As the days lengthen and temperatures begin to rise, summer is just around the corner. It’s time to begin stowing away your ski gear and dusting off the old hiking boots. Whether you’re reading this list to see which national parks to avoid due to crowds, or you’re looking for a beautiful mountain getaway, here’s a list of the most visited national parks of 2020.
Many people believe national park visitation was up last year, but that is actually a common misconception. The huge increase in demand for outdoor gear last summer created the illusion that everyone was flocking to national parks. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic left national parks with their own list of closures and visitor limitations, which led to a 28% decrease in visitors, according to the National Park Service. Despite experiencing a decreased number of visitors, national parks still welcomed tens of millions of people into their somewhat open arms last year.
#1 Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Located between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosted 12.1 million visitors last year, making it the most visited national park of 2020. This is no surprise considering it has won this title every year since 1944. With over 800 miles of hiking trails, dozens of historic structures, an abundance of diverse plant and animal life, zero entrance fee, and its proximity to several major cities, it’s no wonder that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is at the top of the list.
#2 Yellowstone National Park
- Stretching from Wyoming to Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park was the second most visited national park of 2020 with 3.8 million visitors. Renown for its geological activity, breathtaking views, and immense size, Yellowstone National Park attracts visitors from all around the world.
#3 Zion National Park
- Located in Utah, Zion National Park was the third most visited national park of 2020 with 3.3 million visitors. Featuring massive red and pink sandstone cliffs and magnificent slot canyons, an adventure to Zion National Park should definitely be at the top of your bucket list.
#4 Rocky Mountain National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado saw 3.3 million visitors last year. Located close to Denver and Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular destination for local Colorado residents and tourists.
#5 Grand Teton National Park
- Located in Wyoming and approximately 480 square miles, Grand Teton National Park hosted 3.3 million visitors last year. Well know for the iconic Grand Tetons and surrounded by world-class skiing, Grand Teton National Park is a must-see destination for any outdoor enthusiast.
- #6 Cuyahoga Valley National Park: 2.7 million visitors
- #7 Acadia National Park: 2.7 million visitors
- #8 Olympic National Park: 2.5 million visitors
- #9 Joshua Tree National Park: 2.4 million visitors