The United States’ national parks are visited by millions of people annually. With 397 parks, each offering its own unique landscapes and attributes, it’s no wonder they are so popular in American culture. Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali, the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains are all household names.
But which park received the most visitors this past summer season, the most popular season for visits? You might be surprised.
The complete numbers for 2012 will obviously not be available until the year is over, so we’ve taken a look at the most popular season for visitors-the months of May, June, July and August. Below are the top areas visited in the summer season and how many visitors each area got in that time.
These numbers aren’t exact but are based on preliminary numbers. All numbers are as of Sept. 13.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway-6,765,007
2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area-5,260,513
3. Great Smoky Mountains-4,407,208
4. George Washington Memorial Parkway-3,392,478
5. Gateway National Recreation Area-2,882,935
6. Lake Mead National Recreation Area-2,786,601
7. Lincoln Memorial-2,752,041
8. Cape Cod National Seashore-2,752,255
10. Gulf Islands National Seashore-2,524,231
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile stretch of road that routes through the Appalachian Mountains. There are scenic stops and some campsites along the way. Roaming is encouraged. Watch the video to find out more.
The most popular month to visit a national park in 2012 was July, with almost 41 million people getting outdoors and into a national park. July 2011 had just slightly more visitors, topping more than 41 million. In 2011 alone, nearly 279 million people came for a recreational visit to a national park, with almost 14 million staying overnight. The Southeast region had the most visitors (62 million), while the Alaska region received the least (almost 2 1/2 million).
You can download a full list of national park visitor numbers in Excel format here.