2023 Saw Surge in U.S. National Park Attendance – Will 2024 Follow Suit?

In 2023, America’s national parks experienced a significant resurgence in popularity, with an more than 4% increase in overall visitation. The public shows renewed enthusiasm to explore the country’s diverse and majestic natural landscapes.

This uptick reflects a broader trend of outdoor recreation as more people sought refuge and adventure in the vast expanses of wilderness and beauty offered by the nation’s parks.

A closer look at individual parks highlights each space’s diverse beauty and ecological significance. From Yellowstone’s geothermal wonders to the rugged coastlines of Acadia, the increase in visitation underscores a collective desire to connect with nature.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, a crown jewel of geological wonders and diverse wildlife, exemplified this trend with its visitation numbers. The park, known for its unique geothermal features and wildlife, saw its visitor numbers grow from 3,290,242 in 2022 to 4,501,382 in 2023. This change represents a year-over-year increase of 1,211,140 visitors.

Yellowstone’s remarkable landscape, ranging from geysers and hot springs to vast forests and river valleys, continues to draw visitors seeking unique outdoor experiences.

As Montana natives, Yellowstone is a favorite National Park for our family. We love to enter from the East side via the Beartooths mountains, which is a beautiful area even before getting to the park,” shares JayDee Vykoukal of Mom Blog Life. “There are many hidden gems in the park that can cater to so many different interests.”

Yosemite National Park

Similarly, Yosemite National Park, another Western gem famed for its towering cliffs and ancient sequoias, also experienced a notable uptick in interest. The park welcomed 3,897,070 visitors in 2023, up from 3,667,550 in 2022.

This increase of 229,520 visitors reflects a growing interest in the park’s natural features, including its waterfalls, valleys, and diverse wildlife. Yosemite’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty while accommodating increasing visitors remains a key aspect of its appeal.

Travel writer Alec Sills-Trausch shares, “Yosemite is the epitome of epic national parks. Each time you enter the hallowed valley, it’s like being transported to another world. With breathtaking scenery, amazing hiking, and roaring waterfalls, it’s one of the must-see natural landscapes in America.”

Isle Royale National Park

In contrast to some of the more high-traffic national parks, Isle Royale National Park, located on Lake Superior in Michigan, displayed a different trend in visitor engagement. The park recorded 28,965 visitors in 2023, up from 25,454 in 2022. This increase of 3,511 visitors represents a notable rise for this remote and less accessible park.

Isle Royale, known for its wilderness and isolation, offers a unique experience that includes backcountry hiking, boating, and wildlife viewing, particularly of its famous wolf and moose populations.

This uptick reflects a growing interest in off-the-beaten-path destinations as travelers seek unique, less-crowded experiences. This trend suggests that travelers seek solitude and pristine natural environments away from more crowded tourist spots.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Meanwhile, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles North Carolina and Tennessee, continues to uphold its status as one of the most visited parks in the nation. It saw an increase in annual visitation, with year-to-date numbers rising from 12,937,633 in 2022 to 13,297,647 in 2023.

Renowned for its diverse plant and animal life and rich Southern Appalachian mountain culture, the park offers a variety of experiences, including hiking, wildlife viewing, and exploring historical structures. The park is within a day’s drive for more than half of the U.S. population, making it conveniently located and accessible, lending to its popularity.

Ashlee Fechino from The Happiness Function visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time in 2023. “My husband and I stayed in Townsend, known for being the peaceful side of the Smokies. We spent most of the day touring Cades Cove and hoping to spot the area’s iconic bears. We can’t wait to go back. There is so much to do in the area if you love the outdoors.”

Acadia National Park

However, some parks, like Acadia National Park in Maine, experienced a slight decrease in visitation, potentially influenced by regional travel trends or environmental factors, such as harsher winter conditions.

The park’s visitor count decreased from 3,970,260 in 2022 to 3,869,608 in 2023, a reduction of 100,652 visitors. Known for its rugged coastline, forested interior, and diverse wildlife, Acadia offers a range of outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, and bird-watching.

Despite the slight downturn, Acadia remains a significant attraction in the Northeast, drawing visitors with its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.

Iryna Bychkniv, author of Lavender & Macarons, said, “We loved visiting Acadia National Park in the summer of 2023. The park offers fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean along a rocky coastline. There are many trails, pristine lakes, waterfalls, and historic lighthouses. We especially enjoyed going up the famous Cadillac Mountain, which is the tallest mountain in the park. People flock there daily to see the beautiful sunrise and sunset.”

Plan a 2024 National Park Visit

National parks remain vital destinations for recreation, conservation, and cultural reflection. The overall increase in visitation suggests a continued public interest and investment in these natural treasures, even as individual parks adapt to changing patterns of use and environmental considerations.

Alyssa Allen, a mom of four from Michigan, is planning a national parks tour with her husband and children this summer. “For us, it’s about experiencing the parks as a family. I remember walking through Zion National Park and being so overwhelmed by the majesty and grandeur on display. I want my children to experience that wonder and appreciation of nature alongside me!”

For frequent visitors of these national treasures, like Allen, the National Park Service offers the annual “America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.” At just $80, this pass grants unlimited access to over 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks that typically charge an entrance fee.

The National Park Service also offers six fee-free days each year, inviting everyone to explore the diverse beauty of over 400 national parks.

The fee-free days for 2024:

Jan. 15
April 20
June 19
Aug. 4
Sept. 28
Nov. 11

Ashley Pichea | Wealth of Geeks
This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


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