Picking the least-visited national parks in the U.S.

least visited national parks

If you love the national park experience and prefer solitude and wilderness to crowds on hiking trails and traffic jams on roadways, these five national parks are for you. They are among the least visited national parks in the national park system. Wrangell-St. Elias, for example, with over 13 million acres, is the largest national park in the system. It’s bigger than Switzerland, but had only 66,356 visitors last year. Compare that to the 522,427-acre Smoky Mountains National Park, the system’s most visited park, which had over nine million visitors in 2014. Other comparisons are equally beckoning to the true wilderness experience seeker:

  • Kobuk Valley (Alaska) 7,341 visits last year, compared to Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho), 3,240, 281 visitors
  • North Cascades (Washington) 21,937 visits last year compared to Grand Canyon (Arizona) 4,756,771 visitors
  • Isle Royale (Michigan) 15,831 visits last year, compared to Yosemite (California), 3,649,924 visitors

So if it’s an unfettered, unadorned, back-to-basics, true outdoor experiences you’re after, read more about these five least visited national parks and click on the links to learn more. Then strap on your backpack.

Kobuk Valley National Park

Alaska 7,341 visits last year

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Boating, camping, hiking, backpacking, flightseeing, wildlife watching, fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, dog sledding. Kobuk Valley National Park is in northwestern Alaska 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It’s noted for the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes and caribou migration routes. There are no designated trails or roads in the park, which at 1,750,716 acres (2,735.49 sq mi), is approximately the size of Delaware. The park is entirely above the Arctic Circle. No roads lead to the park. It is reachable by foot, dogsled, snowmobile, and chartered air taxis from Nome and Kotzebue year-round.

Outfitters and Guides serving Kobuk Valley National Park CLICK HERE

National Park Service website CLICK HERE

Isle Royale

Michigan, 15,831visits last year

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Canoeing and kayaking, day hiking, scuba diving, interpretive programs. Isle Royale National Park is on Isle Royale and adjacent islands in Lake Superior, in Michigan. The park covers 894 square miles with 209 square miles above water.

Outfitters and Guides serving Isle Royale National Park CLICK HERE

North Cascades

Washington, 21,937 visits last year

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Guided tours, bicycling, bird and wildlife viewing, boating and fishing, camping, hiking, horseback riding. North Cascades National Park is located in Washington. The park is the largest of the three National Park Service units that comprise the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. Several national wilderness areas and British Columbia parkland adjoin the National Park. The park features rugged mountain peaks and protects portions of the North Cascades range.

Outfitters and Guides serving North Cascades National Park CLICK HERE

National Park Service website CLICK HERE

Wrangell-St. Elias

Alaska, 66,356 visits last year

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, flightseeing, wilderness experiences, guided tours. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is in south central Alaska. The park and preserve form the largest area managed by the National Park Service in the United States by area with a total of 13,175,799 acres (20,587.19 sq mi). The park includes a large portion of the Saint Elias Mountains, which include most of the highest peaks in the United States and Canada, yet are within 10 miles of tidewater, one of the highest reliefs in the world.

Outfitters and Guides serving Wrangell-St. Elias National Park CLICK HERE

National Park Service website CLICK HERE

Great Basin

Nevada, 86,743 visits last year

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Bicycling, bird watching, camping, caving, climbing, fishing, hiking and backpacking, horseback riding, picnicking, pine nut gathering, wildflower viewing, winter touring via skis and snowshoes. Great Basin National Park is a United States National Park in east-central Nevada, near the Utah border. The park is located approximately 290 miles north of Las Vegas and protects 77,180 acres. It is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines, the oldest known non-clonal organisms; and for the Lehman Caves at the base of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak.

National Park Service website CLICK HERE

Brown's Guide
About Brown's Guide 195 Articles
Brown’s Guides is a website about the top outdoor experiences in America and about the professional outfitters and guides who know them best. Hiking, biking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and over 100 other outdoor activities are indexed on the site. BG has been doing this type of thing since 1972 in books, magazines, maps and on the Internet.

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