Visiting a national park can help you escape the hustle and bustle of your everyday life. Moreover, it is refreshing and reinvigorating to spend time surrounded by nature. And the good news is that the U.S is home to many national parks. According to the Parks Expert, there are over 60 national parks in the United States. However, each one of them has something unique to offer. If you are wondering which are the most visited national parks in the U., look no further. Here are the 20 most visited national parks in the United States in 2022. From the stunning vistas of Yellowstone National Park to the rugged cliffs of Acadia National Park, there's something for everyone on this list.
20. Death Valley National Park, California
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 1.3 Million
The name of this national park sounds like something you can expect from a horror movie. But in reality, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. However, it is the driest and hottest national park in the United States. Death Valley National Park is located in southeastern California and covers approximately 13,650 km² of land. It is home to many ecosystems, including deserts, mountains, and canyons. Regardless of the hostile heat, the park transforms into a tourist haven between October and May. Its wilderness and ruggedness appeal to campers and hikers. The best time to visit the park is during the winter when temperatures are cooler. You can also take a scenic drive through the park or visit one of the many visitor centers. If you want to experience the intrigues of old mining towns of the 1900s, then head to the Rhyolite ghost town. The park is also home to the Goldwell Open Museum, which features art installations in the desert.
19. Shenandoah National Park
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 1.4 Million
You will find Shenandoah National Park in Virginia north of Charlottenburg and west of Washington, D.C. The park covers over 200,000 acres of land and has over 500 miles of trails. There are many things to do here, including hiking, camping, picnicking, and horseback riding. You can also drive Skyline Drive, a 105-mile road that runs the park's length. Along the way, you will find 75 overlooks where you can stop and admire the stunning views. The park is also home to many wildlife species, including deer, black bears, coyotes, and bobcats. If you want to experience the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, then this is the place to go.
18. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas 1.47 m
Average Annual Recreational Vistors: 1.47 Million
Arkansas may not be popular for many things, but it is home to the famous Hot Springs National Park. The park was established in 1832 and has been a natural hot spot. The springs themselves are a place of religious significance, medicinal benefits, and tourism for the area; the park has over 200 known thermal features, including underground streams, mud pots, and hot waterfalls. Visitors come from around to soak in these beautiful springs and explore this natural wonderland. And this makes this park a rare gem among the ones on our list.
17. Arches National Park, Utah
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 1.5 Million
The first thing that will come to your mind upon hearing the name of this national park is its natural sandstone arches. It is one of the most popular national parks in the United States and is located in southeastern Utah. This national jewel was established in April 1929, covering over 310.3 km² of land. It is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and many other geological formations. There are many things to do in the park, including hiking, camping, and rock climbing. You can also take a scenic drive through the park or visit one of the many visitor centers. And if you want to experience the true beauty of the park, head to Delicate Arch, one of the most popular trails in the park.
16. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 2 Million
If you are wondering why it's called Joshua Tree National Park, it is because Mormons gave it this Biblical name in the 1900s when they crossed the Colorado River. They came across an outstretched tree as if it was in supplication. And they likened it to Joshua reaching his hands out to the Israelites. The park is located in southern California and was established in 1994. It covers over 790,000 acres of land and is home to many ecosystems, including forests, deserts, and mountains. It is also one of the country's darkest parks, making it a great place to stargaze. The park has many exciting activities, including hiking, camping, bird watching, and rock climbing. You can also take a scenic drive through the park or visit one of the many visitor centers.
15. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 2 Million
It may not be the most ostentatious national park on this list. But what it lacks in striking landscapes, it makes up for its sheer size and raw beauty. Mount Rainier National Park is in Washington state and covers 956.6 km² of land. The park was established in 1899 and is home to Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range. And it has many ecosystems, including forests, meadows, and rivers. When visiting this national treasure, you can indulge in various activities in the park. These include hiking, camping, and fishing. You can also take a scenic drive through the park or visit one of the many visitor centers. The forest cover in the park is so dense that it is said to receive an average of 27 m of rain and snow each year. As a result, its vegetation is always lush and green. One of the highlights of this park is the majestic Silver Creek Falls, a 60-foot waterfall.
14. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Average Recreational Visits: 2.2 Million
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in northeastern Ohio and was established in 1974. The park covers 33,000 acres of land and is home to many ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and grasslands. There are many different things to do in the park, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and canoeing. You can also take a scenic train ride through the park or visit one of the many museums and visitor centers. Old villages and waterfalls are also scattered throughout the park. However, its highlights are the 65-foot Brandywine falls. And the Ledges Trail takes you through a series of sandstone ledges.
13. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Average Recreational Annual Vistors: 2.6 million
Bryce Canyon National Park is the perfect destination if you want an epic adventure. Located in Utah, this national park offers visitors endless hiking opportunities. This magnificent gift of nature covers over 35,000 acres of land and holds some of America's most unique natural features. The famous hoodoos are impressive and offer various climbing routes for all skill levels. According to U.S. News, Its highlights include the Inspiration Point, Rim Trail, and the Stargazing Park. In addition, those who enjoy more adrenaline-pumping activities can test their skills on one of the ten world-class mountain biking trails or even go horseback riding with a guide through trails that lead up to the rim.
12. Glacier National Park, Montana
Average Recreational Visitors: 3 million visits
This park is located in Montana. And it is home to spectacular ice fields, which is why it's also referred to as the Crown of the Continent. The park was established on March 1, 1910, and spans over 700 square miles. What's more impressive than its staggering natural beauty? It's only been affected by global warming once in a while. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington 3 million visits In the northwest corner of Washington state rests this beautiful national park. Established on March 2, 1899, Mount Rainier covers nearly 368 square miles. Known for its rich ecosystems that are home to rare species like mountain goats and pikas, as well as glaciers and cascading waterfalls, this is one you won't miss.
11. Olympic National Park
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 3 Million
Olympic National Park is located in northwestern Washington state. According to the Forest Service, Franklin D.Roosevelt unveiled it in 1938 even though it was still recognized as a National Monument. The area was originally home to Native American tribes such as the Quileute and the Makah. The Olympic Peninsula is well-known for its rainforests, which receive up to 12 feet of rain annually. The park is also home to glaciers, mountains, and rivers. It covers over 900,000 acres of land and is home to many ecosystems, including forests, mountains, and coastal areas. There are many things to do in the park, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching. You can also take a scenic drive through the park or visit one of the many visitor centers.
10. Indiana Dunes National Park
Average Annual Visits: 3.1 Million
In 2019, Indiana Dunes became the 61st and newest national park in the United States. And it is already becoming quite popular, as it was the third most visited national park in 2020. It is located in northwestern Indiana and has 15 miles of sandy beaches along Lake Michigan, dune fields, prairies, marshes, and forests. There are many things to do here, such as hiking, camping, picnicking, bird watching, and more.
9. Grand Teton National Park
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 3.4 Million
Grand Teton National is another U.S. national park that experiences heavy traffic. It is located in northwestern Wyoming and was established in 1929. The park covers slightly over 310,000 acres of wilderness. It is marked by mirror-like lakes and winding rivers, including the Snake River, which bisects the park into north and south sections. The combination of its flat valley floor and the rising Teton Ranges culminates in dramatic mountain vistas at every turn. If you'd like to explore this beautiful treasure, you need to buckle up and take the 42-mile scenic road. Once you are there, visit Jenny Lake, a part of the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway, for excellent views. The history of this park is also intriguing. While exploring, visit the T.A Moulton and John Moulton barns. These are the last standing structures from the 1800s. And when you get tired, Jackson Lake offers an excellent resting spot for your weary body. Remember to bring your camera because your pictures are not going to be able to capture the wonderment of this place without it.
8. Acadia National Park
Average Recreational Annual Visits: 3.5 Million
Visitors have enjoyed the natural beauty of the Acadia National Park for over a century. The park is located in Maine and was initially established as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916. It became America's oldest national park east of the Mississippi River on February 26, 1919. Acadia is a vast park that's about 4900o acres, and its diversity makes it a highly sought-after destination for people from all walks of life. As the seasons change, the plantation in this area turns into a vibrant autumn wonderland with plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. Its top attractions include Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond House, Schoodic Beach, and Otter Cliff Nature Trail. The interior carriage roads are some of the most scenic routes in an American national park. JD Rockefeller commissioned them in the early 1900s. The gravel roads were meant for motor vehicles and carriages. And they are still in good shape today.
7. Yosemite National Park, California
Average Annual Visits: 4 Million
Yosemite National Park will not disappoint you if you seek an unforgettable adventure. This place should be on every traveler's list in central California. The beautiful story of this national park started shortly after the last ice age. It now covers over 1200 square miles of land and contains lakes, valleys, and waterfalls. Visitors to this magnificent wonderland can explore by foot or horseback or try their hand at rafting or kayaking down the Merced River. The park has five vegetation zones which range from oak woodlands to alpine meadows. Many mammals inhabit this area, including black bears, deer, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions. And most of the tourists who visit this park spend their time in the beautiful Yosemite Valley. And this is due to its jaw-dropping scenery. On top of that, Yosemite offers stunning views of the famous Half Dome rock formation. Due to its proximity to San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay, many visitors come for day trips, and campers look for more extended stays.
6. Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 4 Million
Gateway Arch National Park is located in St. Louis, Missouri. Established in 2018, it covers over 91 acres of land. The park is home to the Gateway Arch, a 630-foot tall monument built in 1965. It is made of stainless steel and is the tallest artificial monument in the United States. Visitors can take a tram to the top of the arch for stunning views of the city. The park is also home to the Museum of Westward Expansion, which tells the story of how the United States expanded westward. There are many things to do in the park, including hiking, biking, and taking a scenic boat ride. You can also visit one of the many visitor centers or tour the arch.
5. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 4.1 Million
Only a few treasures in the U.S can match Yellowstone's beauty and splendor. The park is located in Wyoming. Nonetheless, it stretches into Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Founded in 1872, this national treasure is the oldest national park in the United States of America. Furthermore, It boasts spectacular green prairie, And breathtaking views of mountains, lakes, waterfalls, geysers, and other wonders. The abundance of wildlife here includes bears, elk, bison, mountain goats, wolves, and many more species. The park stretches to about 2 million acres and offers the best North American wilderness experience. It is a geothermal wonderland with mud pots, geysers, hot springs, and bubbling pools. The Grand Prismatic Spring is an ideal place to witness geothermal activity. Moreover, Yellowstone is larger than some European countries, and its unique location makes it a must-visit destination.
4. Zion National Park
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 4.3 Million
In South West Utah, you will find Zion National Park. Massive sandstone cliffs are some of this park's highlights. However, the area has more to offer. Visitors can explore a wilderness canyon in Kolob Canyons and then go up on the Angels Landing Trail for panoramic views of the park. They can also hike to popular stops like the Emerald Pools and Checkerboard Mesa. The park also has a 16-mile gorge. People believe it presents the most arduous slot canyon hike in America. There are plenty of campsites available throughout the park and cabins that visitors can stay at if they want to experience nature on an even deeper level.
3. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 4.5 Million
Rocky Mountain National Park is another exciting destination for millions of travelers. According to the U.S Department of Interior, it was formed over 6 million years.The park is situated in Denver, Colorado. Established in 1915, this park encompasses 415 square miles and has a varied terrain with four peaks over 12,000 feet. It's also home to a diverse ecosystem with hundreds of animal species, including deer, elk, moose, and coyotes. This area's notable trees include the fir tree and Ponderosa Pine. Hiking is the best way to experience the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park, so be sure to pack sturdy footwear. Some of the most popular trails are Bear Lake Trail, which offers views of Moraine Park from an altitude above 8,000 feet. And the Odessa Lake Loop Trail showcases scenic vistas on its 2-mile loop trail and Tonahutu Creek Trail, which takes you down into deep forests along Tonahutu Creek.
2. Grand Canyon
Average Annual Recreational Visits: 5.9 Million, Colorado
The Grand Canyon National Park is another exciting stop on this list. It offers some of the most amazing views you'll find anywhere. Located in Arizona, it covers a massive 1904 square miles. It was formed due to the Colorado River eroding the Colorado plateau. And even though this may sound like an easy process, it took thousands of years to develop fully. There are two main areas to visit at the park: the North Rim and the South Rim. But what sets it apart from the other national parks on this list is that you can hike into its depths and experience some of its natural beauty firsthand. You won't want to miss out on this fantastic opportunity.
1. The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Average Annual Recreational Vistors: 12 Million
The Great Smoky Mountains is arguably the most visited national park in the U.S., with more than 12 million annual visitors. According to National Park Service, this national treasure received a staggering 14.1 million visitors in 2021. It is located in Tennessee and North Carolina and covers 816 square miles, including parts of Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Cherokee, North Carolina; and parts of Wears Valley, Tennessee. The diversity of life in this park is due to its location on the edge of Appalachia, where temperate rainforests transition into high-elevation spruce forests. You can see black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, and many other species here. Visitors can participate in plenty of activities at this park, such as camping, fishing, picnicking, and hiking. Cades Cove should be a stop on your itinerary if you visit this park. It is home to a wide range of wildlife, from coyotes and elk to raccoons and squirrels. But besides that, it boasts picturesque waterfalls like Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls.
Written by Liz Flynn
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