Earlier this year, the National Park Service (NPS) revealed its annual visitor count, giving us a fascinating insight into which national parks were drawing the biggest crowds, as well as just how big those crowds have actually gotten.

In 2017, the NPS recorded 330,882,751 recreation visits. While not a record-breaking number compared to the previous year, which recorded 330,971,689 visits, it wasn’t far off. The top three park systems alone attracted more than 40 million visits.

So, what are the most popular national parks in America? Let’s find out.

1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 

I can’t stop scrolling through my vacation pictures! ⛰

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Recreation visits: 11,388,893

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was America’s most visited park in 2017, with over 11 million recreation visits recorded. It straddles the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina, with two of the three main entrances in Tennessee (in Gatlinburg and Townsend) and one in North Carolina (in Cherokee).

It’s free to visit, and the park is open 365 days a year, including the primary roads, weather permitting. Hikers can enjoy the trails all year round, with each season offering its own reason to visit. Besides hiking, you can also cycle, go fishing, horseback riding, or come view the waterfalls, historic buildings, or wildlife.

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2) Grand Canyon National Park

Recreation visits: 6,254,238

The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was the second most visited park last year, which comes as no surprise when you consider that it’s home to much of the Grand Canyon. At 18 miles wide, 277 river miles long, and 1 mile deep, this natural wonder is a truly impressive sight to behold.

Besides incredible views of the canyon, the park also offers whitewater rafting, donkey rides, hiking, bicycling, and a winding scenic drive to tour the North Rim. Access to the park requires an admission fee, which is valid for a visit of seven consecutive days.

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3) Zion National Park

Recreation visits: 4,504,812

Known for its steep red cliffs, Zion National Park is Utah’s first national park. It’s located near the city of Springdale and is open year-round, with two visitor centers that are also open throughout the year. There are plenty of fantastic hikes to go on, but you can also try bicycling, climbing, horseback riding, or canyoneering if you’re after a different sort of adventure.

You will need a pass to access Zion, which is valid for seven consecutive days, although annual passes are also available. Remember, this is one of the most visited parks in the country, so if you want to avoid the crowds, avoid the busiest period from March to October.

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4) Rocky Mountain National Park

Recreation visits: 4,437,215

Located in northern Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park spans the Continental Divide and offers protected mountains, abundant wildlife, tundra wildflowers, and breathtaking views. With over 300 miles of hiking trails, there is plenty of adventures to be had, no matter the season.

If you’re interested in going camping, you’re in luck, as the park includes five established campgrounds as well as several backcountry wilderness campgrounds for the more adventurous types. Whether you choose to go camping, fishing, hiking, or mountain climbing, you’ll be sure to enjoy the spectacular views on offer.

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5) Yosemite National Park

Recreation visits: 4,336,890

Best known for its epic waterfalls and awe-inspiring granite cliffs, Yosemite National Park was the fifth most visited national park last year. It’s located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and boasts some of the most incredible views in the country.

Nearly 95% of the park is classified as wilderness, and you will find ancient Giant Sequoia trees, the largest waterfall in North America (Yosemite Falls), one of the world’s best rock climbing spots (El Capitan), a 7-mile wide canyon, and much more.

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6) Yellowstone National Park

 

Quick little Montana/Yellowstone trip was a good one

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Recreation visits: 4,116,524

The world’s first national park is still one of the most visited in the country, with over 4 million recreation visits recorded last year. It’s located in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, spans over 2 million acres, and is home to one of the world’s largest calderas with more than 10,000 thermal features and over 300 geysers.

Some of the most well-known spots in the park include Old Faithful, Lower Falls, and Yellowstone Lake, and can be visited year-round. There’s plenty to do no matter the season, including snowmobiling, wildlife-watching adventures, camping, hiking, kayaking, and more.

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7) Acadia National Park

Recreation visits: 3,509,271

Located along the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Island is Acadia National Park. Here, you’ll find beautifully diverse landscape, including rocky beaches, ponds, fields, forests, marshland, and glacier-scoured granite peaks. Thanks to its abundance of habitats, you’ll also see the diversity of the state’s native wildlife, from whales to herons, seals, and moose.

Visitors usually spend 3 to 4 days in the park, so the weekly pass should be more than enough to cover your visit. There’s plenty to do here, including canoeing and kayaking, as well as exploring the 125 miles of hiking trails on offer.

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8) Olympic National Park

Recreation visits: 3,401,996

Olympic National Park is known for its diversity, thanks largely to the fact that it sprawls across several different ecosystems, including old-growth temperate forest, the wild Pacific Shore, and subalpine forest and wildflower meadow.

With its incredible diversity comes a multitude of things to do, including fishing, boating, hiking, backpacking, tidepooling, wildlife viewing, camping, skiing, and more. While some campgrounds and facilities are open seasonally, the park itself is open year-round, 24 hours a day.

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9) Grand Teton National Park

Recreation visits: 3,317,000

Located in the state of Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park encompasses the Teton mountain range and features over 200 miles of trails to explore, along with the opportunity to enjoy biking, boating, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, climbing, and more.

The park is open year-round, but some of the services, facilities, and roads are closed at certain times of the year, so you should take note when planning your visit. You will need to purchase a 7-day entrance permit for the park, but when you consider the incredible wildlife, alpine terrain, and abundant forests on offer, it’s well worth the fee.

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10) Glacier National Park

Recreation visits: 3,305,512

Glacier National Park may be the last park on the list, but with over 3.3 million visitors last year, it’s still incredibly popular. The park covers roughly 1 million acres of land, located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. Come here for ice climbing, hiking, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more.

Considered a bit of a hiker’s paradise, the park provides a fantastic backcountry experience with wild meadows, jagged peaks, and beautiful waterfalls to be seen. Try the 50-mile trek known as “Going-to-the-Sun Road” to enjoy some of the best views in the park.

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So, that’s it for the most visited national parks of 2017; did you manage to make it out to any of these parks last year? If not, you may want to add them to your list for this year. Just keep in mind, these parks are very popular, so you may want to choose your dates carefully and plan well in advance if you want to avoid the crowds.

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