These Were the Most and Least Visited National Parks for 2023

The National Park Service says visitation numbers neared pre-pandemic levels last year

Image Caption: Photo Credit: Kraig Becker

Last week, the National Park Service released its annual report sharing the visitation numbers for the 400 federally-protected units under its jurisdiction. Those units include not only the national parks themselves but numerous national monuments, historic sites, battlefields, and other naturally and culturally significant places. Unsurprisingly, the NPS saw an increase in visitors in 2023, with the number of recreation visits nearly returning to pre-pandemic numbers.

According to the NPS report, 325,498,646 people passed through the gates into the national parks last year. That’s up 4% from 2022 and falls just shy of the record 327,516,619 visitors the parks saw in 2019—the year before COVID struck. The Park Service says travelers are also spending more time in the park, registering another 4% jump in that number. Data shows that once they arrived onsite, travelers spent 1.4 billion hours in the parks last year.

Not everyone was flocking to the traditionally popular locations, like the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon. The NPS says twenty parks broke visitation records in 2023, including Congaree National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, the John Muir National Historic Site, and the Lincoln Memorial. Additionally, many of the federally-protected sites saw an uptick in visitors during the spring and fall, which are traditionally slower periods that ramp up to the busy summer travel season.

“Our national parks tell our shared American story. I’m glad visitors are finding hidden gems, exploring in the off-season and finding new ways to have a great time in our national parks,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams in the press release.

Great Smoky Mountains Parking Fee

Image Courtesy of WorksMedia/Getty

Most Visited National Parks

That said, the list of the top ten most visited national parks remains mostly unchanged, with a few locations moving up or down slightly. For 2023, that list was:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (13,297,647 visits)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (4,733,705 visits)
  3. Zion National Park in Utah (4,623,238 visits)
  4. Yellowstone National Park (4,501,382 visits)
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park (4,115,837 visits)
  6. Yosemite National Park (3,897,070 visits)
  7. Acadia National Park (3,879,890 visits)
  8. Grand Teton National Park (3,417,106 visits)
  9. Joshua Tree National Park (3,270,404 visits)
  10. Olympic National Park (2,947,503 visits)
Gates of the Arctic National Park

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Least Visited National Parks

If you want to experience a few national parks while avoiding crowds, you may want to check out the list of least visited sites. Those include:

  1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (11,045 visits)
  2. National Park of American Samoa (12,135 visits)
  3. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (16,728 visits)
  4. Kobuk Valley National Park (17,616 visits)
  5. Isle Royale National Park (28,965 visits)
  6. Katmai National Park and Preserve ( 33,763 visits)
  7. North Cascades National Park (40,351 visits)
  8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (78,305 visits)
  9. Dry Tortugas National Park (84,285 visits)
  10. Great Basin National Park ( 143,265 visits)

Most of the parks on the “least visited” list are spectacular in their own right, but many aren’t reachable by RV. Instead, you’ll have to jump on a boat or small aircraft to reach those incredible places.

Check out the full press release here for more details on the Park Service’s big year. Then, visit to begin planning a trip to any one of these magnificent places.

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