Dodge Crowds, Discover Natural Wonders at These Under-Visited National Parks

by Maria Hartfield

The U.S. National Park Service is home to a total of 419 protected areas. 62 of them include “national park” in their title. Many travelers around the world seek to cross all 62 of the iconic sites off their bucket list. The underlying question these days is can you still visit the parks while remaining socially distant in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The 62 national parks are located in 29 states and two U.S. territories. Luckily, with so many national parks to visit, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the natural wonders without overwhelming crowds. In fact, now might be the best time to hit some of the least-visited national parks. From winding trails to craters and lakeshores, the under-the-wilderness areas provide many remote options for exploration.

How Remote and Uncrowded Are the Parks?

So, just how remote is remote? One example is Katmai National Park‘s Aniakchak caldera located in Alaska. Due to its unique location and extreme weather conditions, many park rangers have yet to visit Aniakchak. Its landscape features Alaska’s location in the volcanically active “Ring of Fire” featuring an impressive six mile (10 km) wide, 2,500 ft (762 m) deep caldera formed during a volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago.

Also in Alaska is Kobuk Valley National Park. The valley is home to caribou, sand dunes, the Kobuk River, Onion Portage and more. Thousands of caribou migrate through the sculpted dunes. The Kobuk River serves as an ancient path for people and animals for over 9,000 years.

Many of the U.S. National Parks shut down last spring due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and the urge for citizens to stay at home and avoid gathering. Most re-opened in time for summer. It’s imperative guests visiting the parks adhere to the strict social distancing guidelines and wear masks in order to protect park rangers and other guests.

The popular Yellowstone National Park welcomed over four million visitors in 2018 and 2019. Sadly, many native villages are at an increased risk of infection due to the rise in park visitors. This is just another reason why now is the best time to cross some of the more of the less popular parks of your list.

Top 10 Least-Visited U.S. National Parks

Below are 10 national parks perfect for travelers looking to get away from it all, including the crowds. Keep in mind due to current circumstances regarding the pandemic, some areas may require obtaining a permit or reservation in advance for activities and accommodation. Additionally, all patrons should follow park rangers’ rules and regulations.

  1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
  2. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
  3. Kobuk Valley National Park
  4. Isle Royale National Park
  5. National Park of American Samoa
  6. North Cascades National Park
  7. Katmai National Park and Preserve
  8. Dry Tortugas National Park
  9. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
  10. Virgin Islands National Park