What is the Least Visited National Park in the US?

Person hiking in one of the least visited national parks in Alaska.

When most people think of National Parks, they imagine the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone. But what about the smaller parks that you’ve probably never even heard of? What is the least visited park in the US? These are parks that are more difficult to get to, making them isolated and untouched in many ways. These parks reside in Alaska, American Samoa, Florida, and even Michigan.

The least visited parks include Gates of the Arctic, National Park of American Samoa, Isle Royal National Park, and Dry Tortugas National Park. Let’s take a closer look into these beautiful yet unknown parks. This will show you why you should be one of the few people to go out and visit them.

Alaskan National Parks

It’s probably somewhat obvious why Alaska’s national parks are visited so infrequently. Being the northernmost state in the US, it can be quite difficult to get to.

Also, many people visit Alaska by cruise and don’t get to see most of the land. Plus, most of the land in this state is practically impossible to get to. Traveling only by small airplanes or snowmobiles to reach these remote areas.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Probably the most intense and rugged of all the National Parks, Gates of the Arctic is the least visited U.S. National Park. One reason is it’s only for intense wilderness survivors. Without any developed trails or roads, this is the park for hardcore explorers.

To enter and enjoy this park you will need high-level backcountry skills. This includes wilderness safety and emergency training. You will be all on your own in this park. You won’t have any kind of regular services, including food or cell service.

If you aren’t sure of your bushwhacking skills, you can hire a guide to help you visit. They can guide you through unmarked hikes and epic backcountry camping areas. Here is the national park’s directory of backcountry guides for Gates of the Arctic. You can also hire a fly-over trip or a river float trip.

Kobuk Valley National Park

The large sand dunes of Kabuk Valley National Park in Alaska.
Sand dunes of Kabuk Valley National Park. nps.gov

Another hidden Alaskan treasure, Kobuk Valley is a unique piece of land. Famous for the Kobuk sand dunes, the largest sand dunes in the Arctic.

It’s an amazing sight to see these large sand dunes rise out of the Arctic. They don’t seem to belong in the arctic environment. If you are interested in large sand dunes and want to see some in the lower 48, then check out this post about the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado.

Another reason to visit Kobuk Valley is to see the herds of caribou. Hundreds of thousands of caribou migrate through to their summer and winter homes throughout the year. Just imagine how spectacular it would look on an airplane tour on one of the authorized NPS services!

Speaking of airplanes, by air is the only way to reach this park. There are no roads going into or even near the park. So, if you want to explore the park it will have to be by seaplane and on foot.

For the more popular Alaskan national parks check out this post.  It shows some personal insights from my trip to Alaska’s more famous parks.

National Park of American Samoa

A tropical isolated beach in National Park of American Samoa.

A total opposite from the National Parks of Alaska, American Samoa is a tropical paradise. Roughly 2,600 miles Southwest of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s the only US National Park in the southern hemisphere.

These islands are actually owned by the Samoan people and leased to the US government. This means coming to these islands will have you experiencing the true Samoan way of life.

American Samoa is a chain of rugged islands that have very few facilities. Visiting will give you the opportunity to explore this raw untouched volcanic land. You can explore trails that spread throughout the 3 main islands of the park. These trails take you through rainforests up to volcanic crests and down to local fruit plantations.

You can also explore the marine life of these islands. Snorkeling and diving are very popular activities in American Samoa National Park. Just be sure to bring your own equipment since there are no diving centers on the islands.

Visiting American Samoa needs to be done with the utmost respect. These are their lands and you will have to obtain permission to cross many of them, even when hiking some of the trails.

If you’re interested in learning more about the local people, you can organize a homestay. Some of the village families work with the national parks to organize homestays for visitors. This means you have to opportunity to stay with a local Samoan family in their home. This is a great opportunity to live the local life and learn more about the Samoan culture.

Least Visited Parks in the Lower 48 States

What are the least visited national parks in the lower 48 states? Starting with a small freshwater deciduous island in the north. All the way to a more tropical island off the coast of Florida.

There are many long-forgotten and rarely visited parks in the contiguous US. However, these are the most isolated and interesting of them all.

Isle Royale National Park

Sunken ship by the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.

When thinking of islands, most people don’t imagine the forested freshwater islands of Michigan. Michigan is home to hundreds of islands including the National Park of Isle Royal.

This is another park that is difficult to get to, but definitely worth taking in the beauty.

Isle Royal is accessible by seaplane, ferry, or private boat charter. On the island, you will find beautiful forests and calm solitude.

With roughly 25,000 visitors per year, you’re unlikely to be sharing your backcountry spot with many other visitors. If you enjoy backpacking or fishing, this is a great place for it. Although you’ll need fishing and camping permits, they are easy to obtain.

Besides all of the camping and fishing, you can also enjoy diving here. While there isn’t a lot of good diving across the great lakes, this area is an exception.

If you relish the opportunity to explore sunken ships, then this will be the best trip for you. There are 10 sunken ships in the area from various eras and in various conditions. You can check out the history of the shipwrecks in this area here on the National Parks website.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park. An aerial view of one of the least visited national parks in the lower 48 states.

Dry Tortugas may be less visited because of its misleading name. Dry Tortugas is anything but dry. This park is technically a chain of several islands west of the Florida Keys.

This is the spot to enjoy some snorkeling and tropical bird watching. While snorkeling you may find wildlife and colorful reefs or ancient artifacts from the times of Fort Jefferson, which encompasses most of the main island. There, you can see soldiers’ quarters and old canons from long ago.

This is another national park that you will want to be extra prepared for. You won’t find food, cell service, WiFi, or even fresh water here. The easiest way to explore this park is a day trip from the Florida Keys.

However, if you’re looking for more solitude and adventure you can camp on this tiny island overnight. Just be sure to bring anything you might need so you can enjoy your time there.

Final Thoughts

The least visited national parks in the US are probably ones you’ve never even heard of. Most of them reside in Alaska because of its impossible to reach backcountry. Gates of the Arctic and Kabuk Valley are amongst the least visited in the state.

Another unheard-of park is the National Park of American Samoa. Off in the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find a small tropical island full of peaceful Samoan Villagers.

Another island location that isn’t so tropical is Isle Royale National Park. On the edge of Lake Superior in Michigan. Lastly, another small isolated national park is Dry Tortugas off of the Florida coast. All of these locations have their own amazing natural beauty.

If you’re looking for a unique trip with solitude, these national parks will be perfect for you. They may be isolated, but that simply brings out their natural beauty for you to enjoy.

Will you be one of the lucky few people to visit one of these unique National Parks?

Want a FREE complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!

national parks map and list - printable checklis
Free Downloadable NP List & Maps

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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