The least visited national parks in the United States in 2022

The least-visited national park in the United States is quite far from the shores of the continental United States. Almost 5,000 miles away, in fact.

American Samoa National Park in the South Pacific is the only National Park Service site south of the equator. In 2022, it had only 1,887 visits, according to new visitation figures released this week by the National Park Service.

Compared to 2021, that number is down 78%. The park had several Covid-19 closures in the past year, NPS said.

The national park is spread over three islands with rainforests, volcanic slopes, pristine beaches and thousands of acres of marine habitat, and is interwoven with a rich culture.

“In keeping with the meaning of the Samoan word, ‘sacred land,’ the park helps protect fa’asamoathe customs, beliefs and traditions of the 3,000-year-old Samoan culture,” the park website says.

A 93-year-old woman and her grandson recently accomplished their mission (more than seven years later) to visit all 63 major US national parks with a visit to the remote archipelago.

The island park is far from the only uncrowded NPS site.

Nearly 400 of the 424 National Park Service sites have visitors. And three quarters of all visits are to just 64 sites. then there is lots of lesser-visited places to explore.

Even among the 63 wilderness areas that have “national park” in their names, there are parks where visitors number in the thousands or tens of thousands, far fewer than the nearly 13 million who visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2022. It was the most visited of the 63 national parks last year.

Gates of the Arctic National Park covers a whopping 8.4 million acres in Alaska. Plenty of room to spread out… – David W Shaw/Adobe Stock

The vast state of Alaska, covering 665,384 square miles, is home to five of the 15 least-visited national parks in 2022.

“Alaska’s national parks are some of the least-visited for good reason: They’re hard to get to,” said Peter Christian, chief of public and legislative affairs for the National Park Service’s Alaska region.

But while they may be sparsely visited compared to other parks, several of them saw substantial jumps in visitor numbers last year, with increases of 30% to 50% during 2021, another step toward recovery from the drastic decline. of the pandemic.

And an Alaskan park that was among the least visited in 2021, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, catapulted off the list with a 500% increase in visitors, thanks to a stronger return from cruise ships. But visitation has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, Christian said.

With more and more travelers heading for the busy spring and summer seasons, the less-visited national parks have much to offer those who venture off the beaten path.

15 Least Visited US National Parks in 2022

1. American Samoa National Park – 1,887 recreational visits

Most park visitors will need a passport to visit this location in a remote part of the South Pacific. Hawaiian Airlines offers direct flights to American Samoa twice weekly from Honolulu. Covid-19 travel requirements were relaxed late last year and the first cruise in three years arrived in January.

The park has units on three islands and spans 13,500 acres, of which about 4,000 are marine acres that are mostly coral reefs.

2. Gates of the Arctic National Park and PreserveAlaska – 9,457 recreational visits

With no roads, no trails, no cell service, and no established campgrounds, this vast expanse is a true wilderness experience. The park and preserve has six designated wild rivers.

“Visitors can wander at will through 8.4 million acres of superlative natural beauty,” says the park’s website. Visitors must be self-sufficient, flexible, and “able to execute self-extraction and communication, should an emergency situation arise.” Arrive prepared.

3. Kobuk Valley National ParkAlaska – 16,925 recreational visits

There are no roads, campgrounds, or gateways for human visitors to this 1.8 million-acre tract. Half a million caribou migrate through this park, crossing the Kobuk River and Onion Portage, according to the National Park Service. An 8,000-year-old tradition of hunting caribou here continues today.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve had fewer than 20,000 visits in 2022. – Sceninc Media/Adobe Stock

4. Lake Clark National Park and PreserveAlaska – 18,187 recreational visits

Spanning more than 4 million acres, this national park and preserve is home to three designated Wild Rivers and two National Natural Landmark volcanoes. The land contains 10,000 years of human history and preserves the ancestral lands of the Dena’ina people.

5. Isle Royale National ParkMichigan – 25,454 recreational visits

An isolated archipelago in Lake Superior, Isle Royale boasts 165 miles of trails and more than 30 campgrounds. It is open from mid-April to the end of October. Ferry and seaplane service typically runs from mid-May to late September, according to NPS.

There are fewer mammal species here, just 18, than on the mainland because the animals must cross at least 14 miles of Lake Superior. Wolves and moose are among the notable animal residents.

Trail of the Cedars leads through giant ferns and moss-covered cedars in North Cascades National Park. – Bella B Photography/Adobe Stock

6. North Cascades National ParkWashington – 30,154 recreational visits

Peaks topped by more than 300 glaciers rise above this alpine landscape. More than 1,600 plant species have been identified on this land that stretches from temperate rainforest to a dry ponderosa pine ecosystem. There are over 400 miles of trails.

7. Katmai National Park and PreserveAlaska – 33,908 recreational visits

Katmai is an important habitat for thousands of brown bears. According to the Park Service, Katmai, one of the world’s top bear-watching locations, is home to about 2,200 brown bears. Brooks Camp along the Brooks River is one of the most popular viewing locations to watch bears feast on salmon.

Most of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & ​​Preserve is a rugged backcountry with limited visitor services. -bummi100/Adobe Stock

8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and ReserveAlaska – 65,236 recreational visits

The largest national park in the United States, Wrangell-St. Elias encompasses 13.2 million acres, or about the size of Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Switzerland combined, the Park Service says. Most of the park is rural and visitor services are limited. There are some maintained trails in the Nabesna and McCarthy front areas.

9. Dry Tortugas National ParkFlorida – 78,488 recreational visits

About 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is mostly open water with seven small islands. Garden Key is home to one of the largest 19th century forts in the country, Fort Jefferson. The park is accessible by boat or plane and is home to almost 300 species of birds. Bush Key is closed every year from February to September so Sooty and Brown Terns can breed there undisturbed.

10 Great Basin National Park, Nevada – 142,115 recreational visits

Mountain peaks meet here with hot desert valleys. Great Basin National Park is home to 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, ancient bristlecone pines, around 40 caves, and a wide variety of plants and animals. Elevation ranges from 5,000 to 13,000 feet with hiking trails for all levels.

Virgin Islands National Park, with Trunk Bay pictured, saw a nearly 40% drop in visitation last year. -SCStock/Adobe Stock

eleven Virgin Islands National Park – 196,752 recreational visits

About two-thirds of St. John, the US Virgin Island, is a national park, with sandy beaches, rich marine life, petroglyphs of the indigenous Taino people, and sites related to the troubled history of labor. island slave. There are more than 20 trails in the park, which is usually busiest from November to April.

12 Congaree National ParkSouth Carolina – 204,522 recreational visits

The landscape of Congaree National Park is “defined by the presence of floods and flames,” says the Park Service.

Floods from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers regularly cover the park’s ancient lowland hardwood forest, and the upland pine forest depends on bushfires to remove competing vegetation. Canoeing and kayaking are popular ways to explore the park. There is a marked 15 mile canoe trail.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to the four highest mountains in Texas. -Zack Frank/Adobe Stock

13 Guadalupe Mountains National ParkTexas – 219,987 recreational visits

This park has the four highest peaks in Texas and the largest Permian fossil reef in the world. The Guadalupe Mountains Wilderness has more than 80 miles of trails including a hike in the Salt Basin Dunes that rise 100 feet from the desert floor.

14 Voyageurs National ParkMinnesota – 221,434 recreational visits

Billed as a “water, islands and horizons” park, Voyageurs covers 218,055 acres, 84,000 of which are water. There are more than 500 islands and four large lakes, plus more than two dozen smaller lakes in the park, best experienced by boat. Voyageurs shares its northern border with Canada, and lucky visitors may even see the Northern Lights.

fifteen. Pinnacles National Park, California – 275,023 recreational visits

Pinnacles was formed when volcanoes erupted around 23 million years ago. Talus caves and towering rock spires attract hikers and climbers; there are over 30 miles of hiking trails and hundreds of climbing routes.

While Pinnacles may rank among the 15 least-visited national parks, it gets very crowded on weekends, holidays and during the spring, according to a notice on the park’s website. Get there early to beat the crowds.

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