Blog Post Jennifer Errick Mar 8, 2018

The 10 National Park Sites with More Than 5 Million Recreational Visitors in 2017

National parks continued to serve as popular tourist destinations in 2017, with dozens of sites seeing all-time highs in numbers of recreational visits. Here are the 10 most-visited places in the National Park System.

The National Park Service released its recreational visitation statistics for last year, and while the overall tally of nearly 331 million visits was a bit below the agency’s record-breaking numbers in 2016, many individual parks continued to see all-time highs in visits. Visitors also spent more time in national parks in 2017 than they did in 2016, racking up 1.44 billion hours at their destinations, up about 19 million hours from the previous year.

Here are the 10 most-visited sites in the National Park System, all of which saw more than 5 million visitors last year.

ParkRecreational Visits
1. Blue Ridge Parkway16,093,765
2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area14,981,897
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park11,388,893
4. Gateway National Recreation Area9,190,610
5. Lincoln Memorial7,956,117
6. Lake Mead National Recreation Area7,882,339
7. George Washington Memorial Parkway7,562,793
8. Natchez Trace Parkway6,326,062
9. Grand Canyon National Park6,254,238
10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial5,072,589

A few other interesting facts from the National Park Service:

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Who Counts? A Closer Look at Parks’ Record Visitation Numbers

Every year, the Park Service releases its official statistics on visitation at national park sites around the country. How does the agency come up with these numbers? With vehicle multipliers,…

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  • Just 27 park sites were responsible for half of all the recreational visits across the park system.
  • Of the 385 national park sites that count their recreational visits, 61 set records for all-time highs. These parks include landmark historic sites like Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, which topped more than 170,000 visits for the first time, as well as high-traffic destinations like Grand Canyon National Park, which topped 6 million visits for the first time.
  • Great Smoky Mountains continued to be the most-visited of all national parks (versus park sites with other designations, such as national battlefields, national historic sites, national monuments and national seashores). This overwhelmingly popular destination saw 5 million more visitors than Grand Canyon, the second-most-visited national park, and both set visitation records in 2017.

Read a statement from NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno on the significance of these statistics, an NPCA explainer on the methodology behind how the Park Service tracks these numbers, and the official Park Service press release with other interesting facts about visitation in 2017.


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About the author

  • Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications

    Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes and edits a wide variety of online content. She has won multiple awards for her audio storytelling.