Least crowded National Parks: 15 of the best parks for hiking in solitude
Looking to escape the crowds? Book United Airlines Flight and Check out some of America’s least visited National Parks for a true wilderness experience. With stunning landscapes and plenty of outdoor adventures to be had, these parks offer something for everyone. So get off the beaten path and discover some of the country’s most rugged and best-kept adventure secrets.
The United States is home to 63 National Parks, many of which are popular tourist destinations. However, there are many National Parks that receive less than 350,000 annual visitors and are perfect for hiking. For this list, we’ve chosen 15 parks that have an average of less than 1,000 visitors per day.
The National Parks on our list vary in terms of accessibility and adventure required to reach them, but all promise a great outdoor experience. Some parks are only a few hours away from major population centers, making them easy to get to. These parks are often less crowded, providing a more peaceful outdoor experience.
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What are the least visited National Parks in USA?
15. Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
This National Park has been called the Grand Canyon in miniature, but don’t let that description fool you. This 48-mile long canyon plunges over 2,000ft into the earth and is easily large and deep enough to be vertigo-inducing. Carved out by the Gunnison River, and time, this near-vertical canyon is so-named because it is so deep that parts of the river receive no more than 33 minutes of sunlight per day.
In 1999, fourteen miles of the canyon were declared a National Park. Visitors have the chance to see geological marvels including the 2,250ft Painted Wall and hike, rock climb, kayak and camp. Despite being the busiest National Park on our list, this park only sees a tenth of the visitors of parks like Yellowstone and Zion.
14. Mesa Verde, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park is a fascinating place, preserving the dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan Indians. These dwellings, which date back to 650 CE and were abandoned in the 12th century for unknown reasons, are a main tourist attraction. Mesa Verde is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Colorado.
This UNESCO heritage site is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States. Visitors can learn about how ancient people lived in sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls here. We recommend visiting it as part of a road trip taking in several other National Parks on the way.
13. Redwood, California
Redwood National Park’s remoteness is the main factor for its low visitation rates. The Park, which encompasses about 139,000 acres, is home to some of the last remaining old-growth coastal redwoods. Visitors can explore temperate rainforests, ancient fern-lined canyons, waterfalls and rugged coastline on the best hikes in Redwood National Park.
12. Voyageurs, Minnesota
At Voyageurs National Park, there are four lranquil areas near the Canadian border. It’s popular for water sports, but its hiking trails range from five day backcountry thru-hikes to short day strolls that offer beautiful views of rocky ridges and wetlands.
11. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns is famed for its 119 caves, the longest of which is over 120 miles long. In addition to exploring the caves, Carlsbad Caverns offers plenty of above-ground activities, including hiking trails that snake across the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Ridge Trail.
10. Pinnacles, California
This National Park in Central California, popular with rock climbers, features massive rock monoliths that are leftovers from an extinct volcano. Hikers can also enjoy these rocks spires as well as the Talus Caves on over 80 miles of trails.
9. Guadalupe Mountains, Texas
The National Park in northern Texas is a place where you can find beautiful desert landscapes and canyons. What might be surprising, however, is that this Park also has the four highest peaks in the state and a fossilized coral reef from the Permian era. There are over 80 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy desert walks to strenuous mountain climbs, so you can find something to fit your interests and experience level. And because this Park is not as well-known as others
8. Great Basin, Nevada
The Great Basin Desert Park is located in eastern Nevada, near the border with Utah. The park protects Nevada’s second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak. Visitors can enjoy hiking on the many forested trails or on the high altitude trails. If you are camping in the park, you will have the opportunity to view the stars at night because of the dark night skies. While in the park be sure to take a guided tour of Lehman Caves.
7. Congaree, South Carolina
The Congaree River Park is a beautiful place in South Carolina that protects a large chunk of forest land. Boardwalk Loop Trail is the main attraction, providing a wooden path through the swamp and forest. However, you can find other trails to explore if you want to view the trees or birds in more depth.
6. Denali, Alaska
The Denali National Park and Preserve is a stunning natural wonder that encompasses the highest mountain peak in North America, as well as over six million acres of pristine wilderness in the interior of Alaska. The Park can be reached by road, rail and even small plane, and it’s popular for hiking and mountaineering pursuits. However, it doesn’t have a lot of pre-established trails, so visitors should be prepared for off-the-beaten path adventures.
There are a few short trails near the park entrance, but if you’re experienced in backcountry hiking, we recommend consulting with a park ranger about taking your adventures off trail. The terrain here encompasses tundra, glaciers, and forests. Hiking Denali itself is a two-week expedition.
5. North Cascades, Washington
The North Cascades is a beautiful location that is less than a three-hour drive from Seattle. Despite this, the area sees relatively few visitors per year compared to the nearby Olympics. The North Cascades has jagged peaks, glaciers, forests, and plenty of cascades. Hiking in the area ranges from short, scenic strolls with leaping salmon to high elevation hauls and backpacking trips that all deliver ample solitude.
4. Wrangell St Elias, Alaska
The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is larger than Yellowstone National Park and consists of 13 million acres of land. This park has a vast landscape that rises from the sea to 18,008ft, providing many opportunities for adventure. The park has major peaks, glaciers, rivers, wildlife, and a coastline. There is even an active volcano in this park, Mount Wrangell.
Unlike some of the other Alaskan Parks on this list, Wrangell St Elias National Park can be accessed by road. However, the drive is long. Once you arrive however, you can find spectacular day hikes in the Nabesna Road area up in the northern section of the Park.
3. Isle Royale, Michigan
Isle Royale is a unique island in the middle of Lake Superior that can only be reached by boat or small plane. The island is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide, and is surrounded by 400 smaller islands. Visitors can explore the island’s 170 miles of hiking trails, which range from day hikes to a circumnavigation of the entire island. The journey to Isle Royale takes three hours by ferry, and the island is open from April to October.
Hiking here provides a unique experience – you’ll get to see pristine shoreline, as well as swamps, boreal forests, glacial lakes and several small mountains.
2. Lake Clark, Alaska
Lake Clark National Park is located in southwest Alaska and is just as difficult to access as Gates of the Arctic National Park. This prevents annual visitation from exceeding 5,000 people, meaning that if you want to explore the park’s smoking volcanoes, stunning coastline, and craggy peaks, you will have the wilderness to yourself.
Lake Clark is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and it also provides a habitat for the Dena’ina people, grizzly bears, and many other species. With its extensive Tanalian Trail system, Lake Clark offers hikers and backpackers opportunities for exploring its wilderness areas.
1. Gates of the Arctic, Alaska
Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska is a rugged and remote park that received less than 3,000 visits in 2020. The park is located entirely above the Arctic Circle and its landscape has not been touched by humans, with no roads or trails to explore the glacier-carved valleys. Visitors can find caribou roaming the land and the sun never setting in summer.
Getting to the park requires considerable effort. You can fly in, or hike in. But backpacking here is not for the faint of heart. It requires wilderness skills, stamina and experience. You will need to use a compass and topographic maps to navigate, and you will often be hiking in stream beds and wildlife trails. However, it will be a unique and memorable backcountry hiking experience.