Six Awesome Uncrowded National Parks

Plan a trip to Yel­low­stone or Yosemite and you’re like­ly to see as many humans as ani­mals. While these icon­ic regions are not to be missed, our Nation­al Park sys­tem offers plen­ty of hid­den trea­sures, too. Check out some of these equal­ly dynamic—but-less-visited—parks.

gates of the arcticGates of the Arc­tic, Alas­ka
Cari­bou, griz­zly, wolf, and moose all make them­selves at home here amid one of Alaska’s most dra­mat­ic land­scapes. If you’re a self-suf­fi­cient adven­tur­er who longs to expe­ri­ence the pris­tine Arc­tic envi­ron­ment in all its beau­ty, this is one of the best places in the world to real­ize your fan­ta­sy.

Just be aware that no por­tion of this park is that vis­i­tor friend­ly, which accounts for its low vis­i­tor tal­ly. There are no guest ser­vices, no neat­ly marked camp­sites. Not so much as a trail dis­turbs the wilder­ness. To reach this remote place, you’ll have to hike in, ford­ing rivers in the process.


northern cascadesNorth Cas­cades, Wash­ing­ton
Some pre­served places are so far off track, just get­ting there is a quest. But if you’re seek­ing alpine back­coun­try, abun­dant glacial activ­i­ty, and plen­ti­ful wildlife, you don’t real­ly have to sac­ri­fice all ameni­ties. North Cas­cades is just about three hours from Seat­tle and fea­tures trails and des­ig­nat­ed camp­ing spots. Vis­i­tors get a first­hand view of a cli­mate in transition—scientists do lots of research here on glac­i­er melt—as well as a dose of splen­did iso­la­tion. Despite all its acces­si­bil­i­ty, this park is still among the least vis­it­ed in the sys­tem.


Great Basin National ParkGreat Basin, Neva­da
Unex­pect­ed diver­si­ty is on full dis­play at Great Basin. Rang­ing from the sum­mit of Wheel­er Peak to the foothills, this park has plen­ty of sur­pris­es. Here you’ll dis­cov­er forests of bristle­cone pine (the old­est tree species on the plan­et) and a host of aston­ish­ing cav­erns to be explored. Great Basin is also a par­adise for star-gaz­ers, where you can spot fan­tas­tic astro­nom­i­cal activ­i­ty over the clear, dry Neva­da skies.


Isle Royale National ParkIsle Royale, Michi­gan
This diminu­tive island in enor­mous Lake Supe­ri­or offers vis­i­tors the gift of iso­la­tion. Con­sist­ing of one main island and 450 small­er ones, Isle Royale is a par­adise for kayak­ers, Scu­ba divers, and oth­er explor­ers. Pulling ashore in your kayak or canoe, you’ll be wel­comed by the teem­ing wildlife. Lush­ly forest­ed, Isle Royale is home to moose and wolves, conifers and ferns. Although far few­er species are rep­re­sent­ed here than on the main­land, the iso­la­tion of the park makes vivid encoun­ters like­ly. Even dur­ing peak sea­son, you might avoid meet­ing anoth­er human on your excur­sion. Dur­ing the win­ter, the storm-and-snow-buf­fet­ed island is almost exclu­sive­ly the ani­mals’ domain.


Congaree National ParkCon­ga­ree, South Car­oli­na
Nation­al Parks high­lights some of our nation’s most rare and spe­cial wild places. Con­ga­ree is no excep­tion, encom­pass­ing the last remain­ing and the biggest por­tion of old growth bot­tom­land hard­wood for­est remain­ing in the Amer­i­can south­east. It’s also a thriv­ing flood­plain ecosys­tem, which owes its bio­di­ver­si­ty to the nat­ur­al ebbs and flows of the Con­ga­ree and Wateree Rivers. Explor­ing here is noth­ing short of a bio­log­i­cal and geo­log­i­cal delight.


dry tortugasDry Tor­tu­gas, Flori­da
Don’t let the word “dry” in its name fool you: More than 99 per­cent of this park is under the sea. If you’re look­ing for a vis­it to a warm-water par­adise, Dry Tor­tu­gas is your per­fect match. Snor­kel­ing, div­ing, swim­ming, and boat­ing are prime choic­es for explo­ration. A Tech­ni­col­or vari­ety of fish and plant life beck­ons. But the human mark on Dry Tor­tu­gas is fas­ci­nat­ing in its own right. The island was home to Fort Jef­fer­son, a valu­able post for patrolling ships of yes­ter­year.