Top 10 Most Visited National Parks in the US

By: iTopTopics Staff

United States of America has been bestowed with beautiful and diverse landscapes. Our magnificent national parks are our natural treasures. Based on the statistic report from National Park Service, we have the list of the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States. Come out to nature and enjoy the natural wonders our beautiful country has to offer! Share with us your experiences if you have been to one of these national parks before.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sunrise at Great Smoky Mountains, photo by: Justin Mier

Great Smoky Mountains National Park with its forest stretches from North Carolina to Tennessee is the most biodiverse park in the National Park system. It was known in the world for its diversity of plants and wildlife, fungi and other organisms, ridge upon ridge of beautiful ancient mountains, its remnants of one of the oldest mountain systems on Earth, the Southern Appalachian Mountains which dated back 250 million years ago. Every year over 200,000 visitors hike well-worn trails to view Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow, and other popular waterfalls in the park. The park offers more than 100 waterfalls and cascades along a 2,000-mile stretch and 800 miles of hiking trails. According to the NPS data, there were 11,312,786 visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains in 2016, more than twice as many visitors as Grand Canyon National Park, the second most visited.

2. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Photo by Timothy K Hamilton

Grand Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world, is the 2nd most visited national park in the United States in 2016 with more than 5.9 million visitors. Grand Canyon locates in the state of Arizona, US with 277 miles of river (446 km), some areas up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and a mile (1.6 km) deep. Grand Canyon offers spectacular view of unique combinations of geologic color and erosion forms. The exposed geologic strata - layer upon layer of limestone - rise over a mile above the river, representing one of the most complete records of geological history that can be seen anywhere in the world. Geologic formations such as gneiss and schist found at the bottom of the Canyon date back 1,800 million years. Grand Canyon is considered to be semi-arid dessert but with different elevations along the 8,000-foot gradient, there are distinct habitats found in the entire park. Colorado River runs through the canyon. There are riparian vegetation and sandy beaches near the river. Above the river corridor is a dessert scrub community with a wide variety of cacti & other dessert species. Areas with elevation above 6,200 feet are homes to ponderosa pines and spruce-fir forest. Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses and continues to draw more and more visitors to travel into this great chasm and unfold the geological events, which formed this magnificent wonder million years ago.

3. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Photo by David Kingham

Ranking at #3 on the list of most visited national parks in the United States, Yosemite is an expansive park of 747,956 acres (1,169 square miles) in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. About 95 percent of its land are designated Wilderness. Yosemite is home to hundreds of wildlife species, and over a thousand plant species. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is known for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves and biological diversity. Over 5 million visitors have visited the park in 2016. Yosemite is not just a great valley. With its glaciated landscape, and the scenery that resulted from the interaction of the glaciers and the underlying rocks, Yosemite has become an iconic symbol of strength, of the life persistence and of tranquility.

John Muir, a Scottish American naturalist and glaciologist, found the healing shrine in the beauty of Yosemite, wrote: “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, photo by Jim Liestman

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highest national parks in the nation, with elevations from 7,860 feet to 14,259 feet. Sixty mountain peaks over 12,000 feet high result in world-renowned scenery spanned over 415 square miles of mountain environments. Ancient glaciers carved the topography into an amazing range of ecological zones. Elemental forces of sky and earth still shape the sturdy rock foundation that supports life up to 14,000 feet above sea level. The top third of the park encompasses the alpine tundra, a windswept land above the trees. Landscapes on either side of the Continental Divide feature alpine lakes, forested valleys and a wide range of plants and animals. Iconic summer thunderstorms and persistent winter winds are among the forces that continue to shape this majestic landscape. The park offers over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times. In 2016, there are over 4.5 million visitors came to see the majestic scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park.

5. Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Photo by Tom Fear

Zion National Park locates in southwestern counties of Utah with 232 square miles of high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep sandstone canyons running along the Virgin River and its tributaries. Though the Virgin River is relatively small, it is incredibly steep. The river drops roughly 7,800 feet in the 160 miles it travels. This water erosion continues to carve and shape Zion. Zion has 2,000-foot Navajo sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens. With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion's diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. To fully experience the enchanting beauty of Zion, you should plan to hike the same paths where the pioneers walked on, gazing up the clear blue sky to see the impressive color imprints of sandstone cliffs. In 2016, there are roughly 4.3 million visitors came to the park to witness this magnificent display of nature beauty.

6. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Photo by James St. John

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world and at 28,000 square miles, it is larger than some U.S. states and one of the largest, nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth. Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park to protect geothermal areas that contain about half the world's active geysers, the park also forms the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and to preserves a great variety of terrestrial, aquatic, and microbial life. Nearly 90 percent of the park has barely been touched or altered by human. This makes the park an invaluable natural reserve and reservoir of information. Yellowstone National Park has some of the Earth’s most active volcanic, hydrothermal (water + heat), and earthquake systems. Underneath Yellowstone, there lies one of the world's largest volcanoes. Yellowstone is one of the most seismically active areas in the United States. Approximately 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes occur each year in the Yellowstone area; most are not felt. Visitors couldn’t help but wonder if there is a cataclysmic eruption of the Yellowstone volcanoes. The answer is very unlikely. With new technology to monitor the seismic activities and ground deformations help to detect earthquakes and foreseeable events to ensure public safety. Every year, an average of 3 to 4 million visitors came to witness the hidden power of nature rising up and exploded in colorful hot springs and geysers. In 2016, Yellowstone National Park was ranked at #6 most visited national park in US with 4.25 million spectators.

7. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

The Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rainforest, photo by Nagarajan Kanna

Olympic National Park encompasses nearly a million acres on Washington's Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest. With its incredible range of precipitation and elevation, diversity is the hallmark of Olympic National Park. There are three ecosystems containing a unique array of habitats and life forms like rugged glacier-capped mountains, wild pacific coast and magnificent old-growth temperate rain forest; all resulting from thousands of years of geographic isolation, and extreme gradients of elevation, temperature, and precipitation. The rainforest of Olympic National Park form a dynamic green canvas from tree line to coast. Heavy snow, avalanches, fire, wind storms, landslides and flooding all interact to rearrange the colors of the forests. But the resulting forests are vibrant, ever-changing shades of greens, textures, species and ages. Join 3.4 million visitors who have visited Olympic National Park in 2016 to immerse yourself under this tranquil and dynamic green multi-layered canopy of nature.

8. Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park, photo by Kim Carpenter

Acadia National Park, top 8th most visited US national park in 2016 with nearly 3.4 million visitors, spans 47,000-acre along Atlantic coast area, primarily on Maine's Mount Desert Island. There is no other park like Acadia in North America. Rocky beaches, woodland and glacier granite peaks create majestic scenery of Acadia National Park. The resilient land of Acadia National Park began rising after glaciers retreated north around 15,000 years ago. Ridges of granite were sculpted by glaciers measuring up to 9,000 feet thick; create the landscape of Acadia that we see today. Acadia National Park is blanketed with forests and woodlands that are situated in the transition zone of two ecoregions: the northern boreal forest and the eastern deciduous forest.

9. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Photo by Kim Seng

Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park attracts nearly 3.3 million visitors in 2016. The Teton Range rises more than 7,000 feet above the valley of Jackson Hole. The elevation of the park ranges from 6,320 feet on the sagebrush-dominated valley floor to 13,770 feet on the windswept granite summit of the Grand Teton. Between the peaks and the valley, there are forests blanketed the mountainsides. Early spring, you can hear the rushing water from many creeks and streams cascade down rocky canyons to larger lakes at bottom of the range. The mountain range imprints a majestic reflection on these crystal-clear alpine lakes on calm days. During summer, wildflowers paint meadows in vibrant colors. The Snake River runs through the valley and winds around the canyons. The climate at Grand Teton National Park can be extremely harsh. The coldest temperature ever recorded at the park was -63°F. The national park has a long winter. From November to May, it was blanketed with snow. Short, warm summers provide an awakening and rebirth to all livings. Grand Teton National Park offers more than 200 miles of trail for visitors to explore the park and take in the beauty of this magnificent place.

10. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

The Edge of Glacier National Park at Sunrise, photo by Trey Ratcliff

Glacier National Park is named for its prominent glacier-carved terrain and remnant glaciers descended from the ice ages of 10,000 years past. Bedrock and deposited materials exposed by receding glaciers tell a story of ancient seas, geologic faults and uplifting, and the movement of giant slabs of the earth's ancient crust overlaying younger strata. It creates spectacular scenery and a paradise to hikers who seek beauty and tranquility in nature. Glacier National Park with its diverse in climate and its location at the headwaters of the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic and Hudson Bay drainages have given rise to an incredible variety of plants and animals. Glacier National Park, known as the Crown of the Continent, was designated International Biosphere Reserves as its neighboring Waterton Lakes National Park across the border in Canada. Together, they were recognized in 1995 as a World Heritage Site. The serene and dynamic environment of Glacier National Park drawn 2.95 million visitors in 2016 to the park.

We would expect more and more domestic and international visitors coming to our beautiful national parks and enjoy the gifts nature bestowed upon our great nation. If you have visited any of these national parks before, we’d love to hear about your experiences. Share it with your friends for a future travel plan.