Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The National Park Service turns 101 on Friday. You can celebrate by heading to any national park for fee-free entrance, but why not say “Happy Birthday” by buying an annual pass? It’s the best $80 you’ll spend all year, we promise.
We took a look at the list of least-visited national parks to give you a few ideas for sites that need some love. All of these beautiful places count fewer than 30,000 visitors per year. By comparison, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Blue Ridge Parkway received more than 15 million visits last year. Great Smoky Mountains National Park had about 11 million visitors, and Grand Canyon had just under 6 million.
So why not check out these rarely-visited parks, where you’ll rarely see other humans? If we’re missing a lesser-known park you love, we’d love to hear about it! Share your photos on our Facebook page or by tagging @snewsteam on Twitter or Instagram.
Least-visited national parks
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve
2016 visitors: 100
In spite of its stunning views and six-mile-wide caldera, Aniakchak, up in Alaska, is the least-visited of everything the National Park Service has to offer. With no road access, it’s no wonder it logged only 100 visitors last year. You must arrive by boat or air, and bad weather can often get in the way of pick up or drop off. But unless you’re bringing a large crew, solitude is almost guaranteed.
Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River
2016 visitors: 460
The Rio Grande winds through the Southwest and is hardly unknown. But this Texas stretch of Wild and Scenic River was the second least-visited park last year.
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
2016 visitors: 1,050
You guessed it: Alaska. The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve’s biggest draw is how little humans have interacted with the landscape here. The 1 million-acre watershed is virtually untouched by humans.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
2016 visitors: 10,000
Also in Alaska, it probably comes as no surprise that Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve has no roads and no trails. Come here for stunning views of sharp mountains, gentle rivers, and vast valleys.
Noatak National Preserve
2016 vistors: 17,000
Noatak is home to one of North America’s largest mountain-ringed river basins. Like many other backcountry sites in Alaska, you can’t get here by car. But the views of the Brooks Range are worth the hassle.
Lake Clark National Park
2016 visitors: 21,100
You’ll want to pack one of Oru’s foldable kayaks if you’re heading up to Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. Arrive by air, but don’t miss out on paddling opportunities.
Russell Cave National Monument
2016 visitors: 24,650
Thousands of years ago, this cave served as a shelter for generations of prehistoric people. Inside, a slice of human history is extraordinarily well-preserved. Visit this Alabama park for one of the most complete records of prehistoric life in the Southeast.
Isle Royale National Park
2016 visitors: 25,000
Take a boat from Michigan or Minnesota to this island in Lake Superior. The National Park Service promises unparalleled adventures for scuba diving, paddlesports, and backpacking.
North Cascades National Park
2016 visitors: 28,650
North Cascades is among the 50 least-visited parks, which surprises us because of its proximity to Seattle. It’s only 3 hours from the city. Who wouldn’t want to be alone with this view?
National Park of American Samoa
2016 visitors: 29,000
In the heart of the South Pacific, National Park of American Samoa is unlike anything else in the U.S. National Park Service. Head here for snorkeling among coral reefs and hiking in the rainforest.