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Exploring America’s Hidden Gems: The Lesser-Known National Parks

Amidst the vibrant fall hues of the Great Smoky Mountains and the surreal geothermal wonders of Yellowstone, the national parks of the United States stand as testament to the country’s vast natural beauty. 

As mentioned in an article by Forbes, last year marked a significant uptick in national park visitation, with over 325.5 million adventurers exploring the more than 400 sites managed by the National Park Service. This represents a 4% increase from 2022, signaling a near return to pre-pandemic levels of interest in these cherished natural landscapes.

While iconic destinations like the Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain National Parks continue to draw the largest crowds, there’s a growing trend towards visiting during the less crowded shoulder seasons.

Additionally, several lesser-known national parks shattered their previous visitation records last year, offering unique experiences and stories of America’s diverse history and natural splendor.

“From the historical landscapes of Kaloko Honokōhau National Historical Park in Hawai’i to the lush swamps of Congaree National Park in South Carolina, our national parks are becoming increasingly popular for those eager to delve into our shared heritage,” remarked National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.

He emphasized the joy of discovering these hidden gems, exploring during off-peak times, and enjoying the myriad of activities available across the national park system.

Despite their beauty and allure, some parks, particularly in Alaska, remain largely untouched by the masses, welcoming less than 1% of the total national park visitors annually. 

The challenge of accessing these remote locations, some of which require advanced backcountry skills, contributes to their exclusivity. Yet, for those willing to undertake the journey, these parks offer unparalleled natural experiences.

Among the most visited national parks, the iconic Great Smoky Mountains National Park led the charge with an astounding 13.29 million visitors, followed closely by the majestic Grand Canyon National Park at 4.73 million. 

Not far behind, Zion National Park enchanted 4.62 million visitors, Yellowstone National Park captivated 4.50 million, and Rocky Mountain National Park drew 4.11 million, each with their unique landscapes and natural wonders. 

Yosemite National Park welcomed 3.89 million adventurers, Acadia National Park saw 3.87 million, Grand Teton National Park attracted 3.41 million, Joshua Tree National Park had 3.27 million, and Olympic National Park brought in 2.94 million visitors, each park offering breathtaking vistas and diverse ecosystems to explore.

On the flip side, the allure of the less trodden path beckons the intrepid to America’s least visited national parks, where the promise of solitude and unspoiled nature awaits. 

Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska, with its sprawling 8.4 million acres of untouched wilderness, saw 11,045 visitors, making it a haven for those with the skills to navigate its rugged terrain. 

Mountain landscape with a glacier nestled between peaks under a partly cloudy sky.

Image by National Park Service via nps.gov

The National Park of American Samoa, a tropical paradise 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, attracted 12,135 visitors, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Coastal village at the base of a lush, green mountain overlooking the Auto Draft sea.

Image by National Park Service via nps.gov

Lake Clark National Park, renowned for bear watching and accessible only by small planes, welcomed 16,728 visitors. 

A seaplane parked by a lake with a rainbow in the background amidst mountainous terrain. Auto Draft

Image by National Park Service via nps.gov

Kobuk Valley National Park, with its Great Kobuk Sand Dunes reminiscent of the Sahara, saw 17,616 adventurers. 

Aerial view of a mountainous landscape with rolling, barren hills and a valley, capturing the essence of exploring America's hidden gems.

Image by National Park Service via nps.gov

Lastly, Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, a remote island wilderness in the middle of Lake Superior known for its scuba diving and northern lights, attracted 28,965 visitors.

A rocky shoreline with a solitary house overlooking a calm blue bay surrounded by forested land in one of America's hidden gems.

Image by National Park Service via nps.gov

As the National Park Service continues to welcome visitors from around the globe, the invitation to explore these lesser-known parks stands as a testament to the vast, untamed beauty of the United States

Whether it’s the remote wilderness of Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic or the tropical splendor of American Samoa, there’s a national park experience waiting for every type of adventurer.

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April 1, 2024 9:40 pm

Isn’t it amazing how these lesser-known national parks are gaining popularity? Discovering hidden gems is pure joy. It’s like finding a treasure trove of unique experiences waiting to be explored!


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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: Exploring America's Hidden Gems: The Lesser-Known National Parks! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/usa/exploring-americas-hidden-gems-the-lesser-known-national-parks/