Take The Road Less Traveled At These Least-Visited National Parks

There’s nothing like escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life to become immersed in nature. That is, unless there are crowds of tourists at every turn. Some national parks are so well-known that it takes months of planning just to secure a reservation. For instance, the Grand Canyon had six million visitors in 2019, and the Great Smoky Mountains had double that! There are plenty of gorgeous alternatives for those who are looking for a more solitary experience. Here’s a list of breathtaking national parks that have a fraction of the visitors.

Kings Canyon National Park In California

Tim Tadder/Corbis via Getty Images
Tim Tadder/Corbis via Getty Images

California visitors who want to avoid the crowds at Yosemite National Park may enjoy heading instead to Kings Canyon National Park. The spot had a quarter of the visitors in 2019 compared to Yosemite and features similar terrain.

Hike among sequoias and lakes and check out the mountainous views that 800 miles of trails have to offer. Plus, you’ll probably have an easier time booking a campground reservation, especially when in need of a last-minute nature escape.

North Cascades National Park In Washington

Luke Helgeson/Unsplash
Luke Helgeson/Unsplash

Though North Cascades National Park is only three hours from the populated city of Seattle, Washington, it had less than 40,000 visitors in 2019. That low number is even more shocking considering that the park features the most glacier views of any park outside of Alaska.

The snowy terrain offers plenty of room for skiiers, snowboarders, or snow mountain climbers. Lower areas of the park have lush landscapes that make for gorgeous hikes, either on foot or horseback, and river rafting is popular in the summer.

Lake Clark National Park And Preserve In Alaska

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

With just 17,157 visitors in 2019, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is the third least-visited national park in the United States. To travelers’ delight, the low numbers have nothing to do with the scenic views or a lack of activities.

The shimmering lakes are a perfect spot to kayak, powerboat, or stand up paddleboard with jaw-dropping mountain views in the background. Hike or bike among glaciers and keep an eye out for the brown bear population.

Lassen Volcanic National Park In California

Y S/Unsplash
Y S/Unsplash

Though California has far more residents than Wyoming, its Lassen Volcanic National Park has an eighth of the visitors that Yellowstone had in 2019. Since the spot has a lesser-known name, it provides similar perks without the crowds.

As the name implies, there are plenty of hydrothermal spots and lava rocks to check out in this park, but the gorgeous forests and lakes make it worth a visit regardless. With less than 520,000 visitors in 2019, it’s just secluded enough to give travelers some peace of mind.

Capitol Reef National Park In Utah

Rich Martello/Unsplash
Rich Martello/Unsplash

Between Zion National Park and Arches National Park, many Utah visitors don’t bother to check out the state’s Capitol Reef National Park. The more well-known parks attract enough tourists that only about a million visitors ended up at Capitol Reef in 2019.

That’s good news for adventurers who want a more secluded experience. Explore bridges, canyons, and cliffs without worrying about large crowds getting in the way. The expansive views are even more intriguing without the heaps of tourists.

Kobuk Valley National Park In Alaska

Steve Halama/Unsplash
Steve Halama/Unsplash

Kobuk Valley features massive sand dunes that hundreds of thousands of caribou travel migrate through. Bears, moose, wolves, and foxes all venture through the park, as well. By boat, visitors can view stunning flora and fauna.

With less than 16,000 visitors in 2019, the park is ideal for those who want to truly get away from it all. The low numbers could have to do with the challenging backcountry terrain, which is a dream for experienced travelers who don’t need campgrounds or trails to get around.

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison In Colorado

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you’re looking for a canyon that isn’t brimming with tourists, consider the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. With less than half a million visitors in 2019, the park is a perfect spot to look over 2,000-foot cliffs without spotting crowds down below.

The area is specifically known for its incredible climbing and rafting opportunities, but even those just looking to hike will have plenty of views to revel in. With miles and miles of empty terrain, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a true escape.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park And Preserve In Alaska

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Steve Halama/Unsplash
Steve Halama/Unsplash

Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park features an astounding 13.2 million acres, making it the largest park in the United States. To top it off, it had less than 75,000 visitors in 2019, meaning you could hike for days without seeing another soul.

The massive area also features the nation’s largest glacial system, so it doesn’t take a navigating genius to stumble upon a glorious mountain of ice. Among its dozens of enormous mountain is Mount Wrangell, one of the largest active volcanoes in the world.

Shenandoah National Park In Virginia

Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia features 500 miles of trails with mountainous views and waterfalls. In autumn, the lush landscapes become vibrant and colorful.

Though the park’s 1.43 million visitors in 2019 sounds high compared to others on this list, it’s still a fraction of the more popular national parks visitor averages. Shenandoah’s landscape and features are often compared to that of the Great Smoky Mountains, which had more than 12 million visitors in 2019.

Gates Of The Arctic National Park And Preserve In Alaska

Mckayla Crump/Unsplash
Mckayla Crump/Unsplash

The least-visited park of 2019 award goes to none other than the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. With a name like that, you’d think Alaska travelers would be quick to check out the glacier-filled terrain.

Only 10,518 brave souls dared to visit the trail-free, wild terrain. Since only expert hikers are advised to venture through the park, it’s free of crowds of tourists. Those who know what they’re doing will love viewing the Northern lights in this adventurous spot.

Congaree National Park In South Carolina

Clay Banks/Unsplash
Clay Banks/Unsplash

Congaree National Park features pathways that cut through miles of towering trees, some of which are up to 170 feet tall! Aside from hiking, there are also rivers that visitors can kayak through to admire the waterfront foliage.

Head over in the summer months to witness fireflies or go during the rainy seasons to take elevated trails above a water-submerged version of the park. The park had just under 160,000 visitors in 2019, so expect the trails to be delightfully empty.

Voyageurs National Park In Minnesota

Tim Umphreys/Unsplash
Tim Umphreys/Unsplash

When looking for a place to camp that has a lot of water, Voyageurs National Park is an excellent choice. It features lakes and waterways that make up 40% of the area, offering plenty of adventures for kayaking, fishing, and other water activities.

The Minnesota grounds also freeze over, which means winter sports like skiing are available in colder months. Best of all, the national park had less than a quarter-million visitors in 2019, so there’s less likely to be a long wait for rentals.

Virgin Islands National Park

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Though the Virgin Islands may be a familiar travel destination, its national park only had 133,398 visitors in 2019! That’s especially surprising given the park’s lush green hillsides and vibrant ocean waters.

Guests can investigate the marine life through snorkeling or hike among the thick foliage, offering the best of both worlds. Those wanting to experience island life without the distraction of bustling tourism will appreciate the quiet beauty of the Virgin Islands National Park.

Great Basin National Park In Nevada

Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash
Giorgio Trovato/Unsplash

Nevada’s Great Basin National Park features dozens of glacier-formed valleys and caves worth exploring. To top it off, the area is tremendously diverse, featuring deserts, mountains, and springs that are home to more than 800 plant species.

The park also has 73 mammal species and 200 bird species. During the summer months, it’s one of the best spots to stargaze due to its notably dark skies. With less than 132,000 visitors in 2019, this is a great spot to check out year-round.

Katmai National Park And Reserve In Alaska

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Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images
Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Despite its lush views, Katmai National Park had a mere 84,167 visitors in 2019, and that was high for them! In years prior, their visitor count hovered around 40,000, making this Alaskan gem a truly less-traveled spot.

The gorgeous park sits on the state’s northern peninsula, so it’s accessed by plane or boat. With 2,000 brown bears in the area, it’s an ideal place to view the mammals, either on the ground or through an aerial tour. Visitors can also enjoy hiking among freshwater lakes and volcanoes.

Isle Royale National Park In Michigan

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Nicole Geri/Unsplash
Nicole Geri/Unsplash

Less than 20,000 people visited Isle Royale in 2019, meaning that the gorgeous island off of Michigan is just as exclusive as travelers may have hoped. Located in the middle of Lake Superior, the park is accessed via boat or plane.

The coastal spot offers forests and backcountry trails, offering a variety of landscapes to suit just about any outdoor activity. Scuba divers can also check out the sunken shipwrecks that are below the ocean’s surface.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park In Texas

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Guadalupe Mountains National Park features 80 miles of trails and four of Texas’ highest peaks. The area offers sweeping views of canyons and dunes and is sprinkled with dazzling foliage that looks most vibrant in the fall.

The terrain was once a marine reef, leaving behind remarkable fossils and a variety of plant and mammal species. Just under 189,000 visitors stopped by this national park in 2019, making it a great spot to investigate in peace and quiet.

Pinnacles National Park In California

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George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

Pinnacles National Park only had 177,224 visitors in 2019, making it a surprisingly solitary spot for California. That’s also why it’s an ideal place to view birds, such as falcons and eagles. Adventurers may also enjoy seeing the blooming wildflowers in Spring.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Pinnacles, though, is its caves, which are nestled beneath massive boulders held in place by ravines. It’s even more exciting investigating such structures when there isn’t a line of people waiting to do the same.

Dry Tortugas National Park In Florida

H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Those who love both nature and history will appreciate the landmarks available at the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Located 70 miles from Key West, the park is part of the third-largest reef system in the world.

It spans several small islands and features Fort Jefferson, which is among the largest 1800s forts in the United States. With fewer than 80,000 visitors in 2019, exploring this spot is like stumbling upon a piece of history few know about.

National Park Of American Samoa

TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images

Located southwest of Hawaii, American Samoa features a national park that spans three secluded islands. Though it can only about 60,000 visitors in 2019, the islands are rich with a variety of underwater species.

Swim among 950 species of fish and 250 coral species, or hike along panoramic cliffs or through tropical rainforests. The park is also an excellent spot for those who want to learn more about Samoan culture, as it features preservations and homestay programs.