7 Least-Visited National Parks in the U.S.
In 1916, then president, Woodrow Wilson, established the National Park Service. At the time, there were 35 national parks and monuments across the United States. The National Park Service officially dedicated federal funds to the maintenance and operation of these parks. Today there are over 400 recognized national park areas, encompassing over 84 million acres across the country.
A visit to a national park is a great way to get out and enjoy the beauty of the United States. Parks like the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park attract millions of visitors each year, with the former seeing over five million visitors per year, and the later over 11 million. These places offer unmatched beauty that you should see at least once in your life. However, one of the best ways to connect with nature is to visit one of the lesser-known parks. These parks offer the same breathtaking experience without the crowds. The best part is that these locations are mostly untouched and don't have that "touristy" feel of the larger parks. Sound good? Take a look at seven of the least-visited national parks in the United States.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of the most diverse and interesting places to explore in the entire state of Texas. The park is home to many separate ecosystems providing a wide array of wildlife and plants throughout the area. The park provides a home to nearly 300 different types of birds, 60 species of mammals, and approximately 16 species of bats. That's on top of the coyotes, snakes, and other reptiles that roam the area. Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the park, as well as the highest elevation in the state of Texas. In 2017, just over 225,000 people visited the park, making it a much quieter alternative to more popular sites like Zion National Park and Yosemite.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
The Great Basin National Park is located in a remote area of Nevada, just west of the Utah border. The park features varying elevations, ranging from 6,000 feet to over 13,000 feet, meaning the lower levels may experience scorching desert heats while the higher elevations still have snow. Along with this comes a great diversity in wildlife. Along with beavers and porcupines, visitors can also see pygmy rabbits, longhorn sheep, and water shrew. The diversity of the area allows for a wide range of recreational activities, including caving, horseback riding, fishing, and backpacking. In 2017, 168,028 people visited the Great Basin National Park.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
The Congaree National Park was designated as a national park in 2003. It covers over 22,000 acres in South Carolina. The park is home to the largest collection of old-growth bottomland hardwood forests in the United States. The area has a subtropical climate, so while you can visit the park any time of the year, avoiding the summer is best if you want to avoid muggy conditions and swarms of insects. Approximately 160,000 annual visitors enjoy fishing, hiking, and kayaking at the park. There is no entrance fee for this park, making it easily accessible.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
In Spanish, tortuga translates to turtle. Explorer Ponce de Leon originally called the area simply, Las Tortugas (the turtles), because of how many turtles were seen swimming in the area. Today, Dry Tortuga National Park is home to five different species of turtles.
The park consists of seven small islands and is located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. It is most well-known as the home of Fort Jefferson. Besides turtle watching, visitors can enjoy snorkeling, paddlesports, and fishing. The park has seen a decrease in visitors over recent years with just over 54,000 visitors in 2017.
North Cascades National Park, Washington State
The North Cascades National Park is located in northern Washington state, just south of the Canadian border. The park encompasses over 500,000 acres of lush, evergreen filled land. The park is the best place to get a view of glaciers in the United States without making a trip to Alaska. Scientists analyze and track over 300 glaciers in the park to monitor the effects of climate change.
In addition to the glacier viewing, visitors can enjoy hiking, boating, and camping. The best time to visit is between June and September when most of the snow has melted. However, if you are looking for some peace and tranquility, the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall are your best bet. The park attracted just over 30,000 visitors in 2017. No matter what time you choose, there won't be a whole lot of crowds.
Isle Royal National Park, Michigan
Isle Royal National Park is located in Lake Superior, Michigan. It's slightly larger than North Cascades, at just over 570,000 acres and sees a few thousand fewer visitors per year. The island is so remote that the only way to get there is by ferry, seaplane, or private watercraft. Popular activities at the park include scuba diving, fishing, and camping. There are a few things you should know before you visit the park. Isle Royal National Park is the only national park in the country to completely shut down during the off-season, which runs from November to mid-April. This means you will have to check with the park and make sure it is open when you want to visit. Another thing to note – the park does not permit animals of any kind. This includes dogs, cats, or any other family pet. So, if you want to visit this park, you're going to have to leave Fido behind.
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
The Gates of the Arctic is located in the remote landscape of Alaska. The park was established in 1982 and is one of the best places in the world do view stunning glaciers. If you are looking to get away from it all, this is the place for you. According to National Geographic, the best time to visit is during the summer. That's when the weather is at its mildest. Even so, expect arctic and subarctic conditions. The summer gives you the best chance of making it to the park as planes will not fly in inclement conditions. If you make it there, you will be one of the few. The Gates of the Arctic attracts approximately 11,000 visitors per year.