National Park Travel

The 10 Least Visited National Parks This Year (2023 Data)

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Empty wilderness, mountain landscapes, sweeping beaches, and untamed wildlife: these are just some of the reasons that many of us are drawn to visit national parks across the U.S. And while you might think of iconic sights like geysers and granite valleys, there is a huge diversity of natural wonders on the list of National Parks.

I’ve been fortunate to visit over half of America’s “best idea” (34 of 63 and counting!) and love writing about my travels to each one (plus tips on how you can visit.) In addition to being a writer, I am also a data nerd. As I’ve begun writing more about national parks across the American West (and beyond), I wanted to share some of the interesting stats and facts I’ve discovered.

Least Visited National Parks Hero 2
Three of this year’s most visited national parks: Wrangell-St. Elias, Great Basin & North Cascades

Using the 2023 visitation data (released in February 2024), I built a spreadsheet and crunched the numbers to share the lists of the most visited national parks and the least visited national parks across the country.

Below you’ll find a list of the “bottom” 10 national parks by visitation numbers from 2023, including some that might surprise you… but don’t be fooled: these parks at the bottom of the list are winners in their own right and well worth a visit.

In this post, I promote travel to national parks, nearly all of which are the traditional and/or sacred lands of many Native American and Indigenous groups. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published as a single post with the least-visited parks list in May 2021.
It was split into two posts and updated in February 2024 to reflect the latest year’s data.

The Least-Visited National Parks in 2023

Everyone wants to know: what are the least visited national parks?

In 2023, pretty much the same ones as every other year! The top 10 least visited national parks are pretty consistent – and were even consistent through the pandemic. This year’s least visited national parks list is almost identical – just a few parks switched spots –, so if you’re looking to escape the crowds, these are the parks to visit in 2024 – or any other year.

Here’s a chart showing how each of the most visited national parks ranked compared to 2022, so you can get a sense of how the list moved around:

National ParkExact
from 2022
10Great Basin National Park
9Dry Tortugas National Park84,2859none
8Wrangell-St. Elias National Park78,3058none
7North Cascades National Park40,3516↑1
6Katmai National Park33,7637↓1
5Isle Royale National Park28,9655none
4Kobuk Valley National Park17,6163↑1
3Lake Clark National Park16,7284↓1
2National Park of American Samoa12,1351↑1
1Gates of the Arctic National Park11,0452↓1
As a reminder, a higher number rank indicates an increase in visitation.

Now let’s dive into each of these parks in turn, explaining why they’re worth planning to visit even though so few people make the trip.

10. Great Basin National Park, NV – 143,265

After dabbling around the top of the least visited national parks list for a few years, Nevada’s Great Basin National Park is back on the list – though it receives almost twice as many visitors as the next park on the list. This means it definitely has fewer crowds than more popular parks, but you’ll also see people there.

I’ve actually visited Great Basin twice, most recently in late 2022; it’s definitely one of my top 5 personal favorite parks. I was recently accused of ruining it by promoting travel there in my Great Basin itinerary, but I’m still going to shout it from the roofs: exploring Lehman Caves, hiking to Nevada’s only glacier, seeing the bristlecone pines, and stargazing under inky skies are all too incredible to pass up if you love visiting national parks as much as I do.

9. Dry Tortugas National Park, FL – 84,285

Dry Tortugas National Park shares a similar story with many of the other parks that make the list of the least visited national parks; it is remote and can only be reached by plane, so fewer people are able to visit than many other parks that receive more visitors due to their ease of access.

Visitation has gone up and down for Dry Tortugas over the past few years, but after a 6% decrease from 2021 to 2022, it jumped back up 7% from 2022 to last year. This isn’t big numbers – only about 5,000-6,000 people – but it makes a big difference in a park with so little visitation.

8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK – 78,305

National Parks in Alaska - Wrangell St. Elias

While Wrangell-St. Elias saw a good recovery from 2020, and visitation in 2023 is back to pre-pandemic levels – almost 80,000 people made the trip to this part of Alaska, and I am still not one of them!

After a 30% increase in visitation from 2021 to 2022 and another 20% jump last year, people continue to travel to Alaska in record numbers – and more people than ever are taking themselves off the beaten path to visit some of these harder-to-reach parks in The Last Frontier.

I was fortunate to see Wrangell-St. Elias briefly in 2021; I stopped at the Copper River Visitor Center as part of my John Hall’s Alaska tour. I am eager to make it back to explore further into the park… maybe that’s a trip for 2025 with Baby V!

7. North Cascades National Park, WA – 40,351

North Cascades National Park, while accessible by car during the summer months, is consistently among the lesser-visited national parks… and that’s a shame as it is home to some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the contiguous U.S. It’s only a two-hour drive from Seattle, and Seattleites love to get out and go hiking – but let’s not complain about the lack of crowds at this park.

On my end, I made the trip into North Cascades by way of Chelan, spending a day in the town of Stehekin. This small town is called “Little Alaska” for its scenery, and I can definitely attest to its similarity to my favorite state. It’s also on the edge of North Cascades and home to one of the visitor centers, so well worth a day trip at minimum.

6. Katmai National Park, AK – 33,763

National Parks in Alaska - Katmai Bears

Katmai National Park was one of the few parks to see a decrease from 2020 to 2021, but that drop – which I wasn’t quite sure how to explain last year – has continued to recover over the past two years, and the park is now close to its pre-pandemic visitation levels (though there were huge jumps in visitation in 2019 and 2020 I don’t really understand).

I haven’t yet been to Katmai (or its neighbor Lake Clark, which also makes this list), though it’s definitely on my list to try and make a flightseeing tour to watch the feasting bears during one of my Alaska trips!

5. Isle Royale National Park, MI – 28,965

Isle Royal National Park

Isle Royale National Park is located north of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where I have family – so I’m excited to get up there now that we’re living in the Midwest. Mr. V and I actually planning to visit Isle Royale in June with Baby V (of course) as well as my parents; apparently it has always been on my dad’s bucket list!

As its name suggests, this park is only reachable by boat, so the pandemic definitely reduced visitation when those operators just weren’t running. However, as of 2023, visitation is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and visitation is quite stable year over year.

4. Kobuk Valley National Park, AK – 17,616

National Parks in Alaska - Kobuk Valley

Remote Kobuk Valley National Park is hard to reach, like so many Alaska national parks. Despite that, over 17,000 people made the journey in 2023, which makes it one of the few parks that is seeing consistently higher visitation after the pandemic.

Given that you must take several flights to reach this park, this is a real testament to the park’s beauty and draw for those who want to go way off the tourist track.

3. Lake Clark National Park, AK – 16,728

National Parks in Alaska - Lake Clark

Lake Clark National Park, which neighbors Katmai and also draws visitors for bear-watching, is similarly a low-visitation national park – but that’s a good thing as it helps protect the natural beauty and wildlife that call this park home.

After two very solid years of visitation (with a whopping 18,000-ish visitors each year), Lake Clark saw a small drop in visitation corresponding to its drop on the list. Fewer than 17,000 people visited, and it was one of only 8 parks that saw a greater-than-5% drop in visitation. I’m not totally sure why, but Lake Clark is high on my list for a future Alaska trip!

2. National Park of American Samoa – 12,135

National Park of American Samoa

After record-setting high visitation years in 2017 and 2019, followed by record-setting low visitation years in 2020-2022, National Park of American Samoa is moving back toward its average traffic – though it’s still well below its pre-pandemic average.

To be honest, I can’t explain why this park saw such low visitation: American Samoa re-opened to international travelers in August 2022, but it hasn’t seen a recovery in visitation I’d expect compared to other parks. Nevertheless, it still jumped 500%+ in visitation year over year, so we’ll see how it looks next year!

1. Gates of the Arctic National Park, AK – 11,045

Gates of the Arctic National Park

After six years of being the least-visited national park in the entire system, Gates of the Arctic National Park moved up to the #2 spot last year – but it dropped back to the #1 least-visited spot in 2023. This is because it’s one of the most difficult parks to reach, and has basically no infrastructure to visit once you get there. You gotta want it to visit Gates of the Arctic!

Hard to reach in a normal year (usually by air taxi; my blogger friend Nicole has a well-researched guide to visiting if you want to make the journey), Gates of the Arctic continued to see lower-than-usual visitation, with just 11,000 or so people making the journey in 2023. That’s a double-digit percent increase from last year, and on-par with pre-pandemic visitation levels.

Which Park Grew Off the Top 10 List in 2023?

As mentioned at the top, the least visited national parks list has the same ten parks this year as last year, even though many have switched spots. In any case, there you have it: the 10 least visited national parks in 2022, based on the visitation data provided by the National Park Service. Have any questions about how to plan your own trip to these harder-to-reach and lesser-visited parks? Let me know in the comments!

Help others discover this post too!

I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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