9 Overlooked National Parks Where You Can Beat the Crowds

The U.S. is home to some incredible national parks, some more frequented than others. Here are nine of the least-visited national parks you’re going to want to visit.

People hiking in national park
Updated May 28, 2024
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The U.S. is home to more than 400 national park sites. From battlefields to memorials to preserves to parks, these sites span over 85 million acres across all 50 states.

If you’re looking for places to visit where you can scratch that travel itch while still avoiding the crowds, this list is a great start to step up your travel game

In 2023, the Great Smoky Mountains was the most-visited national park site, which had 12.94 million recreational visitors. The most visited destination on our list saw only 243,042 visitors. Here are nine overlooked national parks where you can avoid the crowds.

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Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

gnagel/Adobe Dry Tortugas National Park

Travel 70 miles west of Key West, and you’ll find the Dry Tortugas National Park. Dry Tortugas is a 100-square-mile park consisting primarily of water and seven small islands. Even better, it can be accessed only by boat or seaplane, so bring along your top travel credit card to accumulate some rewards.

Perhaps best known as being home to massive Fort Jefferson, one of the nation’s largest historic forts, Dry Tortugas also boasts sparkling blue waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life.

In fact, more than 99% of Dry Tortugas National Park is water, which makes it perfect for snorkeling and diving, boating, and swimming. On the portion of the park that’s made up of dry ground, you can take in picturesque sunsets before spending the night camping under the stars.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 83,817

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Patrick/Adobe National park scenery

Near the Canadian border in northern Minnesota is Voyageurs National Park, a vast maze of interconnected waterways, islands, and forests. Once an important segment of the fur trade route, Voyageurs is now known for its amazing water-based recreation and camping experiences.

With its 218,000 acres of lush forests and expansive lakes, and a night sky that offers views of the northern lights, Voyageurs National Park is as isolated as it is beautiful.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): Was expected to be 243,042

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Jeff/Adobe Great basin national park

Just off the Utah border in Central Nevada, Great Basin National Park encompasses more than 77,000 acres of diverse landforms and living things.

Although filled with incredible natural treasures like limestone caverns, the highest peak in the state, and ancient bristlecones pines (the oldest living trees on earth), the park doesn't have many people at any given time.

That means you can walk among trees dating back thousands of years, enjoy the cavernous Lehman Caves, and take in the panoramic views from the 13,063-foot summit of Wheeler Peak nearly all to yourself.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 144,875

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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Patrick/Adobe Wrangell-St. Elias national Park

America’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve boasts 13.2 million acres of rugged beauty. According to the National Park Service, Wrangell-St. Elias is the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined. In other words, you’ll likely have plenty of space to yourself.

Taking up a large portion of Alaska’s southeastern corner, Wrangell-St. Elias stretches from the North Pacific Ocean to heights of 18,008 feet. Within this vast expanse of land, you’ll find some of the largest volcanoes in North America, glacier after glacier, and a diverse array of wildlife. This area brings so much geological and ecological value to the world that it was even designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 65,236

National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

Peto/Adobe National Park of American Samoa

Spanning 9,100 acres of land and ocean along the northern coastline of American Samoa, the National Park of American Samoa is a unique, tropical national park. From its pristine beaches and biologically rich coral reefs to its rugged cliffs, volcanoes, and tropical rainforests, this national park is sure to provide an awe-inspiring experience.

Take in over 3,000 years of rich Samoan culture, secluded villages, and rare plants and animals as you explore one of the most remote national parks. Sitting 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, you shouldn’t have much of an issue escaping the crowds.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 8,495

Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico

Vladislav Gajic/Adobe Chaco Culture National Park

Chaco Culture National Historic Park is a system of archaeological sites in northwestern New Mexico that showcases the remarkable organizational and architectural abilities of the Ancestral Puebloan people.

Between 850 and 1250 A.D., Chaco Canyon was a major center of the thriving Ancestral Pueblo culture. Known for the monumental scale of its architecture, Chaco developed into a ceremonial, political, and economic center.

Today, Chaco Culture is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see for anyone looking for a remote and isolated travel destination. Be aware that it’s not an easy place to get to, but that might be just what you’re looking for this summer.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 31,922

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Mike/Adobe North Cascades National Park

Nestled in the vast wilderness of northern Washington state is North Cascades National Park. Characterized by its rugged beauty, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex offers up 684,000 acres of majestic mountain scenery, from jagged peaks and glaciers to cascading waterfalls, rivers, and trails.

Although the North Cascades National Park Services Complex sees an abundance of snow, visitors will still find plenty of activities year-round, including camping, boating, kayaking, fishing, and hundreds of hiking trails.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 17,855

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

sschremp/Adobe Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is a collection of remote islands in the northwestern portion of Lake Superior. Of the total 850 square miles that the park encompasses, 132,018 acres (roughly 206 square miles) is wilderness.

Far from the distractions of civilization, travelers to this rugged, isolated island will find plenty of opportunity for adventure — whether it’s kayaking, scuba diving, hiking, or camping.

Isle Royale is roadless, so it’s only accessible by boat or float plane. What else would you expect from one of the least-visited national parks?

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 25,844

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska

James/Adobe Gates of the Arctic National Park

A national park accessible only by plane or by hiking, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is the second-largest national park in the U.S. (and the northernmost).

There are no roads or trails into the 8.47 million acres of the vast wilderness that make up Gates of the Arctic, and with weather that can change on a dime, even the most intrepid hikers will face their share of challenges. But with some of the most breathtaking views, it’s also a must-see for any lover of our national parks.

Spend your days fishing at alpine lakes, hiking the trail-less wilderness, or picnicking alongside scenic rivers as you watch as caribou traverse the glaciated valleys. Just don’t expect to see another human.

Annual park recreation visitation (last reported): 7,362

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Bottom line

Vladimir Grablev/Adobe Mountain sunset

These national parks are a great way to get your travel fix without subjecting yourself to enormous crowds of people. Check with the National Park Service for specific details about the park you plan to visit before you take off so you’re most prepared.

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Matt Miczulski

Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.