Learn and Explore
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.
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.