The 12 Least-Visited National Parks

The U.S. is home to just under 60 national parks, but sometimes, going to the favorites can ensure a bit of a crowded time (especially on holidays with gorgeous weather). There are some that don’t get as many visitors, though, and make for some good solo time in nature. Looking to go to one of those? Here are the 12 least-visited national parks:

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

This is a landscape without trails or roads, which may attribute to why it had less than 11,000 visitors in 2012. At the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, you can trek through the valleys and mountains to experience nature on its terms. See largely unchanged ecosystems where people have lived with the land for thousands of years.


Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

Coming in as the second least-visited National Park in 2012, Lake Clark is gorgeous. Here you’ll find volcanoes, salmon, bears, mountains reflecting in the lake and local villages where people highly depend on land and water for their home.


Isle Royale National Park

On this island off the coast of Michigan in Lake Superior, you’ll find wolves and moose in their natural habitat while you backpack, hike, boat, kayak, canoe or scuba dive around the area. Be careful about when you go though: it can get icy here, making access to the area extremely difficult and at times dangerous.


North Cascades National Park

Less than a three-hour drive from Seattle can get you to the stunning North Cascades. Jagged mountain peaks are topped with more than 300 glaciers and waterfalls cascade into the deep valleys. Camp, fish, hike, backpack, climb, what-have-you in relative solitude since the park received less than 27,000 visitors last year.


Kobuk Valley National Park

Sand dunes, caribou, the Kobuk River, Onion Portage and relative solitude–what’s not to like about Kobuk Valley National Park? Half a million caribou migrate through here each year, leaving their tracks across the dunes. But if you plan to go, make sure you take into account that no roads or trails will get you to the dunes—you’ll have to hire a pilot.


Katmai National Park and Preserve

Glaciated volcanoes and volcanic rubble are just one reason—and a dang good reason, considering just how incredible they are—to visit this relatively quiet park. Alongside the famous Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes—a forty square mile, 100–700 foot deep ash flow—you’ll find black bears, pristine rivers with a wealth of fish and a remote, rugged coastline.


Dry Tortugas National Park

Just about 70 miles west of Key West is the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. Composed of seven small islands, the 100-square mile park is mostly open water. Known for being the home of Fort Jefferson, the park is only accessible by boat or seaplane and is totally worth it for the coral reefs and seabirds that frequent the area.


Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Also in Alaska, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve had just over 87,100 visitors last year. Encompassing a staggering 13.2 million acres, the park is larger than Switzerland. Stretching from Mount St. Elias, one of the tallest peaks in North America to the ocean, Wrangell-St. Elias almost ensures solitude when you visit.


Great Basin National Park

Lying below the 13,063 foot Wheeler Peak, it’s actually surprising that Great Basin falls on this list since there’s so much to do their year round. With great hiking, spelunking, climbing and more, it’s definitely a great park to visit and a gem in Nevada.


Congaree National Park
South Carolina

Home of the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern U.S., Congaree National Park is a lush wilderness. The Congaree and Wateree Rivers rush into the floodplain, keeping the ecosystem kicking and supporting the trees. With over 25 miles of hiking trails and incredible canoeing, there’s plenty to do at Congaree.


Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Explore the world’s premier example of a fossil reef from the Permian Era at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Known as a destination for hiking and backpacking, the park is one of the nation’s most pristine wilderness areas.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Come face to face with some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rocks and craggiest spires in North America at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. If you plan to attempt to rock climb at Black Canyon, make sure you have all of the right equipment and you’ve the skill, since the danger level here can be quite high.

By Sarah Esterman