Annual Visitation Highlights

Learn and Explore

An Overview

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. For more information on NPS visitor use statistics, please see the NPS Visitor Use Statistics Definitions page.

2021 Visitation Highlights

In 2021, the National Park Service received 297 million recreation visits, up 60 million visits (25.3%) from 2020. This increase was largely due to parks evolving COVID-19 protocols, which allowed more park facilities to be open and available for visitors than in 2020. While visitation has not completely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, it has regained much of the visitation lost due to pandemic restrictions in 2020 and is now at a level like the 2014-2015 run up to the NPS Centennial in 2016.

The following graph displays NPS service-wide recreation visits by month over the past 6 years.

Graph showing recreation visits by month for 6 years

Previous NPS Statistical Abstracts

Statistics Through the Years

Historical editions of the NPS Statistical Abstract are available via the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Collection 549. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Last updated: July 26, 2022


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