Top 10 Most-Visited National Parks

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
U.S. National Parks provide spaces for adventurers to enjoy the natural beauty the North American continent provides. But, which ones are the most visited?

Since its inception during President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration (1901-1909), United States National Parks have been a staple of all that is Americana. Tourists and adventurers alike have flocked to these beacons of natural beauty that were preserved for that exact purpose.

According to the White House Historical Association, “Roosevelt increased natural forest lands from 43 million to 194 million acres,” including the dedication of National Parks like Crater Lake in Oregon and Mesa Verde in Colorado. President Woodrow Wilson officially established the National Park Service in 1916, further instilling an attitude of adventure within Americans.

In its first official century as an institution, U.S. National Parks have attracted over 13 billion visitors. As the National Park Service enters its second century, which of these preserved territories have proven to be the most popular? Here the top 10 most-visited National Parks in the country:

1. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Annual Visitors: 11.3 Million

With more than 800 miles of hiking trails across North Carolina and Tennessee (including parts of the Appalachian Trail), people flock to the views of sprawling forests of the Great Smoky Mountains, especially during the beginning of Autumn when the leaves change. This scenic area can also be viewed from an easily-accessible highway drive that’s perfect as a road trip detour.

2. Grand Canyon, Arizona
Annual Visitors: 6 Million

At over one mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long, “Grand” is the only way to describe this awe-inspiring physical feature. Millions flock to the Grand Canyon each year to camp, RV, or descend into its depths to raft the Colorado River.

3. Yosemite, California
Annual Visitors: 5 Million

Just a short drive (in mileage) from San Francisco, this staple of the Sierra Nevadas features some of the most iconic imagery of the United States. John Muir explored this territory for a reason. Hike Half Dome, spend some time strolling through the forest, and enjoy the views that Yosemite gives you.

4. Rocky Mountain, Colorado
Annual Visitors: 4.4 Million

The Continental Divide spans the entire state of Colorado, as does Rocky Mountain National Park (for the most part). During the summer, drive deep into the mountains and experience hot springs, beautiful hikes, and 14,000 feet of elevation. During the winter, grab your skis or snowboard and shred down the mountains.

5. Zion, Utah
Annual Visitors: 4.2 Million

Famous for its vertical rock towers, carved canyons, and dramatic cliffs, four million adventurers visit Zion each year. The Virgin River provides park-goers with a natural path to follow into Zion Canyon, which gives them the capacity to witness some of the most unique landscapes on the continent.

6. Yellowstone, Wyoming
Annual Visitors: 4.2 Million

World-famous Yellowstone National Park provides adventurers with the opportunity to see massive geysers, intense wildlife, and pristine wilderness all in one trip. As the world’s first national park, Yellowstone exemplifies everything a national park should be.

7. Olympic, Washington
Annual Visitors: 3.5 Million

Deep in the wilderness of Washington (State), visitors to Olympic National Park have the opportunity to adventure through dense temperate rainforests along the Pacific Coast. No roads cross through the territory, which allows adventurers to enjoy the peace of the forest in its entirety.

8. Acadia, Maine
Annual Visitors: 3.3 Million

Acadia is all about seasonal scenery. During the summer and fall, Acadia provides visitors with pristine colors that edge along seaside mountains. In the winter, this territory gives adventurers perfect access to winter photography.

9. Grand Teton, Wyoming
Annual Visitors: 3.2 Million

The Grand Tetons rise 7,000 feet above the Wyoming valley floor, which strikes visitors with a dramatic view. Explore the region through hiking trails and snowshoe passageways, or view it from below to experience the effect of the Rocky Mountains.

10. Glacier, Montana
Annual Visitors: 2.9 Million

Glacier National Park was aptly-named for its original 150 glaciers that covered a million acres in Montana. Though the number of glaciers has dropped to 25, the scenery is still stunning. Take a scenic drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road, which has been named one of the most scenic drives in the world.


Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.

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