Skip to content

These are the 10 most popular national parks in the US

March 15, 2017
12 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

National parks are as built into the fabric of American society and culture as baseball and road trips down Route 66. The National Parks Service (NPS), the government organization charged with preserving America's natural resources, currently looks after 417 sites that cover more than 84 million acres of protected lands in every US state and territory. And people are flocking to them. The NPS recently reported it received more than 331 million visits in 2016 — breaking all previous records — during its centennial year. Here's a look at the 10 most-visited national parks and why you should plan to visit them, too.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Number of Visitors: 11,312,786
America's most-visited national park, which saw a staggering 11.3 million visitors in 2016, straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, and is abundant with plant and animal life, scenic hiking trails and Appalachian mountain culture.

There is more to fall colors than just the leaves. (Photo credit to @zack_knudsen)

A post shared by Great Smoky Mountains NP (@greatsmokynps) on

2. Grand Canyon National Park

Number of Visitors: 5,969,811
Located in Arizona, the sheer size Grand Canyon National Park is enough to gawk at but its high rims, deep ravines and the winding Colorado River below are bound to leave a lasting impression as well. With views like this, it's no wonder people often get married here.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

3. Yosemite National Park

Number of Visitors: 5,028,868
Yosemite, located in California's scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains, is known for its towering ancient sequoias and beautiful Bridalveil Fall vistas. The granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome also bring in rock climbers from all around the world.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park

Number of Visitors: 4,517,585
With more than 300 miles of hiking trails featuring stunning views, 415-square-mile Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to visit during any season.

5. Zion National Park

Number of Visitors: 4,295,127
Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah and home to steep sandstone cliffs, narrow canyons and forest trails along the Virgin River. Streams flow and collect in Zion's emerald pools, aptly named for their deep green coloration. Zion's also known for having some of the best rock climbing in the US, great news for all the adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies out there.

6. Yellowstone National Park

Number of Visitors: 4,257,177
Established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone is the world's first national park, consists of more than two million acres of land and is home to thousands of miles of hiking trails, geysers, waterfalls and a plethora of wildlife. A glimpse at the photo below is more than enough reason to start planning your trip.

7. Olympic National Park

Number of Visitors: 3,390,221
This national park is known for its forest, coastal and mountain ecosystems that combine to create this natural wonderland along Washington's Olympic Coast. It's both a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve, making it a living laboratory for scientists and visitors alike.

Autumn in the park ?? photo by @grantolio #waterfall #fallcolors #findyourpark #october

A post shared by Olympic National Park (@olympicnationalpark) on

8. Acadia National Park

Number of Visitors: 3,303,393
Acadia National Park, located right off the Atlantic on Maine's Mount Desert Island, features a number of secluded beaches, long shorelines, inlets, bays, forests, mountains, lakes and ponds. On top of the plethora of natural features and ecosystems you'll find here, Acadia's dark skies are perfect for viewing stunning starry nights, which could be one reason for the more than 3.3 million who visited last year.

9. Grand Teton National Park

Number of Visitors: 3,270,076
This national park is located just outside Jackson Hole, Wyoming, an area especially popular during the winter when ski fever takes over the region. The Tetons are an outdoor lover's paradise, known for mountaineering, hiking and camping as well as kayaking and canoeing during the summer. Nothing beats escaping the madness of the ski resorts and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing your way through this beautiful national park when the snow has just fallen.

10. Glacier National Park

Number of Visitors: 2,946,681
Called the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park was established in 1910 and is made up of a vast range of mountains that were created by prehistoric ice rivers. The park, visited by 2.9 million people last year, is home to forests, waterfalls, glaciers and sparkling lakes.

Remember, there are still eight more days in 2017 where you can enter most US national parks for free — and if you’re willing to venture a little farther north, Canada is also letting folks visit its own national parks for free this year when you sign up for a free Discovery Pass.

What's your favorite national park? Tell us about it, below.

H/T: CNN

Featured image by Getty Images/Aurora Open

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases