Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Fort Jefferson.

The Least-Visited National Parks in America That You Must See

The US is home to 429 national park sites spanning 84 million acres in total. Of those 429 sites, only 63 are designated as “National Parks.” The other 366 sites include things like national historic sites, national monuments, and national preserves. Still, with all that land, it’s no surprise that not every park is booming with visitors. Whether you’re a US National Park fanatic or are just starting out on your wilderness journey, don’t let the low attendance at these national parks fool you. For the most part, the lack of visitors has nothing to do with a lack of beauty or activities, but rather the remote locations of the parks. With a handful of locations only accessible by boat or plane, getting to your destination may be difficult, but the payoff is always worth it. So if you’re looking for a new adventure this summer, here are 7 of the least-visited American national parks that you must see.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Landscape view of Gates of the Arctic National Park (Alaska), the least visited national park in the United States.

Located in Alaska, Gates of the Arctic National Park is the northernmost national park in the state. With no roads or trails, this wide-spanning land may be tough to navigate, but the beauty it boasts is undeniable. According to National Park Service statistics, this Alaskan gem saw only 11,045 visitors in 2023. To compare, Great Smoky Mountain National Park saw more than 13 million visitors in the same year.

Despite what the numbers suggest, Gates of the Arctic National Park is filled with scenic landscapes and fun-filled activities ideal for seasoned backcountry campers. Experienced visitors can traverse the grounds, admire views of the towering Endicott Mountains, and look for wildlife in the various lakes and rivers that are sprinkled throughout the park. Those without backcountry experience can opt to take a local air taxi into the park where they can admire breathtaking views from the sky.

National Park of American Samoa

National Park of American Samoa.

Much like the Gates of the Arctic National Park, the National Park of American Samoa is a remote area that is difficult to get to. But once you’re in, the park scenery and local Samoan culture will leave you with an abundance of unforgettable memories. Located on a small island in the South Pacific Ocean, this national park saw only 12,135 visitors in 2023.

The park offers a homestay program where you can choose to stay with a local Samoan family instead of renting a hotel. This is a perfect setup for anyone hoping to dive deep into the local culture. The island is also home to stunning tropical plants, wildlife, coral reefs, and a handful of secluded villages. Activities like snorkeling, fishing, hiking, beach walking, and bird watching are popular here as well. 

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Rock Harbor Lighthouse in Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

On a different faraway island near the edge of Lake Superior, ambitious travelers will find Isle Royale National Park. Although technically closer to Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada this small island park is a part of Michigan. In 2023 the park saw just shy of 30,000 visitors. Although getting here may seem difficult, there are actually a variety of ways to enter the park including public ferry services, seaplanes, and private boats.

Embark on several activities ranging from hiking and fishing to scuba diving and canoeing. Hiking in the park is not for the faint of heart as the terrain is quite rugged. That said, the views along the way are priceless. One of the popular hiking trails is the Rock Harbor trail to Suzy’s Cave. The hike is expected to take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, so remember to bring adequate hiking gear, snacks, and water for the trek. 

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Mount Shuksan and Picture lake, North Cascades National Park, Washington.

North Cascades National Park in Washington state is a little easier to get to. That said, the park still has a relatively low visitor count at just 40,351 in 2023.

Located just a few hours from Seattle, North Cascades National Park couldn’t feel any further from city life. Here, park goers will find a beautiful collection of mountains, blue waters, peaceful valleys, and hiking trails with impeccable views. Those not familiar with the wilderness can enjoy a selection of Ranger-led programs and guided tours which are offered periodically throughout the season or by request. For wilderness lovers, on the other hand, the activities are bountiful here. Spend a few days in the park climbing mountains, hiking, boating, fishing, horseback riding, and camping out

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Rusting lighthouse atop Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida.

Far from Washington’s glacier valleys, in the Gulf of Mexico travelers will find Dry Tortugas National Park. The park, which spans a mere 100 square miles and consists mainly of water, saw 84,285 visitors in 2023. Like many island-bound parks, interested park goers must arrive here by boat or seaplane. You will be greeted by nearly turquoise waters, tropical birds, and Fort Jefferson – a coastal fortress made up of over 16 million bricks. Spend a day here snorkeling and swimming in the crystal clear water or hop aboard the Yankee Freedom Ferry for a fun day trip outing. Activities including fishing, camping, geocaching, and wildlife viewing are also available.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Wheeler Peak, at over 13,000 feet in elevation, is an overwhelming sight in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Great Basin National Park is a mountainous gem in Nevada, not far from the Utah border. Home to mountain ranges, caves, and an abundance of wildflowers there is an endless list of reasons to explore this lesser-visited national park. In 2023, 2022, and 2021 the park saw roughly 143,000 visitors on average. While that’s more than some, it is still far from the 13 million visitors at Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Recognized as a dark sky viewing park, visitors planning to spend the night here will be met with a sparkling blanket of stars that are sure to impress. Other breathtaking sites in the park include the Lehman Cave and the wildflowers that line the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Activities including hiking, fishing, camping, and guided tours are also available.

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

The Northern Lights over the skies of Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota.

Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota saw 220,825 visitors in 2023. Similar to Great Basin National Park, Voyageurs is a dedicated dark sky viewing area and offers a pristine look at the stars. In addition to stargazing, you can also see the beautiful Northern Lights from here. The park, which spans a whopping 218,055 acres, features a range of ecosystems from rocky cliffs to wetlands and lakes.

Those looking for a park activity that is equal parts fun and educational can check out Rainy Lake Ethnobotanical Garden. Here, you can discover a range of native plants while you learn about Ojibwe culture. Typical park activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and birdwatching are also available.


As the old saying goes, life is a journey, not a destination. But when it comes to these lesser-visited national parks, both the journey and the destination are wonderful. Between admiring the Northern Lights in Voyageurs National Park to zipping around The Florida Keys on the Yankee Freedom Ferry, there is a little something for everyone in America's National Parks.


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