The United States is filled with jaw-dropping scenery and epic destinations from coast to coast, but nothing beats our national parks. Our country’s national parks educate and inspire. Ready to plan your trip? Check out the top ten most visited national parks of 2020, add a few to your bucket list, and hit the road!1
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This is America’s most visited national park and is home to more than 100 species of trees and 1,600+ types of flowering plants. People come from across the country to take in its views, especially during the fall when the foliage is bright and beautiful. This park straddles the North Carolina/Tennessee border, so if you’re trying to check a few states off your bucket list, Great Smoky might be just the place for you.
- Not to Miss: Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest point in the park, standing at 6,643 ft above sea level. The observation tower boasts incredible 360° views for those who want to make the trek to the top.
- Recreational Visits: 12.1 million
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is truly one of the most wondrous places on earth. Established as the first U.S. national park, it spans a region of nearly 3,500 square miles across Northwestern Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It features lakes, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, canyons, ample wildlife, and nearly ten thousand geothermal features. There’s something for everyone!
- Not to Miss: Old Faithful. Few visitors leave the park without seeing Old Faithful herself. While Old Faithful is one of over 500 geysers located here, it is one of just six total that erupt on a predictable schedule.
- Recreational Visits: 3.8 million
Zion National Park
Zion is actually Utah’s first, and most visited, national park. It’s known for its red walls of sandstone surrounding the park, as well as its jaw-dropping views. Zion is a hiker’s paradise with a large variety of trails for all experience levels. Don’t forget to check out Utah’s other four incredibly popular national parks when visiting. They’re called “The Mighty Five” for a reason!
- Not to Miss: Angels Landing and The Narrows. Angels Landing is considered one of Zion’s more strenuous hikes, but the views are worth every arduous step. The Narrows is another great option if you want to see and experience the crystal clear water of the Virgin River, which runs right through the center of Zion.
- Recreational Visits: 3.6 million
Rocky Mountain National Park
If you enjoy spectacular mountain views, vast hiking trails, and abundant wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park might be your ideal destination. The park, found in northern Colorado, spans the Continental Divide and is home to more than 300 miles of trails for hikers of every level.
- Not to Miss: Trail Ridge Road AKA Highway to the Sky. Many popular sights are found along this road, and the road itself is considered one of the most scenic routes in the U.S.
- Recreational Visits: 3.3 million
Grand Teton National Park
Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, this park is home to 310,000 acres of meadows, streams, and incredible views of the Teton mountain range. Get your hiking boots ready: Grand Teton has many hiking trails for all experience levels – 242 miles of trails to be exact.
- Not to Miss: Mormon Row. This line of 6 uniform buildings settled in the 1890s by Mormons from the Salt Lake region is a famous/historic spot located in the southeast corner of the park.
- Recreational Visits: 3.3 million
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is massive at 1.2+ million acres and parts of the park can be visited year-round. We love the variety of activities this park provides, whether you’re into biking, hiking, or photography – this U.S treasure has got you covered. This park is on just about everyone’s bucket list, and for good reason.
- Not to Miss: Mather Point. This is one of the most popular destinations in the park, thanks to its proximity to the main entrance. Mather Point’s viewing area is extensive and is just over 7,000 feet in elevation. For most, this will be the first viewpoint that they see the Grand Canyon so you’ll be hearing a lot of “Oohs” and “Ahhs” in this area. You can see almost a quarter of the entire Grand Canyon from Mather Point.
- Recreational Visits: 2.9 million
Cuyahoga National Park
Between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga provides relaxation and refuge to many Ohio natives and visitors as the state’s only national park. The park houses a variety of plant and animal species and even a few waterfalls. It’s an ideal location for biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
- Not to Miss: The Ledges. This popular 2.2-mile trail is a must-see for visitors. The moss-covered rock formations that line the trails are breathtaking, but make sure to take your time as there are a few steep spots on this hike.
- Recreational Visits: 2.8 million
Acadia National Park
This park is the oldest park east of the Mississippi River and is often referred to as the crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast. In its entirety, Acadia encompasses more than 40,000 acres of land, giving you plenty of room to roam. The park is lined by miles of jagged coastline and lighthouses – everything you’d want from a visit to Maine!
- Not to Miss: Thunder Hole. When the tides are right, the surf rushes into a narrow cavern and forces out air from beneath the cliffs, creating a thunderous sound.
- Recreational Visits: 2.7 million
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is located in Washington state and is home to seventy-three miles of wild, protected coastline, over 600 individual lakes, an entire mountain range, hundreds of miles of dense old growth forests, and a slew of unique water features, such as waterfalls, hot springs, and rivers and streams.
- Not to Miss: Hoh Rain Forest. If you’re ready to feel like you’ve been transported to another world, you’ll want to hike through Hoh Rain Forest. This lush, undisturbed forest is home to massive trees covered in moss and stunning views. We recommend starting your adventure at the Hoh Visitor Center.
- Recreational Visits: 2.5 million
Joshua Tree National Park
Ready to experience the wonders of southern California? Look no further than Joshua Tree National Park. This park is home to two fascinating ecosystems – the Mojave and the Colorado – where you’ll find rugged mountains and boulders as well as cacti-filled deserts.
- Not to Miss: Hidden Valley. This mile loop might be on the shorter side, but on the trail you’ll see everything from Joshua Trees themselves to fields of boulders to interesting plants and wildlife.
- Recreational Visits: 2.4 million
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1. Park list and visitor numbers from the National Parks Service