Travel Tips 

6 of the Least Visited National Parks in the Lower 48

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the United States has 63 national parks that feature every kind of geographic location imaginable. From deserts to oceans, grasslands to mountains and everything in between. The most popular (and most visited national parks) boast millions of visitors every year. Some have even started to implement seasonal crowd control and other measures the protect the sacred natural beauty of the national parks. Looking for a less crowded experience? Try out these six least visited national parks in America's lower 48. We guarantee you’ll find beauty with a little bit of elbow room thrown in for good measure!
Prepared By:

James Wynn

Adventurer & Photographer

America’s least visited national parks are perfect for venturing off the beaten path in the mainland United States.

Yellowstone Boardwalk

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Annual Visitors: 243,000

Three distinct ecosystems, miles of hiking trails and the highest peak in Texas within its borders, Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The sheer number of trailheads that lead to any amount of day hikes is overwhelming. In the park’s McKittrick Canyon, the steep, towering walls protect a rich riparian oasis in the midst of the Chihuahuan Desert. GMNP is also considered a geological paradise. In fact, the park protects the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef. 

Great Basin National Park is one of America's least visited national parks

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Annual Visitors: 153,094

Based around Nevada’s second tallest mountain, Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park is a vast expanse of one-of-its-kind desert ecology. Just below the mountain tree-line, ancient trees grow in twisted defiance to the onward progression of time. Due to the park’s incredible isolation, the access road of Lincoln Highway/Highway 50 was named “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life Magazine. Also thanks to the park’s extreme remoteness, it has some of the country’s darkest night skies and therefore best stargazing. Be sure to join a ranger-led astronomy tour when you visit Great Basin, one of America’s least visited national parks.

Congaree National Park is one of America's least visited national parks

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Annual Visitors: 145,929

Since being declared a National Park in 2003, Congaree National Park has been welcoming visitors to enjoy the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. A UNESCO biosphere reserve, Congaree National Park features primitive campsites and offers hikingcanoeing, kayaking and bird watching. One of Congaree’s most unique attractions is the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. The canoe trail winds through the waterways along one of the largest concentrations of champion trees in the world and is only accessible via paddle.

Fishing in National Parks at Dry Tortugas National Park near Key West, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Annual Visitors: 79,200

To say that Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most unique of the national parks in America is no exaggeration. Located 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas is only accessible by sea plane or ferry. Dry Tortugas is completely surrounded by the crystalline blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This coastal national park is perfect for visitors who enjoy water sports, history or both. Explore historic Fort Jefferson, a massive, unfinished maritime fortress; then, snorkel the third largest living coral reef system in the world in the pristine surrounding waters. 

North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the US

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Annual Visitors: 38,208

North Cascades National Park may be one of the most underappreciated parks on this list of least visited national parks. Located just three hours from the bestirred metropolis of Seattle, Washington, North Cascades is close enough to a major city to have the potential to be busy. However, the park maintains a wondrous sense of unspoiled alpine wilderness, with over 300 glaciers covering jagged summits. Nearly the entire 500,000 acres of the park are designated wilderness. Moreover, you cannot drive to any campsite in the North Cascades. Hiking and bikepacking are the preferred means of transportation for overnight stays. In addition, the North Cascades is the only national park that doesn’t have a visitor center or access to amenities, so be sure to take proper precautions and preparations. 

Isle Royal National Park is one of the least visited national parks in America

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Annual Visitors: 25,894

Surrounded by the cold waters of Lake Superior, Isle Royale Natoinal Park in Michigan is rugged and pristine. Comprising a main island and 400 smaller ones, the park boasts 165 miles of trails, including the 40 mile long end-to-end Greenstone Ridge Trail. A virtually isolated wilderness, Isle Royale has two small villages at each end of the park where visitors can get supplies, take a shower and stay the night. Isle Royale is popular in the summertime but takes on a different kind of solitude and extremity of climate during the winter months. 

While accessible infrastructure is more extensive in the more popular national parks, accessible-friendly features are still available in America’s least visited national parks. Braille, audio-only, and text-only versions of information pamphlets and maps are available in most visitor centers. Wheel-chair accessible restrooms, parking, and trails are also available.

Have you been to any of these least visited national parks? 

Note: Visitor statistics for this post were obtained from the National Park Service.

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