Stuck for ideas for making the most of the 4th of July? Not into the beach scene and the crowds? Why not hit one of the United States many National Parks or other “areas” in the National Park System? The NPS includes 407 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. From national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House, there’s something for everyone and always an opportunity to learn about the country’s heritage and natural beauty.
The ten most popular National Parks are listed below. For more about the NPS and how to make the most of great big beautiful America go to nps.gov.
With more than 10,000,000 visitors in 2014, the Great Smoky Mountains is by far the most visited park in the National Park Service. Main draws include a significant stretch of the Appalachian Trail running through it, the historic, scenic drives such as the loop through Cades Cove and popular vacation destinations like nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in Tennessee and Cherokee, North Carolina at one of the park’s entrances.
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon National Park (and Unesco World Heritage Site) saw more than 4,750,000 visitors in 2014. Numbers of jaws dropped at the first stunning view of this geographic marvel correlate almost perfectly to visitor numbers too. The gorge created by the Colorado River is indeed a sight to behold and considered by many to be among the Seven Wonders of the World.
3. Yosemite National Park, California
California’s Yosemite National Park was the third most visited park in 2014 with nearly 3,900,000 people enjoying its dramatic beauty last year. Giant waterfalls, ancient sequoias, acres upon acres of untouched wilderness and more beckon those who want to get away from it all – if only for a weekend with the family.
4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Home of mighty (and mightily regular) geyser Old Faithful and well as hundreds of animal species, including large mammals like bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope, Yellowstone is a nature lovers dream come true and provides its visitors (there were more than 3,500,000 of them in 2014) with the chance to experience America as it was in centuries past.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
With almost 3,500,000 visitors, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado was the fifth most popular park of 2014, offering outdoor enthusiasts the chance to explore over 400 square miles of hiking trails, panoramic vistas within a range of subalpine and alpine mountain environments – and elevations reaching more than 12,000ft! For a high like no other and a breath of fresh air, the Rockies are hard to beat.
6. Olympic National Park, Washington
More than 3,200,000 visitors went to Washington State’s Olympic National Park during 2014. Forest green meets ocean blue with a rugged coastline, dense and ancient woodlands at this vast park where 95% of its nearly one million acres has been designated by Congress to remain wild.
7. Zion National Park, Utah
Almost 3,200,000 visitors in 2014 experienced the surreal landscape of Zion in Utah, many of whom undoubtedly would tell you it was worth a trip alone to witness a sunset there.
8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Close to 2,800,000 people visited Grand Teton in 2014, many of them hitting the 40 mile Teton Range trail or go for some other sort of wild west adventure in and around the popular Jackson Hole resort area.
9. Acadia National Park, Maine
The great state of Maine’s scenic claim to fame had more than 2,550,000 people in 2014 visit its unique coast for fun in the sea and along its range of mountains, which includes the highest summit on the US Atlantic coast.
10. Glacier National Park, Montana
Bordering with the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, Glacier National Park in northern Montana welcomed over 2,300,000 visitors in 2014 to enjoy its hundreds of miles of hiking trails and vast tracts of uninhabited wilderness.