(NEXSTAR) – You’ve likely heard of – and maybe even visited – many of the most visited parks in the National Park System. That includes the Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, and Yellowstone, which attracted 24 million visits total in 2021.
While 44 of its 423 parks set visitation records last year, there are some parks that didn’t even receive 1,000. There are some reasons for that, though.
According to NPS’s latest visitation data, these four parks and areas had among the fewest visitors in 2021:
- Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve: 629 visits
- Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River: 275 visits
- Alagnak Wild River: 262 visits
- Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve: 145 visits
What do all five have in common? They’re relatively remote and difficult to access.
Yukon-Charley Rivers is found in a largely untouched area of Interior Alaska, with NPS describing its strongest element as “solitude.” The Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River is found in “the most remote corner of Texas.” The Alagnak Wild River is nestled within the rugged Aleutian Range in Alaska while Aniakchak boasts “no lines, no waiting!” on its NPS page.
With the exception of Rio Grande, every area is in Alaska, a state that may be more challenging to access for some than those in the Lower 48. And if you do visit any of these parks, NPS encourages you to be prepared.
Yukon-Charley Rivers, for example, is only accessible by water or air travel during the summer seasons, and air or other “adventurous options,” like snowmachines in winter. NPS warns visitors to Alagnak that because of the lack of services in the area, they’ll need to be self-sufficient when visiting. If you plan on visiting Rio Grande or Aniakchak, NPS recommends being well-prepared with gear and information about where you’re going.
Don’t let these warnings and the distance to each area discourage you from visiting. All four offer stunning views and a chance to explore largely untouched wilderness. Here’s a look at some of the scenery you can see at each park:
A fifth NPS site, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in the San Francisco bay area also recorded less than 1,000 visits in 2021.
Visitation numbers throughout the entire NPS remain below pre-pandemic totals. Visits are, however, up by 60 million over 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted access to most parks.