National Park Sites No One Wants to Visit

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View of Gates of the Arctic National Park, one of the leased visited parks

America’s National Parks are bursting with visitors. Although this may seem good, there are cons to this increased foot traffic, like congested parking areas and long lines. 

However, these five national park sites don’t have any problems handling the crowds. Rather, they’re some of the least-visited parks in the country, ones no one seems to want to visit. Let’s learn more.

About the National Park Service

In 1916, the U.S. Department of the Interior created the National Park Service to manage the growing number of federally protected lands in the country.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the act so the 35 National Parks and National Monuments to take better care of these lands. He probably had no idea how important this act was to the future progress and preservation of our national treasures.

Today, the National Park Service manages more than 85 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. 

The system includes 63 national parks and 84 monuments and has expanded to include 73 national historic sites, 11 battlefields, 18 recreation areas, 10 seashores, and over 160 other federally protected areas.

What Is the Most-Visited National Park?

According to the National Park Service, in 2021, the various national parks had 297 million recreation visits. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area saw over 10 million visitors. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through 469 miles of Virginia and North Carolina. This national parkway connects Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Almost 16 million people drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2021.

The most-visited park in the United States is Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This park on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina saw over 14 million visitors in 2021.

In comparison, Zion National Park in Utah placed second for the number of visitors reaching approximately five million.

Which State Has the Most National Parks?

California has 28 sites managed by the National Park Service. Of those, seven are national monuments, and eight are national parks. 

Additionally, over 28 million visitors flock to California’s national park sites yearly, producing $20.5 billion in visitor spending.

Although much less visited, Alaska has 23 sites managed by the National Park Service. Of those, eight are national parks. Much of the land is protected as wilderness, and about 60% of all land managed by the National Park Service lies in Alaska.

Are There Any States That Don’t Have Any National Parks?

The National Park Service manages federally protected areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. These designations range from national wild and scenic rivers and riverways to national military parks to scenic trails. 

Although numerous states don’t have a national park, every state has at least one unit within the National Park System.

5 National Park Sites No One Wants to Visit

Although 63 parks had more than one million recreation visits in 2021, not every site sees such high numbers of visitors.

In fact, about 25% of the total recreation visits occurred in the top eight most-visited parks, which is only 2% of all sites within the NPS. Below are five of the least-visited national parks in the country.

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Location: Alaska

Visitors in 2021: 7,362

No other national park is so remote as Gates of the Arctic. Six national wild rivers flow through the park. Additionally, nomadic hunters and gatherers live here.

A stunning array of wildlife, including the Western Arctic Caribou herd, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, moose, Dall’s sheep, wolverines, and muskoxen, also call this tundra “home.” 

In 1980, the federal government established this land as a national park to “maintain its wild and undeveloped character, including opportunities to experience solitude and environmental integrity, and for wilderness recreation.”

Why No One Wants to Visit: You won’t find any roads or trails in Gates of the Arctic National Park.

It’s a vast wilderness, a glimpse of how the land has always been. Visitors must hike or fly into the park. In the winter, temperatures consistently stay between -20 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep in Mind: Everything You Need to Know About Alaska National Parks

View of Gates of the Arctic National Park, one of the leased visited parks

Kobuk Valley National Park

Location: Alaska

Visitors in 2021: 11,540

Known for the half a million caribou that migrate through its sand dunes each year, Kobuk Valley National Park is a culturally important site, with civilizations dating back 8,000 years. 

Additionally, the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes are the largest active dunes in the Arctic.

The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center lies about 80 miles southwest of the park and houses a museum about the Arctic ecosystem and Inupiaq culture.

Why No One Wants to Visit: Like Gates of the Arctic National Park, Kobuk Valley National Park has no facilities within its boundaries.

Generally, visitors can reach the park only by plane or boat unless they have a snowmachine or dogsled team. The summers remain so cold that you can get hypothermia.

Great Basin National Park

Location: Nevada

Visitors in 2021: 144,875

Great Basin National Park offers guests varied landscapes of deserts, mountains, and caves.

Additionally, Wheeler Peak rises over 13,000 feet. And you can find some of the oldest trees in the world, the Bristlecone pines, over 6,000 years old, here. 

Furthermore, you can take tours of the Lehman Caves seasonally and enjoy it at night as an International Dark-Sky Park.

Why No One Wants to Visit: Great Basin National Park is one of the least-visited sites in the contiguous United States because it’s so remote. It’s over 200 miles from Salt Lake City, the nearest city. The closest airport lies over 100 miles away. 

And U.S. Highway 50, dubbed “the loneliest highway in America,” passes north through what seems like a barren wasteland.

View of great basin national park, one of the least visited national parks

Congaree National Park

Location: South Carolina

Visitors in 2021: 215,181

According to the National Park Service, Congaree National Park protects “the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.” 

It’s much smaller than other parks at just over 26,000 acres and was first designated as the Congaree Swamp National Monument.

It also holds the titles of a UNESCO biosphere region, Globally Important Bird Area, International Biosphere Reserve, and RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance.

Why No One Wants to Visit: People may avoid the Alaskan National Parks because of their remoteness and frigid temperatures. However, people also steer clear of Congaree National Park because of its hot and humid climate.

You can easily access it with a 30-minute trip from the state’s capital, but few take this detour. For many, it’s simply a swamp with many big trees.

View of congaree national park, one of the leased visited parks

Voyageurs National Park

Location: Minnesota

Visitors in 2021: 243,042

Nestled along the Canadian border is Voyageurs National Park. You’ll see it full of exposed rock ridges, cliffs, wetlands, forests, streams, and lakes. And ancient earthquakes, volcanoes, and glaciers shaped the land.

The Boreal Forest has more than 100 species of birds and more than 50 species of mammals. On occasion, visitors can see the Northern Lights.

Why No One Wants to Visit: Voyageurs National Park might as well be in Alaska. It also has no roads, trails, or cell service. If you want to camp overnight, you’ll need a boat, which the National Park Service doesn’t provide. 

Plus, it’s expensive to charter a boat. So, if you don’t want to fish or paddle fishing or paddling, there’s little for you to do here since 40% of the park is covered by water.

Keep in Mind: These Are the Best National Parks to Visit in the Winter

View of voyageurs national park, one of the leased visited parks

Forgotten and Ignored: Are These National Park Sites Worth Visiting?

If you want to avoid crowds, try visiting these five parks. But the four remote locations make it quite difficult and expensive to visit.

It takes advanced planning to visit them, and most people would prefer to take an Alaskan cruise than to take a plane into the remote wilderness of the Arctic. 

In addition, most people would prefer to stand in awe at the majesty of the Grand Canyon or the magnificence of Yosemite Falls than to walk a boardwalk through the swamps of Congaree National Park.

But what do you think? Have you visited any of these five national park sites? Do you think they’re worth a visit?

  1. We took a detour to the Great Basin in Nevada and spent several days. We enjoyed the area, the Caverns and the drive up to the ancient trees.

  2. been to Gates of the Artic this past summer, Congaree last winter, and Great Basin twice climbing Wheeler both times. we very much enjoyed all of them. it isn’t that “No One Wants to Visit” them, they are just somewhat challenging to get to, but very much worth the effort. we expect to be in Voyageurs in 2023, we have our own kayaks. hope to see you there.

  3. I just wrnt to Congarre last week after visits to Everglades, Biscayne Bay and Big Cypress. The nearly 2.5 mile elevated boardwalk next to the visitor center was a feat of construction in itself. I URGE visitors to pick up a paper pamphlet that explains each of the 20 markers around the trail, because they will introduce you to the Maroom Communities (escaped slaves living in the swamp to subsist and protect themselves), native tribes, moonshiners, and grand champion trees and huge number of animals that call this seemingly inhospitable place home. We went in January, during a light rain, and it was magical. My husband thought it was his favorite of all 4 parks we saw on that trip.

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