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'Finding hidden gems': America's least visited national parks are gaining fans

If you want to get away from it all, there’s a national park for you. Multiple, actually.

There are 63 national parks across the country. A third of them saw fewer than 500,000 visitors last year, according to recently released National Park Service statistics.

That may sound like a lot, but for perspective, America's most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains, had nearly 13.3 million visitors. In contrast, America's least visited national park and preserve, Gates of the Arctic, recorded just over 11,000 recreational visits across its 8.5 million acres.

“It’s as wild and remote a place as you can find in North America,” Peter Christian, chief spokesperson for Public Affairs for the National Park Service’s Alaska region, told USA TODAY.

From Acadia to Zion: What travelers should know about each national park

The western part of the Brooks Range is seen from the air. Gates of the Arctic National Park is centered in the central part of the range.
The western part of the Brooks Range is seen from the air. Gates of the Arctic National Park is centered in the central part of the range.

But like many of America’s least-visited parks, even Gates of the Arctic saw more visits in 2023 than in 2022. Congaree and Dry Tortugas actually set new visitation records last year, suggesting the longtime hidden gems aren’t quite so hidden any more.

“Our national parks tell our shared American story. I'm glad visitors are finding hidden gems, exploring in the off-season and finding new ways to have a great time in our national parks,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a statement.

Across the entire National Park System, which also includes national lakeshores, memorials and more, there was a 4% increase at parks that track visitation. Stats also showed more travelers visited parks last spring and fall versus the already busy summer.

Visitors can wander at their own pace on Congaree's Boardwalk Loop.
Visitors can wander at their own pace on Congaree's Boardwalk Loop.

15 least-visited national parks of 2023

  • Pinnacles National Park - 341,220 visits, up from 275,023

  • Channel Islands National Park - 328,746 visits, up from 323,245

  • Congaree National Park - 250,114 visits, up from 204,522

  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park - 227,340 visits, up from 219,987

  • Voyageurs National Park - 220,825 visits, down from 221,434

  • Great Basin National Park - 143,265 visits, up from 142,115

  • Dry Tortugas National Park - 84,285 visits, up from 78,488

  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve - 78,305 visits, up from 65,236

  • North Cascades National Park - 40,351 visits, up from 30,154

  • Katmai National Park and Preserve - 33,763 visits, down from 33,908

  • Isle Royale National Park - 28,965 visits, up from 25,454

  • Kobuk Valley National Park - 17,616 visits, up from 16,925

  • Lake Clark National Park and Preserve - 16,728 visits, down from 18,187

  • National Park of American Samoa - 12,134 visits, up from 1,887

  • Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve - 11,045 visits, up from 9,457

Source: National Park Service

These rock formations along the Katmai coast are the result of lava cooling and slowly fracturing, according to the national park.
These rock formations along the Katmai coast are the result of lava cooling and slowly fracturing, according to the national park.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: America's least visited national parks help you get away from it all