National Park Travel

The 10 Most Visited National Parks This Year (2023 Data)

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Misty mountains, prismatic geysers, idyllic beaches, and towering spires – the national parks across the U.S. is a protected collection of some of the most naturally stunning and geologically diverse places in the world. I’ve been fortunate to visit many of them (34 of 63 and counting!) and love writing about my travels to each one (plus tips on how you can visit.)

In addition to being a writer, I am also a data nerd. As I’ve begun writing more about national parks across the American West (and beyond), I wanted to share some of the interesting stats and facts I’ve discovered.

Most Visited National Parks 2023 Hero
Three of this year’s most visited national parks: Yellowstone, Grand Canyon & Yosemite

Using the 2023 visitation data (released in February 2024), I built a spreadsheet and crunched the numbers to share the lists of the most visited national parks and the least visited national parks across the country.

Below you’ll find a list of the top 10 national parks by visitation numbers from 2023, including some that might surprise you.

In this post, I promote travel to national parks, nearly all of which are the traditional and/or sacred lands of many Native American and Indigenous groups. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published as a single post with the least-visited parks list in May 2021.
It was split into two posts and updated in February 2024 to reflect the latest year’s data.

The Most Popular National Parks in 2023

Everyone wants to know: what are the most-visited or most popular national parks?

There were some changes from last year’s list to this year, with a few parks changing places on the list, and two parks breaking into the top 10 (but both “new” parks have been on the list of most visited parks in years past).

Here’s a chart showing how each of the most visited national parks ranked compared to 2022, so you can get a sense of how the list moved around:

Rank
(2023)
National ParkExact
Visitation
Rank
(2022)
Change
(from 2022)
1Great Smoky Mountains National Park13,297,6471none
2Grand Canyon National Park4,733,7052none
3Zion National Park4,623,2383none
4Yellowstone National Park4,501,3827↑3
5Rocky Mountain National Park4,115,8374↓1
6Yosemite National Park3,897,0706none
7Acadia National Park3,879,8905↓2
8Grand Teton National Park3,417,10612new!
9Joshua Tree National Park3,270,4048↓1
10Olympic National Park2,947,50314new!

Now let’s dive into each park on the list in greater detail so you can get inspired to visit them all!

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN – 13.3 million

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains is the most popular national park in the country – as it has been for decades! This is because it’s one of the national parks closest to major metropolitan areas all along the East Coast, and major roads cut through the park, which dramatically increases “visitation,” even if those people don’t necessarily stop and partake of the park’s amenities and natural wonders.

After a record year in 2021 (14.1 million!), Great Smoky Mountains saw a small decrease in 2022 (12.9 million) and began to increase again in 2023 with 13,297,647 people recorded as visitors last year.

2. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ – 4.7 million

Despite the fact that it remains in the #2 spot for most visited national parks, Grand Canyon National Park still hasn’t recovered to its pre-pandemic visitation levels (when visitation typically was in the 5-6 million people range).

While visitation began to recover in 2021 and 2022, visitation in 2023 was still only 75% of the maximum visitors that came to this iconic park at its peak visitation (2018) – and was almost the same as last year (4,733,705 visitors in 2023 versus 4,732,101 in 2022).

All the numbers aside, the Grand Canyon is still stunning, and it’s still a great time to plan a trip – perhaps even more so this coming year as the park didn’t spike way above past visitation levels like other parks.

3. Zion National Park, UT – 4.6 million

Zion National Park – one of my favorite national parks – saw a(nother) slight decrease in visitation from 2022 to 2023 (similar to a small decrease last year); only 4.6 million people visited compared to an all-time peak visitation of 5 million in 2021. That’s still above pre-2020 numbers though – so Zion has remained more popular in the past five years than it was before the pandemic.

As Zion is consistently in the top five most-visited parks and has been #3 for two years in a row, the NPS has been adjusting its access management plan accordingly to help preserve the natural resources here but still allow as many people to access it as safely as possible.

4. Yellowstone National Park, WY – 4.5 million

National Parks in Montana - Yellowstone

After a year of low visitation due to landslides and flooding in 2022, Yellowstone National Park visitation numbers in 2023 began to recover (again), registering its second-most-visited year of all time – after 2021 (4.8 million visitors).

It’s not really a surprise that there are lots of visitors in Yellowstone; it’s the oldest national park in the nation, full of a huge diversity of natural wonders, and regularly goes viral on social media for stupid tourist behavior. I haven’t personally visited yet, so I don’t have any resources or don’t-be-dumb travel advice to share, but rest assured – once I do, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say!

5. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO – 4.1 million

I’ll be honest: the list of the most popular national parks surprises me every year. Having visited so many parks myself, I am occasionally surprised to learn that a park I consider “pretty good” is super popular – and Rocky Mountain National Park is one of them.

While visitation to RMNP dropped slightly year over year (4.1 million in 2023 compared with 4.3 million in 2022 and 4.4 million in 2021), that’s still a lot of people who made the mountainous journey to explore this park last year. These numbers are undoubtedly aided by the park’s proximity to Denver and other Colorado cities – and Coloradan’s love of the Great Outdoors!

Pro-tip: The other three Colorado national parks – Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison – fall in the middle of the pack, but make a great Colorado national parks road trip together with RMNP.

6. Yosemite National Park, CA – 3.9 million

Two Days in Yosemite - Tunnel View at Sunrise

After losing its spot in the top 10 in 2020, Yosemite National Park is back among the ranks of the most-visited parks for the second year in a row. This is in line with (non-2020) years past, when Yosemite regularly ranked highly on the list.

Almost 3.9 million people made the journey to the Sierra Nevada’s Yosemite region last year, though this is still substantially lower than visitation in the mid-2010s when it peaked at around 5 million people (2016). Don’t let that make you think it’s not worth visiting though – America’s second-oldest park is truly breathtaking and well worth a visit of any length. (I have itineraries for one day, two days, or three days!)

7. Acadia National Park, ME – 3.9 million

I love Acadia National Park! I was lucky to visit in 2019; I was one of the 3.4 million people that year. In the years since, Acadia has continued to grow in popularity (2020 aside, of course), and is now visited by nearly 4 million people every year!

Given that Acadia is a pretty seasonal park (typically open from May to September or so), it seems that many New Englanders were keen to explore their nearest national park despite the few short months it’s fully open to visitors.

Pro-tip: If you’re planning a trip to Acadia, you’ll want to stay in Bar Harbor, and I have a guide for that too!

8. Grand Teton National Park, WY – 3.4 million

National Parks in Wyoming - Grand Teton

Though I’ve never been to either, I consider Grand Teton National Park the “little sister” of Yellowstone – so it’s no surprise to me that both consistently make the top 10 list for most-visited national parks. (Admittedly, Grand Teton dropped off the top-10 list in 2022, but it had been on the list consistently for a decade previously, so last year was more of an anomaly than a pattern!)

With the jump in places that Yellowstone made on the list due to easier access last year, it’s no surprise Grand Teton also saw an increase in visitation too. It went from 2.8 million in 2022 to 3.4 million in 2023; this is very much in line with the park’s average visitation over the past few years.

9. Joshua Tree National Park, CA – 3.3 million

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the parks that has begun to bop up and down off the top 10 list in the past few years; I think its increase in popularity is in part due to its close proximity to Los Angeles and all the people who live there. Some 3.3 million people made the journey to this otherworldly desert in 2023, and last year had the highest visitation of any year in the park’s history!

In any case, I’ve been fortunate to visit J-Tree (as Californians tend to call it) twice: in 2018 and again in 2020; it’s a great park whether you have one day or 2-3 days to visit.

10. Olympic National Park, WA – 2.9 million

When we called Seattle home, Mr. V and I made a trip to Olympic National Park by way of an Olympic Peninsula road trip; there are lots of ways to enjoy this park, which is why I think it has popped back up onto the top 10 list this year.

To be fair, Olympic National Park was commonly one of the most visited national parks, and only didn’t make the list in 2021 and 2022 due to lower visitation (probably in response to the pandemic restrictions of Washington State – much like Yosemite was affected in California). In any case, visitation is still well below the peak the park has experienced, but still almost 3 million people visited last year – and I think we can expect the same this year.

Which Parks Dropped Off the Top 10 List in 2023?

While many of the most-visited national parks in 2023 were the same as years past, there were a few movers and shakers that joined the list last year – and some who dropped off this year:

  1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park – I’ll be honest: I’m a bit sad that my local park dropped off the top-10 list this year, even if it’s very different than the epic Western parks that dominate most of the list. I’ve visited the park twice – in Autumn 2021 and again in March 2024, as Baby V’s first national park visit! Here’s a guide to spending a day in CVNP, my local park.
  2. Glacier National Park – The other park that dropped off the most-visited national parks list this year is Glacier, which bums me out as I finally visited in 2023 and it is truly like nowhere else I’ve ever been (including Alaska!). Glacier is well worth a trip, but the logistics are a bit complicated; be sure to review my guide to car reservations, activities near the park (in case you have to wait for your reservation), and where to stay in/near the park.

Alas, these parks may or may not reclaim their spots in the top 10 next year… but I’ll be sure to update this post once the 2024 data is shared! Don’t forget to check out the list of least-visited National Parks, as well as my predictions for the next National Park! Have any questions about these most visited parks from 2023 data, or do you have a guess which park might crack the top 10 this year? Let me know in the comments!

Help others discover this post too!

I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

2 Comments

  • Lincoln Millstein

    A “visit” is not the same as a visitor. One visitor may enter a park five times over five days and that would be counted as five visits for that year. So there were not 4 million people who visited Acadia National Park or any other park last year.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for clarifying, Lincoln. I will be more clear in my language next year, but you probably want to correct every other article about this topic too!

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