Skip to content

These are the 10 most-visited national parks in the US

May 28, 2022
8 min read
Angels Landing, Zion National Park
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.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


In the last few years, while travel came to a standstill everywhere else in the wake of the pandemic, America’s national parks got an unexpected boost. Wary of crowded airports and other forms of transportation, families and individuals alike hopped in their cars and journeyed to these beautiful outdoor spaces for their annual vacations instead.

The fresh air, scenic views and wide-open spaces seemed just the place to de-stress and unplug from the world for a while. However, the increase in popularity has in many cases led to a need for more advance planning than in the past, with hotels and campsites filling up and advance reservations becoming a requirement, sometimes even for hikes.

Here are the 10 most-visited national parks last year according to the National Park Service, and why you too should explore the beauty that can be found in our own backyard.

For the latest travel news, deals and tips, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Number of visitors: 14.1 million

Renowned for its staggering biodiversity, epic scale and unrivaled accessibility from major U.S. cities, year after year the Great Smoky Mountains reign as America’s most-visited national park. This gorgeous stretch of wilderness straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee and offers something for everyone. Hikers can traverse scenic trails abundant with plant and animal life, adventure seekers can tube down the Pigeon River, and those who like to combine outdoor pursuits with more touristy attractions can enjoy a day at Dollywood.

The Great Smoky Mountains. (Photo by Tony Barber/Getty Images)

Zion National Park

Number of visitors: 5 million

Zion National Park is the poster park for increased demand. Over the last decade this majestic, red-rock park located in southwest Utah has seen around a 60% increase in visitors. It's no wonder. Home to steep sandstone cliffs, narrow canyons and forest trails along the Virgin River, it's one of the most compelling areas in the country. There are trails suited to both seasoned and novice hikers, and the park's signature rock formations can be easily accessed via the Canyon Scenic Drive shuttle.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Zion is also known for having some of the best rock climbing in the U.S., which is great news for all the adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies out there. The park's popularity means that you'll now need to enter a lottery for one of its most memorable hikes, Angels Landing.

Related: This hotel near Zion National Park may be the best SpringHill Suites on Earth

Zion National Park. (Photo by Jordan Siemens/Getty Images)

Yellowstone National Park

Number of visitors: 4.9 million

Established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, composed of more than 2 million acres of land. It draws travelers the world over to iconic sights like Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and Grand Prismatic Spring. Nature lovers converge on the extensive network of hiking trails that traverses the park's spectacular topography.

This cherished preserve is best known for its extraordinary geological features, such as geysers and hydrothermal features — at least 10,000 percolating geysers and steaming hot springs, as well as mud pots, fumaroles and travertine terraces. Dubbed the “Serengeti of North America,” the park is also home to the country's largest herd of wild buffalo, as well as grizzlies, bison, wolves and large flocks of migrating birds.

Related: TPG’s favorite national parks: A month-by-month guide

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo by Deb Snelson/Getty Images)

Grand Canyon National Park

Number of visitors: 4.5 million

Located in Arizona, the sheer size of 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. It's no surprise that visitors from around the world have been coming to the park for more than a century. The Grand Canyon is larger than Rhode Island and the views from the North Rim and South Rim are simply stunning. Plan on at least a couple of days to explore.

Related: Tips for visiting the nation's busiest national parks

Grand Canyon National Park. (Photo by Michael DeYoung/Getty Images)

Rocky Mountain National Park

Number of visitors: 4.4 million

With more than 300 miles of hiking trails featuring stunning views of some of the country’s tallest peaks, 415-square-mile Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to visit during any season. It's the highest park in the U.S. and a great place to spot majestic wild elk, especially in mating season. The elevation ranges from less than 8,000 feet to more than 14,000 feet above sea level, with diverse ecosystems to match. Within the park are breathtaking alpine lakes and there's prime wildlife viewing, especially of elk and bighorn sheep.

Rocky Mountain National Park. (Photo by Ray-Wise/Getty Images)

Acadia National Park

Number of visitors: 4 million

Acadia National Park, located right off the Atlantic on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, features 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.

Acadia National Park. (Photo by Dermot Conlan/Getty Images)

Grand Teton National Park

Number of visitors: 3.9 million

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 lovers 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.

Related: 10 of the best national parks to visit in the winter

Grand Teton National Park. (Photo by frank1crayon/Adobe Stock)

Yosemite National Park

Number of visitors: 3.3 million

Yosemite, located in California’s scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains, is known for its towering ancient sequoias, epic hiking, abundant wildlife and beautiful vistas. What makes Yosemite so appealing (and busy) is that its signature features are easily accessible and available pretty much year-round.

The park's legendary icons will be familiar, even to those who have never visited: Yosemite Falls (North America’s tallest waterfall), the granite monoliths of Half Dome and El Capitan, and the breathtaking 650-foot Bridalveil waterfall.

Yosemite National Park in winter. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Indiana Dunes National Park

Number of visitors: 3.2 million

Located in Indiana on the south shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes became America's 61st national park in 2019. The calling card is the 15,000-acre park's diversity of landscapes – woods, dunes, prairies and wetlands. Shaped by glaciers, the dunes rise as high as 192 feet, and some are open for hiking. Indiana Dunes is a birdwatchers paradise with more than 350 confirmed species. There's also opportunity to swim in the lake and play on the beach.

Indiana Dunes National Park. (Photo by LarissaB/Getty Images)

Joshua Tree National Park

Number of visitors: 3 million

The paradigm for a North American desert landscape, the hauntingly beautiful Joshua Tree National Park preserves vast stands of spiny yucca trees, desert sands, fantastical rock formations and Native American artifacts that span 5,000 years of human history. Spring and fall see the most visitors, with daytime temperatures in the low 70s. The park has become especially popular with experienced and novice rock climbers who scale its boulders, as well as stargazers drawn to the brilliant clear skies of this designated Dark Sky Park.

Related: 8 national parks that are spectacular in spring

Joshua Tree National Park. (Photo by frank1crayon/Adobe Stock)
Featured image by Zion National Park by evenfh/Shutterstock.com
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best luxury travel rewards 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

5X points
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 Points
Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$695

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

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best luxury travel rewards 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

5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • 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

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees