National Parks
- The 15 Least Visited National Parks in 2019
- 15. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
- 14. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
- 13. Pinnacles National Park, California
- 12. Congaree National Park, South Carolina
- 11. Virgin Islands National Park, Saint John, United States Virgin Islands
- 10. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
- 9. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
- 8. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
- 7. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
- 6. National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa
- 5. North Cascades National Park, Washington
- 4. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
- 3. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
- 2. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
- 1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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Map of the Least Visited National Parks in 2019
Least Visited National Parks
Fun Facts about 2019’s least visited National Parks
- The 19 most visited national parks individually get more visitors than the least visited 15 combined.
- The 15 least visited National Parks cover a combined 25.5 million acres (49 % of
- Five of Alaska’s eight national parks are on this list.
- Both of the US territory national parks are among the least visited.
- Nine of these national parks can only be reached via boat or air place.
- You need a passport to reach the National Park of American Samoa.
- Only 3 parks on this list charge an entrance fee.
The 15 Least Visited National Parks in 2019
15. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
232,974 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 15 (No change)
Voyageurs National Parks is located in Northern Minnesota along the Canadian border. This 218,000-acre park is a maze of interconnected lakes and waterways. Over 40% of this park is water.
During the summer, boaters, canoeists and kayakers can be found exploring it’s waterways and enjoying their time on the lakes. There is a range of boat-in campsites and visitors can explore the historic Kettle Falls Hotel and other historical sites.
When the lakes freeze over, the park switches into a snowmobile, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing paradise.
The park is working on becoming an International Dark Sky Park and offers year-round star-gazing and is one of the best parks to see the northern lights.
Best things to do in Voyageurs National Park:
Take a boat tour to Kettle Falls.
Get help planning your visit to Voyageurs National Park:
14. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
188,8833 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 14 (Up 1 spot)
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in western Texas along the New Mexico/Texas border. This mountain desert park is 86,367 acres and home to the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak.
Due to its desert and southern location, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is best visited in the fall or springs. The temperatures are cooler and allow for better hiking. Fall brings some of the most amazing fall foliage.
Much of Guadalupe Mountains National Park is only accessible via the 80 miles of hiking trails. Hikers will find a range of hikes from short desert hikes to strenuous mountain peaks.
Best things to do in Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
Hike to the summit of Guadalupe Peak.
Get help planning your trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park:
13. Pinnacles National Park, California
177,224 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 14 (Down 1 spot)
Pinnacles National Park is the red-headed step-child of California National Parks. This central California park a hidden gem that is only a couple hour drive from San Francisco. At 26,685 acres, this is one of the smallest parks on this list.
Pinnacles National Park’s towering rock formations are the remains of an extinct volcano and is part of California’s Pacific Coast Ranges. The park is home to two talus caves and 13 species of bats. Talus caves are caved formed by rocks falling into a ravine.
Pinnacles is another popular spring and fall park. This is the best time of year for the park’s two most popular activities – hiking and climbing.
This park is one of the release sites for the highly endangered California Condors and is home to several nesting pairs.
Best things to do in Pinnacles National Park:
Hike the High Peaks Trail.
Get help planning your trip to Pinnacles National Park:
12. Congaree National Park, South Carolina
159,445 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 11 (Up 1 spot)
Congaree National Park in central South Carolina gets a bad rap for being a swamp. But this 26,539-acre park isn’t all it seems.
Congaree is the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland in the eastern United States. The park is home to some of the tallest trees east of the Rocky Mountains.
As bottomland, the area often experiences flooding and heavy rain leads to 90% of the park is underwater. The park has 25 miles of hiking trails and several areas of elevated pathways that provide access during flooding.
Like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Congaree often sees the synchronous fireflies.
Best things to do in Congaree National Park:
Hike the Boardwalk Loop Trail.
Get help planning your trip to Congaree National Park:
11. Virgin Islands National Park, Saint John, United States Virgin Islands
133,398 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 10 (Up 1 spot)
Virgin Islands National Park is one of two national parks located in U.S. Territories. This 14,940-acre park coves two-thirds of the island of St. John and about half the park is underwater. This park can only be reached via boat. There are regular ferry trips from St. Thomas.
Virgin Islands National Park is perfect for hikers and beachgoers. On land, visitors can hike out to several historical sugar plantations, learn about the first significant slave rebellions, and colonialism under Danish and American rule. There are several different easily to access beaches on the island. Both swimming and snorkeling are popular activities on the beaches.
Best things to do in Virgin Islands National Park:
Go Snorkeling on Trunk Bay
Get help planning your trip to Virgin Islands National Park
10. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
131,802 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 12 (Down 2 spots)
Great Basin National Park is like the forgotten western park. Located in central Nevada near the Utah border this remote park is a significant drive from the nearby major cities and is overshadowed by nearby parks. Great Basin National Park is 77,180 acres and is located between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch Mountains.
The park is home to a grove of ancient bristlecone pines. Bristlecone pines have some of the longest lifespans of any living organisms. Some of the trees in the park are estimated to be 5,000 years old. The park is dominated by Wheeler Peak and the southernmost glacier in the United States.
Great Basin National Park is also known for it’s stargazing. Its remote location means it has some of the darkest skies in the United States.
Visitors to Great Basin find a park full of different activities from scenic drives to a tour of Lehman Cave to hiking to Wheeler Peak.
Best things to do in Great Basin National Park:
Tour Lehman Cave
Get help planning your trip to Great Basin National Park
9. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
84,167 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 7 (Up 2 spots)
Katmai National Park is best known for its population of Alaska Brown Bears. The park is home to about 2,000 bears. Katami is located in southeastern Alaska. Katmai is 3,674,529 acres and the fifth largest National Park in the United States.
While Katmai is renowned for its bears, the park is more than just one waterfall and its population of fishing bears. The park is a vast wilderness waiting to be explored.
Most of the park visitors spend a day or two in near Brooks Falls watching the bears but visitors can take a floatplane and explore more of the interior areas of the park. Hikers will often spend several days hiking in the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.
Best things to do in Katmai National Park:
Hike to Brooks Falls and see the bears fish for salmon.
Get help planning your trip to Katmai National Park and Preserve
8. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
79,200 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 8 (No change)
Dry Tortugas National Park is of the southernmost and remotest national park in the lower 48 United States. Dry Tortugas is located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. This water-based park is most famous for its Civil War coastal fort. Access to the park is limited to boats and seaplanes.
Most visitors to Dry Torguas arrive via ferry and spend a couple of hours exploring Fort Jefferson and the surrounding island. There are several nearby coral reefs for snorkelers. Several SCUBA dive operators run trips out to Dry Tortugas to dive on its reefs.
There are several campsites for campers to spend the night in Dry Tortugas and enjoy the stars in an area with no light pollution.
Best things to do in Dry Tortugas National Park:
Go for a snorkel
Get help planning your trip to Dry Tortugas National Park
7. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
74,518 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 8 (Down 2 spots)
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the United States’ largest National Park at 8,323,146 acres. This park is home to 16 of the country’s tallest mountains and some of the world’s most active volcanoes. About 35% of the park is covered by glaciers.
This is one of the few Alaska National Park that one can drive to but the road system provides very limited access into the park.
Most visitors explore the park via the Nabesna Road and McCarthy Road. Both roads pass through former mining areas and explore the history of mining in Alaska. There are few maintained trails in the park.
Most of the park’s backcountry is accessed via air taxies. Here hikers are welcome to explore where ever they want. Several outfitters offer float trips on the Copper, Nizina, Kennicott and Chitina rivers.
Best things to do in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park:
Tour the Kennicott Mine.
Get help planning your trip to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
6. National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa
60,006 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 5 (Up 1 spot)
The National Park Of American Samoa is located in the remote territory of American Samoa. It is the only National Park where one needs a passport to visit and south of the Equator. The 13,500-acre park is split between the islands of Ta’u, Tutuila, and Ofu.
Visitors to American Samoa will find a national park unlike any other and face some unique challenges. American Samoa can only be reached by flights from the island nation of Samoa or via twice weekly flights from Hawaii.
These flights land on the island of Tutuila which is home to the capitol city of Pago Pago. The Ofu unit can be reached via inter-island flights and Ta’u is only reached by boat charter. There are hotels on the islands but tourism is not a huge industry on the islands.
Best things to do in American Samoa National Park:
Hike the adventure trail to Mount Alava
Get help planning your trip to National Park of American Samoa
5. North Cascades National Park, Washington
38,208 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 6 (Down 1 spot)
North Cascades National Park is located in northern-central Washington near the Canadian border. This 504,780-acre park is part of three units that make up the North Cascades National Park Complex. These three units protect the rugged mountain peaks of the North Cascades Range.
The park has one of the most expansive glacier systems in the lower 48. There are over 300 glaciers in the park.
The park is a hiker’s dreamland. The park has limited road access but there are many hiking trails and routes to explore.
Best things to do in North Cascades National Park:
Hike to Hidden Lake
Get help planning your trip to North Cascades National Park
4. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
26,410 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 4 (No change)
Best things to do in Isle Roayle National Park:
Hike to along Rock Harbor to Mount Franklin
Get help planning your trip to Isle Royale National Park:
- National Parks of Michigan
- How to Get to Isle Royale
- 16 Things to know before visiting Isle Royale National Park
3. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
17,157 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 2 (Up 1 spot)
Best things to do in Lake Clark National Park:
Take a floatplane tour
Get help planning your trip to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
2. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
15,766 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 3 (Down 1 spot)
Best things to do in Kobuk Valley National Park:
Hike to the summit of the great dune.
Get help planning your trip to Kobuk Valley National Park:
1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
10,518 Visitors in 2019
Rank in 2018: 1 (No change)
Best things to do in Gates of the Arctic National Park:
Spend a couple of days hiking in the park.