If you're traveling in the U.S., exploring the vast National Park System (NPS) is a must — with 63 official National Parks nationwide, there's so much diverse, natural beauty to explore. And while you've likely visited heard of the classics (i.e. Yosemite, Zion, or the Grand Canyon), there's a decent chance you aren't yet familiar with a handful of them.
The NPS tracks the most and least visited National Parks, so we're delving into the lesser known ones, if you're trying to beat the crowds.
Unsurprisingly, six of the 10 least visited National Parks in 2021 are located in Alaska (likely because it's cold and remote!) but they're gorgeous nonetheless. Whichever National Park you ultimately choose to go to, you're bound to find yourself gawking at mostly untouched nature.
TBH, we're already in the process of booking some flights.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Alaska's Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is easily one of the most remote National Parks in the U.S. With a vast glacial landscape and no roads or trails, it's incredibly scenic but seriously desolate. The weather can obviously be quite brutal, but the views are absolutely breathtaking — and the frequent aurora borealis sightings are unlike anything else.
National Park of American Samoa
About 2,600 miles from Hawaii lies the National Park of American Samoa — a tropical beauty that's also very difficult to get to, but is well worth the trip. With bright blue seas, colorful coral, and biodiverse marine life, there's so much to see. And with an intricate trail system, you can take some really amazing hikes, if that's what you're into.
Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
Kobuk Valley National Park is home to quite a bit of wildlife, including many caribou, bears, moose, and wolves. It's also home to the famous Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, which formed as glaciers thousands of years ago. The park also boasts a massive river, which provides for some unforgettable kayak and canoe rides.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
While Cascades National Park is a PNW staple, North Cascades National Park is only three hours from Seattle, and is far less crowded than Cascades. The park has ample terrain for some unreal river rafting trips, horseback rides, backpacking trips, rock climbing excursions, and hikes. And if you're a hiker, there is a wide variety of trails, depending on your experience.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve is very highly rated, despite its lack of visitors. You can see bright blue lakes, as well as massive brown bears, mountains, and glaciers. Whether you're looking to kayak, hike, powerboat, or bike is entirely up to you, but there are so many ways to see it.
Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Though it wasn't considered a National Park until 1980, Katmai National Park and Preserve is unlike anything else. You might be familiar with it because of its famous annual Fat Bear Week (aka you're basically guaranteed bear sightings!), as well as moose and waterfowl sightings. It features a wide range of ecosystems, including tundra, lakes, and volcanoes. If you do decide to go, you can basically only get there by plane or boat, so prepare for a wild ride.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
In the middle of Lake Superior lies Isle Royale National Park, which you can only access by boat or seaplane. It's abundant with forests, gorgeous-yet-rugged shorelines, a variety of trails, and tons of little islands. If you're into scuba diving, this is a prime destination to do so — the water is frigid, but there are so many sunken shipwrecks to explore.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Alaska's 13.2 million acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is massive, and home to the U.S.'s biggest glacial system. The park's looming mountains are some of the biggest, and it's home to one of the world's largest active volcanoes, Mount Wrangell. You can't hike it, but it's visible to visitors (and at times it's been seen smoking!).
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Even some Floridians aren't familiar with Dry Tortugas National Park, which is only 70 miles from Key West. The park is comprised of seven tiny islands, which are part of the Keys' reef system, boasting biodiverse marine life, and even a series of shipwrecks. If you aren't into swimming, though, you can explore the historic Fort Jefferson, go camping, or simply stargaze.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is perfect for the avid explorer seeking out peace and quiet. Hike through the park's beautiful flourishing forests, or boat through the scenic marine park. Just make sure to bring your cameras and binoculars, because the wildlife here is truly unreal.