America’s National Parks Continue to be Popular Destinations

44 Parks Set New Visitation Records in 2021

Image Caption: Image Courtesy of Kraig Becker

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.

national parks visitation 2021

Image Courtesy of Dustin Montgomery/Shutterstock

“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.

national parks visitation 2021

Image Courtesy of anthony heflin/Shutterstock

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:

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway: 15.9 million
  2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 14.1 million
  3. Golden Gate National Recreation Area: 13.7 million
  4. Gateway National Recreation Area: 9.1 million
  5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 7.6 million
  6. George Washington Memorial Parkway: 6.8 million
  7. Natchez Trace Parkway: 6.4 million
  8. Lincoln Memorial: 5.8 million
  9. Gulf Islands National Seashore: 5.5 million
  10. Zion National Park: 5 million
  11. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park: 5 million
  12. Yellowstone National Park: 4.9 million
  13. Grand Canyon National Park: 4.5 million
  14. Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.4 million
  15. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area: 4.3 million
  16. Acadia National Park: 4 million
  17. Cape Cod National Seashore: 4 million
  18. Grand Teton National Park: 3.9 million
  19. World War II Memorial: 3.7 million
  20. Vietnam Veterans Memorial: 3.6 million
  21. Yosemite National Park: 3.3 million
  22. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area: 3.3 million
  23. Cape Hatteras National Seashore: 3.2 million
  24. Indiana Dunes National Park: 3.2 million
  25. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: 3.1 million

For more information on these locations, visit the National Park Service website.

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