A photo of a hiker on the Root Glacier in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

Did someone forget us? The 10 least visited National Parks in 2023

“Did someone forget about us?”

In 2023, the United States’ least visited national parks offered escapes for those looking to explore the country’s natural beauty away from the crowds. These parks, from the remote expanses of Gates of the Arctic in Alaska to the tropical paradise of the National Park of American Samoa, provided unique opportunities for adventure and solitude.

Despite their stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, they remained largely unnoticed by the masses, making them ideal destinations for visitors seeking a more intimate experience with nature.

These lesser-known parks, including the rugged wilderness of Lake Clark and the historical depths of Dry Tortugas, catered to a diverse range of interests—from hiking and kayaking to wildlife watching and stargazing. Their relative obscurity preserved their serene atmosphere, allowing for a more personal connection with the environment.

In a year when many sought to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, these national parks stood out as havens of peace and natural beauty, proving that the path less traveled often leads to some of the most breathtaking destinations the United States has to offer.

Most Visited National Parks in 2023
A Record-Setting Year for NPS Visitation

a mama grizzly looks at the camera
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch, Lake Clark NP

What were the least visited National Parks in 2023?

10. Great Basin NP: 143,265 visitors

9. Dry Tortugas NP: 84,285 visitors

8. Wrangell-St. Elias NP & PRES: 78,305 visitors

7. North Cascades NP: 40,351 visitors

6. Katmai NP & PRES: 33,763 visitors

5. Isle Royale NP: 28,965 visitors

4. Kobuk Valley NP: 17,616 visitors

3. Lake Clark NP & PRES: 16,728 visitors

2. National Park of American Samoa: 12,135 visitors

1. Gates of the Arctic NP & PRES: 11,045 visitors

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch, Wrangell St. Elias NP

Why these are hard-to-visit?

✈️Half of these are Alaskan National Parks which require a flight or boat to reach.

🛥️Another three require a flight or boat to reach (Isle Royale, Am. Samoa, and Dry Tortugas).

🚗That leaves two of the 10 least visited National Parks – Great Basin and North Cascades. Luckily, both you can drive to and are not super out of the way (NCNP is 3 hours from Seattle, GBNP 4.5 is hours from Vegas)

🏔️What is interesting is while the North Cascades had 40,000 visitors, the entire area (including Ross Lake/Lake Diablo) had close to 900k visitors. The discrepancy is you cannot access the NCNP via highway 20, making it harder to step foot in the park boundaries technically.

🐻I think this just shows that if there’s a barrier to entry, people are not going to jump through hoops to reach it. (Because it is understandably expensive.) That being said, I do highly recommend people visit Alaska and check out these less visited areas. They’re surreal and pristine and really highlight the natural wild we don’t experience in modern-day life.

💎I’m proud to have visited the Great Basin, Wrangell, North Cascades, and Lake Clark. I’m also stoked to set eyes on Gates of the Arctic this week and Katmai this summer.

Full Visitation Numbers for the National Parks in 2023

Great Smoky Mountains NP113,297,64714.39%
Grand Canyon NP24,733,7055.12%
Zion NP34,623,2385.00%
Yellowstone NP44,501,3824.87%
Rocky Mountain NP54,115,8374.45%
Yosemite NP63,897,0704.22%
Acadia NP73,879,8904.20%
Grand Teton NP83,417,1063.70%
Joshua Tree NP93,270,4043.54%
Olympic NP102,947,5033.19%
Glacier NP112,933,6163.18%
Cuyahoga Valley NP122,860,0593.10%
Indiana Dunes NP132,765,8922.99%
Hot Springs NP142,502,9672.71%
Bryce Canyon NP152,461,2692.66%
Gateway Arch NP162,422,8362.62%
New River Gorge NP & PRES171,707,2231.85%
Mount Rainier NP181,674,2941.81%
Hawaii Volcanoes NP191,620,2941.75%
Shenandoah NP201,576,0081.71%
Arches NP211,482,0451.60%
Capitol Reef NP221,268,8611.37%
Death Valley NP231,099,6321.19%
Badlands NP241,046,4001.13%
Saguaro NP251,010,9061.09%
Sequoia NP26980,5671.06%
Everglades NP27810,1890.88%
Canyonlands NP28800,3220.87%
Haleakala NP29791,2920.86%
Theodore Roosevelt NP30746,8620.81%
White Sands NP31729,0960.79%
Glacier Bay NP & PRES32703,6590.76%
Mammoth Cave NP33654,4500.71%
Kings Canyon NP34643,0650.70%
Wind Cave NP35592,4590.64%
Biscayne NP36571,2420.62%
Crater Lake NP37559,9760.61%
Petrified Forest NP38520,4910.56%
Great Sand Dunes NP & PRES39512,2190.55%
Big Bend NP40509,1290.55%
Mesa Verde NP41505,1940.55%
Denali NP & PRES42498,7220.54%
Lassen Volcanic NP43418,9780.45%
Redwood NP44409,1050.44%
Carlsbad Caverns NP45394,1210.43%
Kenai Fjords NP46387,5250.42%
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP47357,0690.39%
Virgin Islands NP48343,6850.37%
Pinnacles NP49341,2200.37%
Channel Islands NP50328,7460.36%
Congaree NP51250,1140.27%
Guadalupe Mountains NP52227,3400.25%
Voyageurs NP53220,8250.24%
Great Basin NP54143,2650.16%
Dry Tortugas NP5584,2850.09%
Wrangell-St. Elias NP & PRES5678,3050.08%
North Cascades NP5740,3510.04%
Katmai NP & PRES5833,7630.04%
Isle Royale NP5928,9650.03%
Kobuk Valley NP6017,6160.02%
Lake Clark NP & PRES6116,7280.02%
National Park of American Samoa6212,1350.01%
Gates of the Arctic NP & PRES6311,0450.01%

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside