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National Parks a Breath of Fresh Air for Americans As Travel Opened Back Up

National Parks a Breath of Fresh Air for Americans As Travel Opened Back Up

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As pandemic fears faded, visitors stayed longer.
Kayaking around Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Kayaking around Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Source: Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic made Americans rethink most — if not all — of their vacation plans. With travel restrictions still in place for many international destinations, along with a desire to avoid or escape dense populations in cities, outdoor itineraries within the U.S. held appeal.

In this study, ValuePenguin looks at national park visitation data to see which sites managed by the U.S. National Park System (NPS) — including parks, preserves, monuments, memorials, historic sites and seashores — had the biggest popularity changes due to the pandemic.

Key findings

  • National parks in 2021 recovered 91% of their 2019 pre-pandemic visitorship. Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida was the big winner with a 154% increase in visits: nearly 2.6 million in 2021, versus roughly 1 million in 2019.
  • As pandemic fears faded, national park visitors stayed longer. While visitorship in 2021 was down 9% from 2019, the number of hours spent at national parks was down only 5%.
  • But not all parks fared the same during the early portion of the pandemic. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska saw a drop in visitors from more than 1.1 million in 2019 to only 297 — yes, 297 — in 2020.
  • Urban parks, monuments and memorials typically have seen the slowest recoveries. Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Boston National Historic Park and the Statue of Liberty National Park in New York all ranked in the bottom five for percentage change in visitors between 2019 and 2021.

National parks quickly regained visitors

Sites managed by the NPS regained about 60 million visitors from 2020 to 2021, climbing to 91% of the pre-pandemic numbers seen in 2019.

By the number: Recreation visits to national parks
2019327,516,619
2020237,064,332
2021297,115,406

Source: National Park Service

Among the 100 parks with the highest yearly visitation average over the past decade (2012 to 2021), the largest percentage gain in visitors in the period examined was in Florida.

Big Cypress National Preserve, which borders the Everglades in Florida, saw visits skyrocket 154% from pre-pandemic in 2019 to 2021 — more than 100 percentage points higher than the next-highest NPS site.

The Sunshine State was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, whether it was infections, hospitalizations or deaths. After the calendar changed, the nature preserve became an oasis for almost 2.6 million people in 2021 — up from roughly 1 million in 2019.

The preserve offers one of the best places in the country to stargaze, as well as space to paddle, bike, use off-road vehicles, hike, hunt and view wildlife.

Here’s a look at the 10 parks with the biggest percentage growth between 2019 and 2021:

Where visitorship rose the most

Rank
Park
2019 visitors
2021 visitors
% change, 2019 to 2021
1Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida)1,007,4712,563,810154%
2Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)858,7151,313,17953%
3Indiana Dunes National Park2,134,2853,177,21049%
4Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)1,467,1532,162,88447%
5New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)1,195,7211,682,72041%
6Cedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)579,861772,88633%
7Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)1,963,5402,525,86829%
8Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (New Jersey/Pennsylvania)3,374,8654,340,90229%
9Badlands National Park (South Dakota)970,9981,224,22626%
10Curecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado)836,0341,043,72525%

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Indiana Dunes National Park ranked second and third for pandemic recovery.

On the shore of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks saw an increase of 53% — almost half a million visitors — taking advantage of its beaches, cliffs, waterfalls and forests. Not too far away on the shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park had a 49% visitation increase — more than a million more visits allowed people to explore the park’s 15,000 acres.

Barriers to park attendance

The sky isn’t the limit on park attendance as each park has limited space and resources. Baring events like floods, heavy snowfall and restoration work causing closures or partial closures, other factors can affect visitation:

  • Reservations. Due to overwhelming popularity, some parks limit the amount of visitors. Many national parks, including Yosemite and Arches, require reservations during their peak season.
  • Permits. Many parks have competitive lottery systems to manage camping and backcountry hiking permits. One-time permit fees tend to cost around $30 a person depending on the park and are almost always less than $50.
  • Entrance fees. Many NPS sites require an entrance fee. Recreation.gov allows visitors to select and purchase passes. Some fees are as small as $5 for a one-day pass to a specific park, while an annual NPS pass is $80. Annual pass discounts are available for seniors, children, those with disabilities and military members.

In fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021), 780,050 annual entrance passes were sold, a substantial jump from 595,278 in fiscal year 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020). It’s also up from 760,806 in fiscal year 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019).

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class=\"StyledHeaderRow-sc-1m1b8dn hCELBb\"\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd eWikhN\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r gPTwhA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003ERank\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd ixNbrp\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r gPTwhA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003EPark\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd knhnLI\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r glLrYA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E2019 visitors\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd knhnLI\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r glLrYA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E2021 visitors\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd knhnLI\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r glLrYA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E% change, 2019 to 2021\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003C\/thead\u003E\u003Ctbody class=\"StyledBody-sc-14y8oc0 dcdMVT\"\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E1\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EBig Cypress National Preserve (Florida)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,007,471\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E2,563,810\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E154%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E2\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EPictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E858,715\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,313,179\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E53%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E3\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EIndiana Dunes National Park\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E2,134,285\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E3,177,210\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E49%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E4\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EHot Springs National Park (Arkansas)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,467,153\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E2,162,884\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E47%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E5\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003ENew River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,195,721\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,682,720\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E41%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E6\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003ECedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E579,861\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E772,886\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E33%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E7\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EMount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,963,540\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E2,525,868\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E29%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E8\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EDelaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (New Jersey\/Pennsylvania)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E3,374,865\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E4,340,902\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E29%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E9\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EBadlands National Park (South Dakota)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E970,998\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,224,226\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E26%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E10\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003ECurecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E836,034\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,043,725\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E25%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003C\/tbody\u003E\u003C\/table\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cp class=\"SortableTable--footnote\"\u003ESource: ValuePenguin analysis of the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\n \u003Cscript type=\"application\/json\" class=\"js-react-component\" data-component-name=\"SortableTable\"\u003E{\"alignsHorizontal\":[\"left\",\"left\",\"right\",\"right\",\"right\"],\"alignsVertical\":[\"top\",\"top\",\"top\",\"top\",\"top\"],\"columnWidths\":[\"10%\",\"45%\",\"15%\",\"15%\",\"15%\"],\"data\":[[\"Rank\",\"Park\",\"2019 visitors\",\"2021 visitors\",\"% change, 2019 to 2021\"],[\"1\",\"Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida)\",\"1,007,471\",\"2,563,810\",\"154%\"],[\"2\",\"Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)\",\"858,715\",\"1,313,179\",\"53%\"],[\"3\",\"Indiana Dunes National Park\",\"2,134,285\",\"3,177,210\",\"49%\"],[\"4\",\"Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)\",\"1,467,153\",\"2,162,884\",\"47%\"],[\"5\",\"New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)\",\"1,195,721\",\"1,682,720\",\"41%\"],[\"6\",\"Cedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)\",\"579,861\",\"772,886\",\"33%\"],[\"7\",\"Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)\",\"1,963,540\",\"2,525,868\",\"29%\"],[\"8\",\"Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (New Jersey\\\/Pennsylvania)\",\"3,374,865\",\"4,340,902\",\"29%\"],[\"9\",\"Badlands National Park (South Dakota)\",\"970,998\",\"1,224,226\",\"26%\"],[\"10\",\"Curecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado)\",\"836,034\",\"1,043,725\",\"25%\"]],\"footnote\":\"Source: ValuePenguin analysis of the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered.\",\"hideHeaderRow\":false,\"hasMarginBottom\":true,\"isExpandable\":true,\"isSortable\":false,\"maxWidth\":\"1215\",\"minWidth\":\"100%\",\"showSearch\":false,\"sortColumnIndex\":0,\"sortDirection\":\"asc\"}\u003C\/script\u003E\n\n\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EPictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Indiana Dunes National Park ranked second and third for pandemic recovery.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EOn the shore of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks saw an increase of 53% \u2014 almost half a million visitors \u2014 taking advantage of its beaches, cliffs, waterfalls and forests. Not too far away on the shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park had a 49% visitation increase \u2014 more than a million more visits allowed people to explore the park\u2019s 15,000 acres.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Ch3\u003EBarriers to park attendance\u003C\/h3\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EThe sky isn\u2019t the limit on park attendance as each park has limited space and resources. Baring events like floods, heavy snowfall and restoration work causing closures or partial closures, other factors can affect visitation:\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeList--root \"\u003E\n\n \u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeList--content ShortcodeList--content-margin\"\u003E\n \u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeList--column\"\u003E\n \u003Cul class=\"ListUnordered--root ListUnordered--bullet\"\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListUnordered--list-item\"\u003E\n \u003Cstrong\u003EReservations\u003C\/strong\u003E. Due to overwhelming popularity, some parks limit the amount of visitors. Many national parks, including Yosemite and Arches, require reservations during their peak season.\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListUnordered--list-item\"\u003E\n \u003Cstrong\u003EPermits\u003C\/strong\u003E. Many parks have competitive lottery systems to manage camping and backcountry hiking permits. One-time permit fees tend to cost around $30 a person depending on the park and are almost always less than $50.\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003Cli class=\"ListUnordered--list-item\"\u003E\n \u003Cstrong\u003EEntrance fees\u003C\/strong\u003E. Many NPS sites require an entrance fee. \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" rel=\"noopener\" target=\"_blank\" title=\"recreation\" href=\"https:\/\/www.recreation.gov\/pass\/\"\u003ERecreation.gov\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E allows visitors to select and purchase passes. Some fees are as small as $5 for a one-day pass to a specific park, while an annual NPS pass is $80. Annual pass discounts are available for seniors, children, those with disabilities and military members.\n \u003C\/li\u003E\n \u003C\/ul\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\u003C\/div\u003E\n\n\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EIn fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021), 780,050 annual entrance passes were sold, a substantial jump from 595,278 in fiscal year 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020). It\u2019s also up from 760,806 in fiscal year 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019).\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E","padding":"double"}

People spending far more hours at national parks

While the national parks had around 30 million fewer visitors in 2021 than in 2019, the people who did tour the national scenery in 2021 stayed longer.

By the number: Recreation visitor hours
20191,429,971,904
20201,054,954,560
20211,356,659,770

Source: National Park Service

The total number of recreational hours spent at national parks in 2021 was only 5% less, despite visitorship being down 9%.

Parks with the largest increase in recreation visitor hours

Rank
Park
2019 recreation visitor hours
2021 recreation visitor hours
% change, 2019 to 2021
1Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)1,352,9796,189,943358%
2Virgin Islands National Park820,3911,992,595143%
3New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia)2,615,7874,301,05364%
4Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida)3,393,6875,364,41758%
5Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)4,226,3656,425,57352%

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered here.

Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas had a huge increase in recreational hours. From 2019 to 2021, hours spent at the park went up by 358%, or nearly 5 million hours. Perhaps due to its biggest attractions — two active geothermal hot spring facilities that allow visitors to soak in the warm water.

In that stream of thought, tropical waters also encouraged visitors to extend their visits at Virgin Islands National Park, which ranks second for the largest increase in visitor recreational hours. The park covers two-thirds of St. John island, offering white sand beaches and snorkeling above coral reefs.

If you’re looking to travel to a national park, the best travel credit cards could help you get there.

Pandemic affected national parks differently

From 2019 to 2020 — the first year of the pandemic — visits to the 100 most popular sites managed by the NPS decreased by 26% overall, falling from nearly 279 million visits to about 206 million.

Nearly a quarter of those sites saw at least 50% decrease in the number of visitors. Most of the sites seeing the worst of this depression are urban monuments and memorials: Two in D.C. and two in New York City.

Pandemic decreased National Park System annual visits

Rank
Park name
2019 visitors
2020 visitors
% change, 2019 to 2020
1Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska)1,116,161297-100%
2Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)3,201,834277,170-91%
3Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York)4,240,461576,396-86%
4Castle Clinton National Monument (New York)4,361,034633,793-85%
5Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)4,532,459907,090-80%
6Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)2,055,309486,021-76%
7Pearl Harbor National Memorial (Hawaii)1,716,535415,542-76%
8Thomas Jefferson Memorial (District of Columbia)3,096,895852,626-72%
9Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (District of Columbia)3,667,5621,083,671-70%
10San Juan National Historic Site (Puerto Rico)1,197,345357,100-70%

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered here.

A notable exception to the trend is in Alaska. The worst-hit park was Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which went from 1.1 million visits to less than 300.

The park — and the nearby town of Skagway — depend highly on visitors from cruise ships. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise lines suspended their U.S departures beginning in March 2020 and some cruise lines completely shut down operations.

The other two not-as-urban NPS sites on the list are on islands: Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Pearl Harbor National Memorial and San Juan National Historic Site had 70% decreases in visitation from 2019 to 2020. The longer flights that most visitors would need to board to reach these destinations likely made them less pandemic-safe options in the minds of travelers.

With COVID-19 cases generally on the decline, here are the best airline credit cards that offer great perks and miles if you’re looking to fly.

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Most of the sites seeing the worst of this depression are urban monuments and memorials: Two in D.C. and two in New York City.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Ch3\u003EPandemic decreased National Park System annual visits\u003C\/h3\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"ReactComponent--root\"\u003E\n \u003Cdiv class=\"js-react-component-rendered js-react-component-SortableTable\" data-component-name=\"SortableTable\"\u003E\n \u003Cdiv class=\"StyledRootWrapper-sc-3qeib4 jYHfZo\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledTableWrapper-sc-5nmmx9 fesmOM\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledTableOverflowWrapper-sc-hixhp9 gVbnK\"\u003E\u003Ctable class=\"StyledTable-sc-ujzn9t jVpJxq\"\u003E\u003Cthead class=\"StyledHeaderRow-sc-1m1b8dn hCELBb\"\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd eWikhN\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r gPTwhA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003ERank\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd ixNbrp\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r gPTwhA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003EPark name\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd knhnLI\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r glLrYA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E2019 visitors\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd knhnLI\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r glLrYA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E2020 visitors\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003Cth colSpan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledHeaderCell-sc-nsptsd knhnLI\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"StyledColumnHeaderWrapper-sc-12xyb2r glLrYA\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E% change, 2019 to 2020\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/th\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003C\/thead\u003E\u003Ctbody class=\"StyledBody-sc-14y8oc0 dcdMVT\"\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E1\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EKlondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,116,161\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E297\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-100%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E2\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EBoston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E3,201,834\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E277,170\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-91%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E3\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EStatue of Liberty National Monument (New York)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E4,240,461\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E576,396\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-86%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E4\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003ECastle Clinton National Monument (New York)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E4,361,034\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E633,793\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-85%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E5\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EIndependence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E4,532,459\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E907,090\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-80%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E6\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EGateway Arch National Park (Missouri)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E2,055,309\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E486,021\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-76%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E7\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EPearl Harbor National Memorial (Hawaii)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,716,535\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E415,542\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-76%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E8\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EThomas Jefferson Memorial (District of Columbia)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E3,096,895\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E852,626\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-72%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E9\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003EMartin Luther King Jr. Memorial (District of Columbia)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E3,667,562\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,083,671\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-70%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003Ctr\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"10%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003E10\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"45%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bEfFUh\"\u003ESan Juan National Historic Site (Puerto Rico)\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E1,197,345\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E357,100\u003C\/td\u003E\u003Ctd colSpan=\"1\" rowspan=\"1\" width=\"15%\" class=\"StyledBodyCell-sc-5cu9ee bGuMza\"\u003E-70%\u003C\/td\u003E\u003C\/tr\u003E\u003C\/tbody\u003E\u003C\/table\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cp class=\"SortableTable--footnote\"\u003ESource: ValuePenguin analysis of National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered here.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\n \u003C\/div\u003E\n\n \u003Cscript type=\"application\/json\" class=\"js-react-component\" data-component-name=\"SortableTable\"\u003E{\"alignsHorizontal\":[\"left\",\"left\",\"right\",\"right\",\"right\"],\"alignsVertical\":[\"top\",\"top\",\"top\",\"top\",\"top\"],\"columnWidths\":[\"10%\",\"45%\",\"15%\",\"15%\",\"15%\"],\"data\":[[\"Rank\",\"Park name\",\"2019 visitors\",\"2020 visitors\",\"% change, 2019 to 2020\"],[\"1\",\"Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska)\",\"1,116,161\",\"297\",\"-100%\"],[\"2\",\"Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)\",\"3,201,834\",\"277,170\",\"-91%\"],[\"3\",\"Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York)\",\"4,240,461\",\"576,396\",\"-86%\"],[\"4\",\"Castle Clinton National Monument (New York)\",\"4,361,034\",\"633,793\",\"-85%\"],[\"5\",\"Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)\",\"4,532,459\",\"907,090\",\"-80%\"],[\"6\",\"Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)\",\"2,055,309\",\"486,021\",\"-76%\"],[\"7\",\"Pearl Harbor National Memorial (Hawaii)\",\"1,716,535\",\"415,542\",\"-76%\"],[\"8\",\"Thomas Jefferson Memorial (District of Columbia)\",\"3,096,895\",\"852,626\",\"-72%\"],[\"9\",\"Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (District of Columbia)\",\"3,667,562\",\"1,083,671\",\"-70%\"],[\"10\",\"San Juan National Historic Site (Puerto Rico)\",\"1,197,345\",\"357,100\",\"-70%\"]],\"footnote\":\"Source: ValuePenguin analysis of National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered here.\",\"hideHeaderRow\":false,\"hasMarginBottom\":true,\"isExpandable\":true,\"isSortable\":false,\"maxWidth\":\"1215\",\"minWidth\":\"100%\",\"showSearch\":false,\"sortColumnIndex\":0,\"sortDirection\":\"asc\"}\u003C\/script\u003E\n\n\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EA notable exception to the trend is in Alaska. The worst-hit park was Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which went from 1.1 million visits to less than 300.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EThe park \u2014 and the nearby town of Skagway \u2014 depend highly on visitors from cruise ships. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise lines suspended their U.S departures beginning in March 2020 and some cruise lines completely shut down operations.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EThe other two not-as-urban NPS sites on the list are on islands: Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Pearl Harbor National Memorial and San Juan National Historic Site had 70% decreases in visitation from 2019 to 2020. The longer flights that most visitors would need to board to reach these destinations likely made them less pandemic-safe options in the minds of travelers.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeBorder--root ShortcodeBorder--with-padding\"\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003EWith COVID-19 cases generally on the decline, here are the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"10 Best Airline Credit Cards\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/best-airlines-miles-credit-cards\"\u003Ebest airline credit cards\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E that offer great perks and miles if you\u2019re looking to fly.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E","padding":"double"}

Visitors are slower to flock back to urban parks, monuments

Seven parks with the largest decrease in visits during the pandemic are also among the slowest to recover.

Visits to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska are still down 97% between 2019 and 2021. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) predicts that the cruise industry will fully recover by the summer of 2022, which could benefit the park.

Where visitorship dropped the most

Rank
Park
2019 visitors
2021 visitors
% change, 2019 to 2021
1Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska)1,116,16133,228-97%
2Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)4,532,4591,495,686-67%
3Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)3,201,8341,098,210-66%
4Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York)4,240,4611,556,482-63%
5National Capital Parks-Central (District of Columbia)1,770,794659,317-63%
6Castle Clinton National Monument (New York)4,361,0341,665,660-62%
7Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park (South Carolina)877,894349,492-60%
8President's Park (District of Columbia)715,911395,915-45%
9Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (District of Columbia)3,667,5622,032,470-45%
10Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)2,055,3091,145,081-44%

Source: ValuePenguin analysis of National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered here.

Overall, national parks, monuments and memorials within cities have seen some of the worst recoveries. The Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia had more than 3 three million fewer visits — a 67% decrease — and features mainly indoor sights: The Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Boston National Historical Park and the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York also had visitation decreases above 60%. Both locations require that visitors travel through their respective cities to reach them, and the Statue of Liberty National Park is an island — visitors pile aboard a boat ride to reach it.

Full rankings

By the numbers: Visitorship change between 2019 and 2021

Rank
Park
2019 visitors
2021 visitors
% change, 2019 to 2021
1Big Cypress NPRES (Florida)1,007,4712,563,810154%
2Pictured Rocks NL (Michigan)858,7151,313,17953%
3Indiana Dunes NP2,134,2853,177,21049%
4Hot Springs NP (Arkansas)1,467,1532,162,88447%
5New River Gorge NP and PRES (West Virginia)1,195,7211,682,72041%
6Cedar Breaks NM (Utah)579,861772,88633%
7Mount Rushmore NMEM (South Dakota)1,963,5402,525,86829%
8Delaware Water Gap NRA (New Jersey and Pennsylvania)3,374,8654,340,90229%
9Badlands NP (South Dakota)970,9981,224,22626%
10Curecanti NRA (Colorado)836,0341,043,72525%
11Canyonlands NP (Utah)733,996911,59424%
12Cape Hatteras NS (North Carolina)2,606,6323,206,05623%
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Source: ValuePenguin analysis of National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database. Note: Only parks in the top 100 for highest yearly visitation averages from 2012 to 2021 were considered here.

Note: The acronyms are defined as: NPRES (national preserve), NL (national lakeshore), NP (national park), NP and PRES (national park and preserve), NM (national monument), NMEM (national memorial), NRA (national recreation area), NS (national seashore), NHP (national historical park), MEM PKWY (memorial parkway), NRRA (national river and recreation area), NSR (national scenic river), PKWY (parkway), NMP (national military park), NHS (national historic site) and MEM (memorial).

Methodology

To estimate how frequently Americans were visiting national parks, ValuePenguin researchers analyzed data from the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics database, focusing on the top 100 parks with the highest average visitation over the last decade, from 2012 to 2021.

From this data pool, researchers compared the number of visitors and visitor hours at each park between 2019 and 2021. We ranked the national parks from highest to lowest based on the percentage change between these two periods.