The rugged coast of Acadia National Park in Maine drew more than 2.2 million visitors last year, making it the ninth-most-visited park. Photo NPS
With 360 monuments, parks, memorials, and parkways, seashores, and other units around the country, the National Park system offers a little something for everyone—whether you’re looking to cross the country and see some of the fantastic wild places along the way, or considering a visiting a park near you. Last year, the parks saw a whopping 285,579,941 visitors. Scroll down to see the 10 most visited.
If you want to leave the car at home, check out Amtrak’s new Parks in Your Backyard website. This user-friendly tool helps you find parks near Amtrak stops. According to the site, more than 150 parks are accessible by train. Currently, the company is featuring 56, with a focus on the northeast.
(I’m particularly partial to #1, Great Smoky, after learning that it’s one of the most diverse places anywhere—in 12 years biologists have identified 900-plus new species, including more than 200 slime molds, 23 bee species, 42 beetles, and 78 algae. Read “Mother Lode” by Kurt Repanshek in our July-August issue.)
For anyone interested in the top 10 most visited National Park units in 2009, click here. Blue Ridge Parkway is number one, with 15,936,316 visitors (or 5.58% of NPS total visits for the year), followed by Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky.
Isle Royale. Photo NPS
For those who would rather avoid crowds, consider a trip to the 10 least visited national parks:
10. Congaree (SC), home to the continent’s largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest: 122,970 visitors
9. Great Basin (NV), hot desert valleys meet mountain ranges with peaks soaring above 13,000 feet: 84,974
8. Wrangell-St. Elias (AK), at over 13 million acres, this is the largest unit in the National Park System: 59,966
7. Dry Tortugas (FL), these seven islands are known for bird and marine life, and legends of pirates and sunken gold: 52,011
6. North Cascades (WA), jagged peaks, deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers: 26,972
5. Isle Royale (MI/MN), accessible only by boat or seaplane, offers great paddling, shipwrecks in Lake Superior, and famous wolves: 14,653