America’s Least Crowded National Parks Worth Visiting

While nation­al parks like Yel­low­stone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon are see­ing mil­lions of vis­i­tors a year, plen­ty of oth­er nation­al parks are found in the sys­tem that see a frac­tion of this traf­fic. While many would argue it’s the pris­tine wilder­ness and jaw-drop­ping land­scapes that draw the crowds to the most pop­u­lar nation­al parks (and it is), it also has some­thing to do with ease of access.

In the less traf­ficked parks it’s safe to say that it’s not a lack of breath­tak­ing scenery that caus­es low atten­dance, but rather how dif­fi­cult it’s to get there—making them an excel­lent place to actu­al­ly get away for a while.

Gates of the Arctic National ParkGates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park and Pre­serve, Alas­ka (10,047 Vis­i­tors in 2016)
Con­sist­ing of a whop­ping 8.4 mil­lion acres of road­less Alaskan wilder­ness, Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park and Pre­serve is one of the biggest nation­al parks in the coun­try, and one of the least vis­it­ed. To reach park bound­aries, vis­i­tors can either hike into this north­ern Alaskan space or more com­mon­ly, char­ter a plane. Once you’ve made it into the Gates of the Arc­tic, you’re on your own in this rugged­ly beau­ti­ful envi­ron­ment, and the Nation­al Park doesn’t pro­vide any ameni­ties to bank on, or even any offi­cial trails to follow.


Isle Royale National ParkIsle Royale Nation­al Park, Michi­gan (24,966 Vis­i­tors in 2016)
When vis­it­ing Isle Royale Nation­al Park, locat­ed with­in Lake Michi­gan, the chances of see­ing wildlife is greater than see­ing human life. That’s because this car-free wilder­ness is only accessed by fer­ry, sea­plane or per­son­al water­craft. Hitch a ride though, and near­ly all 45 miles of this “largest island in Lake Supe­ri­or” is yours to explore how­ev­er you want. While pop­u­lar activ­i­ties at Isle Royale include scu­ba div­ing, fish­ing, boat­ing and day hik­ing, if you have four of five days at your dis­pos­al, a rec­om­mend­ed course for adven­ture includes back­pack­ing the Green­stone Ridge Trail that spans 40 miles across the island.


North Cascades National ParkNorth Cas­cades Nation­al Park, Wash­ing­ton (28,646 Vis­i­tors in 2016)
Only three hours north of Seat­tle, North Cas­cades Nation­al Park is what moun­tain dreams are made of. Con­sist­ing of a whole kalei­do­scope of Pacif­ic North­west col­or, includ­ing emer­ald alpine lakes, shim­mer­ing white glac­i­ers, intense­ly green forests and rugged Cas­cade peaks, if you like moun­tain­ous scenery, you may nev­er leave the North Cas­cades once you get there. The Nation­al Park itself main­ly con­sists of the Stephen Math­er wilderness—meaning that while you can dri­ve a car to get into the North Cas­cades, there are few roads to fol­low from there.


Great Basin National ParkGreat Basin Nation­al Park, Neva­da (144,846 Vis­i­tors in 2016)
Locat­ed on the east­ern Neva­da bor­der by Utah, Great Basin Nation­al Park dis­plays a shock­ing amount of vari­ety in ecosys­tems and dif­fer­ent ways to explore them. Home to 13,000-foot glaciat­ed peaks, ancient groves of bristle­cone pines, and a lime­stone cave sys­tem known as Lehman Caves, Great Basin has a diver­si­ty of land­scapes to admire. Whether you’re look­ing to hike the Wheel­er Sum­mit Trail to get a view of the top of the world, or you want to explore under­ground as part of a guid­ed tour, this amaz­ing Nation­al Park in a remote part of the coun­try offers some­thing new to do through­out each season.


Congaree National ParkCon­ga­ree Nation­al Park, South Car­oli­na (143,843 Vis­i­tors in 2016)
Con­tain­ing some of the tallest trees you’ll find in the east­ern Unit­ed States, much of the attrac­tion and appeal of Con­ga­ree Nation­al Park comes from the mov­ing waters of the Con­ga­ree and Wateree Rivers that mean­der through the park. Not only do these two rivers occa­sion­al­ly slip their shores and make their way through the flood­plain, pro­vid­ing plen­ty of nutri­ents and sed­i­ments to sup­port a rich ecosys­tem, but these water­ways also offer the per­fect way to nav­i­gate this dense South­east­ern nation­al park.


Guadalupe Mountains National ParkGuadalupe Moun­tains Nation­al Park, Texas (181,839 Vis­i­tors in 2016)
Home to the high­est point in Texas (Guadalupe Peak, 8,749 feet), Guadalupe Moun­tains Nation­al Park on the west­ern side of the state dis­play a side of Texas you may not expect to see. Not only are the four high­est peaks in Texas found in Guadalupe Moun­tains Nation­al Park, but vis­i­tors can also check out the daz­zling Salt Basin Dune—fossilized remains of the reefs that used to dom­i­nate the area (includ­ing the Guadalupe Moun­tains them­selves), and some awe-inspir­ing col­ors come fall in McKit­trick Canyon.