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The Most Popular National Parks in the U.S.

The best 10 places in the country to get your great outdoors on.

By Cara Sanders on April 18, 2022

Looking for an alternative to the beach for your next vacation? Try one of the nation’s national parks. They’ll add some excitement and adventure in your life, and might just convince your kids to put down the electronics.

In 2021, the overall visitation to National Parks across the country rose by nearly 60 million people compared to 2020, making it a popular destination for those looking to getaway and get in touch with nature.

Based on the number of visitors that attended last year, here are the top 10 most popular national parks to visit:

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most visited national park in both 2020 and 2021. Last year more than 14 million visitors answered the mountain’s call. The park, stretches on for more than 800 miles of hiking trails and scenic highway across North Carolina and Tennessee. When you go, spend the day admiring the rolling hills and crisp mountain air, then head to Gatlinburg, TN, a cozy town whose bright, flashing lights and mini-golf around every corner make you love being a tourist.

Utah / iStock/TobinAkehurst

2. Zion National Park

Nestled in the southwest part of Utah, Zion National Park is home to a unique array of plants, animals and the Zion Human History Museum. It’s daunting to stand next to Zion’s massive sandstone cliffs. Part of it is their size. But it’s the rich red, pink and cream tones radiating from the cliffs that make them breathtaking. Utah’s beauty doesn’t end there – next to Zion is Springdale, UT, named by Forbes as one of the top 20 prettiest towns in the country. Last year more than 5 million visitors took in the iconic park. 

3. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park holds several titles, including the world’s largest collection of geysers and the very first national park. Covering more than 2 million acres across Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, Yellowstone welcomed 4.9 million people last year to take in the National Park Services’ most prized park. 

During your trip, watch Old Faithful erupt 135 feet in the air, or swim in the hot spring water of Yellowstone’s Boiling River. But a Yellowstone visit isn’t complete without a visit to Cody, WY, named after William Frederick Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill.

4. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is one of the U.S.’ most iconic national landmarks and features miles of deep ravines. In 2021, more than 4.5 million people came to visit one of the largest canyons on the planet. The Grand Canyon lives up to its name and is a mile deep and up to 18 miles wide at certain points. In fact, the Grand Canyon is SO grand that even from the best viewing points, only a small fraction of the nearly 300 mile canyon can be seen. Take a river trip, or hike inside a ravine, then stop off at Flagstaff, AZ, where you can get your adrenaline pumping with whitewater rafting or guided horseback rides. 

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

A lifestyle of leisure waits in Boulder, CO. Nestled at the base of the Rockies, you can see the legendary mountain range as you stroll around the city. Or, if you want a closer look, travel to the Rocky Mountain National Park to see peaks over 12,000 feet – making you feel like you are on top of the world. Plus, water lovers will love this park as it is home to 150 lakes and nearly 450 miles of streams. Last year more than 4.4 million people paid the park a visit and there was a 20% increase in visitors compared to 2020.

6. Acadia National Park

From its historic downtown to the peaceful waterfront, there’s a reason why the nation’s wealthiest families like the Vanderbilts, Rockerfellers and Carnegies call Bar Harbor, ME, home. It’s also the perfect place to explore Acadia National Park, one of the state’s top tourist attractions.

Considered to be the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, Acadia is home to more than 150 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads, and 27 miles of historic motor roads for more than 4.1 million guests to visit each year. Be sure to set your alarm because the park boasts Cadillac Mountain, one of the first places in the U.S. to see the sunrise.

7. Grand Teton National Park

Take a trip back to the Wild West with a visit to Jackson Hole, WY, and Grand Teton National Park. With the beautiful mountains as a backdrop, Jackson Hole is energetic with lively bars, fine dining and good ole’ cowboy charm.

Only 45 minutes away is Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll discover pristine lakes, exotic wildlife and mountains piercing the sky. The peaks of the Teton Range stand at nearly 7,000 feet above the valley floor and the park’s lakes, gorgeous glaciers and granite pinnacles welcome more than 3.9 million visitors per year. 

8. Yosemite National Park

At Yosemite National Park, you can hike through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and stumble upon some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the country. The park, which was visited by more than 3.9 million people last year, is made up of a mile-wide, 7-mile-long canyon that was cut by a river and then widened and deepened by glacial action over the years. 

Visitors can continue the outdoor adventure in Fresno, CA, located roughly an hour away from Yosemite. Fresno boasts a family-friendly zoo and the Forestiere Underground Gardens, which were dug out by hand over a 40-year period.

9. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park’s one million acres has it all – from Pacific coastline, rivers cascading from glacier peaks, acres of sprawling forest and much more. Nestled in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the park’s most famous peak is Mt. Olympus, which is popular among more than 3 million climbers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.  After the park, you’ll want to check out Port Angeles, WA, where you can expect to find a rich artistic scene, marine life center and whale watching tours.

10. Glacier National Park

Charm and elegance make Whitefish, MT, a great ski town, but its family-friendly atmosphere makes it a great place to stay. For those looking for an adventure, nearby Glacier National Park is the perfect spot. 

Open year round, the park is a winter wonderland that transports hikers back to the days when wildlife roamed free and land was a treasured commodity. In 2021, the park, which spans more than one million acres in Montana, welcomed more than 3.1 million people. The park’s crowning jewel is the ‘Going-to-the-Sun Road,’ which is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. 

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