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2010 National Park Visitation: Popular Parks Attract More Visitors

Yellowstone experienced the biggest attendance jump of any national park in 2010, attracting 344,998 more recreational visitors than it drew in 2009, according to preliminary visitation statistics published by the National Park Service. (When viewing the NPS chart, switch the date from January 2011 to December 2010 to see year-end numbers.)

Yellowstone, the nation's oldest national park (1872), set a new annual attendance record for the second straight year, recording more than 3.6 million recreation visitors in 2010. The NPS defines "recreation visitors" as people who enter a park neither to work nor to commute to work.

Yellowstone attracted a record number of visitors for a single month in July with more than 957,000 visitors. A USA Today article reports that park officials attribute the rise in 2010 visitation an emphasis on domestic travel and stable gas prices. A related article from USA Today (with accompanying video) describes what makes Yellowstone appealing to visitors during winter.

The NPS administers 58 national parks in its collection of 394 properties, which range from the Statue of Liberty (a national monument with 3.8 million visitors in 2010) to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which tops all NPS-administered units with 14.5 million visitors.

The top 20 national parks are listed below. Rocky Mountain National Park climbed to No. 5 on the list. Grand Teton jumped to No. 7 from ninth in 2009. Acadia, with an increase of more than 276,000 visitors, rose to No. 9. Glacier saw the third-highest increase in visitation with more than 195,000 visitors during 2010, the park's centennial year. Final visitation figures, which will include all 394 NPS units, are due in late February.

Some parks count all visitors, recreational and nonrecreational, when they announce their annual visitation stats. For example, Yosemite recently announced that in 2010 the park exceeded 4 million visitors (4,047,880) for the first time since 1996 and Bryce Canyon touted a record visitation figure (1,782,333) for 2010. Both totals include recreational and nonrecreational figures. The charts below include only recreational visitors.

I spent time (though not nearly enough) in Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks last year. What's on your to-visit list in 2011?

Rank    Park 2010 visitors     2009 rank
   1 Great Smoky Mountains        9,463,538        1
   2 Grand Canyon    4,388,385        2
   3 Yosemite    3,901,408        3
   4 Yellowstone    3,640,185        4
   5 Rocky Mountain    2,955,820        6
   6 Olympic    2,844,561        5
   7 Grand Teton    2,682,573        9
   8 Zion    2,665,972        7
   9 Acadia    2,504,208      10
 10 Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)    2,483,640        8
 11 Glacier    2,226,755      11
 12 Joshua Tree    1,434,976      12
 13 Hot Springs (Ark.)    1,311,807      13
 14 Hawaii Volcanoes    1,304,666      14
 15 Bryce Canyon    1,285,490      15
 16 Shenandoah    1,253,385      17
 17 Mount Rainier    1,191,754      16
 18 Haleakala    1,029,645      18
 19 Arches    1,022,826      19
 20 Sequoia    1,002,979      20

2010 Visitor Count Flucuation in the Top 20

Park Compared to 2009
Yellowstone     up 344,998
Acadia     up 276,510
Glacier     up 195,407
Yosemite     up 163,936
Rocky Mountain     up 133,495
Shenandoah     up 132,404
Joshua Tree     up 130,505
Grand Teton     up 102,492
Hawaii Volcanoes       up 71,561
Bryce Canyon       up 69,113
Grand Canyon       up 40,317
Mount Rainier       up 40,100
Sequoia       up 37,809
Hot Springs       up 27,100
Arches       up 26,514
Great Smoky Mountains      down 27,899
Zion   down 69,430
Haleakala   down 79,459
Cuyahoga Valley down 105,648
Olympic down 431,898
Source: National Park Service Public Use Statistics Office

Posted on at 7:01 PM

Tagged: 2009, 2010, Acadia, Rocky Mountain, glacier, grand teton, national parks, visitation and yellowstone

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