Special Report

The Most Popular Recreation Areas in the US

Source: Codedelectron. / Wikimedia Commons

18. Lake Chelan, Washington
> Recreation visits in 2020: 30,598
> Share of visits in all national recreation areas in 2020: 0.06%

Fjord-like Lake Chelan is one of the deepest lakes in the U.S. at a depth of 1,500 feet. The recreation area, which boasts nearly 62,000 acres, is located in Cascades Range. Some of the most popular activities are boating, fishing, and lakeshore camping.

Source: Ryan McGurl / iStock via Getty Images

17. Boston Harbor Islands, Massachusetts
> Recreation visits in 2020: 71,991
> Share of visits in all national recreation areas in 2020: 0.15%

The recreation area, which consists of 34 islands and peninsulas, is located a short distance from Boston’s city center. Boston Harbor Islands are known for their historical landmarks, including a Civil War-era fort and several lighthouses.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Gauley River, West Virginia
> Recreation visits in 2020: 109,378
> Share of visits in all national recreation areas in 2020: 0.23%

The Gauley River National Recreation Area is located near Summersville, West Virginia. The area includes a 25-mile portion of the free-flowing Gauley River and the 6 miles segment of the Meadow River. The recreation area is popular for white water rafting.

Source: LindaJohnsonbaugh / iStock via Getty Images

15. Bighorn Canyon, Wyoming and Montana
> Recreation visits in 2020: 212,295
> Share of visits in all national recreation areas in 2020: 0.44%

The Bighorn Canyon recreation area, on the border between Wyoming and Montana, consists of more than 120,000 acres of outdoor playground and natural habitat. With 27 miles of trails, hiking is a popular activity in the park. The Bighorn River, which flows through the recreation area, is the most fished river in Montana.

Source: santamonicamtns / Flickr

14. Santa Monica Mountains, California
> Recreation visits in 2020: 733,576
> Share of visits in all national recreation areas in 2020: 1.52%

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is often referred to as Los Angeles’ national park due to its proximity to the city. The area contains many small parks, open space reserves, and 500 miles of hiking trails. The 67-mile Backbone Trail, which takes about a week to complete, is one of the most famous trails in the state.