The least-visited US national parks in 2021

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There are more than 420 sites in the US National Park System, but only 63 carry the headliner – capital N, capital P – “National Park” title.

The most visited of those, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, welcomed a record-setting 14 million recreation visits in 2021. Zion, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are other top visitor draws. See full lists of the most popular National Park Service sites here.

But what about the least-visited headliners? Parks that might be especially wild or hard to reach but also uncrowded and largely undiscovered. Let’s take a peek at those.

Seven out of the 15 least-visited national parks in 2021 are in Alaska.

It’s no big surprise that a good chunk of the least-visited national parks are in the 49th state. Covering close to 665,000 square miles – much of it wild and often frozen – getting around the state can be challenging and there’s a lot of wilderness to see.

The least visited of the 63 national parks, Gates of the Arctic National Park & ​​Preserve, contains no roads or trails and visitors must fly or hike into the park, according to the National Park Service.

It’s safe to say the people who accounted for its 7,362 recreation visits in 2021 were very committed to a wilderness experience. Denali National Park in Alaska, No. 13 among the least-visited parks, saw a whopping 229,521 visits by comparison.

The National Park of American Samoa logged 8,495 recreational visits in 2021.

The second least-visited national park could not be more different. National Park of American Samoa is located on a volcanic island arc in the South Pacific, where fruit bats and coral reefs are part of the ecosystem. The park logged just under 8,500 visits in 2021.

Among other non-Alaska entries in the least visited parks list are North Cascades in Washington; Isle Royale in Michigan and Dry Tortugas in Florida.

The latter two are remarkably different island environments. Isle Royale is a wooded island in Lake Superior accessible by ferry or seaplane; Dry Tortugas is 70 miles west of Key West and encompasses open water and a handful of islands, including one that’s home to an impressive 19th-century fort.

Nevada, South Carolina, Minnesota and Texas parks also make the 15 least-visited list.

Here’s the list for a little trail-less-taken inspiration:

1. Gates of the Arctic National Park & ​​Preserve, Alaska – 7,362 recreation visits

2. National Park of American Samoa – 8,495 recreational visits

3. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska – 11,540 recreational visits

4. North Cascades National Park, Washington – 17,855 recreational visits

5. Lake Clark National Park & ​​Preserve, Alaska – 18,278 recreational visits

6. Katmai National Park & ​​Preserve, Alaska – 24,764 recreational visits

7. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan – 25,844 recreational visits

8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & ​​Preserve, Alaska – 50,189 recreational visits

9. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida – 83,817 recreational visits

10. Glacier Bay National Park & ​​Preserve, Alaska – 89,768 recreational visits

11. Great Basin National Park, Nevada – 144,875 recreational visits

12. Congaree National Park, South Carolina – 215,181 recreation visits

13. Denali National Park & ​​Preserve, Alaska – 229,521 recreational visits

14. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota – 243,042 recreational visits

15. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas – 243,291 recreational visits

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