The United States has 61 protected areas known as national parks that are operated by the National Park Service. Of those 61 parks, a handful of them have become protected by UNESCO and have been named a World Heritage Site.
Established in 1972, UNESCO was founded in a bid to protect “places of importance to cultural or natural heritage” across the world and the first sites in the United States added to the list were Mesa Verde National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Now, the National Park Service has released new annual visitation highlights which reveals that for the entirety of 2018. Visiting figures exceeded 300 million for the fourth consecutive year and, in total, the 318.2 million recreation visits is the third highest since record keeping began in 1904.
“America’s national parks are national treasures that tell the story of our nation and celebrate its beauty, history and culture,” said Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “I am pleased that so many Americans and visitors from around the world continue to take advantage of the affordable and accessible recreational opportunities provided by these sites.”
As part of the data, the National Park Service also revealed which national parks are leading the way in terms of popularity. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the world’s largest remaining remnants of the diverse -Tertiary Geoflora era, is undoubtedly leading the way and recorded an incredible 11,421,200 visits for 2018. The park, containing over 3,500 plant species and numerous animal species, also includes one of the world’s greatest variety of salamanders.
Up next, unsurprisingly, was the Grand Canyon National Park and its iconic Instagram centrepiece, the gorge of the Colorado River. With 6,380,495 visits, the Grand Canyon continues to be popular.
With California’s Yosemite National Park, the Rocky Mountain National Park, Glacier National Park and more making up the top ten, here’s the full list:
The 10 most popular national park’s in America
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park — 11,421,200 visits
- Grand Canyon National Park — 6,380,495 visits
- Rocky Mountain National Park — 4,590,493 visits
- Zion National Park — 4,320,033 visits
- Yellowstone National Park — 4,115,000 visits
- Yosemite National Park — 4,009,436 visits
- Acadia National Park — 3,537,575 visits
- Grand Teton National Park — 3,491,151 visits
- Olympic National Park — 3,104,455 visits
- Glacier National Park — 2,965,309 visits
“The visitation to our national parks continues to affirm that Americans are in love with their public lands and hold dear the stories of our nation embodied in the natural, cultural and historic landscapes we protect in the National Park System,” National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith added.
On top of the impressive visitor figures, America’s national parks also enjoyed in excess of 13,950,759 overnight stays which is another leading statistic. Furthermore, 17 parks broke the records that they had previously set in 2017.