Whether to commune with nature or merely escape the monotony of city life, national parks and protected areas are a key fixture in exploring the outdoors – and the numbers confirm that. Countless national parks and protected areas in the United States have high volumes of visitors. Below, we examine which national parks attract the most visitors of all.
9. Grand Teton - 3.3 million visitors
Found in Wyoming, the country's least populated state, Grand Teton National Park features a magnificent mountainous landscape. It is so magnificent, in fact, that the park attracts 3.3 million visitors annually. It is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the world's largest ecosystems located at mid-latitude. Many of the animal and plant species found in Grand Teton have existed since ancient times!
8. Acadia - 3.3 million visitors
Acadia National Park is found on the east coast of the United States, in the state of Maine. The oldest park found east of the mighty Mississippi, Acadia is known for its rugged ocean landscape, attracting around 3.3 million visitors every single year. The area encompassed by Acadia National Park was originally inhabited by the Indigenous Wabanaki people. The park is characterized by low lying mountain landscapes and deep blue Atlantic waters.
7. Olympic - 3.4 million visitors
Found in the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park is located on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. The park, which receives around 3.4 visitors, is divided into four distinct regions. These include the rugged Pacific Shore, the temperate forest ecosystem, the wildflower meadow, and the sub-alpine forest area. The park is home to a beautiful temperate rainforests, whereas the eastern side of the park tends to see less rainfall. The park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.
6. Yellowstone - 4.2 million visitors
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 and is one of the first national parks in the U.S. Today, it receives about 4.2 million visitors a year. Located primarily in the state of Wyoming, the park is notorious for its geothermal wonders, including the Old Faithful Geyser. While parks are often considered serene spaces of tranquil nature, Yellowstone has a more tumultuous history. It sits atop a gigantic underground volcano that has seen three explosions in the last 2 million years, changing the geographic landscape of the park and surrounding areas. The volcano is a constant source of heat – and perhaps a constant thrill for visitors, who wonder when it may explode next.
5. Zion - 4.3 million visitors
Zion National Park, found in the state of Utah, features unique mesas, which are sandstone features. The park also hosts a wealth of magnificent geological formations and canyons, which have an unearthly appearance. On top of this, the park also hosts an amazing biodiversity. On average, Zion National Park receives around 4.3 million visitors every year.
4. Rocky Mountain - 4.5 million visitors
The geological beauty of the Rocky Mountains makes any park located nearby a popular spot – for example, Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, which receives approximately 4.5 million visitors a year. Despite being only 1075 sq. km, it contains an abundance of ecological variety. Rocky Mountain had an interesting visitor in the 19th century – the Earl of Dunraven (Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quinn). He visited Estes Park (the town where the park's headquarters are located) in 1872 for the purposes of hunting and returned for two consecutive years before deciding he had to have it. He acquired the land by legal (and perhaps illegal) methods to turn it into his own private hunting space. While things didn't work out for him, he did open the first resort in the area, the now-defunct Estes Park Hotel, opening the gates for the park's tourism industry.
3. Yosemite - 5.0 million visitors
Yosemite, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, receives an average of 5 million visitors a year. Though the park is over 2,833 sq.km., the majority of visitors are concentrated in the mere 18 sq. km. that make up the Yosemite Valley. Archaeological discoveries have revealed that people have been living in the Valley for almost 3,000 years, dating back to the indigenous tribes known as the Ahwahneechee. Located in California, one of Yosemite's biggest draws is its waterfalls. Another huge draw is the Mariposa Grove, which contains approximately 500 giant sequoias that may be up to 3,000 years old.
2. Grand Canyon - 5.9 million visitors
One of the most well-known parks in the world, Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park receives around 5.9 million visitors a year. The park, over 4,047 sq.km., was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The most significant attractions is the Grand Canyon, an endless, stunning natural feature. The park contains Grand Canyon Village, a small full-service area that provides everything from food to lodging for travellers wanting to stay within the park.
1. Great Smoky Mountains - 11.3 million visitors
The most visited national park in the United States is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park, which is found along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is home to the lush Blue Ridge Mountains (part of the Appalachian Mountain range). The park is popular among tourists for its beautiful scenery, and all-season recreation. It receives a staggering 11.3 visitors per year.
The 10 Most Visited National Parks in US and Canada
|Rank||Park Name||States||Annual Visitors|
|1||Great Smoky Mountains||Tennessee, North Carolina||11,312,786|
|6||Yellowstone||Wyoming, Montana, Idaho||4,257,177|
|19||Death Valley||California, Nevada||1,296,283|