Top 10 Most-Visited Places Within The National Park System

Tom Malone/Adventure Tribune
After President Theodore Roosevelt established the Unites States’ first national parks during his tenure from 1901-1909, Americans had specific places designated for adventure.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established the National Park Service, which oversaw all of the protected, designated landforms in the country. Currently, the National Park System includes world-famous U.S. landmarks; some are natural, like Utah’s Arches National Park, while others are human-made, like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Millions of people flock to these destinations each year. Here are the top 10 most-visited sites within the U.S. National Park System.


1. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
Annual Visitors: 15 Million

Take a slow-paced drive along Blue Ridge Parkway, where you’ll find stunning long-range views of rolling, blue-green forest paired with close-ups of rugged mountains. This portion of the Appalachian Highland winds for 469 miles and provides plenty of spots to stop and capture the landscape.


2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
Annual Visitors: 14.8 Million

Hang out and overlook San Francisco Bay. Take in the scenery of the Golden Gate Bridge, or take a ferry to the infamous Alcatraz prison. Venture further north into wooded Pacific Coast territory. The options are endless.


3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 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.


4. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Annual Visitors: 8 Million

Visit the “Great Emancipator” up close. Stand on the exact spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his world-changing “I Have A Dream” speech, while you walk in the footsteps of those who marched on Washington. The one-point perspective view of the Mall an urban spectacle.


5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
Annual Visitors: 7.3 Million

“America’s most diverse national recreation area” allows adventurers to hike, cycle, boat, camp, and fish around Lake Mead’s deep blue water with a striking desert backdrop. Enjoy all 1.5 million acres of canyons, mountains, and lakes, or visit the nearby Hoover Dam.


6. George Washington Memorial Parkway, Washington, D.C.
Annual Visitors: 7.2 Million

Take a leisurely drive through this oasis from the city. Tour some of the biggest moments in U.S. history, and then enter protected woodlands for a peaceful cruise. It’s all within minutes of the nation’s capital.


7. Gateway National Recreation Area, New Jersey
Annual Visitors: 6.3 Million

These beaches and colonial towns will give you all the beauty of a nature preserve with the quaint charm of colonial American history. Visit the all three spots that encompass this recreation area to acquire a complete feel for the territory.


8. Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi
Annual Visitors: 6.2 Million

This 444-mile drive gives adventurers an opportunity to view southern scenery along with over 10,000 years of North American history. According to the National Park Service, this territory was “used by American Indians, ‘Kaintucks,’ settlers, and future presidents, the Old Trace played an important role in American history. Today, visitors can enjoy not only a scenic drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.”


9. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Annual Visitors: 6.1 Million

This newer memorial commemorates the U.S. military veterans that fought in the Vietnam War. The Wall portrays the names of those who lost their lives in combat (all 58,000 in chronological order).


10. Grand Canyon National Park
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.


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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