October 26, 2020

America Is Filled With Incredible National Parks, And Here Are 20 Of The Most Popular Ones

Billion is a pretty big number. (To wit: A million seconds equals about 11 days, but a billion seconds is almost 32 years.) So it’s all the more incredible that the National Park Service’s records have registered over 14 billion visits since 1904. That’s nearly twice the planet’s population. It’s greater than the number of years the universe has existed at all.

Those massive crowds keep coming because of the parks’ enduring power. Parks—“America’s best idea”—preserve wildlife and wild places, provide vital recreation, and create priceless cultural spaces. And while it’s well worth a trip to each of the system’s 418 parks (60 of which are “national”), there are certainly some heavy hitters among them.

Check out this photo gallery to learn about each of the top 20 most visited national parks, and explore this graphic to see how their stats stack up.

1. Yellowstone National Park Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho

Established in 1872 as the first U.S. national park, Yellowstone is arguably also the most unique. Its 2.2 million acres fall mainly in Wyoming and sit atop one of the continent’s largest active supervolcanoes, whose 2-million-year history formed a diverse eco-system of lakes, canyons, rivers, and mountain ranges and left a landscape dotted with thousands of geysers, mud pots, hot springs, and fumaroles. Yellowstone is also a wonderful place to view wildlife, with its large wolf population and herds of bison, elk, antelope, and other animals. Many families combine a trip to Yellowstone with nearby Grand Teton National Park, just 10 miles to the south. Reserve accommodations at a Yellowstone lodge or campground. Before you go, check out Wolfquest, an interactive 3D game that teaches kids about wolf ecology and behavior.

ADDRESS: Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA

2. Yosemite National Park California

 

Protected since 1864, ​Yosemite is California’s first national park. It is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and a vast wilderness area. ​Reserve accommodations at a Yosemite lodge or campground.

ADDRESS: California, USA
PHONE +1 209-372-0200
WEB: Visit website

3. Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

The second most-visited of all American national parks, Arizona’s ​Grand Canyon National Park belongs on every family’s bucket list.​​ Reserve accommodations at a Grand Canyon lodge or campground.​ Mule trips of various lengths are available, leaving from both the South Rim and North Rim.​ The SkyWalk viewing platform is a top attraction run by the Hualapai Tribe just outside the park in Grand Canyon West.

ADDRESS: California, USA
PHONE +1 209-372-0200
WEB: Visit website

4. Zion National Park Utah

Utah’s first national park is named after Zion Canyon, 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through red and tan sandstone. The park features massive sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, and a unique array of plants and animals.

Many families combine a trip to ​Zion with Bryce Canyon National Park, 78 miles away. Both parks are included in Utah’s Mighty 5. ​Ranger-led programs include hikes, talks, and evening activities.

ADDRESS:Utah, USA
PHONE: +1 435-772-3256
WEB: Visit website

5. Glacier National Park Montana

The one million acres of Montana wilderness in Glacier National Park contain two mountain ranges, more than 130 lakes, and thousands of plant and animal species. It is a jaw-droppingly beautiful wonderland of pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, spectacular lakes, and 700 miles of trails. The 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most iconic scenic drives in America. In the summer, ranger-led activities include guided walks and boat tours.

ADDRESS: Montana, USA
PHONE +1 406-888-7800
WEB: Visit website

6. Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

In northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range and the northern Jackson Hole Valley. It is just 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park. The two parks are connected by the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.​ Ranger-led programs include hikes, talks, and evening programs.

ADDRESS: Wyoming, USA
PHONE +1 307-739-3300
WEB: Visit website

7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive subaerial volcano. The park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna. Before you go, you should check to see if there are alerts for visiting this park since these are active volcanoes.​ Ranger-led activities include guided hikes, daytime talks, and “after dark in the park” presentations.

ADDRESS: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718, USA
PHONE +1 808-985-6000
WEB Visit website

8. Acadia National Park Maine

The first eastern national park is set on the rugged coast of Maine. The park is home to myriad plants and animals, as well as the tallest mountain on the Atlantic Coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the coastal scenery. Families can explore the park with Acadia Quest, a scavenger hunt-like activity.

ADDRESS: Maine, USA
PHONE +1 207-288-3338
WEB Visit website

9. Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not a canyon at all. Instead, it is a collection of giant natural amphitheaters formed by hoodoos—tall, thin spires of rock up to 150 feet high. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks make for spectacular views.

Many families combine a trip to Bryce Canyon with Zion National Park, 78 miles away. Both are included in Utah’s Mighty 5. Ranger-led activities include guided hikes, evening talks, and stargazing. Kids can sign up to be a geodetective and get a special patch.

ADDRESS: Utah, USA
PHONE +1 435-834-5322
WEB Visit website

10. . Mount Rainier National Park Washington

Dominated by its namesake volcano, which towers at 14,410 feet and last erupted in the 1800s, Rainier is America’s fifth-oldest national park. Visit in the spring and you’ll witness cascading waterfalls; come in the summer, and wildflowers abound; or arrive in the fall when the foliage puts on a colorful show. Ranger-led activities include guided hikes and campfire talks and night-sky presentations. The Citizen Ranger program for older kids and families includes self-guided quests and the chance to participate in the MeadoWatch scientific project.

ADDRESS: Washington, USA
PHONE +1 360-569-2211
WEB Visit website

11. Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles include spectacular mountain environments in Colorado. Trail Ridge Road crests at more than 12,000 feet, with many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds, along with more than 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, and wildlife.​ Ranger-led programs include astronomy outings, wildlife viewing and hikes.

ADDRESS: Colorado, USA
PHONE +1 970-586-1206
WEB Visit website

12. Badlands National Park South Dakota

The dramatic Badlands landscape in South Dakota contains one of the world’s richest fossil beds, once home to ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat. The park’s 244,000 acres protect a mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today. Families can explore the park with a ​GPS Adventure.

ADDRESS: South Dakota, USA
PHONE +1 605-433-5361
WEB Visit website

13. Sequoia National Park California

The second-oldest national park after Yellowstone, California’s Sequoia National Park is famous for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, one of the largest trees on Earth. The park is contiguous to the north with Kings Canyon National Park, whose General Grant Grove is home to the General Grant tree and other giant sequoias. Together Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks contain 202,430 acres of old-growth forests. Ranger-led activities include guided hikes and campfire talks and night-sky presentations.

ADDRESS: 47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271, USA
PHONE +1 559-565-3341
WEB Visit website

14. Olympic National Park Washington

Olympic National Park in Washington State is like three parks in one, taking you from breathtaking mountain vistas with meadows of wildflowers to colorful ocean tidepools and valleys of ancient forests. About 95 percent of the park is wilderness. ​There are many kid-friendly hikes in Olympic National Park.

ADDRESS: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362, USA
PHONE +1 360-565-3130
WEB Visit website

15. Arches National Park Utah

Located just outside of Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty 5. It is known for its 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the famous Delicate Arch, and a wide variety of unique geological resources and formations.​ Ranger-led programs include guided hikes through the Fiery Furnace and evening programs.

ADDRESS: Utah, USA
PHONE +1 435-719-2299
WEB Visit website

16. Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee, North Carolina

The most-visited of all American national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the boundaries of North Carolina and Tennessee and offers breathtaking scenery and wildlife viewing as well as remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. If you’re there between mid-May and mid-June, don’t miss the synchronous firefly viewing event.

ADDRESS: United States
PHONE +1 865-436-1200
WEB Visit website

17. Joshua Tree National Park California

Named for the trees native to the park, 1,200-square-mile ​Joshua Tree National Park is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island. Much of the park is wilderness and includes parts of two deserts, the higher Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert. There are 12 self-guided nature trails, some as short as a half-mile, which are perfect for young children.​ Ranger-led activities include guided wildflower walks, evening talks, and stargazing.

ADDRESS: California, USA
PHONE +1 760-367-5500
WEB Visit website

18. Death Valley National Park California/Nevada

Death Valley National Park sits in the westernmost region of California and partially spans into neighbouring Nevada.

This intrepid part of California contains vast stretches of the Mojave Desert, salt-flats, Badlands, canyons and gorgeous sand dunes. Death Valley has been designated an International Biosphere reserve and contains some important ecological end environmental features.

Notable landmarks of the valley include Mosaic Canyon, Mesquite Springs, Lake Badwater, the Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater Basin. Popular activities in the park include mountain biking, hiking, wilderness camping, and even motor biking.

ADDRESS: Death Valley, CA 92328

Phone: (760) 786-3200

Web: Visit website

19. Shenandoah National Park Virginia

The 105-mile Skyline Drive traces the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering many jumping-off points into Virginia’s 200,000-acre Shenandoah National Park. Just 123 miles from Washington, Shenandoah offers myriad ways to explore through hiking, biking, paddling, and horseback riding.​​ ​Ranger-led activities include guided hikes, nature workshops, and educational programs.

ADDRESS: Virginia, USA
PHONE +1 540-999-3500
WEB Visit website

20. Cuyahoga Valley National Park Ohio

Ohio’s only national park preserves and reclaims the rural landscape along the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland. Twenty miles of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail makes up the major trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad has traveled through the park for more than 100 years and still is a good way to view the park’s scenery. Families can hike or bike along the flat Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Many families hike or bike one way and take the train back.

ADDRESS: Ohio, USA
PHONE +1 330-657-2752
WEB Visit website