Want to experience the great outdoors without the crowds this summer? Consider these lesser-known, undeveloped national parks that had the fewest visitors in 2021.
There are 63 national parks in the US and a total of 423 national parks. But despite the wide range, 25% of all recreational visits were to the eight most visited parks, which accounts for only 2% of all parks in the national park system.
“We’re pleased that so many visitors are returning to famous parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but there are hundreds more that should be on everyone’s bucket list,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a February press release.
‘Breathtaking’:West Virginia’s new waterfall trail promises 29 waterfalls
Some parks are hard to get to, like Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic — the least visited national park last year with 7,362 recreational visits — or American Samoa’s National Park, the second least visited national park with 8,495 visitors in 2021.
If you’re looking for hidden gems with less traffic on the trail, be sure to add these 10 lesser-known national parks to your list.
Favorite hidden vacation spot overexposed? Blame it on social media and the pent-up demand
Kobuk Valley, Alaska
At Kobuk Valley National Park, visitors can experience Alaska’s unique wildlife, sand dunes, the ancient Kobuk River and more. Half a million caribou migrate through the park each fall.
Kobuk Valley had a total of 11,540 visitors in 2021.
North Cascades, Washington
Explore the rugged peaks, alpine scenery and more than 300 glaciers of North Cascades National Park, less than three hours from Seattle.
“Listen to the rushing waters in wooded valleys. Experience a landscape that is sensitive to the Earth’s changing climate,” according to the park’s website.
North Cascades had a total of 17,855 visitors in 2021.
Lake Clark, Alaska
Visitors can see shimmering turquoise lakes reflecting dramatic mountain backdrops at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. The park offers access to steaming volcanoes, excellent fishing and unrivaled wilderness.
Crescent Lake, the park’s most visited destination, is home to brown and black bears that hunt sockeye and coho salmon.
Lake Clark had a total of 18,278 visitors in 2021.
Royale Island, Michigan
Large Lake Superior is home to Isle Royale National Park, a remote and rugged group of over 400 islands with 165 miles of hiking trails and 36 campgrounds.
The park’s highest peak, Mount Desor, rises to 1,334 feet.
Isle Royale had a total of 25,844 visitors in 2021.
Greenbelt Park, Maryland
With a 172-site campground, nine miles of hiking trails and three picnic areas, Greenbelt National Park is a hidden gem and “urban oasis” just 10 miles from Washington, DC monument attractions.
Greenbelt Park had a total of 23,893 visitors in 2021.
Wrangell-St. Elijah, Alaska
The largest national park, Wrangell-St. Equivalent to six Yellowstones, Elias National Park contains North America’s largest sub-polar ice field, Bagley Icefield. Braided rivers or streams lead visitors to numerous glaciers, historic mining sites and a front row seat to Alaskan wildlife.
Wrangell-St. Elias had a total of 50,189 visitors in 2021.
Dry Tortugas, Florida
Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park lies on the southwest corner of the Florida Keys’ reef system and is a 100-square-mile remote park that includes Fort Jefferson – one of the largest 19th-century forts in the United States – and seven small islands.
Since 99% of the park is scenic blue water, the best way to see this park is by boarding and exploring the third largest reef system in the world.
Dry Tortugas had a total of 83,817 visitors in 2021.
Glacier Bay, Alaska
Part of a 25 million hectare World Heritage Site – one of the largest internationally protected areas in the world – Glacier Bay National Park encompasses 3.3 million hectares of rugged mountains, glaciers, emerald forests and wild coastlines.
Glacier Bay had a total of 89,768 visitors in 2021.
Great Basin, Nevada
Explore ancient bristlecone pines, bask in the darkest night skies, climb Wheeler Peak and explore underground passages in Great Basin National Park.
Great Basin had a total of 144,875 visitors.
Congaree, South Carolina
The Congaree and Wateree Rivers provide “amazing biodiversity” in Congaree National Park, an undeveloped gem, home to the largest intact expanse of old-growth lowland hardwood forest in the Southeast. A 50-mile paddle trail stretches from the Columbia state capital downstream to the park.
The Congaree had a total of 215,181 visitors.
Camille Fine is a hip visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team. She loves to bake pizza, take pictures of friends and spoil her affectionate cat, Pearl.