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 persons 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.
2016 Visitation Highlights

In 2016, the National Park Service set a record for recreation visits for the third year in a row. NPS units received nearly 331 million recreation visits, breaking 2015’s record by 23.7 million visits. The graphs on this page display top ten parks by recreation visits for 2016. There are two graphs – one displays 2015 and 2016 recreation visit totals for the top 10 National Park System units and the other displays 2015 and 2016 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 2016 visitation highlights discussed below are also available for download.

To access more visitor use data for 2016 and other years, please visit our Visitor Use Statistics portal.
A slope graph showing the change in visitation across National Park units between 2015 and 2016.
This graph displays 2015 and 2016 recreation visit totals for the top 10 National Park System units. 2016 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 2015 are shown on the left. The collection of parks in the top 10 was the same in both years, although rankings changed between the two years. Line endpoints and slopes indicate relative differences between recreation visits for the same park in 2015 and 2016.
A slope graph that shows the increase in visitation for the ten most visited national parks from 2015-2016.
This graph displays 2015 and 2016 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). 2016 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 2015 are shown on the left. The collection of national parks in the top 10 was the same in both years, although rankings changed between the two years. Line endpoints and slopes indicate relative differences between recreation visits for the same park in 2015 and 2016.

Last updated: July 6, 2017

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