The Top 10 Most Visited U.S. National Parks

They’ve been called “America’s Best Idea” and on an annual basis millions of visitors continue to stream through their gates. The national parks remain some of the most iconic destinations for travelers in the entire U.S., serving as the backdrop for lasting memories of shared family vacations and backcountry adventures. From Acadia to Zion, there is no question that the national parks are incredibly popular, although some seem to hold more sway over the public than others.Recently the National Park Service released its attendance numbers for 2012, providing us with a list of the ten most visited national parks from last year. The NPS manages more than 400 individual units that include national monuments, memorials, and historical sites. But of those, just 59 units carry the designation of “national park,” which include those familiar places such as Yosemite and Yellowstone that we all know and love.

All told, more than 282 million people visited the park system in 2012, thats up by 3 million over the previous year. That number represented the sixth highest total in the history of the parks, despite the fact that the NPS estimates that more than 2 million visitors were effected by park closures in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Certain park units remain closed even now and the Park Service continues to clean up from that storm.

So, without further adieu, here is the list of the ten most popular American national parks from last year, along with the number of visitors that passed through their gates.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (9,685,829)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (4,421,352)
  3. Yosemite National Park (3,853,404)
  4. Yellowstone National Park (3,447,729)
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park (3,229,617)
  6. Zion National Park (2,973,607)
  7. Olympic National Park (2,824,908)
  8. Grand Teton National Park (2,705,256)
  9. Acadia National Park (2,431,052)
  10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (2,299,722)

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the visits to these parks come during the months of June, July and August, proof positive that the family vacation to the national parks is alive and well. But for those looking to avoid the summer crowds, most of these parks remain incredibly compelling destinations throughout the rest of the year as well. No matter when you go however, the national parks are still some of the best places to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors.

[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]