With incredible diversity and a near-endless supply of things to see and do, US parks and national parks continue to pull in huge numbers of visitors. The latest figures show that there were 237 million visits to these stunning locations in 2020.

This was 90 million down on the previous year when visits topped over 327 million, but the figures were impacted by travel bans, temporary park closures and capping of capacity limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over eight million people stayed overnight in parks and national parks, and three of them - Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Great Smoky Mountains National Park - had more than 10 million recreation visits each. According to the National Park Service, these are the top 10 most visited national parks for 2020.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee – 12.1m visitors

2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – 3.8 visitors

Grand Prismatic Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Geyser in Yellowstone National Park © kwiktor/Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. Zion National Park, Utah – 3.6m visitors

Herd of Big Horn Sheep at Zion National Park
Herd of Big Horn sheep at Zion National Park © Art Wager/Getty Images

4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado – 3.3m visitors

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Dream Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado © Carl Finocchiaro/500px

5. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – 3.3m visitors

Bull moose at Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming, USA.
Bull moose at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming © Chase Dekker/500px

6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona – 2.9m visitors

Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park was the sixth most popular park in 2020 © Stephen Yelverton Photography/Getty Images

7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio – 2.8m visitors

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park © LarryKnupp/Getty Images

8. Acadia National Park, Maine – 2.7m visitors

Bass Harbor Lighthouse at sunset in Acadia National Park, Maine
Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Acadia National Park, Maine © AppalachianViews/Getty Images/iStockphoto

9. Olympic National Park, Washington – 2.5m visitors

Sol Duc river and wooden bridge in Olympic National Park
The Sol Duc river in Olympic National Park © Westend61/Getty Images

10. Joshua Tree National Park, California – 2.4m visitors

Joshua Tree National Park at Sunset, USA
Joshua Tree National Park in California © roman_slavik/Getty Images

“This past year has reminded us how important national parks and public lands are to overall wellbeing,” says NPS deputy director, Shawn Benge. “Throughout the country, national parks provided close-to-home opportunities for people to spend much needed time outdoors for their physical and psychological health.”

Further information on visitation numbers can be found on the National Park Service's website here.

You might also like:

15 unforgettable experiences in US national parks
A fall road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains of the USA
New 'All-American Roads' and scenic byways will take travelers on a journey around the USA

This article was first published Mar 14, 2017 and updated Mar 16, 2021.

Explore related stories

Holiday travel in Arctic, Svalbard, Norway. People on the boat. Winter mountain with snow, blue glacier ice with sea in the foreground. Blue sky with white clouds. Snowy hill in ocean. Travel in sea.

Hiking

A first-time guide to Svalbard

Jul 13, 2024 • 10 min read