Visits to U.S. National Parks can be accompanied by large crowds and parking challenges rather than peace and solitude—so much so that some have started using timed entry or vehicle reservation systems to address congestion and traffic issues that have risen in recent years—but that is avoidable: These are the seven national parks that had the lowest attendance in 2022, according to the National Parks Service.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada, 142,115 annual visitors: With cave tours and astronomy classes among its offerings, this park has plenty to do year-round, and provides the best visibility of the Milky Way in the Continental United States if you make the trip at night.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, 78,488 annual visitors: This park is about 70 miles from Key West and is largely open water with seven small islands, meaning the only ways to visit are by boat or seaplane. It’s home to Fort Jefferson—one of the nation’s largest 1800s masonry forts— coral reefs and plenty of marine life.
Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 33,908 annual visitors Katmai was established in 1918 to protect the region around Novarupta and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, which were devastated by a volcano. The park is an important habitat for salmon and thousands of brown bears. Brooks Camp is the most popular part of the park, known for its great views of brown bears and fishing.
North Cascades National Park, Washington, 30,154 annual visitors: North Cascades is about three hours from Seattle and full of opportunities to hike, camp, boat or bike. Summer is the “driest and most popular time to visit,” according to NPS, though some high-elevation trails are snow covered into July and August.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, 25,454 annual visitors Isle Royale National Park is an island in the middle of Lake Superior reachable by ferry, seaplane or private boat. This park is only open from April 16 through October 31, so summer is prime time to go.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 9,457 annual visitors: Gates of the Arctic is unique in that it is “essentially untouched,” meaning there are no roads, trails or established campsites and visitors can wander the 8.4 million acres of land at their leisure. If you’re seeking solitude, this may be the best park as it’s not uncommon for visitors to spend days or weeks in the park before seeing another person.
National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa, 1,887 annual visitors: This park stretches across four islands in the American Samoa and offers secluded villages, tropical forest plants and wildlife and coral reefs. Its rain forest setting and insight into the American Samoa culture separate it from most other national parks.
12,937,633. That’s how many visitors took a recreational trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park. The next most visited was the Grand Canyon National Park, which saw 4,732,101 in 2022.
Of the country’s 63 national parks, only 27 attracted more than one million visitors last year. The top four parks—Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park—alone accounted for almost one-third of all the parks’ visitorship.
NPS park attendance 2022 (National Park Service)
The 15 Most Visited National Parks In America (Forbes)