Want to enjoy the great outdoors without crowds this summer? Consider these lesser-known and untapped national parks that had the fewest visitors in 2021.
There are 63 national parks in the United States and 423 national park sites in total. But even with extensive options, 25% of total recreational visits took place in the eight most visited parks, which is only 2% of all parks in the national park system.
“We are happy to see so many visitors returning to iconic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but there are hundreds more that should be on everyone’s bucket list,” the National Park Service director said. , Chuck Sams, in a February press release.
‘Staggering’:New waterfall trail in West Virginia promises 29 falls
Some parks are difficult to get to, like the gateway to the Arctic in Alaska – the least visited national park last year, with 7,362 recreational visits – or American Samoa National Park, the second least visited national park , with 8,495 visitors in 2021.
If you’re looking for hidden gems with less hiking trail traffic, be sure to add these 10 lesser-recognized national parks to your list.
Overexposed favorite hidden vacation spot? Blame social media and pent-up demand
Kobuk Valley, Alaska
At Kobuk Valley National Park, visitors can experience unique Alaskan wildlife, sand dunes, the ancient Kobuk River, and more. Half a million caribou migrate through the park each fall.
The Kobuk Valley received a total of 11,540 visitors in 2021.
North Cascades, Washington
Explore the jagged peaks, alpine landscape and more than 300 glaciers of North Cascades National Park, less than three hours from Seattle.
“Listen to the waterfalls in the wooded valleys. Witness a landscape sensitive to Earth’s climate change,” reads the park’s website.
North Cascades welcomed a total of 17,855 visitors in 2021.
Lake Clark, Alaska
Visitors can admire shimmering turquoise lakes reflecting dramatic mountain scenery at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. The park offers access to smoking volcanoes, exceptional fishing and unparalleled wilderness.
Lake Crescent, the park’s most visited destination, is home to brown and black bears that hunt sockeye and coho salmon.
Lake Clark welcomed a total of 18,278 visitors in 2021.
Isle Royale, Michigan
Big Lake Superior is home to Isle Royale National Park, a remote and rugged group of more than 400 islands with 165 miles of trails and 36 campgrounds.
The highest peak in the park, Mount Desor, is 1,334 feet.
Isle Royale welcomed a total of 25,844 visitors in 2021.
Greenbelt Park, Maryland
With a 172-site campground, nine miles of trails, and three picnic areas, Greenbelt National Park is a hidden gem and “urban oasis” just 10 miles from Washington, DC tourist landmarks.
The Greenbelt park welcomed a total of 23,893 visitors in 2021.
Wrangell-St. Elias, Alaska
The largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the equivalent of six Yellowstones and contains the largest subpolar icefield in North America, Bagley Icefield. Braided rivers or streams lead visitors to many glaciers, historic mining sites, and provide pride of place for Alaskan wildlife.
Wrangell-St. Elias had a total of 50,189 visitors in 2021.
Dry Tortugas, Florida
Accessible only by boat or floatplane, Dry Tortugas State Park, located at the southwest corner of the Florida Keys reef system, is a 100-square-mile remote park featuring Fort Jefferson – one of the largest forts in the 19th century in the United States – and seven small islands.
With 99% of the park being scenic blue waters, the best way to see this park is to enter and explore the third largest reef systems in the world.
Dry Tortugas welcomed a total of 83,817 visitors in 2021.
Glacier Bay, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park is part of a 25 million acre World Heritage Site – one of the largest international protected areas in the world – and covers 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, glaciers, emerald green forests and rugged coastlines.
Glacier Bay welcomed a total of 89,768 visitors in 2021.
Great Basin, Nevada
Explore ancient bristlecone pines, bask in the darkest night sky, reach the summit of Wheeler Peak and explore the underground passageways of Great Basin National Park.
Great Basin had a total of 144,875 visitors.
Congaree, South Carolina
The Congaree and Wateree rivers provide “astonishing biodiversity” in Congaree National Park, an untapped gem home to the largest untouched expanse of lowland old-growth hardwood forest in the southeast. A 50-mile recreational paddle trail stretches from the state capital of Columbia downstream to the park.
Congaree had a total of 215,181 visitors.
Camille Fine is a Trending Visual Producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She loves making pizza, photographing friends and spoiling her adorable cat Pearl.