America’s National Parks Continue to be Popular Destinations
44 Parks Set New Visitation Records in 2021
It was a record-setting year for America’s national parks in 2021. After visitation numbers fell due to COVID travel restrictions in 2020, the number of park visits returned to near pre-pandemic levels last year. And while not all of the locations managed by the National Park Service (NPS) completely bounced back, 44 of those destinations saw their highest number of visitors ever.
According to the NPS, the park system’s 423 units—consisting of national parks, preserves, monuments, and other sites—saw over 297 million individual visits in 2021. That’s well below the record of 330 million set in 2016—the Park Service’s centennial year—but represents an increase of more than 60 million from 2020.
“It’s wonderful to see so many Americans continuing to find solace and inspiration in these incredible places during the second year of the pandemic,” NPS Director Chuck Sams said via a press release announcing the numbers. “We’re happy to see so many visitors returning to iconic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but there are hundreds more that should be on everyone’s bucket list.”
The Park Service data indicates that visitors spent more than 1.3 billion recreation hours inside the parks last year, along with 12.7 million overnight stays. It also shows that the top eight most-visited locations received 25% of the total visits, even though those places make up just 2% of the total number of NPS-managed units. On the other hand, 73 of those locations saw at least 1 million visitors in 2021, up from 60 parks the year before.
Along with its annual report on visitation numbers, the NPS also released a list of the US’s 25 most visited national parks. That list—along with the total number of visitors at each site—is as follows:
- Blue Ridge Parkway: 15.9 million
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 14.1 million
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area: 13.7 million
- Gateway National Recreation Area: 9.1 million
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 7.6 million
- George Washington Memorial Parkway: 6.8 million
- Natchez Trace Parkway: 6.4 million
- Lincoln Memorial: 5.8 million
- Gulf Islands National Seashore: 5.5 million
- Zion National Park: 5 million
- Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park: 5 million
- Yellowstone National Park: 4.9 million
- Grand Canyon National Park: 4.5 million
- Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.4 million
- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area: 4.3 million
- Acadia National Park: 4 million
- Cape Cod National Seashore: 4 million
- Grand Teton National Park: 3.9 million
- World War II Memorial: 3.7 million
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial: 3.6 million
- Yosemite National Park: 3.3 million
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area: 3.3 million
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore: 3.2 million
- Indiana Dunes National Park: 3.2 million
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: 3.1 million
For more information on these locations, visit the National Park Service website.