We tend to equate how busy a destination is with how worthy of our time it is, but that’s not always the case. These national parks are the least busy, still extremely beautiful and all yours to discover.
1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
If you haven’t been to Alaska yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. You might imagine a frozen tundra, a desolate and cold waste with little to do. That’s certainly not the case!
People who love hiking and camping have been keeping Alaska their little secret for years, and it has four of the largest national parks in the United States. The most popular and perhaps most tempting to visit is Wrangell-St. Elias, but you can expect more visitors and less peace and quiet.
Gates of the Arctic, on the other hand, feels completely untouched and unobstructed by throngs of visitors. Yes, we’ll admit that it’s a little “rougher around the edges” than the other parks since it has no roads or trails, but that simply adds to the authenticity of the experience.
This is the wild. This is the backcountry. This is a national park the way it’s meant to be. You’ll need to arrange transportation in and out of the park, with the most common option being by plane. But it should be worth the effort if you long to be completely immersed in nature with no distraction.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve isn’t necessarily for amateur hikers, but if you have some experience and are ready for an adventure, this is the place to check out.
2. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
There’s a lot of beauty that escapes the notice of the masses in the United States, and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan is one of those hidden gems.
It only garners around 16,000 visitors a year, yet those few stand witness to its natural beauty in the way of calm waters, towering lighthouses, and lush scenery.
A ferry is the only way to get to the Isle, and that’s likely one of the reasons that it doesn’t get as many visitors as some of the more mainstream parks.
Before you go, make sure to book a camping reservation if you plan on staying for a night or two. Also, grab a fishing license if you really want to live off the land and catch your meals.
3. North Cascades National Park, Washington
Residents of Seattle don’t have to go far to escape the noise and congestion of city living and let the mind relax in a peaceful natural environment. North Cascades National Park in Washington is only three hours from the city, but it feels like another planet, considering the aesthetic contrasts.
Whether you go for the day or choose to stay for a night or weekend, you’ll have lots to fill your time with: walking the Newhalem trails, bird watching, boating through Thornton Lake.
2018 is actually the 50th anniversary of North Cascades National Park’s opening, so what better time could there be to go for a visit?
4. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park attracts a little more attention due to the fact its the home of Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century architectural wonder that holds the record for the largest all-masonry fort in America. It’s still grossly underrated though and remains much less busy than other big parks.
You’ll likely need to book a camping site in advance as the Garden Key campground only supports 10 sites, and you’ll need to boat or take a plane to the park. Being surrounded by water is part of the appeal at Dry Tortugas National Park, and snorkeling and exploring the aquatic life is a big draw for many visitors.
5. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Stargazing is always a big selling point when it comes to being out in nature. The absence of light pollution makes it easier to see the stars, and they’re as visible as they can be in Great Basin National Park. These are some of the darkest skies in the United States, which means you get to see them fully lit up by a canopy of fireflies in the evening.
Other points of interest in Great Basin National Park are the Lehman Caves. These are naturally formed caves with impressive stalagmites and structure, and you can either explore them on your own or take a guided tour.
Stop by Baker Creek and Summit Wheeler Peak and you’ve got yourself an excellent itinerary.
There are no better parks in the United States of America to explore minus the crowds than these ones. Make sure to plan your visit according to the season and local weather so that you dodge heavy rains, cold temperatures, etc.
Not only will you be amazed by the sights and leave more relaxed, but you’ll have some great memories from these parks. Don’t forget your camera!