America's national parks are amongst the best outdoor landscapes found anywhere on the planet. Many of them feature breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife encounters, which is why millions of people flock to those locations each and every year. Places like the Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone make classic adventure travel escapes suitable for the whole family, although during the high season they can certainly get very crowded.
If you're looking for national parks that are decidedly less overrun, the National Park Service offers some suggestions on where to go—these are the ten least-visited parks as well, ranked in descending order by 2015 visitors. If you truly want to escape the crowds, here's where you should go.
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Ohio
This relatively new Ohio national monument opened in 2013 to honor Colonel Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers – the famed group of African American troops who fought for nearly 80 years in various conflicts involving the U.S. The namesake colonel was the third African-American to graduate from West Point Military Academy and the first to serve as National Parks Superintendent, and a military officer with a long and respected career. The park provides tours of the home Young purchased with his wife Ada in 1907.
Visitors in 2015: 3,993
Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, California
The home of Eugene O'Neill—America's only Nobel Prize winning playwright—is located in Northern California, and was declared a national historic site to celebrate his achievements. O'Neill is responsible for such works as The Iceman Cometh and A Long Day's Journey into Night, but he isn't an especially big draw amongst travelers. The site sees less than 4000 visitors on an annual basis.
Visitors in 2015: 3,942
Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas
Following the end of the Civil War, thousands of former slaves left the south and began heading west. Some settled in Kansas, where the Nicodemus National Historic Site celebrates their contribution towards expanding the American frontier. African Americans played a crucial role in opening the west, but sadly few visitors stop by this site to recognize their contribution. The site is amongst the least visited in all of the U.S. National Parks.
Visitors in 2015: 3,306
Clara Barton National Historic Site, Maryland
Named for the founder of the American Red Cross, this National Historic Site preserves the massive structure that became the storehouse and headquarters for the organization at the turn of the century. At the park, visitors can tour the home (built in 1891) and learn about the life and achievements of Barton herself.
Visitors in 2015: 2,823
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska
The state of Alaska has some of the most remote parks in the entire U.S. system, and amongst them is the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. This wild region features numerous hot springs and other geothermal activity, and is home to muskox and large herds of caribou too. It is an unspoiled wilderness that was once part of a strip of land that connected North America to Asia, allowing plants, animals, and early humans to pass back and forth between those land masses. Today, it is seldom seen by anyone.
Visitors in 2015: 2,642
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, Pennsylvania
A mere 1,261 people took the opportunity to visit the Thaddeus Kosciusko National Memorial in 2014. Those that did take the time to stop by learned about one of the lesser known founding fathers of the United States who helped devise some of the more successful fortifications used during the Revolutionary War. Kosciusko may not be as well known as George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, but he still played a vital role in winning American freedom.
Visitors in 2015: 1,261
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska
Another remote wilderness, the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve marks the merging of two important waterways in the Alaskan interior. The park remains largely unexplored to this day, although visitors do witness impressive displays of wildlife, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, and the remains of towns that sprung up during the gold rush era, only to vanish when the rush ended.
Visitors in 2015: 1,133
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument, California
Located near San Francisco, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument commemorates the worst homeland disaster for the United States during World War II. On July 17, 1944, 320 men were killed when two warships preparing to depart for the Pacific Theater blew up while being loaded with ordinance. Reservations are required to visit the site, as it still sits on an active military base. Perhaps that is why so few people make the effort to see this solemn place.
Visitors in 2015: 963
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Alaska
In 2015 no more than 153 people visited this remote wilderness that features a massive volcanic crater stretching six miles across. Known for its difficult and demanding weather, the park is only accessible by plane, and features a large number of bears and wolves as well. This is not a place for the faint of heart, or inexperienced in the wilderness, hence the reason it sees so few visitors on an annual basis.
Visitors in 2015: 153
Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, Texas
The 196-mile stretch of the Rio Grande River in Texas that has been designated as the Wild and Scenic section is so remote that just getting to the start of this whitewater playground can be an adventure. But those who make the journey are treated to rolling rapids that pass through deep canyons in the Chihuahuan Desert. The landscapes are beautiful, timeless, and provide the perfect escape for those looking to truly get away from it all.
Visitors in 2015: 120