The List: 10 Of The World’s Most Remote National Parks


Kronotsky Volcano, Kronotsky, Zapovednik, Russia. 

Wanna get away? No, really get away. Not like the most remote part of Yellowstone, where you’re a mere couple days’ walk from a road. How about some places where you’re more likely to run into a bear than another human being? No vending machines, no gift shops, hell, no roads, trails or signs in some of these places. $15,000 charter flights, helicopter-only access, crocodiles — here are 10 of the most remote national parks in the world:

1. Kronotsky Zapovednik, Russia
The Kronotsky Nature Reserve, 4,000-plus square miles of roadless tundra, active volcanoes, and geysers on the east coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, falls under a protective status fairly unique to Russia: zapovednik. As David Quammen wrote in National Geographic in 2009, the Russian government’s designation of “zapovednik” translates to “a restricted zone, set aside for the study and protection of flora and fauna and geology; tourism limited or forbidden; thanks for your interest, but go away.” Scientists are permitted entry, but only for research, and only 3,000 other visitors are allowed, and then only for one day (there are no overnight accommodations for visitors), and for about $700 US per person via helicopter. For five hours. LINK

2. Torngat Mountains National Park, Canada
No designated campsites, no facilities, no trails, no signs in this park in northern Labrador. Enter by (charter) plane and figure out where you want to go in this wild tundra land full of untouched mountains, polar bears, and caribou. Don’t get lost. And don’t get eaten: “Parks Canada recommends that a visitor engage the services of a trained Inuit polar bear guard when hiking in the park.” Another option: Travel to Torngat Base Camp, the main access point to the park, and hire a guide/bear guard. Packages start at about $1,000 per day, including travel to and from Base Camp, which is a 45-minute charter boat ride from the Saglek, an old U.S. Air Force radar station, reached by the twice-weekly flights from the airport at Goose Bay. Torngat Base Camp is open seven weeks every year, from July to early September. LINK

3. Central Island National Park, Kenya
Sibiloi National Park is a three-day, 560-mile drive in a four-wheel-drive vehicle from Nairobi or a 2.5-hour flight to one of two airstrips in the park. Within Sibiloi is 2,400-square-mile Lake Turkana, and within Lake Turkana is Central Island National Park, a volcanic island containing several craters, three of which contain saline lakes. It’s a 4.5-mile boat ride from the western shore of Sibiloi and is believed to be home to the world’s largest population of Nile crocodiles, in addition to zebra, giraffe, kudu and gazelles. Bring your sun hat — temps often hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit. LINK

4. Darien National Park, Panama
The Darien Gap is one of the thickest undeveloped swamp- and forest lands in the world, population a couple thousand people. An expedition crossing it by off-road vehicle in 1978 took 30 days and by the time they’d hacked their way through to the other side, the side where they’d started had grown over again. Darien National Park, Central America’s largest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covers more than 2,200 square miles of the Darien Gap. Monsoon forests reach up to 160 feet, and bush dogs, spider monkeys, and jaguars are a few animals that call Darien home. Visitation is not high, in part to its accessibility — the tiny village of El Real is reachable only by boat or plane — but also partly because the population of drug smugglers and paramilitary groups who hang out in the jungles there. LINK

5. Pulu Keeling National Park, Australia
North Keeling Island is a .46-square-mile uninhabited coral atoll and Australia’s smallest and hardest to reach national park. To get there, you’ll first jump on an 1,800-mile flight from Perth, Australia, to the Cocos Keeling Islands. From the main Cocos atoll, a 1.5-hour inflatable boat ride gets you as close as safely possible, and then you have to swim over the reef to get onto the island. Once on the island, you must be guided around North Keeling Island by park staff or other permitted tour guide. Visitation to the park is so closely regulated to protect the sensitive species that call the island home, including the red-footed booby — the island is one of the most significant red-footed booby breeding colonies in the world. LINK

6. Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island
Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island in the world — 1,300 miles from the nearest inhabited island (Pitcairn Island, population 100), and more than 2,000 miles from mainland Chile. A large chunk of the 63-square-mile island is a Chilean national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its 887 moai statues, giant stone heads that dot the landscape. LINK

7. Quttinirpaaq National Park, Canada
Quttinirpaaq is one of the places in the world where SPOT satellite messengers don’t work — because it’s so close to the North Pole. For years, polar expeditions launched from Ellesmere Island, where Quttinirpaaq is located, in extreme north Nunavut, right near the top of Greenland. Fly in from Resolute Bay, pop. 250 (one-way charter flights are only $15,000!), and check out the expanse of rock and snow — but don’t expect any powder; it’s a polar desert here. LINK

8. Wapusk National Park, Canada
Wapusk and nearby Churchill, in northern Manitoba on the Hudson Bay, are the Polar Bear Capital of the World. Access to Churchill, population 900, is by plane or train only, and access to Wapusk National Park is limited (to protect the people from the bears and vice versa), and almost completely by licensed tour operators — one of whom transports up to 40 visitors in custom “tundra buggies” to Cape Churchill for polar bear viewing. Ten-day polar bear viewing tours cost about $1,100 per day. LINK

9. National Park of American Samoa
In 2011, the National Park of American Samoa had its biggest year ever: 8,716 visitors. In 2006, only 1,200 people visited. It’s the only U.S. National Park located south of the equator (because American Samoa is south of the equator). As the NPS website says, “unless you live in American Samoa, more than casual planning is required to visit the park.” Only one major carrier, Hawaiian Airlines, flies to American Samoa, a 5.5-hour flight from Honolulu. But hey, once you get there…well, the park is split amongst three islands, so you’ve got a couple more flights from Pago Pago to the Manua. But then, solitude for snorkeling, scuba diving, and hiking. LINK

10. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska, U.S.A.
The secret’s out about this place, which saw an all-time high of more than 11,000 human beings in 2011. Hanging above the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley is 1.7 miles of terrain with no roads or trails, but a couple of (seasonal) ranger stations, 25 square miles of sand dunes, and is a highway for half a million migrating caribou every year. Access is by bush plane from Kotzebue or Bettles. See also: Alaska’s Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Gates of the Arctic National Park LINK

Photo by Shutterstock


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