The National Park Service released its 2021 visitation stats and, to nobody’s surprise, the most popular national parks remain…the most popular. The NPS reports more than 297,115,406 recreation visits to the Park System’s 423 parks. However, the stats are top heavy with the top 25 national parks accounting for more than 50 percent of visits.
“It’s wonderful to see so many Americans continuing to find solace and inspiration in these incredible places during the second year of the pandemic,” says National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.
Digging down in the stats
According to the 2021 statistics, Blue Ridge Parkway remains the most-visited park with 15.9 million visitors. Next is Great Smoky Mountain National Park that set a new visitation record of 14.1 million. In addition, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (13.7 million visits) is the only other park to surpass the 10 million mark. They’re joined in the top 25 by heavy park hitters like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite.
While the top 25 national parks dominate, the NPS suggests the other 398 parks have much to offer, too.
“We’re happy to see so many visitors returning to iconic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but there are hundreds more that should be on everyone’s bucket list.” Sams said.
To balance the numbers, the NPS suggests visiting clusters of parks, instead of just one. Per the NPS news release, you can “create your own circle of discovery.”
How to Stack Your National Parks Tour
If you’re visiting Redwood National and State Parks…
The NPS suggests tacking on Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, and Lassen Volcanic National Park to the itinerary.
If you’re visiting Maine’s Acadia National Park…
The National Park Service recommends Saint Croix Island International Historic Site and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
If you’re visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park…
The NPS provides a long list of possibilities that include Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, as well as Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. In addition, the Park Service suggests Little River Canyon National Preserve, Carl Sandburg National Historic Site, and Obed Wild and Scenic River.
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