How many people visit the national parks?

June 12, 2019

Using the data made available by the NPS, we can’t determine how many unique visitors the parks get each year, but the NPS does track the number of visits to each park. The number of visits and how that number changes over time can give us an idea of how crowded a park is and the human impact that a park needs to prepare for.

The map below marks the location of each national park with a circle of size relative to the number of visits to that park in 2018.

An interactive version of the map that shows the park name and the number of visits in 2018 when you hover over a circle is found here.

Map image The map was created using the Python library, Folium

The national park with by far the highest numbers of visits in 2018 is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, eclipsing the second-place park, Grand Canyon, with almost twice as many visitors. The national park with the fewest number of visits is Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, with 9,591. This isn’t surprising since Gates of the Arctic doesn’t have any roads, so to visit you have to fly in or hike in from the nearest highway.

The mean number of visits in 2018 is ~1.4 million while the median is ~656,000. This shows the data is skewed to the right, just like the park size data. A few of the national parks are receiving massive numbers of visitors, but the majority receive a much smaller number.

Histogram image

You can see Great Smoky Mountains NP out there on the right of the histogram, and some of the other biggies, but over half of the national parks receive fewer than one million visits per year.

National Parks in Order of Number of Visits

Park Name Visits in 2018
1 Great Smoky Mountains National Park 11,421,200
2 Grand Canyon National Park 6,380,495
3 Rocky Mountain National Park 4,590,493
4 Zion National Park 4,320,033
5 Yellowstone National Park 4,115,000
6 Yosemite National Park 4,009,436
7 Acadia National Park 3,537,575
8 Grand Teton National Park 3,491,151
9 Olympic National Park 3,104,455
10 Glacier National Park 2,965,309
11 Joshua Tree National Park 2,942,382
12 Bryce Canyon National Park 2,679,478
13 Cuyahoga Valley National Park 2,096,053
14 Gateway Arch National Park 2,016,180
15 Indiana Dunes National Park 1,756,079
16 Death Valley National Park 1,678,660
17 Arches National Park 1,663,557
18 Mount Rainier National Park 1,518,491
19 Hot Springs National Park 1,506,887
20 Shenandoah National Park 1,264,880
21 Sequoia National Park 1,229,594
22 Capitol Reef National Park 1,227,627
23 Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park 1,116,891
24 Haleakalā National Park 1,044,084
25 Badlands National Park 1,008,942
26 Saguaro National Park 957,405
27 Theodore Roosevelt National Park 749,389
28 Canyonlands National Park 739,449
29 Crater Lake National Park 720,659
30 Kings Canyon National Park 699,023
31 Wind Cave National Park 656,397
32 Petrified Forest National Park 644,922
33 Glacier Bay National Park 597,915
34 Everglades National Park 597,124
35 Denali National Park 594,660
36 Mesa Verde National Park 563,420
37 Mammoth Cave National Park 533,206
38 Lassen Volcanic National Park 499,435
39 Redwood National Park 482,536
40 Biscayne National Park 469,253
41 Carlsbad Caverns National Park 465,912
42 Great Sand Dunes National Park 442,905
43 Big Bend National Park 440,091
44 Channel Islands National Park 366,250
45 Kenai Fjords National Park 321,596
46 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park 308,962
47 Voyageurs National Park 239,656
48 Pinnacles National Park 222,152
49 Guadalupe Mountains National Park 172,347
50 Great Basin National Park 153,094
51 Congaree National Park 145,929
52 Virgin Islands National Park 112,287
53 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park 79,450
54 Dry Tortugas National Park 56,810
55 Katmai National Park 37,818
56 North Cascades National Park 30,085
57 National Park of American Samoa 28,626
58 Isle Royale National Park 25,798
59 Kobuk Valley National Park 14,937
60 Lake Clark National Park 14,479
61 Gates of the Arctic National Park 9,591

Data Sources

The list of 419 official park units (as of 5/1/2019) broken out by designation comes from the National Park System page at nps.gov. Park location data, including latitude, longitude, and state(s) are from the National Park Service API. Park visit data from the report, “Annual Summary Report (1904 - Last Calendar Year)” found on the NPS Stats website.

Using the Scripts

Instructions to run the scripts are found in the readme in the GitHub repository found here.


Written on June 12, 2019