1. Great Smoky Mountains
Ensconced at number one is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which drew more than 11 million visitors last year—nearly twice the number of the second most popular park. Most visitors see the park from a mountain-skimming scenic highway; many take to its 800-plus miles of hiking trails stretching across North Carolina and Tennessee.
Billion is a pretty big number. (To wit: A million seconds equals about 11 days, but a billion seconds is almost 32 years.) So it’s all the more incredible that the National Park Service’s records have registered over 14 billion visits since 1904. That’s nearly twice the planet’s population. It’s greater than the number of years the universe has existed at all. (See extraordinary photos of national parks from space.)
Those massive crowds keep coming because of the parks’ enduring power. Parks—“America’s best idea”—preserve wildlife and wild places, provide vital recreation, and create priceless cultural spaces. And while it’s well worth a trip to each of the system’s 418 parks (60 of which are “national”), there are certainly some heavy hitters among them.
Check out this photo gallery to learn about each of the top 10 most visited national parks, and explore this graphic to see how their stats stack up.
- Nat Geo Expeditions