A Closer Look: Most Popular National Park Visits in 2023

Table of Contents

The Great Smoky Mountains stayed as the most popular National Park in 2023, with the Grand Canyon and Zion staying keeping their #2 and #3 position as well.  The 22 million annual visitors at these three parks accounted for almost 25% of the total 92 million recreational visitors in 2023.  Pretty impressive.

Interestingly, while there were some changes in position within the top 15 National Parks, all stayed in the same range.   Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Olympic increase their positional rank by 3 or more spots.  While Rocky Mountain, Acadia, Indian Springs, Cuyahoga Valley, Glacier, Joshua Tree, and Hot Springs all lost positions in the rankings.  I can attest that when we visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks last summer, that they were certainly very busy!

Overall National Park Visitations

The National Park Service reported overall increases in National Park visits in 2023, not just in the most popular National Park.  The year over year increase ended up being over 4% for all National Parks. This increase pushes the overall totals from 88.6 million visitors in 2022 to over 92.3 million visits in 2023.  This is great news, as we all want to see our public lands enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Graph showing comparison of the most popular National Park Visits in 2023 and 2022 for top 15 parks and remaining 48

Overall, the top 15 parks saw visitation levels increase by 4.5% year over year. The remaining 48 National Parks increased by only 3.7%.  This seems healthy, as it shows a steady increase across all levels of the National Park System.  Looking at the bottom 10 parks, they all remained basically the same as in 2023.  

Graph showing comparison of most popular National Park Visits in 2023 and 2022 for the bottom 10 parks

No Major Shifts in the Rankings

Looking deeper at the movement within the rankings, only one Park, the Virgin Islands moved up five positions from #53 in 2022 up to #48 in 2023. Only Grand Teton, Olympic and Glacier Bay moved up four positions. The two parks that lost the most ground were both in Florida. Biscayne National Park, dropped five positions to #36 and the Everglades, dropped to 27th position.

Some Parks Had Huge Increases

While the rankings between parks stayed close to 2022, some parks have massive increase. For example, Gateway arch saw a 50% increase jumping from 160,000 visitors to over 242,000. The largest absolutely increase was in Yellowstone, with over 1.2 million additional visitors in 2023 that amounted to a 37% increase. One of the largest increases from a percentage basis was to the Virgin Islands, at a 75% increase in visitations year over year. Clearly, the pent-up demand was released in 2023, driving visitors to iconic locations.

There were some fluctuations in total numbers for some parks, but one striking shift was for Haleakala National Park. This park saw an almost 300,000 visit decline, equating to a 27% reduction. This can clearly be explained by the devastating fires that ravaged Maui in August of 2023. Our family visited Hawaii in 2019 and fell in love with the views from the Haleakala. As the island and its residents heal from this horrible event, I am sure we will see this rebound in 2024.

No Rank Changes in the Bottom 10 National Parks

One interesting observation to note.  While the absolute number is still very small, the ten least visited parks had an over 10% increase in recreational visits from 2022 to 2023.  Clearly, the most adventurous National Park visitors are recovering their desire to visit the remote areas of Alaska, Florida, Washington and Northern Michigan. I hope our family’s visitation of Dry Tortugas in January will help see these least visited parks continue to grow in 2024.

I have posted the entire National Park list in the table below. Check it out and find where your favorite park ranks. Note, this does not include all the 429 units the National Park Service manages but illustrates the only the largest of the public lands designated as National Parks

Final Thoughts on National Park Visits in 2023

I’m thrilled to see more people exploring our National Parks in 2023. This year, I challenge myself – and you – to discover a new park. The more we experience their beauty, the more committed we’ll be to their preservation. Remember, Leave No Trace principles help us protect these precious places for the future.

Rankings of All National Parks

National ParkRankRecreation Visits% of Total
Great Smoky Mountains NP113,297,6470.1439
Grand Canyon NP24,733,7050.0512
Zion NP34,623,2380.05
Yellowstone NP44,501,3820.0487
Rocky Mountain NP54,115,8370.0445
Yosemite NP63,897,0700.0422
Acadia NP73,879,8900.042
Grand Teton NP83,417,1060.037
Joshua Tree NP93,270,4040.0354
Olympic NP102,947,5030.0319
Glacier NP112,933,6160.0318
Cuyahoga Valley NP122,860,0590.031
Indiana Dunes NP132,765,8920.0299
Hot Springs NP142,502,9670.0271
Bryce Canyon NP152,461,2690.0266
Gateway Arch NP162,422,8360.0262
New River Gorge NP & PRES171,707,2230.0185
Mount Rainier NP181,674,2940.0181
Hawaii Volcanoes NP191,620,2940.0175
Shenandoah NP201,576,0080.0171
Arches NP211,482,0450.016
Capitol Reef NP221,268,8610.0137
Death Valley NP231,099,6320.0119
Badlands NP241,046,4000.0113
Saguaro NP251,010,9060.0109
Sequoia NP26980,5670.0106
Everglades NP27810,1890.0088
Canyonlands NP28800,3220.0087
Haleakala NP29791,2920.0086
Theodore Roosevelt NP30746,8620.0081
White Sands NP31729,0960.0079
Glacier Bay NP & PRES32703,6590.0076
Mammoth Cave NP33654,4500.0071
Kings Canyon NP34643,0650.007
Wind Cave NP35592,4590.0064
Biscayne NP36571,2420.0062
Crater Lake NP37559,9760.0061
Petrified Forest NP38520,4910.0056
Great Sand Dunes NP & PRES39512,2190.0055
Big Bend NP40509,1290.0055
Mesa Verde NP41505,1940.0055
Denali NP & PRES42498,7220.0054
Lassen Volcanic NP43418,9780.0045
Redwood NP44409,1050.0044
Carlsbad Caverns NP45394,1210.0043
Kenai Fjords NP46387,5250.0042
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP47357,0690.0039
Virgin Islands NP48343,6850.0037
Pinnacles NP49341,2200.0037
Channel Islands NP50328,7460.0036
Congaree NP51250,1140.0027
Guadalupe Mountains NP52227,3400.0025
Voyageurs NP53220,8250.0024
Great Basin NP54143,2650.0016
Dry Tortugas NP5584,2850.0009
Wrangell-St. Elias NP & PRES5678,3050.0008
North Cascades NP5740,3510.0004
Katmai NP & PRES5833,7630.0004
Isle Royale NP5928,9650.0003
Kobuk Valley NP6017,6160.0002
Lake Clark NP & PRES6116,7280.0002
National Park of American Samoa6212,1350.0001
Gates of the Arctic NP & PRES6311,0450.0001

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