State Park boundary sign at Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountains in Western North Carolina.

Looking to get outdoors this spring or summer? Visiting a state park is a great way to explore nature and see the incredible natural wonders we are home to. North Carolina is home to 41 state parks, as well as 10 national park sites and four national forests. But with so much to explore which is the best? All have something unique to offer visitors but the travel experts over at Southern Living recently published a list of the best state park in each state. So what did they choose as the best state park in North Carolina?

It’s one I’m sure you have heard of even if you can’t name the other 40 state parks. Nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains just southeast of Asheville you’ll find Chimney Rock State Park. You’ve most likely seen photos of the 315-foot namesake of Chimney Rock. And while this is the main draw for visitors the park actually spams 8,014 acres. Want to visit the top but hiking isn’t your thing? There is an elevator or you can always elect to climb the 500 steps to the top. Once you reach the summit you can take in the 75-mile views overlooking picturesque Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. There are also plenty of trails for hikers, including the Skyline Trail and Four Seasons Trail.

Get more info about Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina here! And read about what Southern Living considers the best state parks in the other southern states here.

South Carolina Is Home To One Of The Least Visited National Parks

Spring is here and it’s time to get outside, but apparently, for those in South Carolina, visiting ones of the Palmetto state’s National Parks isn’t in the cards.

Congaree National Park in South Carolina comes in as one of the least visited National Parks in the country in 2021, according to data released by the National Park Service.

The top 15 parks on the list of least visited are some of the most beautiful places in the country. But a few of them do have some similar logistics or location challenges. But for many other ones, there’s not much excuse for not celebrating how beautiful our country is.

Let’s take a look at the least visited national parks in the United States so that you can get some spots on your bucket list. We are going to leave off the ones in places like American Samoa, but we’ll leave in Alaska because they are beautiful.

  • 1. Gates Of The Arctic National Park & Preserve - Alaska

    Only 7,362 people made it out to Gates of the Arctic in 2021. And that’s not entirely shocking, given there are literally no roads or trails in the park at all.

    But that also makes for some of the most amazing visuals our country has to offer. Seriously, go to this website and look at the stunning images.

    If you’re an adventurous person, this park is for you.

  • 2. Kobuk Valley National Park - Alaska

    Just 11,540 people trekked out to Kobuk Valley in 2021, and for a lot of the same reasons as the last one – it’s in Alaska.

    But if you’re wanting to see some caribou crossing a massive river, this place is for you. A half million of them migrate through the sand dunes at Kobuk Valley every year.

  • 3. North Cascades National Park - Washington

    There’s no reason only 17,855 visitors should have gone to North Cascades last year. It’s just 3 hours from Seattle and has some of the best hiking in the world.

  • 4. Lake Clark National Park & Preserve - Alaska

    Back to Alaska we go, with just 18,278 visitors in 2021, Lake Clark is a hidden gem. It’s one of the highest-rated national parks, and maybe the lack of visitors is what keeps it that way.

    If you picture an Alaskan national park, it’s probably this one. There are volcanoes steaming, salmon runs, bears, snow-capped mountains, and beautiful lakes.

  • 5. Katmai National Park & Preserve - Alaska

    You’re sensing a theme here, aren’t you? Katmai had 24,764 visitors in 2021.

    And those visitors get to see some amazing pristine waters and stunning landscapes. Plus, there’s a BEAR CAM!

  • 6. Isle Royale National Park - Michigan

    There were just 25,844 visitors to Isle Royale in 2021, and it’s probably for good reason. While it’s amazingly beautiful, the park is on a remote island in the middle of Lake Superior.

    You can only get there by boat or seaplane, and it’s closed from November 1 – April 15 every year. When it is open, it’s a scuba divers dream, with shipwrecks and amazing waters all over the lake.

  • 7. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park & Preserve - Alaska

    Back up to Alaska we go for America’s largest national park, at 13.2 MILLION acres. As the NPS says, it’s the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and the country of Switzerland… COMBINED!

    There’s also a massive concentration of volcanoes and glaciers here. So while 50,189 people visited in 2021, it could be a lot more given its size.

  • 8. Dry Tortugas National Park - Florida

    Finally we get to warm weather, which 82,817 people enjoyed at Dry Tortugas in 2021. So, what’s the catch?

    Well, it’s the part of Florida that’s really, really hard to get to – 70 miles west of Key West. There are seven small islands and a lot of open water in this national park.

    It is the home of the gorgeous Fort Jefferson, but you’ll have to take a boat or seaplane to get there. But the snorkeling and swimming in the area make it so very worth it.

  • 9. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

    Time to put your coat back on, as we head back to Alaska and some amazing glaciers.

    Some 89,768 people visited Glacier Bay in 2021, but you’ve almost certainly seen photos of this place in your life. The glacier images are some of the most iconic in the world.

  • 10. Great Basin National Park - Nevada

    Back to the lower 48 we go, with the remote – but amazing – Great Basin National Park, which saw 144,875 visitors in 2021.

    The Great Basin is considered one of the best star gazing spots in the country, as there’s no light pollution ANYWHERE nearby. There’s also the incredible Lehman Caves that make this spot worth a visit.

  • 11. CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK - South Carolina

    To be fair, while Congaree is one of the least visited national parks in the country, it did get substantially more visitors than Great Basin in 2021 – 215,181.

    So what did keep people away from Congaree? Well, it’s basically just a giant marshland. It’s the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the Southeast. That makes it extremely flood prone, but wood plank paths throughout make it fairly accessible.

  • 12. Denali National Park & Preserve - Alaska

    The tallest peak in North America, Mount Denali (or Mount McKinley… it’s complicated) is the focal point for the national park, and that helped it get 229,521 visitors last year.

    But it’s not just the iconic mountain worth visiting. You can see stunning auroras, wildlife and so much more.

  • 13. Voyaguers National Park - Minnesota

    Another remote northern park shows up on the list, but there were 243,042 visitors in 2021. Not too shabby really.

    The park is a mix of rocks, cliffs, wetlands, forests, streams and lakes, and is an amazing spot to see the Northern Lights.

  • 14. Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Texas

    Sure, it’s in Texas, but Guadalupe Mountains got only 243,291 visitors in 2021. Lots of that is because of damage to various parts of the park.

  • 15. Black Canyon Of The Gunnison - Colorado

    With 308,910 visitors, Black Canyon didn’t do too bad last year. But the harsh winters make much of the park impassable for part of the year. We would describe this place, but NPS did a way better job:

    “Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky.”

  • Most Visited National Parks

  • 1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee And North Carolina

    Centrally located, and beautifully equipped, the Great Smoky Mountains give a little bit of something for everyone. And it had a whopping 14,161,548 visitors in 2021, almost triple the next closest park.

  • 2. Zion National Park - Utah

    The second most visited national park in the country is one of the most picturesque and iconic. You’ve seen images from Zion your entire life, and 5,039,835 people visited it last year.

  • 3. Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, Idaho, Montana

    Yellowstone itself is amazing, and 4,860,242 people agreed in 2021. But realistically, it’s Old Faithful that draws everyone up to Wyoming.

  • 4. Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona

    The big ditch out West drew in 4,532,677 visitors last year, and being one of the most recognizable parks in the world sure helped with that.

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