These Were the Most—and Least—Popular National Parks in 2023


Category:  Fields and Streams

Via:  outis  •  5 months ago  •  10 comments

By:   Sarah Kuta (Smithsonian Magazine)

These Were the Most—and Least—Popular National Parks in 2023

The National Park Service recorded 325,498,646 recreation visits across 400 sites, which is close to pre-pandemic levels


The NPS is amazing. Fifty years ago, a now-deceased uncle supervised the construction of the Mount Rushmore Visitors Center - that building is also no longer with us...

When I visited that monument a few years ago, I asked a Ranger if they had any information about that  previous Visitors Center. Of course they did, including photos.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images

America's national parks are bouncing back from the Covid-19 pandemic: The National Park Service (NPS) recorded 325,498,646 recreation visits at 400 federally protected sites in 2023, according to data released last week.

The 2023 visitation numbers, which represent a 4 percent increase from 2022, are close to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, national parks saw 327,516,619 recreation visits. Those numbers dipped sharply during the pandemic—to 237,064,332 in 2020 and 297,115,406 in 2021—but have been climbing steadily ever since.

Travelers also spent more time at NPS sites last year, according to the data: Recreation visitor hours hit 1,400,000,000, which is a 4 percent jump from 2022.

Though overall visitation is increasing, travelers are still finding ways to ditch the crowds and get off the beaten path. Visitation increased in the spring and fall, which are typically considered off-seasons at national parks and tend to be less busy than the summer months. Additionally, several less popular sites broke visitation records last year, including Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont.

"I'm glad visitors are finding hidden gems, exploring in the off-season and finding new ways to have a great time in our national parks," says Chuck Sams, the director of the NPS, in a statement.

original National Park Service

Those numbers align with what some tourism officials saw on the ground last year. Encouraging travelers to visit during quieter months is one way that states with multiple busy national park sites, like Utah, are trying to tackle overcrowding.

"We've noticed that some of the shoulder season growth has accelerated more rapidly than what we consider the 'busy season' growth," says Denise Jordan, director of marketing, analytics and research for the Utah Office of Tourism and Film, to KSL.com's Carter Williams. "That's something we'd like to continue to see."

To help reduce long lines, some popular national parks have also implemented timed-entry permits and reservation systems, including Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Glacier National Park in Montana.

Officials use annual visitation statistics and trends to inform NPS' management strategies at national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, battlefields and other protected areas across the country. NPS is responsible for 429 sites, but only 400 recorded visitation statistics last year. Five national parks reported visitation numbers for the first time last year, and 2023 is the first year that parks from all 50 states reported.

In 2023, national parks were the most popular type of NPS-managed site, accounting for 28 percent of all recreation visits. National recreation areas made up 16 percent of all visits, followed by national memorials at 13 percent.

The Most Popular National Parks

Among the 63 national parks located across the country, these were the ten most popular in 2023:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (13,297,647 visits)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (4,733,705 visits)
  3. Zion National Park in Utah (4,623,238 visits)
  4. Yellowstone National Park (4,501,382 visits)
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park (4,115,837 visits)
  6. Yosemite National Park (3,897,070 visits)
  7. Acadia National Park (3,879,890 visits)
  8. Grand Teton National Park (3,417,106 visits)
  9. Joshua Tree National Park (3,270,404 visits)
  10. Olympic National Park (2,947,503 visits)

National Park Service

The Least Popular National Parks

Travelers searching for solitude may want to consider the ten least popular national parks of 2023, five of which are in Alaska:

  1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (11,045 visits)
  2. National Park of American Samoa (12,135 visits)
  3. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (16,728 visits)
  4. Kobuk Valley National Park (17,616 visits)
  5. Isle Royale National Park (28,965 visits)
  6. Katmai National Park and Preserve (​​33,763 visits)
  7. North Cascades National Park (40,351 visits)
  8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (78,305 visits)
  9. Dry Tortugas National Park (84,285 visits)
  10. Great Basin National Park (​​143,265 visits)

John Brighenti via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY 2.0 DEED

The Most Popular of All NPS Sites

Zooming out, here are the ten most popular NPS sites (including places that aren't national parks):

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway (16,757,635 visits)
  2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area (14,953,882 visits)
  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (13,297,647 visits)
  4. Gateway National Recreation Area (8,705,329 visits)
  5. Gulf Islands National Seashore (8,277,857 visits)
  6. The Lincoln Memorial (8,099,148 visits)
  7. George Washington Memorial Parkway (7,391,260 visits)
  8. Natchez Trace Parkway (6,784,853 visits)
  9. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (5,798,541 visits)
  10. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (5,206,934 visits)

SarahKuta.png    Sarah Kuta


jrDiscussion - desc
Freshman Principal
1  seeder  Outis    5 months ago

So many parks... so little time...

Professor Principal
2  Kavika     5 months ago

My wife and I are huge supporters of our National Parks and have enjoyed them for years. I have two, one is a National park, ''The National Park of American Samoa'' and the other is a National Monumenunt, ''The Lava Bed National Monument'' in northern Califormia which also has a large amount of American history. 

Samoan Park is simply stunning, very rugged with steep climbs and a thick tropical jungle and the exciting part is that a large portion of it is crystal clear water with marine life and beautiful reefs.

Freshman Principal
2.1  seeder  Outis  replied to  Kavika @2    5 months ago

I'd love to visit it!

Professor Principal
2.1.1  Kavika   replied to  Outis @2.1    5 months ago

If you ever get there after a hard day climbing the mountains and diving in that crystal bay stop by Tisa's Barefoot Bar in Alega Beach, Pago Pago tell her Kavika sent you.

Freshman Principal
2.1.2  seeder  Outis  replied to  Kavika @2.1.1    5 months ago

That sounds like a line from a classic Hollywood noir movie.  jrSmiley_81_smiley_image.gif

Professor Principal
2.1.3  Kavika   replied to  Outis @2.1.2    5 months ago

It's a real place, with a real Tisa running it, the food is excellent and it is right on the beach and is the only building within a couple of miles in either direction. And Tisa knows me well she'll probably say when you say Kavika sent you...

''Oi, Kavika ou te alofa i lena tiapolo''

She works magic and these are some of her accomplishments since she started from scratch.


Alega Marine Sanctuary

Hard work and determination sets pioneers apart from normal people. The vision of Tisa, to restore marine life back into her village bay was farfetched and seemed impossible for most islanders. But Tisa was set to do otherwise. Since 1980, each day was dedicated, for cleanup campaigns along with the help of her family to collect trash in the bay, beachfront, and highway of her village home.  Much of the island and local people rebelled, when she declared her beachfront and village Bay off limits to fishing and sand mining, by 1985. “It was a long and painful journey of my life to lay down the new environment laws of our village,” admitted Tisa.  “Enforcing them took many years of near death experiences and life threating encounters from unhappy poachers.” Tisa was determine to continue enforcement and surveillance of Alega Preserve. Her mission was clear and precise to restore damaged coral reef caused by powerful cyclones of 1990 and 1991. Entire coral reef colonies with living animals and their shelters became pebbles on the beach.

Thirty years later, we are excited to share amazing results of conservation and preservation of our Marine Sanctuary. Take a snorkeling tour, in our coral reef and greet the residents in Alega Marine sanctuary. From giant clams to baby octopus, and turtle nesting, all is worth a day of meditation at Tisa’s barefoot world. Let us offer you our new conservation approach, of how to be a responsible traveler and feel the heartbeat of the earth. Our natural aquarium is an awesome place to start. You won’t be disappointed.

The Alega Preservation Institute is now a 501c3 organization. Your tax deductible donation can be made via the   PAYPAL GIVING FUND


Environment and Eco Tourism

As a pioneer and leader of Eco-tourism, of American Samoa, the 28 year old Tisa’s Barefoot Bar & Eco Lodge, is fully committed to reduce further damage to other living things and environment. We accept the responsibility of living by examples, and maintain sustainable business practice in our village and share them with our neighbors. Our mission to live in harmony with nature, has improved with lessons learned, through trial and error, education, and team work with our island community and government.

Restoring and sharing of our traditional practice and knowledge in organic farming has inspired planting of new food items on island. We encourage, fishing responsibly and in season, to insure protection of rare species from extinct. A healthy environment is a great sign of a balance eco system. We succeeded in improving our business outlook to reduce, recycled and reuse everything including trash washed up on the beach for our business shelter.

Stay in our Eco-lodge tree house homestay. They were designed and built for beach and nature lovers who would not have it any other way. Hiking, snorkeling and Samoan cooking class Tours are fun eco-friendly activities offered year round at Tisa’s.

Traditional Tattooing   and Samoan Cultural arts are celebrated annually in the last weekend of October. Tisa’s Tattoo Festival, revived the Samoan Tatau and it has become one of the most sought after skin art internationally. Tattooing and cultural activities, including traditional food and music are some of the fun things to experience in this fun filled weekend of October. Want a taste of traditional Samoan tattooing tools? Welcome to the land of Samoan Tattooing and meet traditional tattooists at Tisa’s Annual Tattoo Festival. Get inked and celebrate the Samoan Tatau with the coolest people of American Samoa.


Po Ula (Nude) Friday   is an ancient event celebrated at Tisa’s. It is worth staying overnight to greet the sunrise with an organic breakfast.

Freshman Principal
2.1.4  seeder  Outis  replied to  Kavika @2.1.3    5 months ago

So much I'll never do... I envie you so profoundly.

Professor Principal
2.1.5  Kavika   replied to  Outis @2.1.4    5 months ago

Outis, you said you live in the SW. There is so much to see and do there, so many adventures just waiting for you to take advantage of them. Most everything can be a learning experience and or an adventure. 

St Augustine Fl. is the old city in America, in a way that is true, it's the oldest European-founded city in the US but the oldest continually inhabited town is Acoma Pueblo NM. Also known as the Sky City an engineering/building marvel and that dates back to 1100 AD. At an altitude of over 6,000 feet, it sits on a 300-foot-plus sandstone bluff. 

The first time that I went it was overwhelming, being a Native American I was standing on the ground that 1,000 years ago my ancestors commanded with a highly advanced society and fought off the Spanish invaders, they were eventually defeated than later they defeated the Spanish and drove them from the SW. 

Here is a link that will give you a better idea of it. 

All of the guides, and presenters are Pueblo Native Americans so you be getting the history, culture, and language from the real deal.

Freshman Principal
2.1.6  seeder  Outis  replied to  Kavika @2.1.5    5 months ago

We tried to visit Acoma some years ago, but it was closed to Anglos.

We have visited many cliff-dwelling sites. Amazing. 

I like the story that the Navajo, arriving in the region a few centuries ago, found these empty cliff-dwellings, and not knowing who had built them, named them "Anasazi" or "ancient enemy". I suppose that anyone who wasn't an ancestor was presumed to be an enemy.

When the Anglos arrived (late-comers, of course), they simply adopted the Navajo "history".

Only much later did the Anglos ask Pueblo peoples about the cliff-dwellings. "Our direct ancestors..."

Buzz of the Orient
Professor Expert
3  Buzz of the Orient    5 months ago

In my lifetime I have travelled much of America, perhaps more than many Americans, from in between my infancy when my mother carried me in a basket to Baltimore, 'till I went to my son's wedding 15 years ago, AGAIN to Baltimore.  I have been from the Hawaiian Islands to Nantucket Island, Mass., from Chicago in the north to Miami in the south, From Rochester, N.Y. to Dallas, and as Woody wrote and sang, From the Redwood Forests to the New York Islands, and many many places in between.  But as for National or State Parks, I have missed too many.  I can only remember having been to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to stand on the very edge of Mauna Loa, Pilgrim Memorial State Park to see Plymouth Rock, Muir Woods National Monument to see the redwood trees, but of all the places mentioned in the article, the one that awed me the most was standing at the foot of The Lincoln Memorial, looking up at his statue and the words carved into the walls around him.  


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