Visitation ranges at U.S. nationwide parks fell in 2020 because of park closures and different pandemic-related restrictions. Final yr, nevertheless, visitation surged as COVID-19 vaccination charges elevated, even when some parks nonetheless restricted capability.
The Nationwide Park Service (NPS) lately introduced that 297 million individuals visited U.S. nationwide parks in 2021, a rise of 60 million from the 237 million visits logged in 2020.
“It’s great to see so many People persevering with to seek out solace and inspiration in these unimaginable locations through the second yr of the pandemic,” Chuck Sams, director of the NPS, mentioned in an announcement.
Curiously, 44 nationwide parks set data for visitation in 2021. What’s extra, three parks had greater than 10 million visits, 11 parks logged greater than 5 million visits, and 73 parks had greater than one million recreation visits.
There are 423 parks within the Nationwide Park System. A few of these are certainly nationwide parks, however the NPS additionally manages nationwide preserves, monuments, memorials, historic websites, seashores, battlefield parks, recreation areas, and parkways.
Should you aren’t acquainted with the designation, nationwide recreation areas embrace lands and waters put aside for leisure use by acts of Congress. In the meantime, nationwide parkways are scenic roads in addition to land and waters on either side of the highway.
Right here’s why these designations are necessary: Nationwide parkways, recreation areas, monuments, and memorials are a few of the most-visited models within the Nationwide Park System.
So, with that in thoughts, let’s get to it. Listed here are the highest 20 most visited U.S. nationwide parks in 2021.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway
North Carolina, Virginia
Often called “America’s Favourite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway winds for 469 miles by way of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The realm surrounding the precise highway options eight campgrounds, 369 miles of climbing trails, 14 designated picnic areas with tables, and quite a few scenic overlooks with tables the place individuals also can picnic or just benefit from the surroundings.
In 2021, 15.9 million individuals visited Blue Ridge Parkway, making it the most-visited U.S. nationwide park. That quantity not solely surpasses the 14 million visits logged for 2020, it’s a million extra visits than the 14.9 million logged in 2019 earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park
Tennessee, North Carolina
Nice Smoky Mountains guests uncover greater than 800 miles of climbing trails, what the park calls “cascading waterfalls,” and greater than 500,000 acres of forest the place guests can see all kinds of wildlife — together with roughly 1,500 black bears and greater than 1,500 flowering plant species.
Nice Smoky Mountains is a straightforward drive from Atlanta, Charlotte, Asheville, Knoxville, Nashville, and Washington, D.C., which helps clarify its reputation. In 2020, as an example, the park had 12.1 million guests, which set a brand new attendance document. In 2021, Nice Smoky Mountains set one other attendance document with 14.1 million individuals visiting the park.
3. Golden Gate Nationwide Recreation Space
Golden Gate Nationwide Recreation Space presents guests spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, however there’s rather more to the realm. That’s as a result of Golden Gate, which incorporates 80,000 acres of land extending each north and south of the Golden Gate Bridge, options 37 distinct parks, equivalent to Muir Woods Nationwide Monument and Alcatraz Island. Golden Gate, which helps 19 distinct ecosystems and is dwelling to greater than 2,000 plant and animal species, additionally options greater than 130 miles of trails and 1,200 historic buildings.
In 2020, 12.4 million individuals visited Golden Gate, which was down considerably from greater than 15 million in 2019. Final yr, nevertheless, visitation climbed to 13.7 million individuals.
4. Gateway Nationwide Recreation Space
New York, New Jersey
Gateway Nationwide Recreation Space was established in 1972, providing a nationwide park service expertise to an city viewers. The realm, which is made up of 27,000 acres reaching from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to Breezy Level in New York Metropolis, is dwelling to quite a few historic websites and pure areas. Guests journey to the park for archery, operating and strolling trails, bicycling, chicken watching, tenting, and, since there’s a waterfront, boating, fishing, and swimming. There are additionally quite a few sports activities fields.
In 2021, 9.1 million individuals visited Gateway. Whereas that’s up from 8.4 million visits in 2020, it’s nonetheless barely lower than its all-time excessive variety of guests — 9.4 million — in 2019.
5. Lake Mead Nationwide Recreation Space
The most well-liked sights at Lake Mead Nationwide Recreation Space, America’s first and largest nationwide recreation space, are Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Because the 1.5 million-acre space consists of mountains, canyons, valleys, and the 2 lakes, individuals go to to swim, boat, canoe and kayak, hike, bicycle, camp, and fish.
Lake Mead logged 7.6 million guests in 2021. Curiously, that’s nonetheless lower than its 8 million guests in 2020, though it’s up from the just about 7.5 million visits registered in 2019.
6. George Washington Memorial Parkway
Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia
The George Washington Memorial Parkway was designed for leisure driving but it surely additionally commemorates necessary occasions in American historical past and preserves habitats for native wildlife. Alongside the best way, guests see Arlington Memorial Bridge and Avenue, which acts as a ceremonial entrance to Washington, D.C. from Virginia. Nevertheless, the parkway additionally consists of Dyke Marsh Wildlife Protect, Fort Hunt Park, Fort Marcy, Jones Level Park, and the U.S. Marine Corps Conflict Memorial. As you’d count on, guests can canoe and kayak within the Potomac River, and hike, stroll, run, and watch birds within the quite a few parks.
In 2021, 6.8 million individuals visited the George Washington Memorial Parkway. That quantity is up from 6.2 million visits in 2020 however is lower than the practically 7.5 million visits in 2019.
7. Natchez Hint Parkway
Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee
The Natchez Hint Parkway is a 444-mile leisure highway and scenic drive that roughly follows the “Previous Natchez Hint” — a historic path utilized by Native People, European settlers, slave merchants, troopers, and others. Right this moment, individuals can take pleasure in a scenic Natchez Hint drive, in addition to hike, bike, trip horses, and camp alongside the parkway. Common sights embrace Jackson Falls and Fall Hole waterfalls, and quite a few historic spots such because the Gordon Home and Pharr Mounds, a posh of eight dome-shaped mounds constructed by Native People 1,800–2,000 years in the past.
Considerably surprisingly, Natchez Hint Parkway noticed 6.4 million guests in 2021. Not solely was that greater than the 6.1 million guests logged in 2020, it additionally surpasses the 2019 tally of 6.3 million guests.
8. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is, in fact, dwelling to the statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting and pondering. The statue is nineteen ft tall, 19 ft vast, and is sized such that if Lincoln have been standing, he can be 28 ft tall. The memorial itself, which is modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, is 190 ft lengthy, 120 ft vast, and 99 ft tall. The memorial can also be dwelling to carved inscriptions of Lincoln’s second inaugural handle and his Gettysburg handle. Steps as much as the memorial start on the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, one of many most-recognizable websites in Washington, D.C.
In 2021, 5.8 million individuals visited the Lincoln Memorial, practically twice the variety of guests in 2020. Once more, and maybe not stunning, the quantity continues to be down noticeably from the practically 7.9 million guests in 2019.
9. Gulf Islands Nationwide Seashore
Gulf Islands Nationwide Seashore’s 12 areas embrace historic forts, picnic areas, trails, and campgrounds. From Cat Island, Mississippi, the seashore stretches 160 miles east to the Okaloosa Space east of Fort Walton Seaside, Florida. The seashore’s areas on the Florida facet embrace historic websites and exquisite seashores, that are identified for swimming, bicycling, snorkeling, fishing, climbing, seashore combing, chicken watching, boating, and tenting alternatives. In the meantime, the Mississippi areas are dwelling to a historic fort and exquisite barrier islands, so individuals additionally go to to go swimming, bicycling, snorkeling, fishing, climbing, seashore combing, chicken watching, boating, and tenting.
In 2020, 4 million individuals visited Gulf Islands. That quantity soared in 2021 to five.5 million visits, which is simply wanting the 5.6 million visits logged in 2019.
10. Zion Nationwide Park
Zion Nationwide Park, dwelling to the 15-mile-long Zion Canyon, is world well-known for its mountaineering, river journeys, and climbing trails. In actual fact, two of the park’s most-popular climbing trails are the Narrows and Angels Touchdown. Angels Touchdown — a one-way, 5.4-mile-long path with an elevation change of 1,488 ft — presents a harrowing view of the Zion Canyon 1,500 ft under. The path is so standard that, starting April 1, 2022, everybody who needs to take the Angels Touchdown hike will want a allow. And the one strategy to safe a allow is to be awarded one by way of a lottery run by the NPS.
In 2019, 4.5 million individuals visited Zion. That quantity fell to three.6 million guests in 2020, but it surely soared to five million guests in 2021. That quantity set a brand new park attendance document.
11. Chesapeake And Ohio Canal Nationwide Historic Park
Washington D.C., Maryland, West Virginia
Stretching about 184 miles from Georgetown in Washington, D.C to Cumberland, Maryland, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Nationwide Historic Park is dwelling to the stays of the historic C&O Canal. Guests journey right here to study in regards to the canal’s function in western growth, transportation, engineering, the Civil Conflict, immigration, business, and commerce. Nevertheless, since there’s a 184-mile towpath, guests additionally journey there to bike, camp, fish, hike, trip horses, and picnic. Among the climbing trails even hyperlink up with nationwide and regional climbing trails.
In 2021, 5 million individuals visited Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, growing marginally from 4.9 million guests in 2020 and barely lower than the 5.1 million visits logged in 2019.
12. Yellowstone Nationwide Park
Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Yellowstone is one in every of a number of nationwide parks that logged record-breaking attendance in 2021. That’s as a result of 4.9 million individuals visited the park final yr, which was over a million extra guests than in 2020. That quantity even topped the 4 million visits in 2019.
Right here’s why the park is so standard. Yellowstone, which is the nation’s oldest nationwide park, attracts guests from all over the world to see thermal options such because the Previous Devoted geyser, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, and wolves, bears, and different wildlife. The park, which was established on March 1, 1872, is celebrating its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary this yr, encompassing greater than 2.2 million acres and over 900 miles of climbing trails.
13. Grand Canyon Nationwide Park
Grand Canyon is one other nationwide park well-known all over the world for its climbing, backpacking, and, because of actually magnificent vistas, pictures and sightseeing. Since there are additionally 277 miles of the Colorado River inside the park’s boundaries, boating and rafting are additionally extraordinarily standard actions. There’s even a whole business situated simply exterior the park’s boundaries devoted to boating, rafting, and guided expeditions.
In 2019, earlier than the pandemic, 6 million individuals visited the Grand Canyon. Then, partly because of park closures, that quantity fell to 2.9 million guests in 2020. Whereas nonetheless under the 2019 quantity, visitation at Grand Canyon elevated noticeably in 2021 to 4.5 million.
14. Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park
Rocky Mountain Nationwide Park, which sits simply exterior Estes Park, Colorado, and is a 2-hour drive from Denver, amazingly is dwelling to 76 mountains that are all greater than 10,000 ft excessive. The park can also be identified for its 355 miles of climbing trails. Guests steadily see bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and different wildlife right here.
In 2020, Rocky Mountain had 3.3 million guests, which was down considerably from 4.7 million in 2019. In 2021, nevertheless, visitation practically rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers. That’s as a result of 4.4 million individuals visited Rocky Mountain final yr.
15. Delaware Water Hole Nationwide Recreation Space
New Jersey, Pennsylvania
The Delaware Water Hole Nationwide Recreation Space will get its “Water Hole” identify as a result of the Delaware River cuts by way of a big ridge of the Appalachian Mountains within the space. It then runs 200 miles to Delaware Bay and empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Wilmington, Delaware. The realm consists of 70,000 acres, with greater than 150 miles of trails and 40 miles of the Center Delaware River. The park is thought for quite a few waterfalls, together with Raymondskill Falls, the tallest waterfall in Pennsylvania, in addition to Silver Thread and Dingmans Falls.
In 2019, 3.37 million guests traveled to the Delaware Water Hole, and in 2020, it obtained practically 4.1 million guests. Then, in 2021, that quantity grew to 4.3 million guests.
16. Acadia Nationwide Park
Acadia is a 47,000-acre recreation space on the Atlantic Coast nearly 50 miles from Bangor, Maine. Guests to the park, which the NPS calls the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” journey to see and luxuriate in 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of climbing trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads. In the summertime, the most well-liked actions are biking, birdwatching, swimming, stargazing, and boating, whereas the most-popular winter actions are climbing, cross-country snowboarding, and snowshoeing.
Acadia is one other nationwide park that set a brand new attendance document final yr. That’s as a result of 4 million individuals visited Acadia in 2021, up from the two.7 million visits logged in 2020, and even surpassing the three.4 million tally logged in 2019.
17. Cape Cod Nationwide Seashore
Cape Cod Nationwide Seashore has 40 miles of pristine sandy seashores, in addition to marshes, ponds, and uplands that help numerous species. Then once more, it’s additionally identified for quite a few lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and even cranberry bogs. There are many strolling and biking trails. Situated in japanese Massachusetts on Cape Cod, the nationwide seashore additionally options quite a few swimming seashores and locations for boating.
In 2021, Cape Cod Nationwide Seashore had 4 million visits, barely down from 2020 and solely down about 78,000 visits from the 2019 whole.
18. Grand Teton Nationwide Park
Grand Teton is one other park that set a brand new attendance document in 2021. In 2019, a document 3.4 million guests traveled to Grand Teton. And but, in 2021, the park set a brand new attendance document of just below 3.9 million guests.
There are many causes to go to Grand Teton, which is dwelling to 310,000 acres of valley flooring, mountain meadows, alpine lakes, and beautiful peaks of the Teton Vary. It’s no shock then that the park, situated south of Yellowstone, is well-known for its climbing, backcountry exploring, climbing, and mountaineering alternatives. It’s additionally famous for its wildlife viewing as a result of guests steadily see elk, moose, bison, mule deer, and pronghorn.
19. World Conflict II Memorial
The World Conflict II Memorial, which was devoted on Might 29, 2004, was commemorated to honor the 16 million U.S. armed forces members who served throughout World Conflict II, the 405,399 who died, and the thousands and thousands of people that supported the battle effort from dwelling. The memorial, which is adjoining to the Washington Monument within the Nationwide Mall, options 24 bronze bas-relief panels that specify America’s expertise in World Conflict II. A wall of 4,048 gold stars reminds guests of the People who died through the battle.
Final yr, 3.7 million individuals visited the World Conflict II Memorial. Not surprisingly, that quantity simply tops the 1.9 million visits in 2020 however continues to be lower than the 4.8 million visits logged in 2019.
20. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, simply north of the Lincoln Memorial, is thought for what’s merely known as “The Wall,” which holds the names of 58,318 women and men who died in fight, or are listed as lacking in motion, etched onto its black floor. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial additionally consists of the Three Servicemen, a bronze statue of three servicemen wearing fight gear The Wall. In a grove of bushes close by, the Vietnam Girls’s Memorial, which honors over 265,000 ladies who served through the Vietnam Conflict, is a sculpture of three nurses and one wounded soldier.
In 2021, 3.6 million individuals visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Once more, in a well-recognized sample, that quantity is up from the practically 1.6 million visits tallied final yr however continues to be under 2019’s rely of virtually 4.6 million guests.
You should definitely go to the remainder of our U.S. Nationwide Parks protection, together with: