Avoid Crowds at These 10 Stunning U.S. National Parks

 Avoid Crowds at These 10 Stunning U.S. National Parks

RVers are no doubt familiar with the U.S. National Parks, but there are definitely some that are better for avoiding big crowds — something travelers may be interested in more now than ever.

But with more than 400 recognized national park areas encompassing more than 84 million acres across the U.S., it can be hard to know what U.S. National Parks to add to your destination list.

Fortunately, with the help of the team at TravelTrivia.com, it can be a little easier to find the national parks where you are least likely to run into big crowds.

These least crowded national parks offer the same breathtaking experience as your Grand Canyons and Yosemites but are unspoiled by crowds. Take a look at 10 of the least-visited national parks in the United States.

The 10 Least Crowded U.S. National Parks

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Hundreds of historic Pueblo cliff dwellings make Mesa Verde National Park unique in the National Park system. Mesa Verde has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance. However, the park attracts only about 550,000 visitors annually. Visitors can explore as many as 600 cliff dwellings and 4,000 smaller Pueblo archaeological sites throughout the park. During the summer, visitors flock to the many hiking trails; in winter, the trails are perfect for snowshoeing.

Additionally, Mesa Verde made our list of favorite national parks of the west. Be sure to check out the full list here.

An image from Mesa Verde National Park, one of many U.S. National Parks that don't see a ton of visitors
Mesa Verde National Park, one of many U.S. National Parks that don't see a ton of visitors. Photo by Alec Krum on Unsplash

Pinnacles National Park, California

The stunning rock formations of Pinnacles National Park near Salinas Valley truly are a hidden gem. Yet this is amazingly on our list of the least visited U.S. National Parks. These formations shaped by volcanic activity millions of years ago make the entire park look like something out of a science-fiction movie. Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave offer hikers a unique opportunity to witness bats in their natural habitat (except from May to July when the caves are closed to protect the bats during their mating season). Considering Pinnacles only received a bit more than 177,000 visitors in 2019, it’s a great place to get some solitude, too.

An image of Pinnacles National Park one of the least crowded national parks
Pinnacles National Park is one of the lest crowded national parks. Photo by Daniel Chicchon on Unsplash

Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska

Here is the first entry for Alaska, which is for good reason — many of the state's national parks simply don't get as many visitors as those in lower 48. Katmai National Park & Preserve features stunning volcanic formations and close-up views of its large population of grizzly and brown bears — and no more than 84,000 people annually.

The most popular place to view the bears is Brooks Falls, where visitors can stand on platforms and watch bears fishing for lunch in the river below. Be sure to check out my interview with a ranger from Katmai below, which is from episode 205 of the RV Lifestyle Podcast.

 

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is another one of the least visited U.S. National Parks. It is a gargantuan, 13.2-million-acre park that was established to preserve the volcanoes and glaciers of the boreal forests on Alaska's southern coast.

Here, you can find a number of well-known glaciers, including the Hubbard Glacier, the Nabesna Glacier, and the enormous Malaspina Glacier, a piedmont glacier so large that the entire state of Rhode Island could fit inside its surface area.

Parts of the park along the Pacific Ocean are at sea level, but the topography rises to above 18,000 feet at the peak of Mount St. Elias. The biggest volcano in the park is Mount Wrangell, at more than 14,000 feet tall. The park gets fewer than 80,000 annual visitors.

An image of Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Photo by McKayla Crump on Unsplash

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a park that is home to nearly 300 types of birds, 60 species of mammals, and about 16 species of bats. Maybe those flying creatures like it precisely because it is one of the least visited U.S. National Parks.

Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the park, and also the highest elevation in the state. In 2017, slightly more than 225,000 people visited the park, making it a much quieter alternative to more popular sites like Zion National Park and Yosemite.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Great Basin National Park is in remote Nevada, just west of the Utah border, with mountains that range from 6,000 feet tall to more than 13,000 feet tall.

The lower elevations of the park may experience scorching desert heats, while the higher ones still have snow. There is a great diversity in wildlife. Beavers, porcupines, pygmy rabbits, longhorn sheep, and water shrew all can be found. Activities abound: caving, horseback riding, fishing, and backpacking. Recent stats put the number of annual visitors at around 170,000.

For more on Great Basin, be sure to check out our post “10 National Park Adventures Perfect for Winter.”

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park consists of seven small islands about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. Most well-known as the home of Fort Jefferson, visitors can also enjoy snorkeling, paddlesports, and fishing.

The park has seen a decrease in visitors over recent years, with recent numbers indicating about 54,000 annually.

It's dozens of miles out in the water from Key West and you need to take a boat or airplane to get there, no doubt explaining why it is one of the least visited U.S. National Parks.

An image of Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park. Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Only 15,766 people made it to Kobuk Valley National Park in 2019, so it may be the perfect place to go if you really want to avoid people. Visitors can witness caribou migrating across the Kobuk River or search for wild onions growing at Paatitaaq, also known as Onion Portage.

Archaeologists working in the area have found traces of human activity dating as far back as 8,000 years, suggesting that the natural bounty of its wilderness made Kobuk Valley a popular site for hunters and migrating peoples going back millennia.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park consists of more than 26,000 acres in South Carolina. Attractions include the largest collection of old-growth bottomland hardwood forests in the United States, along with a subtropical climate, which means the park is pleasant to visit any time of the year.

About 160,000 annual visitors enjoy fishing, hiking, and kayaking at the park. Also, there's no entrance fee. By the way, this one was also an entry in our post “10 National Park Adventures Perfect for Winter.”

North Cascades National Park, Washington State

North Cascades National Park is in northern Washington, just south of the Canadian border. The park is comprised of more than 500,000 acres and is one of the best places in the U.S. to view glaciers without venturing to Alaska. Further, visitors can enjoy plenty of opportunities for hiking, boating, and camping. Visitors often venture to North Cascades between June and September, when most of the snow has melted.

However, those who seek peace and tranquility, the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall are your best bet. The park attracts around 30,000 visitors annually.

An image of North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park. Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

 

 

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Avoid Crowds at These 10 Stunning U.S. National Parks

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

2 Comments

  • Awesome information for us as newbies getting ready to start out full timing. Thanks a bunch

  • We have visited several of the national parks listed here and they are all stunning. Just wanted to mention that there is a ferry service authorized by the NPS that takes visitors out to Dry Tortugas that I highly recommend. The snorkeling there is awesome and the huge old fort is fascinating to tour. The ferry service includes a guide, meals and gear for snorkeling. This outing was an unforgettable experience!

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