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These were the most (and least) popular national parks in 2023

These were the most (and least) popular national parks in 2023
Posted at 3:56 PM, Mar 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-18 09:46:04-04

We may live in an age of technology, when digital stimuli and bright screens constantly vie for our attention, but many folks still long to find awe and adventure in the great outdoors. The 2023 visitation data from the National Park Service (NPS) indicates that more people than ever before are exploring our country’s preserved lands and historic sites.

According to data across 400 national parks, there were a total of 325.5 million recreation visits in 2023, which is an increase of 13 million over 2022. Thirteen million more visits!

And it’s not just the big names like Grand Canyon and Yosemite — lesser-known sites are seeing more visitors than ever, too.

MORE: You can visit the national parks for free on these days in 2024

lighthouse in Acadia National Park at sunset
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“Our national parks tell our shared American story,” National Park Service director Chuck Sams said in a statement. “I’m glad visitors are finding hidden gems, exploring in the off-season and finding new ways to have a great time in our national parks.”

The NPS also highlighted 20 parks and historical sites that broke visitation records in 2023, including Joshua Tree, which did seem to be heavily featured on Instagram feeds last year.

The popular southern California destination with its twisty trees and desert vibes saw a record-breaking 3.2 million visits in 2023.

MORE: Here’s the ultimate road trip to visit most of the national parks

Joshua Tree National Park at night
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The list of the top 10 most popular national parks is largely the same as the one from 2022, with a few changes. Newcomers to the top 10 include Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Olympic National Park in Washington state, while Montana’s Glacier National Park and Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park fell off the top 10 list in 2023.

Meanwhile, Yellowstone National Park moved from seventh to fourth place on the list, with well over a million more visits in 2023 than 2022.

sunset over Great Smoky Mountains
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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park held steady at No. 1, as it has for years, seeing an incredible 13 million visits in 2023. At least some of those visitors were there to see the magical synchronous fireflies display in May.

Top 10 Most-Visited National Parks of 2023

10. Olympic National Park: 2.948 million visits

9. Joshua Tree National Park: 3.270 million visits

8. Grand Teton National Park: 3.417 million visits

7. Acadia National Park: 3.879 million visits

6. Yosemite National Park: 3.897 million visits

5. Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.116 million visits

4. Yellowstone National Park: 4.501 million visits

3. Zion National Park: 4.623 million visits

2. Grand Canyon National Park: 4.733 million visits

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 13.297 million visits

mossy trees in Olympic National Park
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Top 10 Least-Visited National Parks of 2023

Even though this list of the “bottom 10” is similar to that of 2022, visitation numbers for some of them jumped significantly year over year. The National Park of American Samoa, for example, reported 1,887 visits in 2022 — and 12,135 in 2023!

Still, if you’re looking to get way off the beaten path so you can really ditch the crowds, these national parks are your best bet.

10. Great Basin National Park: 143,265 visits

9. Dry Tortugas National Park: 84,285 visits

8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve: 78,305 visits

7. North Cascades National Park: 40,351 visits

6. Katmai National Park & Preserve: 33,763 visits

5. Isle Royale National Park: 28,965 visits

4. Kobuk Valley National Park: 17,616 visits

3. Lake Clark National Park & Preserve: 16,728 visits

2. National Park of American Samoa: 12,135 visits

1. Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve: 11,045 visits

Kate Emswiler and Sarah Kuta contributed to this report.


These were the most (and least) popular national parks in 2023 originally appeared on Simplemost.com