HomeTravelsThe least visited national parks in 2021 include Glacier Bay, Great Basin

The least visited national parks in 2021 include Glacier Bay, Great Basin

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.

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A couple get married at Taft Point in Yosemite National Park in California on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. The viewpoint overlooks Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, a popular vertical climb for climbers around the world.

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.

A brown bear roams near the waterline at dawn in Kobuk National Park.

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.

People jump off a dock at North Cascades National Park.
Mountain goats are seen at North Cascades National Park.

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.

A starry night sky reflects off Lake Clark.

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.

Two moose walk in a cove in Isle Royale National Park, a remote and rugged group of more than 400 islands with 265 miles of trails and 36 campgrounds.
The Ranger III boat moored at sunset is seen from Rock Harbor.

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.

Sights seen at Wrangell-St.  Elias National Park in Alaska.
Sights seen at Wrangell-St.  Elias National Park in Alaska.

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.

A baby turtle swims near the surface of Dry Tortugas National Park.
A bird soars above Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park.

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.

Steller sea lions are seen at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.  Although the number of sea lions is increasing in Glacier Bay, the population in western Alaska has declined by 80% since the late 1970s, according to the NPS.
A humpback whale pokes its head in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

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.

Stars emerge into the night sky above an ancient bristlecone pine in this twilight view at Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

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.

Wood ducks are seen swimming in the flood waters of Congaree National Park.

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.

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