Which national park is the most frequently visited?

Tourist Attractions

By Christine Hitt

The Beauty of National Parks

National parks are some of the most beautiful and inspiring places in the world. These protected areas showcase the natural wonders of our planet, from towering mountains and dramatic canyons to lush forests and sparkling lakes. Each national park has its own unique character and attractions, making them popular destinations for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a peaceful retreat.

Methodology: How We Determined the Most Visited

To determine which national park is the most frequently visited, we used data from the National Park Service’s Annual Visitation Reports. These reports provide visitor statistics for each national park in the United States, including the number of recreational visits and overnight stays. Based on this data, we identified the ten national parks with the highest visitation numbers and ranked them in order.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most frequently visited national park in the United States, with over 12 million visitors in 2020. Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, this park is known for its misty mountains, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. Visitors can hike over 800 miles of trails, including a section of the famous Appalachian Trail, or drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. The park also features historic buildings, including grist mills and churches, that offer a glimpse into the region’s past.

Grand Canyon National Park: A Natural Wonder

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most iconic natural wonders in the world. Located in Arizona, this park attracts over 6 million visitors each year who come to marvel at its steep cliffs and deep gorges. Visitors can hike or ride a mule down into the canyon, raft along the Colorado River, or take in the views from one of the many viewpoints along the rim. The park also has a rich cultural history, with archaeological sites dating back thousands of years.

Zion National Park: A Hiker’s Paradise

Zion National Park in Utah is a hiker’s paradise, with over 150 miles of trails winding through red rock canyons and along the Virgin River. The park’s most famous hike is the Narrows, where visitors can wade through the narrow slot canyon with towering walls on either side. Other popular hikes include Angels Landing, which offers sweeping views of the park from a narrow ridge, and the Emerald Pools, a series of cascading waterfalls and pools. The park also features a scenic drive through Zion Canyon, where visitors can see towering rock formations and wildlife.

Rocky Mountain National Park: A Scenic Getaway

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a scenic getaway that offers something for everyone. The park’s high altitude and rugged terrain make it a popular destination for hiking and climbing, with over 350 miles of trails to explore. Visitors can also drive along the scenic Trail Ridge Road, which reaches elevations of over 12,000 feet and offers breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys below. The park is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including elk, moose, and bighorn sheep.

Yosemite National Park: A Photographer’s Dream

Yosemite National Park in California is a photographer’s dream, with iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. The park’s stunning granite cliffs and deep valleys have inspired artists and photographers for generations. Visitors can hike to the top of Half Dome, bike along the scenic valley floor, or raft down the Merced River. The park also has a rich cultural history, with historic buildings and Native American sites.

Yellowstone National Park: A Geothermal Wonderland

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is a geothermal wonderland, with over half of the world’s geysers and hot springs. Visitors can witness the famous Old Faithful geyser erupt, hike along the Grand Prismatic Spring, or soak in the Boiling River. The park is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including wolves, bears, and bison. Visitors can explore over 2 million acres of wilderness, from the high peaks of the Absaroka Range to the deep canyons of the Yellowstone River.

Acadia National Park: A Coastal Oasis

Acadia National Park in Maine is a coastal oasis, with rocky shores, secluded coves, and towering mountains. The park’s 47,000 acres are home to over 120 miles of hiking trails, as well as scenic drives and bike paths. Visitors can climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the eastern seaboard, or explore the historic fishing village of Bar Harbor. The park also features a diverse range of wildlife, from bald eagles and ospreys to harbor seals and porpoises.

Olympic National Park: A Diverse Ecosystem

Olympic National Park in Washington is a diverse ecosystem, with three distinct regions: the rugged Pacific coastline, the lush rainforest, and the glaciated peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Visitors can hike to the top of Mount Olympus, explore the Hoh Rainforest, or stroll along the sandy beaches of Rialto Beach. The park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, elk, and bald eagles.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: A Hidden Gem

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio is a hidden gem, with over 33,000 acres of forest, wetlands, and rolling hills. Visitors can hike or bike along the Towpath Trail, which follows the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, or explore the park’s scenic waterfalls and rock formations. The park also features a rich cultural history, with historic buildings and sites that reflect the region’s industrial past.

Conclusion: Which National Park Should You Visit?

All of the national parks on this list offer unique and unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, scenic beauty, or a glimpse into the past, there’s a national park that will suit your interests. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and set out to explore the natural wonders of our national parks.

Photo of author

Christine Hitt

Christine Hitt, a devoted Hawaii enthusiast from Oahu, has spent 15 years exploring the islands, sharing her deep insights in respected publications such as Los Angeles Times, SFGate, Honolulu, and Hawaii magazines. Her expertise spans cultural nuances, travel advice, and the latest updates, making her an invaluable resource for all Hawaii lovers.

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