While everyone heads to the Great Smoky Mountains or Yellowstone, some of America’s least visited National Parks remain empty. Many of them are located in the remote parts of Alaska or on secluded islands. They’re hard to reach and sometimes equally hard to move around, but their natural gems are worth exploring, even if it requires a lot of effort. Based on the U.S. National Park Service’s annual report from 2014, here’s a list of 7 least visited National Parks in the United States.
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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Number of visitors: 74,722
The largest park in the United States and second (after Northeast Greenland) in the world, Wrangell-St. Elias covers an area of 53,000 sq. miles. It’s bigger than many of world’s independent countries and six times larger than Yellowstone. The vast land is scattered with impressing mountains, out of which some are active volcanoes. The highest one, Mt. Wrangell, reaches up to 18,008 ft. Since the park’s so huge, its diversity’s stunning. There are canyons, forests, glaciers, snowfields and lowland marshes. Lots of different animals live in the area, although they have so much space to spread out that it might be hard to spot them. If you’re lucky, you can see a moose, brown bear, caribou, porcupine or a beaver. As for humans, only about 40 people live in the park all year round. There are two major settlements and access points, McCarthy and Kennecott.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Number of visitors: 64,865
Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is delightfully remote. It consists of the seven Dry Tortugas islands and the Fort Jefferson, a spectacular coastal fortress. It’s difficult to reach the islands, but as soon as you manage to do it, you’ll be rewarded with scenic vistas, amazing snorkeling, scuba diving and bird-watching opportunities. The coral reefs are beautiful and undisturbed, waters unbelievably blue, the sky so clear you can see millions of stars at night. The Dry Tortugas National Park is the most isolated part of Florida Keys. As cliché as it sounds, the term “tropical paradise” describes it perfectly.
Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Number of visitors: 30,896
Katmai National Park and Preserve aren’t really known at all, but if someone did hear about it, then they most likely associate it with two things: Alaskan brown bears and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a pyroclastic flow that was the main reason for the park to be designated. Besides of the bears, the park has a huge salmon population, so it’s a great destination for fishing enthusiasts. There are also numerous grey wolves, beavers, moose, orcas, seals and other species. The park’s name comes from the Mount Katmai, a high stratovolcano situated in its center.
North Cascades National Park, Alaska
Number of visitors: 23,865
North Cascades National Park is one of the world’s harshest and wildest areas. Filled with jagged peaks, thick rainforest, and dramatic cliffs, the park’s an adventurer’s paradise. It can be reached and crossed by car via the State Route 20. If you decide to drive through, you can stop along the way and hike. Some of the paths are relatively easy and short, but to actually explore the wilderness, you must be ready to go further. North Cascades National Park is mostly visited by outdoor enthusiasts, including climbers, snowboarders, and skiers.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Number of visitors: 16,100
Dotted with pristine lakes, wondrous peaks and glaciers, the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve offers spectacular sceneries. In its center, scenically located amongst mountains, lies the turquoise Lake Clark that gave the name to the whole park. An abundance of natural wonders can be found across the park, including the wild rivers, volcanoes and a beautiful coastline with rainforests. Because there are waterways on Chilikadrotna, Tlikakila and Mulchatna rivers, boating is a favorite activity. Rafting, kayaking, fishing, and camping are fabulous too. If you’re a hiker or a backpacker, check out the historic Telaquana Trail. Accessing the park is a bit confusing. That’s the main reason why it receives such a small number of visitors and is one of the least visited national parks. To get there, you need to take a charter flight.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Number of visitors: 14,560
Consisting of the Isle Royale and smaller islands scattered on the Lake Superior, the park offers a kind of solitude impossible to find elsewhere. There aren’t many people, but there are wolves, moose, squirrels, foxes, beavers, turtles and abundant other species of animals. Since their companion is rather silent, you won’t be disturbed. Isle Royale National Park is an ideal place for peace-seekers and nature-lovers. Fishing, paddling, scuba diving and hiking are great activities. With a bit of luck, you might see aurora borealis; it’s often visible on clear nights. There are several ways to reach the park: ferries, floatplanes, and private motorboats.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Number of visitors: 12,669
As northern as it gets, the park lies north of the Arctic Circle, which by itself explains why it is one of the least visited national parks. You can reach it by foot (meaning: leave your car in the park and hike in) or by plane. This part, even though costly, is quite doable, but the real challenge begins as soon as you cross the Gates of the Arctic. The landscapes are jaw-dropping and conditions rough. If you aren’t an experienced survivalist, you should rather join an organized tour than wandering across the park alone. Even if you just fly above the land or travel accompanied by a guide, it’s going to be an adventure. The views of incredible mountains, glacier-carved valleys, freezing rivers, moose, grizzlies, and wolves will stay in your memory forever.
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