The most underrated national parks named – North Cascades in Washington, is top  

Key Highlights

• A new study has revealed which of America’s national parks are the most underrated, with North Cascades ranking top

• The study compared all national parks that saw less than 750,000 visits last year, and compared visitor volumes, reviews, and ratings

• North Cascades in Washington was named the most worth visiting, with Isle Royale in Michigan placing as the second most underrated

• A vacation home expert advises on the essential things to pack and what to be aware of when exploring a national park

Map of North Cascades National Park, WA

2024 Ranking of The Most Underrated National Parks

A new ranking has revealed which of America’s national parks are most underrated and worth visiting this year – with North Cascades taking the top spot.  

 National parks are areas that a national government has set aside to preserve the natural environment and are known for their beauty and wildlife.  

 The study conducted by vacation rental platform analyzed last year’s NPS data to identify all parks with under 750,000 visitors. Parks in this list were then scored out of 100, based on visitor volumes, visitor reviews, and review ratings.  

 Parks were awarded a higher score for fewer visits, fewer reviews, and a high ratio of reviews to visits and for higher ratings.  

With May, June and July marking the peak season for many national parks, with groups looking to take advantage of nicer weather, this study works to highlight the parks which are hidden gems.     

North Cascades, a large blue lake surrounded by forest and snowy mountains in Washington with over 500,000 acres to explore, scored the highest at 89.7 out of 100 – making it the most underappreciated park among visitors last year.  

Isle Royale is second with a score of 86.0. Situated in Lake Superior, Michigan, this park is an isolated island that offers plenty of hiking and camping spots.  

Third place is Dry Tortugas, west of Key West, Florida, with a score of 84.6 out of 100. This park is mostly water and comprises 7 islands that are only accessible by boat or seaplane. The area is known for its coral reefs and thriving marine life.  

Ranking fourth with a score of 78.2 is the Gates of The Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The park protects portions of the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska and is characterized by arctic valleys, scenic rivers, and rugged peaks.  

The largest national park in the US, Wrangell-St. Elias, also a preserve based in South Central Alaska, ranked fifth with a score of 77.5. The area is great for backpacking, cross-country skiing, river running and much more.  

The Ten Most Underrated National Parks in America  


 National Park  Number of Visits in 2023  Google Reviews   Average Review Rating  Final Score (Out of 100)  
1  North Cascades   40,351  1,232  4.8  89.65  
2  Isle Royale   28,965  459  4.8  86.02  
3  Dry Tortugas  84,285  1,582  4.8  84.64  
4  Gates of the Arctic  11,045  146  4.5  78.19  
5  Wrangell-St. Elias  78,305  873  4.7  77.55  
6  Great Basin   143,265  2,028  4.7  77.38  
7  Katmai   33,763  250  4.8  74.36  
8  Lake Clark   16,728  119  4.8  74.08  
9  Guadalupe Mountains  227,340  2,684  4.7  71.93  
10  Congaree   250,114  3,254  4.7  71.84’s Top 10 Most Underrated National Parks


David Ciccarelli, CEO of, commented on the findings: “National parks attract an incredibly large volume of visitors every year, especially as summer approaches. However, there are many hidden gems out there that are just as wonderful as the most-visited spots – and that may be better for avoiding crowds.  

“However, while avoiding crowds may appeal to some, it can sometimes leave you more vulnerable as fewer people are around to help should you encounter difficulties. That’s why it’s important to pack essential things and consult safety recommendations before visiting a national park.”  

Essential things required when hiking in a national park:   

  • Navigation – A map, compass, and separate GPS device may be useful. There may not be a cellular signal throughout the park; if a smartphone is being used, ensure appropriate power banks to keep charge are packed and that all maps are downloaded to be used offline.    
  • Sun Protection – Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat should be all packed to avoid burns and heatstroke. Sun-protective clothing is also a good idea. 
  • Insulation – Thermals and a jacket; nature is unpredictable, and all weather should be considered when packing for the trip.  
  • Illumination – Even if hiking in the dark isn’t part of your plan, circumstances can change, and a flashlight or lantern could be handy.  
  • First-Aid Kit – In the event of a stumble or any other accidents, a First Aid Kit is essential on any hike. Include a tool to remove ticks and a sealable, air-tight container to store the tick in to give to medical authorities to test for Lyme. Make sure any medication in your First-Aid Kit is date-checked and replaced when needed.  
  • Fire – Matches or a lighter are essential tools. They can be used in an emergency situation to attract attention and also for cooking.  
  • Nutrition and hydration – Changes in plans should always be accounted for on hikes and trips. Always make sure to pack more than enough water and some water treatment supplies, as well as an extra day’s worth of food—preferably food that doesn’t need cooking. Before you leave, consult your doctor about bringing electrolytes with you that can be mixed with potable drinking water to prevent dehydration and any medicines you may require. 
  • Emergency shelter – Shelter is extremely important in a survival situation; it can protect you from severe weather conditions. Packing a small tent, tarp, and emergency space blanket is a good idea and a lightweight option.  
  • Travel plan and emergency contact – Share your travel plans with a family member or friend who is not going to the national park with you. This plan should include where you are going and how long you plan to stay as well as any check-ins you want to do. This person is your emergency contact and can alert authorities if you have not kept in touch or returned home as scheduled. Consider sharing your location on your smart phone with the emergency contact before going on your trip so they have access to your whereabouts in the event of emergency. 

The Methodology and Full Data Set

Our Methodology

List of all National parks taken from NPS  were converted to an index where each factor is scored based on how it contributes to being underrated:  

  • Number of visits – higher score for fewer visits  
  • Google reviews – higher score for fewer reviews  
  • Reviews to visits ratio – higher score for parks with a high ratio of reviews to visits  
  • Star rating – higher score for higher ratings  

Underrated National Parks Data Set

National Parks   Number of Visits in 2023  Google Reviews   Average Review Rating  Final index score  (Out of 100) 
North Cascades  40,351  1,232  4.8  89.65 
Isle Royale  28,965  459  4.8  86.02 
Dry Tortugas  84,285  1,582  4.8  84.64 
Gates of the Arctic  11,045  146  4.5  78.19 
Wrangell-St. Elias   78,305  873  4.7  77.55 
Great Basin   143,265  2,028  4.7  77.38 
Katmai   33,763  250  4.8  74.36 
Lake Clark  16,728  119  4.8  74.08 
Guadalupe Mountains  227,340  2,684  4.7  71.93 
Congaree   250,114  3,254  4.7  71.84 
Redwood   409,105  8,974  4.9  69.44 
Black Canyon of the Gunnison  357,069  4,667  4.8  69.35 
National Park of American Samoa  12,135  80  4.6  67.99 
Pinnacles   341,220  4,073  4.7  67.16 
Carlsbad Caverns   394,121  14,167  4.9  65.75 
Lassen Volcanic   418,978  3,871  4.8  63.56 
Mesa Verde   505,194  9,117  4.8  62.84 
Great Sand Dunes  512,219  9,330  4.8  62.45 
Big Bend   509,129  5,534  4.8  61.56 
Crater Lake   559,976  13,346  4.9  60.09 
Petrified Forest   520,491  11,080  4.7  58.94 
Denali   498,722  3,783  4.8  57.66 
Voyageurs   220,825  1,029  4.8  55.23 
Kings Canyon   643,065  6,097  4.8  55.00 
Channel Islands   328,746  1,816  4.7  54.57 
Virgin Islands   343,685  1,641  4.9  54.19 
Mammoth Cave   654,450  10,606  4.7  53.57 
Theodore Roosevelt NP  746,862  6,980  4.8  50.78 
White Sands   729,096  14,810  4.8  50.17 
Kenai Fjords   387,525  1,591  4.9  47.47 
Wind Cave   592,459  3,427  4.6  44.45 
Glacier Bay  703,659  3,566  4.9  43.94 
Kobuk Valley   17,616  77  4  41.85 
Biscayne  571,242  2,452  4.7  38.69’s Annual Ranking of America’s Most Underrated National Parks



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