Annual Visitation Highlights

The core mission of the National Park Service (NPS) is to protect park resources and values and to provide for the enjoyment of parks by this and future generations. By design, parks attract a significant amount of public interest which in turn generates a stream of visitors engaging in a variety of activities at parks. Good management of parks depends on consistent, reliable, high quality information about visitor use, and monitoring that use is a fundamental responsibility of park managers. To this end, agency managers devote a significant amount of staff time and funding to manage and monitor the use of parks by visitors. Some primary concerns are how many people visit a park, what they are doing while they visit, how long they stay, and characteristics of the ‘typical’ visitor.

‘Visitor Use Statistics’ refers to a formal set of statistics collected by the National Park Service that address how many people visit parks and how long they stay. The set is comprised of recreation visit counts and hours, non-recreation visit counts and hours, and overnight stays by category. Recreation visits are the most used and most visible visitor use statistic for the NPS. The definition of a recreation visit is the entry of a person onto lands or waters administered by the NPS for recreation purposes. More NPS visitor use statistics definitions are available from the Visitor Use Statistics program.

2020 Visitation Highlights

In 2020, the National Park Service received 237 million recreation visits, down more than 90 million visits (27.6%) from 2019. The decrease was due largely to temporary park closures implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Visitation was the lowest since 1980 when there were about 325 parks compared to 423 parks in the national park system in 2020. Sixty-six of the 423 parks were fully closed for two months or more, but just 12 historic and cultural parks remained closed at the end of 2020.

The graphs on this page display top ten parks by recreation visits for 2020. There are two graphs – one displays 2019 and 2020 recreation visit totals for the top 10 National Park System units and the other displays 2019 and 2020 recreation visit totals for the top 10 national parks (national parks are a subset of all National Park System units that includes only those sites designated as national parks and excludes national monuments, national recreation areas, etc). Historic visitation totals and the 2020 visitation top ten tables discussed below are also available on our Visitation Highlights page.

To access more visitor use data for 2020 and other years, please visit our Visitor Use Statistics portal.

Graphic of the top ten parks of all parks in the NPS
This graph displays 2019 and 2020 recreation visit totals for the top 10 National Park System units. 2020 recreation visit totals and rankings are displayed on the right side of the graph; rankings and total recreation visits of the same NPS units in 2019 are shown on the left. Line endpoints and slopes indicate relative differences between recreation visits for the same park in 2019 and 2020.

The collection of parks in the top 10 changed between 2019 and 2020. Three parks dropped out of the top ten and are not shown in the graph below: the Lincoln Memorial dropped from fifth place in 2019 to seventeenth place in 2020; Grand Canyon National Park dropped from ninth place in 2019 to nineteenth in 2020; and Gulf Islands National Seashore dropped from tenth place in 2019 to eleventh place in 2020.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway had an estimated 14,099,485 recreation visits in 2020 and claimed the top spot among all parks in 2020. This park moved up from second place in 2019.
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area had an estimated 12,400,045 recreation visits in 2020 and moved from first place to second place in the rankings.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park had an estimated 12,095,720 recreation visits in 2020 and retained a third-place ranking.
  • Gateway National Recreation Area had an estimated 8,404,728 recreation visits in 2020 and retained a fourth-place ranking.
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area had an estimated 8,016,510 recreation visits in 2020 and moved up from sixth place to fifth place.
  • George Washington Memorial Parkway had an estimated 6,237,361 recreation visits in 2020 and moved up from seventh place to sixth place.
  • Natchez Trace Parkway had an estimated 6,124,808 recreation visits in 2020 and moved up from eighth place to seventh place.
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park had an estimated 4,888,436 recreation visits in 2020 and moved from eleventh place to eighth place.
  • Cape Cod National Seashore had an estimated 4,083,505 recreation visits in 2020 and moved from twenty-first place to ninth place.
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area had an estimated 4,068,529 recreation visits in 2020 and moved from twenty-ninth place to tenth place.
Graphic of the top ten parks in the NPS
This graph displays 2019 and 2020 recreation visit totals for the top 10 national parks. National parks are a subset of all National Park System units that includes only those sites designated as national parks (excludes national monuments, national recreation areas, etc). 2020 recreation visit totals and rankings are displayed on the right side of the graph; rankings and total recreation visits of the same NPS units in 2019 are shown on the left. Line endpoints and slopes indicate relative differences between recreation visits for the same park in 2019 and 2020.

The collection of national parks in the top 10 changed between 2019 and 2020. Two parks dropped out of the top ten and are not shown in the graph below: Yosemite National Park dropped from fifth place in 2019 to twelfth place in 2020 and Glacier National Park dropped from tenth place in 2019 to thirteenth place in 2020.

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park had an estimated 12,095,720 recreation visits in 2020 and maintained its long-running position as the most visited national park – a position it has held since 1944.
  • Yellowstone National Park had an estimated 3,806,306 recreation visits and moved from sixth place in 2019 to second place in 2020 – a place it has not held since 1947.
  • Zion National Park had an estimated 3,591,254 recreation visits and moved from fourth place in 2019 to third place in 2020.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park had an estimated 3,305,199 recreation visits and moved from third place in 2019 to fourth place in 2020.
  • Grand Teton National Park had an estimated 3,289,638 recreation visits and moved from eighth place in 2019 to fifth place in 2020.
  • Grand Canyon National Park had an estimated 2,897,098 recreation visits and dropped from second place – a position it has held securely for 30 years – to sixth place in 2020.
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park had an estimated 2,755,628 recreation visits and moved from thirteenth place in 2019 to seventh place in 2020.
  • Acadia National Park had an estimated 2,669,034 recreation visits and moved from seventh place in 2019 to eighth place in 2020.
  • Olympic National Park had an estimated 2,499,177 recreation visits in 2020 and retained a ninth-place ranking.
  • Joshua Tree National Park had an estimated 2,399,542 recreation visits and moved from eleventh place in 2019 to tenth place in 2020.

Last updated: April 8, 2021

Tools

  • Site Index