Have you ever wondered where the most remote places in America are? Of the 60 total parks, which rank as the least visited national parks in the National Park Service? Earlier this month, the NPS released their 2018 Annual Visitor’s Statistics report. This comprehensive report details the most and least visited national parks for all of 2018.
While it’s not surprising that parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone top the list of the Most Visited National Parks in 2018, there may be some surprises on the list for the least visited national parks.
If you’re looking for solitude and the chance to experience something that most Americans are missing out on, check out one of these spots on your next #parkchasing adventure:
The Top 10 Least Visited National Parks in 2018
10. Virgin Islands National Park – 112,287
Devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, Virgin Islands National Park saw a dramatic drop in visitor count. This is the first year in recent history that the park makes the list of least visited national parks. Located on the island of St. John, Virgin Island National Park count dropped from an average of 350,000 visitors to a stunning 112,287 visitors in 2018.
Rangers are hopeful for a 2019 rebound in visitor count. You can follow along with hurricane recovery on the NSP website: https://www.nps.gov/viis/learn/viis-hurricane-recovery.htm
9. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve – 79,450
It’s not surprising that Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve made its way onto this list. At 13.25 million acres, Wrangell is the largest national park in the NPS. Wrangell has it all: mountains over 18,000 feet, the world’s largest tidewater glacier, and 13.2 million acres of remote wilderness. The National Park Service likes to brag that the park is the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined!
While a few of the Wrangell-St. Elias visitors centers can be reached by car, most of the wilderness area is undeveloped and only available by boat or bush plane. We loved that there were few developed trails, limited services, and plenty of opportunities to explore. Check out our recaps of our 2017 visit and how you can plan your own trip:
8. Dry Tortugas National Park – 56,810
From the very beginning of our #parkchasing adventures, we have been planning a camping trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. Located about 70 miles west off the coast of southern Florida, Dry Tortugas protects the islands, reefs, and remanents of Fort Jefferson. Today the park has some of the most remote (and highly prized!) camping options in all of the National Park Service.
7. Katmai National Park and Preserve – 37,818
Some might be surprised to find Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve on the list of least visited national parks. In recent years, Katmai has ‘gone viral’ due to the grizzly bear webcams installed at the Brooks Camp area of the park. All summer, visitors take a virtual vacation to watch Katmai’s bears compete for salmon on the Brooks River.
Despite all this, Katmai continues to rank as one of the most remote national parks. No roads lead to the park. All visitors arrive by chartered airplanes or by boat. Services are limited and there are no organized trails and only one organized campground near the Brooks Camp.
6. North Cascades National Park – 30,085
Located less than 3 hours drive from Seattle, Washington, North Cascades National Park should rank high among the national parks of the west. Yet only 30,085 people traveled to this alpine wilderness area last year, holding steady to it’s place on the list of least visited national parks.
Home to more than 300 glaciers, North Cascades National Park also faces some of the largest threats from climate change of all the national parks. If you plan a visit to North Cascades, be sure to take the extra steps to visit the remote Stehekin Valley, some of the most majestic parts of the North Cascades Wilderness area.
5. National Park of American Samoa – 28,626
Located some 2,600 miles west of Hawaii, National Park of American Samoa takes visitors deep into the South Pacific. It ranks as one of the least visited national parks simply because of how far it is from anywhere else in the world. It’s also the only national park site south of the equator.
We loved watching fellow Park Chaser Mikah Meyer visit the park last year (and will be using his tips when we plan our own American Samoa trip!)
4. Isle Royale National Park – 25,798
Every time we take a look at this list, Isle Royale is the head-scratcher. The closest national park to our base camp in St. Paul, Minnesota, Isle Royale doesn’t feel all that remote to us. Sure, Isle Royale is located in the middle of Lake Superior (known for its less-than-ideal weather conditions). Yes, it’s only available via ferry or chartered plane service. So what if there are limited amenities and only a handful of organized campgrounds on the island?
But still, people. Isle Royale is gorgeous. It’s available for a day trip. And it’s the site of some of the most cutting-edge research in the National Park Service. Of all the parks on the list of ‘most remote,’ we think Isle Royale deserves a second look!
3. Kobuk Valley National Park – 14,937
Sand dunes in Alaska? Only in Kobuk.
The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes are the largest active sand dunes in the Arctic and one of the many reasons people hop a bush plane to visit the national park. Located above the Arctic Circle, the park is also home to one of the largest caribou migration routes in Alaska.
Our plan for visiting Kobuk? A multi-day rafting trip through the park’s world-famous Kobuk River.
2. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve – 14,479
The National Park Service website description of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve says it all “Lake Clark preserves the ancestral homelands of the Dena’ina people, an intact ecosystem at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, and a rich cultural wilderness.”
Available only by chartered bush plane (or small chartered boat services if tides and weather allow in the summer), Lake Clark remains one of the most remote parks in all of Alaska.
1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve – 9,591
Call it a ‘bucket list’ item, but when we visited Alaska in 2017, visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was on our Top 3 list of must-do things. For whatever reason, we HAD to be among the people who have set foot in this stunning
Gates of the Arctic is not connected to any road system and rests above the Arctic Circle. We chartered a private aircraft to cruise above the migrating caribou and meandering rivers. It’s unforgettable and completely undisturbed. A must-see for anyone looking for the ultimate definition of ‘wild.’
- Alaska Vacation Recap: Gates of the Arctic National Park
- Project Alaska: Visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park
- Project Alaska: Traveling North of the Arctic Circle