Arches National Park is a red, arid desert, peppered with oddly eroded sandstone forms such as fins, pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks, and arches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Park Service Records Third Consecutive Visitation Record

A total of 331 million recreation visits to America’s national parks were recorded in 2016—the third consecutive all-time attendance record for the National Park Service.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota registered 996,263 recreation visits in 2016, up from 989,354 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota registered 996,263 recreation visits in 2016, up from 989,354 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made the announcement during a stop at Glacier National Park where he met with Park Superintendent Jeff Mow to discuss the park’s maintenance backlog and received a traditional spiritual blessing from members of the Blackfeet Nation. In 2016, Glacier broke attendance records attracting nearly three million visitors.

“Our National Parks are our national treasures, and it’s important to recognize that they are more than just beautiful landscapes,” said Zinke in a news release.

“Growing up near Glacier National Park, I understand the value these places bring to local economies and in preserving our heritage. As we enter into a second century of service and visitation numbers continue to increase, we will focus on maintenance backlogs and ensuring these special places are preserved for future generations.”

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia and Tennessee registered 1,027,738 recreation visits in 2016, up from 1,002,373 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

    Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia and Tennessee registered 1,027,738 recreation visits in 2016, up from 1,002,373 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Park Service 2016 visitation highlights include:

  • 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016—up 7.7 percent or 23.7 million visits over 2015
  • 1.4 billion hours spent by visitors in parks—up 7 percent or 93 million hours over 2015
  • 15,430,454 overnight stays in parks—up 2.5 percent over 2015
  • 2,543,221 National Park campground RV overnights—up 12.5 percent over 2015
  • 2,154,698 backcountry overnights—up 6.7 percent over 2015
  • 3,858,162 National park campground tent overnights—up 4.8 percent over 2015
  • 10 million recreation visits at four parks—Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
  • More than 5 million recreation visits at 12 parks (3 percent of reporting parks)
  • 80 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits (21 percent of reporting parks)
  • 382 of the 417 parks in the National Park system count visitors and 77 of those parks set a new record for annual recreation visits. This is about 20 percent of reporting parks.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota registered 753,880 recreation visits in 2016, up from 580,033 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota registered 753,880 recreation visits in 2016, up from 580,033 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional highlights:

Top 10 Visitation

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota registered 2,431,231 recreation visits in 2016, up from 2,144,808 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota registered 2,431,231 recreation visits in 2016, up from 2,144,808 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All Parks of the National Park System

  1. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California—15,638,777
  2. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia—15,175,578
  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee—11,312,786
  4. George Washington Memorial Parkway—Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. —10,323,339
  5. Gateway National Recreation Area, New Jersey and New York—8,651,770
  6. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. —7,915,934
  7. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona and Nevada—7,175,891
  8. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona—5,969,811
  9. Natchez Trace Parkway, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee—5,891,315
  10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. —5,299,713
Clingsman Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee registered 11,312,786 recreation visits in 2016, up from 10,712,674 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clingsman Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee registered 11,312,786 recreation visits in 2016, up from 10,712,674 visits in 2015. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Parks

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee—11,312,786
  2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona—5,969,811
  3. Yosemite National Park, California—5,028,868
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado—4,517,585
  5. Zion National Park, Utah—4,295,127
  6. Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—4,257,177
  7. Olympia National Park, Washington—3,390,221
  8. Acadia National Park, Maine—3,303,393
  9. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming—3,270,076
  10. Glacier National Park, Montana—2,946,681

Worth Pondering…

National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.

—Wallace Stegner, 1983

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