Have you ever wondered about the least visited national parks? Every year in early March National Park Service publishes visitor statistics from the prior year. It gives travelers the chance to learn more about some of the most remote and challenging places to visit in the NPS. So, what were the least visited national parks in 2019?
Today we’re posting our list of the Top 10 Least Visited National Parks in 2019. To give some perspective, consider this fact:
Of the more than 327 million visitors to a national park last year, these 10 parks saw roughly 530,000 visitors all combined. That’s a tiny fraction of the total count.
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds at Yosemite, Zion and Yellowstone, this list of least visited national parks in 2019 seems like a great place to start planning a #parkchasing trip!
The Least Visited National Parks in 2019
Great Basin National Park, Nevada – 131,802
For the first time in many years, Nevada’s Great Basin National Park makes the list of least visited national parks. With roughly 20,000 fewer visitors to the park, it continues to be one of the Southwest’s hidden gems. Unlike the busy parks of Utah, Great Basin National Park has gone relatively undeveloped. With towering 13,000+ foot Wheeler Peak and the marble formations of Lehman Caves, there’s still plenty to do without fighting the crowds.
Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska – 84,167
Alaska’s national parks regularly make the list of most remote and undisturbed places around the park service. Katmai National Park ranks on this list in part, because there are no roads to the park. Visitors arrive by boat or private chartered aircraft only.
The park did see a dramatic rise in visitor count this year, from 30,000 to well over 80,000 visitors. Many people from around the world recognize Katmai from the famous “Brooks Falls Bear Cam.” Even though it’s remote, they’re looking for one of the most exciting wildlife experiences in all of the National Park Service.
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Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida – 79,200
Of all the national parks we have left to visit, Dry Tortugas is high on our #parkchasing list. Located about 70 miles west from the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas takes visitors to a tiny island chain in the Gulf of Mexico. It was among these delicate islands and reefs that in 1861 Fort Jefferson was built. It’s the largest brick masonry structure in the United States and one of the third largest forts still in existence in the U.S.
After a short ferry ride or chartered flight, visitors can tour Fort Jefferson, snorkel around the reefs, and camp in some of the most remote ocean-side campsites in the world!
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska – 74,518
Even though it’s the largest national park in the entire National Park Service, Wrangell- St. Elias is among the least visited. At 13.25 million acres it’s the same size as Yosemite, Yellowstone and Switzerland COMBINED!
Very little of Wrangell-St Elias can be reached by car though. Most of the park remains undeveloped wilderness. True Alaskan frontier. We still managed to check out the visitor center and do some front-country hiking though, during our 2017 visit:
- Alaska Vacation Recap: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
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- Project Alaska (Part IV): To Camp or Not to Camp in Alaska
National Park of American Samoa – 60,006
Even though the park’s visitor count was up from 28,000 visitors in 2018, the National Park of American Samoa continues to be among the most remote in the National Park Service. That’s in part because of how far away the park is from anything else on the planet. Some 2,600 miles west of Hawaii, it’s also the only national park unit south of the Equator.
Add it to your #parkchasing list and you’ll be among the few who make the trek!
North Cascades National Park, Washington – 38,208
North Cascades National Park in Washington is the one park on this list that confuses us year after year. With glaciers, hiking, and opportunities for a remote wilderness experience, we can definitely see the draw. Yet it rarely sees above 40,000 visitors in a year, even though it’s less than 3 hours from the Seattle metro area. It holds steady to its spot on the list of least visited national parks in 2019 again for another year.
Seems like we’ll need to plan a trip and see it for ourselves!
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan – 26,410
Even though it’s in the middle of the icy waters of Lake Superior, we think Isle Royale National Park should be on everyone’s #parkchasing list. The ferry dock to Isle Royale is located about 5 hours from our base camp in St. Paul, Minnesota. After an hour ferry ride or a short chartered plane flight, you arrive in the remote National Park Service community of Windigo. From there, hiking and paddling trips abound.
Of all the parks on this list of ‘least visited’ and ‘most remote,’ this one is our favorite!
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, Alaska – 17,157
The third of Alaska’s national parks to make the list of least visited national parks in 2019 is Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. No roads or publicly developed trails make this park among the most remote and wild places in the National Park Service. Available only via privately chartered bush plane, visitors are dropped into the gorgeous Alaskan wilderness for long summer days at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
While it’s not official yet, there may be a #parkchasing trip for us in the works for Summer 2021!
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska – 10,518
And last and least on this list, we come to Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. With just over 10,000 visitors, it continues to rank for another year as the least visited national park in 2019.
When we visited Gates of the Arctic National Park in 2017, it was unlike anywhere else we’d been on the planet. Completely undisturbed, wild and remote. It’s entirely possible that with that few visitors each year, the location our pilot dropped us for lakeside lunch after a flightseeing tour around the park might not see another visitor all year or potentially several years. If you’re looking for one of the most unique (and solitary) experiences in the National Park Service – add Gates of the Arctic to your list!
- 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