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National Park Usage and Travel Modes

In 2014, national parks received nearly 293 million recreational visitors, an increase of 10 million visitors over the 2012 visitation rate. Visits to national parks have been trending upward throughout the decade, and NPS personnel believe that park visitation will continue to increase in the coming years, as members of the baby boom generation retire, giving them more time to travel. In addition, population increases along the coasts and in the West will place more Americans closer to parks such as Yosemite, Olympic, Crater Lake, and Mount Rainier National Parks.

As the number of visits increases, park roads will become more congested. The NPS has not been building new roads or adding lanes to alleviate congestion. Instead, it has been pursuing alternative transportation systems, which frequently include high occupancy vehicles (shuttle buses, trolleys, ferries) as a means to add capacity, alleviate congestion, improve visitor experience, and protect resources.

Transportation Modes and System Characteristics
Transportation Modes and System Characteristics 
The NPS transportation system provides essential public access to parks, provides visitor mobility within parks, and allows the staff to conduct park operations. While most park visitors use private automobiles during their visits, many others use a combination of hiking, bicycling, boats, horses, trains, shuttles, and other alternative transportation.

This means that the park transportation systems must accommodate a host of travel modes in addition to maintaining roads and parking lots for automobiles. The NPS transportation system currently includes:

  • 5,500 miles of paved roads (of which 1,100 miles are parkways)
  • 4,100 miles of unpaved roads
  • 1,442 bridges
  • 63 tunnels
  • 121 alternative transportation systems in 63 park units
  • 17,872 miles of trails, of which 5,012 miles (28%) are paved







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