Do you see yourself in the chart below? It lists the top 20 of 58 national parks within the National Park Service system that attracted the most "recreational visits" in 2011. The NPS defines recreational visitors as people who enter a park neither to work nor to commute to work.
Of the nearly 400 units the National Park Service administers, from national seashores to national military parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway attracted the higest number of visits (15,382,447), followed by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (14,567,487). Great Smoky Mountains National Park, always the leader among natural national parks, places third on the overall NPS list.
National parks attracted 62,614,260 recreational visits in 2011, more than any other property category administered by the NPS, followed by national recreation areas (47,365,896). Overall, visitation to NPS sites dropped for the second straight year, from 281,303,769 in 2010 and 285,579,941 in 2009. Still, 2011 visitation was higher than all years between 2002 and 2008.
The order of the top 20 national parks rarely changes, though late-spring snowfalls that lingered deep into summer likely altered visitation patterns a bit in 2011. A friend and I wound up scratching a mid-August visit to Yellowstone and the Tetons, where high-country trails were still largely snow-covered, and headed to Zion and Bryce Canyon instead. Good call. Zion, I was reminded, is just a fantastic place.
Did you visit any of the top 20 last year? Are you targeting any of these parks in 2012?
|Rank||Park||2011 visitors||2010 rank|
|1||Great Smoky Mountains||9,008,830||1|
|10||Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)||2,161,185||10|
|12||Hot Springs (Ark.)||1,396,354||13|
2011 Visitor Count Flucuation in the Top 20
|Park||Compared to 2010|
|Rocky Mountain||up 221,121|
|Hot Springs (Ark.)||up 84,547|
|Hawaii Volcanoes||up 47,457|
|Bryce Canyon||up 10,510|
|Joshua Tree||down 38,739|
|Grand Canyon||down 90,207|
|Grand Teton||down 95,136|
|Mount Rainier||down 153,525|
|Cuyahoga Valley||down 322,455|
|Great Smoky Mountains||down 454,708|
Source: National Park Service Public Use Statistics Office
Photo of Double Arch, Arches National Park, by T.D. Wood