There are 62 designated national parks in the United States. You can discover unique national parks in 29 different states, showcasing picturesque landscapes, diverse ecosystems, rare natural formations, and more.
We’ve created a list of the most visited national parks in the US, where you can experience all of the above and more. The parks take you around the country to some of the most breathtaking sights and provide lots of fun and adventure during your visit.
America’s most popular national parks attract millions of tourists every year. There’s a reason why visitors continue to set out in search of an outdoor adventure.
Whether you enjoy hiking record-breaking peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains or enjoying a nature walk amongst towering trees in the Sequoia National Park, a trip to one of these US national parks will surely satisfy your craving for wanderlust.
Explore the best things to do in each of these most-visited US national parks and see why they’re considered America’s favorites.
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Annual Visitors: 12.1 million
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a hiker’s dream with the ideal mountainous landscape for an outdoor adventure. It is one of the most visited US national parks, receiving over 12 million visitors every year. With the famous Appalachian Trail passing through it, it gets many tourists arriving for recreation or sightseeing.
Mountains cover most of the park's landscape, positioned across two states – Tennessee and North Carolina. The park includes the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and parts of the Appalachian Mountains chain. With some of the region's highest peaks, you can expect fantastic views.
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point, found while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hikers are rewarded with the Clingmans Dome observation deck, considered the best viewpoint. As an alternative, you can take the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail to reach Mount Le Conte, another notable summit with 360 views overlooking the mountainous landscape.
In addition to hiking, many visitors enjoy activities such as fly fishing, cycling, or sightseeing historical landmarks. Visit the ranger stations to see exhibitions and learn more about the national park.
Annual Visitors: 6.2 million
Prepare yourself for the jaw-dropping vistas awaiting you at the Grand Canyon National Park. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Grand Canyon, one of the world's natural wonders and an impressive sight to see. Every year, millions of visitors come to the park to take in the views and enjoy a bit of outdoor recreation in the desert.
Grand Canyon National Park is the second most-visited American national park, covering well over one million acres of predominantly desert landscape in northwestern Arizona. The Grand Canyon is the park's main attraction, an extensive canyon carved out for millions of years by the Colorado River, creating beautiful scenery.
Visitors can explore the canyon's, South Rim, or North Rim, although the South Rim is most popular and has more visitor activities. There are several lookout points around the canyon to sweeping views. Hiking, wilderness trails, or river rafting are just a few of the parks' favorite activities.
There are a few unique viewing experiences available, like the Grand Canyon Skywalk or a helicopter flyover tour.
Address: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Annual Visitors: 4.6 million
Whether you’re looking for a great day trip destination from Denver or a place to camp in the outdoors, the Rocky Mountain National Park should be at the top of your bucket list. It’s among the most popular national parks in the US, attracting over four million recreational tourists. You’ll be at one of the highest elevations in the country as you explore the mountain terrain.
Rocky Mountain National Park includes the Rocky Mountain range, which has countless towering peaks to ascend – the highest point in Longs Peak. Mountaineering and rock climbing are two favorite activities to reach the summits for a rewarding view of the environment. Visitors can also ride along Trail Ridge Road, a scenic drive on the country’s highest paved road.
The park is recognized as a biosphere reserve with lots of diverse wildlife and fauna thanks to multiple climate zones. You can find campgrounds and nature trails in your preferred zone to make sure to experience the park’s best features.
Address: 1000 Highway 36, Estes Park, CO 80517
Annual Visitors: 4.5 million
Millions of years ago, wind, water, and glacial movements carved and created the land within Zion National Park. Today, millions of people visit the southwest Utah park to revel in its unique beauty and admire the diverse wildlife in the region. The park was even named after the Old Testament name for Jerusalem, a true demonstration to just how heavenly this park is.
Established in 1919, Zion’s most esteemed attraction is Zion Canyon. From endless vistas to hidden areas to wander away from the crowds, the canyon is 15 miles long and nearly 3,000 feet deep. Kolob Canyons is a smaller canyon south of Zion Canyon and features 2,000-foot cliffs, and countless waterfalls attract crowds every summer.
Zion’s unique ecosystem features high-altitude forests and desert plateaus sprawling throughout the region. The park is home to more flowers than anywhere else in Utah, and species of animals ranging from kangaroo rats to bighorn sheep.
Besides hiking and camping, visitors can go horseback riding, join a tour, and much more. While the closest airport is hours away in Las Vegas, the park is easy to drive through. Also, there are many opportunities to escape the crowds and enjoy the wilderness on your own.
Address: Springdale, UT 84767
Annual Visitors: 4.4 million
One of California’s most popular national parks, Yosemite’s natural wonders, and diverse wildlife have attracted humans for thousands of years. Located in the western Sierra Nevada range in Central California, Yosemite is surrounded by the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests.
Because of its internationally famous granite cliffs, waterfalls, and towering sequoias, it was first protected in 1864 and became an integral part of the founding of the National Park Service in 1916. Today, an average of four million people flock to Yosemite National Park each year to take in all this beautiful land has to offer.
The park’s main attraction is Yosemite Valley, a glacial valley where visitors stand under the granite summits Half Dome and El Capitan. It’s home to breathtaking waterfalls, including Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls, and is the perfect place to start for first-time visitors looking to camp, hike, or simply drive through the park.
For a unique vantage point, visit Tunnel View Outlook. Drive there and behold the natural wonders of Yosemite sprawled out in front of you. Another popular can’t-miss spot is Glacier Point, another easy drive for breathtaking sights. Find the towering, expansive sequoias you’ll find in epic Instagram pictures at Mariposa Grove, the largest sequoia grove in the park.
Address: Yosemite Village, CA 95389
Annual Visitors: 4.1 million
As the first U.S. national park and possibly the first in the world, Yellowstone has a lot to live up to, and it goes beyond expectations. The park, which spreads across three states (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming), is famously known not only for the abundant wildlife of bears, moose, lions, and more but more so for the geothermal features scattered throughout the region.
The most visited attraction is the Old Faithful Geiser, whose searing hot water bursts into the sky around 20 times a day. The park is also home to Yellowstone Lake, one of North America’s highest elevation lakes. The lake is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the dormant supervolcano responsible for the geysers and hydrothermal features that cover the park.
Grand Prismatic Spring is another widely visited hot spring in the park, and its vibrant colors and bubbling liquids are a sight you can't find anywhere else. Many of the park’s main attractions are accessible by car and a short walk, but there are miles upon miles of trails welcoming hikers and campers to enjoy.
Flora and fauna in Yellowstone can't be missed, with hundreds and thousands of unusual plants and animals. Yellowstone also has the largest bison herd in the United States, and they’re often seen crossing roads and blocking traffic, especially during the summer.
Address: Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Annual Visitors: 3.5 million
It’s no secret why over three million people visit Acadia National Park annually once you lay your eyes on the scenic natural surroundings. Located on the shores of Bar Harbor in Maine, the park consists of several islands – the largest is Mount Desert Island. Each island offers something different, so it’s worth spending a few days in the park to experience its best features.
Mount Desert Island is the premier destination for tourists visiting the park, where you can enjoy a variety of landscapes such as mountains to beaches along the shoreline. Climb atop Cadillac Mountain for a rare opportunity to be the first person in the US to see the sunrise.
The Bass Harbor Head Light is another famous landmark as the only lighthouse on the island. It even has some peculiar landmarks like the Bubble Rock that makes you question physics.
Acadia National Park is one of the most visited US national parks and best for year-round recreation. Hiking, rock climbing, biking, and horseback riding are just a few ways to get active in the park during the warmer months. In the winter, many people enjoy cross-country skiing and ice fishing.
Address: Acadia National Park, Maine
Annual Visitors: 3.4 million
Images of the Great American West seem to be stuck in a time when you visit the Grand Teton National Park. Located in Wyoming, the Teton Range and Jackson Hole valley are well-preserved thanks to the park efforts – many of the region's endemic plant life and wildlife remain undisturbed.
The Teton Range only extends for approximately 40-miles, but it’s one of the most recognized ranges in the country with its notable peaks. The highest peak is Grand Teton, rising over 7,000-feet above the valley.
The peaks provide impressive picturesque scenery from the Jackson Hole valley. Some of the summits' best views come from the valley, where you can enjoy sights of abandoned cabins or grazing bison against the mountain backdrop.
Grand Teton National Park has over three million visitors annually to participate in recreational activities. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails winding through the valley or up the mountain slopes. Mountaineering is the best way to reach the highest peaks in the park.
Address: Grand Teton National Park, WY
Annual Visitors: 3.2 million
Nature is abundant in the Olympic National Park, where you’ll encounter everything from mountains to forest, and an extensive coastline. With most of the park designated as a preserved wilderness area, visitors can enjoy some of the untouched landscape and discover the wonders hidden within it.
Olympic National Park derives its name from its location on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Visiting the park lets you experience unique landscapes – The Olympic National Forest, the Olympic Mountain range, and the Pacific Coastline. There are several other features, such as waterfalls and rivers.
More than three million tourists come to the park every year to immerse themselves in the lush natural surroundings. From the old-growth forest area to the pristine beach, visitors have plenty to keep busy during a trip to the park.
Several hiking and nature trails wind throughout Olympic National Park to reach incredible viewpoints or wildlife sightseeing. Many of the best features of the park are in the interior, only accessible through backpacking.
Hurricane Ridge viewpoint is one of the most popular areas for great views, access to the visitor center, picnic areas, and more.
Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd Port Angeles, WA 98362
Annual Visitors: 3 million
Hidden away in northwestern Montana near the Canadian border is a Rocky Mountain paradise known as Glacier National Park. Aptly named for the many glaciers that carved the land and those that still reside in the area, this park features beautiful forests, crystal clear lakes, and more than 700 miles of trails.
The iconic peaks and valleys seen here are unforgettable. One of the musts to do here is the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road. This scenic mountain highway traverses the park and passes through the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, where you can walk to an outlook viewing mountain peaks alongside mountain goats.
The Trail of the Cedars is a wheelchair-accessible trail at the park and features beautiful cedar trees surrounding a boardwalk trail. Hikers can branch off to access Avalanche Lake, a crystal-clear lake that sits beneath one of the park’s famous glaciers. Visitors can rent boats at Lake McDonald or enjoy shopping, dining, and a relaxing stay at the Lake McDonald Lodge.
Glacier National Park is home to thousands of plant species, and grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, wolverines, and many other mountainous animal species inhabit the region. Visitors are more than likely to see at least one of these animals during their time at the park.
Address: West Glacier, MT
Annual Visitors: 2.6 million
Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park displays the state’s quintessential but stunning geological formations. It’s home to the largest collection of distinctive red-rock spires called hoodoos.
Being one of the most-visited national parks in the United States, millions of visitors head to the park each year to stand beneath them and get a close look at many of the park’s geological attractions.
The park welcomes hikers, skiers, rock climbers, and those just looking for a leisurely drive through one of the most beautiful spots in the United States. Though it’s in the name, there is not real canyon in the park. The park follows the Paunsaugunt Plateau, a natural amphitheater where visitors will find thousands the yellow, red, and orange hoodoo stacks.
While the desert formations are the most visited, visitors will also find alpine forests and meadows at the high altitudes. The free Bryce Canyon Shuttle takes visitors throughout the park and runs to the visitor center, campground and lodge, and a few outlooks.
The 11-mile Rim Trail is a pedestrian-only attraction that gives visitors the opportunity to find panoramic views and unforgettable experiences with the region’s topography. There’s also an auto tour that takes guests to several viewpoints, including a stop at the Grand Staircase, a sedimentary phenomenon made of layers of eroded rocks.
Address: Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Annual Visitors: 1.6 million
Arches National Park features a rare natural rock formation of arches made of sandstone. It was designated as a national park to preserve the fragile environment and regulate visitors to protect the unique landscape. Visit the park to explore the land once home to Native Americans.
The park has thousands of arches, considered the most arches in one region in the world. The arches formed from wind and water erosion, and are still at risk of falling. It's best to visit the park as soon as you can to see some of the most recognized arches.
The arches come in all shapes and styles – the most famous structures in the Arches National Park include the Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Balanced Rock. As tempting as it may be, climbing the structures are prohibited.
Over 1.5-million visitors come to the park every year. There are still lots of fun recreational activities to do, including hiking, biking, and backpacking. Several tours take tourists to the notable points of interest.
Camp overnight in the park to experience the dark sky area.
Address: Arches National Park, Moab, UT 84532
Annual Visitors: 1.2 million
Any time is a great time to visit the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks because it’s always open. Located in California, the two-park system contains some of the most impressive natural scenery in the US. It’s no wonder that these popular US parks attract approximately two million people every year to see record-breaking landmarks.
The combined Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks operate jointly to manage better and preserve the environment. It’s considered a UNESCO Biosphere, preserving an environment ideal for abundant, diverse wildlife and flora. There are hundreds of bird and animal species, but some of the most impressive sights are the plants.
Sequoia National Park is home to a giant forest consisting of giant sequoia trees. Hike along the Sherman Tree Trail to reach the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest tree. You can also drive beneath the Tunnel Log.
Kings Canyon National Park appears straight from a postcard with the iconic views in Paradise Valley. The entire valley was shaped by historical glacier activity to create perfectly sculpted mountain slopes and forest scenery. It’s an excellent location for backcountry hiking and camping.
Address: 47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271
Annual Visitors: 0.75 million
The pure blue hues of Crater Lake make it seem like a surreal sight – one that you can’t take your eyes off once you visit the Crater Lake National Park. Although one of the oldest national parks in the US, it ranks among the most-visited thanks to the lake, unlike any you’ve seen before.
Crater Lake is the centerpiece of the national park – the lake formed inside of the Mount Mazama volcano crater in Oregon thousands of years ago. Water from precipitation filled the crater, and since there is no outflow, the water sits to create the deepest lake in the country.
The popular Rim Drive gives an overview of the lake as a scenic drive, but you can also have fun at the lake swimming, fishing, and boating. There is plenty of hiking and horseback riding trails, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, where you might encounter some of the arctic wildlife like lynxes, bobcats, and elk.
For the lake’s best views, climb atop Mount Scott, the park’s highest point for panoramic views of Crater Lake and the surrounding landscape.
Address: Crater Lake National Park, OR 97604
Annual Visitors: 0.60 million
Time your visit to Denali National Park & Preserve perfectly, and you can join an exclusive club of people who’ve seen the unobstructed breathtaking peaks of Denali without a cloud in the sky. Even on beautiful days, the peaks are hidden by the clouds – it’s the highest peak on the entire North American continent that reaches over 20,000-feet above sea level.
Denali National Park & Preserve is Alaska's best national park (and one of the most visited American national parks), attracting over a million visitors. You'll see the mountain from nearly all corners of the six million acres of the park's area. More than a third of the land is a wilderness area.
Be sure to dress warmly for the cold climate. Glaciers, snow-capped summits, and ice tundra are just a few of the arctic landscapes you’ll encounter while exploring the park.
If you can bear the climate, it’s a fun place to enjoy winter recreation. Cross-country skiing and dog sledding are a few of the best things to do in the park. You can learn more about the park with special ranger programs hosted throughout the year.
Address: George Parks Hwy, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK