These Were the Most—and Least—Popular National Parks in 2023

The National Park Service recorded 325,498,646 recreation visits across 400 sites, which is close to pre-pandemic levels

scenic view of mountains and forests
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which stretches across North Carolina and Tennessee, was the most-visited park of 2023. Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images

America’s national parks are bouncing back from the Covid-19 pandemic: The National Park Service (NPS) recorded 325,498,646 recreation visits at 400 federally protected sites in 2023, according to data released last week.

The 2023 visitation numbers, which represent a 4 percent increase from 2022, are close to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, national parks saw 327,516,619 recreation visits. Those numbers dipped sharply during the pandemic—to 237,064,332 in 2020 and 297,115,406 in 2021—but have been climbing steadily ever since.

Travelers also spent more time at NPS sites last year, according to the data: Recreation visitor hours hit 1,400,000,000, which is a 4 percent jump from 2022.

Though overall visitation is increasing, travelers are still finding ways to ditch the crowds and get off the beaten path. Visitation increased in the spring and fall, which are typically considered off-seasons at national parks and tend to be less busy than the summer months. Additionally, several less popular sites broke visitation records last year, including Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont.

“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,” says Chuck Sams, the director of the NPS, in a statement.

Person swimming with a school of fish underwater
Dry Tortugas National Park was one of the least-visited national parks in 2023, but it still broke visitation records last year. National Park Service

Those numbers align with what some tourism officials saw on the ground last year. Encouraging travelers to visit during quieter months is one way that states with multiple busy national park sites, like Utah, are trying to tackle overcrowding.

“We’ve noticed that some of the shoulder season growth has accelerated more rapidly than what we consider the ‘busy season’ growth,” says Denise Jordan, director of marketing, analytics and research for the Utah Office of Tourism and Film, to’s Carter Williams. “That’s something we’d like to continue to see.”

To help reduce long lines, some popular national parks have also implemented timed-entry permits and reservation systems, including Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Glacier National Park in Montana.

Officials use annual visitation statistics and trends to inform NPS’ management strategies at national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, battlefields and other protected areas across the country. NPS is responsible for 429 sites, but only 400 recorded visitation statistics last year. Five national parks reported visitation numbers for the first time last year, and 2023 is the first year that parks from all 50 states reported.

In 2023, national parks were the most popular type of NPS-managed site, accounting for 28 percent of all recreation visits. National recreation areas made up 16 percent of all visits, followed by national memorials at 13 percent.

The Most Popular National Parks

Among the 63 national parks located across the country, these were the ten most popular in 2023:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (13,297,647 visits)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (4,733,705 visits)
  3. Zion National Park in Utah (4,623,238 visits)
  4. Yellowstone National Park (4,501,382 visits)
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park (4,115,837 visits)
  6. Yosemite National Park (3,897,070 visits)
  7. Acadia National Park (3,879,890 visits)
  8. Grand Teton National Park (3,417,106 visits)
  9. Joshua Tree National Park (3,270,404 visits)
  10. Olympic National Park (2,947,503 visits)
rainbow over beautiful mountainous landscape
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska was the least-visited national park of 2023 with 11,045 visits. National Park Service

The Least Popular National Parks

Travelers searching for solitude may want to consider the ten least popular national parks of 2023, five of which are in Alaska:

  1. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (11,045 visits)
  2. National Park of American Samoa (12,135 visits)
  3. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (16,728 visits)
  4. Kobuk Valley National Park (17,616 visits)
  5. Isle Royale National Park (28,965 visits)
  6. Katmai National Park and Preserve (​​33,763 visits)
  7. North Cascades National Park (40,351 visits)
  8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (78,305 visits)
  9. Dry Tortugas National Park (84,285 visits)
  10. Great Basin National Park (​​143,265 visits)
Statue of Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was one of the most popular NPS sites of 2023. John Brighenti via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY 2.0 DEED

The Most Popular of All NPS Sites

Zooming out, here are the ten most popular NPS sites (including places that aren’t national parks): 

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway (16,757,635 visits)
  2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area (14,953,882 visits)
  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (13,297,647 visits)
  4. Gateway National Recreation Area (8,705,329 visits)
  5. Gulf Islands National Seashore (8,277,857 visits)
  6. The Lincoln Memorial (8,099,148 visits)
  7. George Washington Memorial Parkway (7,391,260 visits)
  8. Natchez Trace Parkway (6,784,853 visits)
  9. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (5,798,541 visits)
  10. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (5,206,934 visits)

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