Special Report

The Most Visited US National Parks in 2020

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Interest in national parks has been soaring over the last decade. In fact, total visits to all types of U.S. national parks almost exceeded the nation’s population in 2019. In 2010, the number of visitors was closer to 281 million.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closures of different parks all over the country, including national parks at various times. People were ordered to stay at home as much as possible and avoid nonessential activities, such as recreational trips. Visitation to national parks as well as national parks and preserves, specifically, fell by about a third in 2020 compared to 2019, but millions of people still venture out into the wilderness.

To identify the most visited national parks in 2020, 24/7 Tempo reviewed recreational visits from the National Park Service’s annual visitation report. The NPS has at least 19 official designations for the lands the agency manages. Only national parks (NP) and national parks and preserves (NP & PRES) were considered in our analysis.

The national park concept was an idea championed by Theodore Roosevelt. As president, Roosevelt protected about 230 million acres of public land and signed into law the 1906 American Antiquities Act. This act set aside certain public natural areas as park and conservation land to be preserved for historic and scientific interest. These areas were designated as national monuments. Ten years later, Congress passed the Organic Act, creating the National Park Service.

Exploring the wilderness, hiking through mountains, and sleeping under the stars are just some of the nature experiences these parks have to offer, often free of charge.

With COVID-19 vaccination rates increasing and states beginning to loosen travel restrictions, many Americans may decide to explore the country and go on a road trip. And when we can travel again, these are the most beautiful places to visit in the U.S.

Click here to see the most visited US national parks in 2020

Methodology

To identify the most visited national parks in 2020, 24/7 Tempo reviewed last year’s recreational visits published in the National Park Service’s annual visitation report. The NPS aggregates visitation data for various government land designations and visitation purposes. Only National Parks (NP) and National Parks and Preserves (NP & PRES) were considered in our analysis. To avoid double counting land area, designations such as national monuments and historic sites, which are frequently contained within national parks and are often limited to single structures, were excluded. Visitation data for each park for 2015 was also obtained from the NPS.

Source: naturenps / Flickr / Public Domain

63. Gates of the Arctic
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,872
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.004%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 10,745 — #62 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.01%
> 5-year change in visits: -73.3%

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62. National Park of American Samoa
> Recreation visits in 2020: 4,819
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.007%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 13,892 — #61 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.02%
> 5-year change in visits: -65.3%

Source: nationalparkservice / Flickr

61. Lake Clark
> Recreation visits in 2020: 4,948
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.007%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 17,818 — #60 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.02%
> 5-year change in visits: -72.2%

60. Glacier Bay
> Recreation visits in 2020: 5,748
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.009%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 551,353 — #36 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -99.0%

59. Isle Royale
> Recreation visits in 2020: 6,493
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.01%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 18,684 — #59 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.02%
> 5-year change in visits: -65.2%

Source: alaskanps / Flickr

58. Kobuk Valley
> Recreation visits in 2020: 11,185
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.02%
> Recreation visits in 2015: N/A — #N/A out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: !Undefined Bookmark, N%
> 5-year change in visits: !Undefined Bookmark, N%

57. Wrangell-St. Elias
> Recreation visits in 2020: 16,655
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.02%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 80,366 — #55 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.1%
> 5-year change in visits: -79.3%

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Source: jeffhollettvancouverwa / Flickr

56. North Cascades
> Recreation visits in 2020: 30,885
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.05%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 20,677 — #58 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.03%
> 5-year change in visits: 49.4%

Source: Winand Deerenberg / iStock via Getty Images

55. Dry Tortugas
> Recreation visits in 2020: 48,543
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.1%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 70,862 — #56 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.1%
> 5-year change in visits: -31.5%

54. Katmai
> Recreation visits in 2020: 51,511
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.1%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 37,818 — #57 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.1%
> 5-year change in visits: 36.2%

Source: zzvision / Getty Images

53. Denali
> Recreation visits in 2020: 54,850
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.1%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 560,757 — #35 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -90.2%

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Source: troutnut / iStock via Getty Images

52. Kenai Fjords
> Recreation visits in 2020: 115,882
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 296,697 — #48 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.4%
> 5-year change in visits: -60.9%

Source: Hans Harms / iStock via Getty Images

51. Congaree
> Recreation visits in 2020: 119,306
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 87,513 — #54 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.1%
> 5-year change in visits: 36.3%

50. Great Basin
> Recreation visits in 2020: 120,248
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 116,123 — #53 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.1%
> 5-year change in visits: 3.6%

Source: RobertWaltman / iStock via Getty Images

49. Guadalupe Mountains
> Recreation visits in 2020: 151,256
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 169,535 — #52 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.2%
> 5-year change in visits: -10.8%

48. Pinnacles
> Recreation visits in 2020: 165,740
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 206,533 — #51 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.3%
> 5-year change in visits: -19.8%

Source: benedek / iStock via Getty Images

47. Channel Islands
> Recreation visits in 2020: 167,290
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 324,816 — #46 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.4%
> 5-year change in visits: -48.5%

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Source: kellyvandellen / iStock via Getty Images

46. Virgin Islands
> Recreation visits in 2020: 167,540
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 438,372 — #44 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.6%
> 5-year change in visits: -61.8%

Source: elan7t50 / iStock via Getty Images

45. Carlsbad Caverns
> Recreation visits in 2020: 183,835
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.3%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 445,720 — #43 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.6%
> 5-year change in visits: -58.8%

44. Voyageurs
> Recreation visits in 2020: 263,091
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.4%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 238,313 — #49 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.3%
> 5-year change in visits: 10.4%

Source: YayaErnst / iStock via Getty Images

43. Redwood
> Recreation visits in 2020: 265,177
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.4%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 527,143 — #38 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -49.7%

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Source: YinYang / iStock via Getty Images

42. Mesa Verde
> Recreation visits in 2020: 287,477
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.4%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 547,325 — #37 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -47.5%

Source: ColorPlayer / iStock via Getty Images

41. Mammoth Cave
> Recreation visits in 2020: 290,392
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.4%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 566,895 — #34 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -48.8%

40. Haleakala
> Recreation visits in 2020: 319,147
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.5%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,216,772 — #21 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.5%
> 5-year change in visits: -73.8%

Source: scgerding / iStock via Getty Images

39. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
> Recreation visits in 2020: 341,620
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.5%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 209,166 — #50 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.3%
> 5-year change in visits: 63.3%

38. Petrified Forest
> Recreation visits in 2020: 384,483
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 793,225 — #28 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.0%
> 5-year change in visits: -51.5%

Source: Tim Speer / Getty Images

37. Big Bend
> Recreation visits in 2020: 393,907
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 381,747 — #45 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.5%
> 5-year change in visits: 3.2%

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Source: stockphoto52 / iStock via Getty Images

36. Biscayne
> Recreation visits in 2020: 402,770
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 508,164 — #39 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.6%
> 5-year change in visits: -20.7%

35. Kings Canyon
> Recreation visits in 2020: 415,077
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 468,106 — #41 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.6%
> 5-year change in visits: -11.3%

34. White Sands
> Recreation visits in 2020: 415,383
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 497,506 — #40 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.6%
> 5-year change in visits: -16.5%

33. Wind Cave
> Recreation visits in 2020: 448,405
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.7%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 612,198 — #32 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.8%
> 5-year change in visits: -26.8%

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Source: SeanXu / iStock via Getty Images

32. Great Sand Dunes
> Recreation visits in 2020: 461,532
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.7%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 299,513 — #47 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.4%
> 5-year change in visits: 54.1%

Source: iip-photo-archive / Flickr

31. Gateway Arch
> Recreation visits in 2020: 486,021
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.7%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,698,656 — #15 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 2.1%
> 5-year change in visits: -71.4%

30. Canyonlands
> Recreation visits in 2020: 493,914
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.7%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 634,607 — #30 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.8%
> 5-year change in visits: -22.2%

Source: MBRubin / iStock via Getty Images

29. Lassen Volcanic
> Recreation visits in 2020: 542,274
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.8%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 468,092 — #42 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.6%
> 5-year change in visits: 15.8%

Source: iip-photo-archive / Flickr

28. Theodore Roosevelt
> Recreation visits in 2020: 551,303
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.8%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 580,033 — #33 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -5.0%

27. Hawaii Volcanoes
> Recreation visits in 2020: 589,775
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 0.9%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,832,660 — #13 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 2.3%
> 5-year change in visits: -67.8%

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Source: Grant Wylie / iStock via Getty Images

26. Crater Lake
> Recreation visits in 2020: 670,500
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.0%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 614,712 — #31 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.8%
> 5-year change in visits: 9.1%

Source: SimonSkafar / iStock via Getty Images

25. Everglades
> Recreation visits in 2020: 702,319
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.0%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,077,427 — #25 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.3%
> 5-year change in visits: -34.8%

24. Saguaro
> Recreation visits in 2020: 762,226
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.1%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 753,446 — #29 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 0.9%
> 5-year change in visits: 1.2%

Source: haveseen / iStock via Getty Images

23. Sequoia
> Recreation visits in 2020: 796,086
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,097,464 — #24 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.4%
> 5-year change in visits: -27.5%

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Source: libre de droit / iStock via Getty Images

22. Death Valley
> Recreation visits in 2020: 820,023
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,154,843 — #23 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.4%
> 5-year change in visits: -29.0%

Source: LarryKnupp / iStock via Getty Images

21. Badlands
> Recreation visits in 2020: 916,932
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.3%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 989,354 — #26 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.2%
> 5-year change in visits: -7.3%

Source: tomwachs / iStock via Getty Images

20. Capitol Reef
> Recreation visits in 2020: 981,038
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.4%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 941,029 — #27 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.2%
> 5-year change in visits: 4.3%

Source: inercomnps / Flickr

19. New River Gorge
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,054,374
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,178,753 — #22 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.5%
> 5-year change in visits: -10.6%

Source: westernlandscapes / Flickr

18. Mount Rainier
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,160,754
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.7%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,237,231 — #20 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.5%
> 5-year change in visits: -6.2%

17. Arches
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,238,083
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 1.8%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,399,247 — #18 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.7%
> 5-year change in visits: -11.5%

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Source: zrfphoto / iStock via Getty Images

16. Hot Springs
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,348,215
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 2.0%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,418,162 — #17 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.8%
> 5-year change in visits: -4.9%

Source: LordRunar / E+ via Getty Images

15. Bryce Canyon
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,464,655
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 2.2%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,745,804 — #14 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 2.2%
> 5-year change in visits: -16.1%

Source: beklaus / E+ via Getty Images

14. Shenandoah
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,666,265
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 2.5%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,321,873 — #19 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 1.7%
> 5-year change in visits: 26.1%

Source: Dean_Fikar / Getty Images

13. Glacier
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,698,864
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 2.5%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 2,366,056 — #10 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 3.0%
> 5-year change in visits: -28.2%

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Source: agaliza / iStock via Getty Images

12. Yosemite
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,268,313
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 3.3%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 4,150,217 — #4 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 5.2%
> 5-year change in visits: -45.3%

Source: Jon Lauriat / iStock via Getty Images

11. Indiana Dunes
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,293,106
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 3.4%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 1,640,195 — #16 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 2.0%
> 5-year change in visits: 39.8%

Source: garytog / iStock via Getty Images

10. Joshua Tree
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,399,542
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 3.5%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 2,025,756 — #12 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 2.5%
> 5-year change in visits: 18.5%

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

9. Olympic
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,499,177
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 3.7%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 3,263,761 — #7 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 4.1%
> 5-year change in visits: -23.4%

Source: Philippe Gratton / Getty Images

8. Acadia
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,669,034
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 3.9%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 2,811,184 — #9 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 3.5%
> 5-year change in visits: -5.1%

Source: benedek / iStock via Getty Images

7. Cuyahoga Valley
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,755,628
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 4.1%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 2,284,612 — #11 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 2.8%
> 5-year change in visits: 20.6%

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Source: ansonmiao / E+ via Getty Images

6. Grand Canyon
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,897,098
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 4.3%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 5,520,736 — #2 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 6.9%
> 5-year change in visits: -47.5%

Source: Michael Morse / Getty Images

5. Grand Teton
> Recreation visits in 2020: 3,289,638
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 4.8%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 3,149,921 — #8 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 3.9%
> 5-year change in visits: 4.4%

4. Rocky Mountain
> Recreation visits in 2020: 3,305,199
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 4.9%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 4,155,916 — #3 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 5.2%
> 5-year change in visits: -20.5%

Source: Joecho-16 / Getty Images

3. Zion
> Recreation visits in 2020: 3,591,254
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 5.3%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 3,648,846 — #6 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 4.5%
> 5-year change in visits: -1.6%

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Source: Riishede / iStock via Getty Images

2. Yellowstone
> Recreation visits in 2020: 3,806,306
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 5.6%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 4,097,710 — #5 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 5.1%
> 5-year change in visits: -7.1%

Source: WerksMedia / iStock via Getty Images

1. Great Smoky Mountains
> Recreation visits in 2020: 12,095,720
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2020: 17.8%
> Recreation visits in 2015: 10,712,674 — #1 out of 63
> Share of all NP recreation visits in 2015: 13.3%
> 5-year change in visits: 12.9%

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