This Is the Most Visited—and Least!— National Park of 2022

Can you guess the most and least visited parks?

There are plenty of reasons why, year after year, national parks continue to be some of the most visited destinations throughout the United States. In fact, in 2022 nearly 312,000,000 people visited U.S. national parks! According to the National Park Service, that means national park visitation levels have “essentially recovered to pre-pandemic levels.”

And it’s no wonder why. Not only do national parks offer some of the most stunning views in the country along with plenty of outdoor activities, but they also happen to be an easy way to take a road trip.

Of the 63 national parks in the United States, some happen to be more visited than others. Particularly, certain national parks are significantly more visited than others. Now, thanks to the release of the National Park Service’s annual visitation statistics, the exact visitation numbers of national parks in 2022 are available. The most and least visited parks may be unexpected!

What was the most visited national park?

When it comes to the most visited national park in the United States, popular parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite may be the first ones you think of. However, Great Smoky Mountains National Park takes the top spot for the most visited national park of 2022. And significantly so, with almost 13 million visits! In contrast, Yellowstone received 3.29 million visits.

Smoky Mountain SunriseTony Barber/Getty Images

According to the National Park Foundation, the most visited park offers “an ideal getaway,” to hike, camp “and experience one of America’s oldest mountain ranges” on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Plus, the free entry doesn’t hurt the park’s popularity, either. Nonetheless, full of spectacular views, the park is home to some of the most remarkable waterfalls and mountains in the country.

Not to mention, the most popular national park site–Blue Ridge Parkway with 15.7 million visits—happens to border the most popular park! The 469-mile parkway, called “America’s Favorite Drive” according to the NPS, has more than 200 scenic overlooks.

What was the least visited national park?

On the other hand, the least visited national park of 2022—the National Park of American Samoa—had significantly fewer visits. In total, the park had just 1,887 recreational visits.

National Park of American Samoa sorincolac/Getty Images

When it comes to the park-going logistics of this South Pacific National Park, the numbers make sense. First, it’s a requirement to have a passport while visiting. It also is more difficult to get to than other national parks which can easily be visited by car or railroad. Typically, direct flights need to be taken in order to visit this park that’s located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Although it may be the least visited, “the islands of Sacred Earth” as written by the NPS,  certainly offers extraordinary experiences. The park is full of coral sand beaches, snorkeling, “rare plants and animals,” secluded villages and more!

These are the most and least visited National Parks

Following the Great Smoky Mountains and National Park of American Samoa, these are the top ten most and least visited U.S. national parks:

Most Visited National Parks

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park—12.94 million visits
  2. Grand Canyon National Park—4.73 million visits
  3. Zion National Park—4.69 million visits
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park—4.3 million visits
  5. Acadia National Park—3.97 million visits
  6. Yosemite National Park—3.67 million visits
  7. Yellowstone National Park—3.29 million visits
  8. Joshua Tree National Park—3.06 million visits
  9. Cuyahoga Valley National Park—2.913 million visits
  10. Glacier National Park—2.908 million visits

Least Visited National Parks

  1. National Park of American Samoa—1,887 visits
  2. Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve—9,457 visits
  3. Kobuk Valley National Park—16,925 visits
  4. Lake Clark National Park & Preserve—18,187 visits
  5. Isle Royale National Park—25,454 visits
  6. North Cascades National Park—30,154 visits
  7. Katmai National Park & Preserve—33,908 visits
  8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve—65,236 visits
  9. Dry Tortugas National Park—78,488 visits
  10. Great Basin National Park—142,115 visits

Across the country, every national park offers unique experiences and views—hence the 5% uptick in visits since 2021. Although, the least visited national parks may just offer fewer crowds, making them more enjoyable to visit! There’s no doubt these should make it onto your next road trip bucket list.

Sources

Jessica Kaplan
Jessica Kaplan is an assistant editor who has written lifestyle content for Reader’s Digest, Family Handyman and The Healthy. Her expertise includes travel and restaurant news. These days, she creates timely trend content for Taste of Home. When she’s not writing, Jessica is bound to be planning out her next trip, trying out a new coffee spot or listening to a podcast.