The Most Popular National Parks in 2023, Ranked

The National Park Service just shared visitor data from last year.

If you ask the National Park Service (NPS), parks across the US had a really good year in 2023. So much so that some of them even broke visitation records.

But let’s zoom out first. Considering the bigger picture, the NPS said in an official statement that “400 national parks reported a total of 325.5 million recreation visits in 2023,” which is equal to a 4% spike compared to 2022 visitation numbers. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, convert that percentage into numbers—in 2023, national parks had 13 million extra visitors over 2022.

Which parks were the most popular last year? The US definitely has plenty of options when it comes to outdoor activities and exploration. Whether you want to immerse yourself in nature or discover some of the country's most iconic landmarks, our national parks have got your back. These parks turned out on top in 2023:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 13.29 million visits
  • Grand Canyon National Park: 4.73 million visits
  • Zion National Park: 4.62 million visits
  • Yellowstone National Park: 4.50 million visits
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.11 million visits
  • Yosemite National Park: 3.89 million visits
  • Acadia National Park: 3.87 million visits
  • Grand Teton National Park: 3.41 million visits
  • Joshua Tree National Park: 3.27 million visits
  • Olympic National Park: 2.94 million visits

This visitation data can help us (and you) decide where to plan your next hike, whether you're looking for a communal vibe or a more secluded and isolated experience. With over 13 million visits last year, the Great Smoky Mountains remain undefeated when it comes to the most visitors of any national park. The Grand Canyon came in second thanks to its iconic red landscape, though it came quite a bit short of the Great Smoky Mountains' popularity. Third on the list was Zion National Park. Located in Utah, it's a great park to visit both in the winter and summer seasons, and it offers a variety of trails to hike with gorgeous views and great terrain.

Beyond the top three, Yellowstone jumped four places from its 2022 ranking of seventh to fourth, and the Grand Teton and Olympic parks both joined the top 10 after missing the cut last year.

And which parks were the least visited? If you're looking to be away from everything and everyone for a spell, you might want to stay away from the most frequented ones and hit up these parks instead. These 10 parks were at the bottom of the list for 2023:

  • Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve: 11,045 visits
  • National Park of American Samoa: 12,134 visits
  • Lake Clark National Park and Preserve: 16,728 visits
  • Kobuk Valley National Park: 17,616 visits
  • Isle Royale National Park: 28,965 visits
  • Katmai National Park and Preserve: 33,763 visits
  • North Cascades National Park: 40,351 visits
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: 78,305 visits
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: 84,285 visits
  • Great Basin National Park: 143,265 visits

While the success is shared in terms of visit numbers, some of these parks deserve an extra pat on the back this year. Of the 400 mentioned, 20 of them actually broke visitation records in 2023.

“From Kaloko Honokōhau National Historic Park in Hawai'i to Congaree National Park in South Carolina, parks are attracting more visitors each year to learn about our shared history,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in an official statement. “Our national parks tell our shared American story. I'm glad visitors are finding hidden gems, exploring in the off-season and finding new ways to have a great time in our national parks.”

The following national park sites (including monuments, recreation areas, historic parks, and historic sites) broke visitation records in 2023:

  • Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
  • Congaree National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
  • John Muir National Historic Site
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Kaloko Honokōhau National Historic Park
  • Keweenaw National Historic Park
  • Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
  • Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park
  • Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Memorial
  • Minidoka National Historic Site
  • Mojave National Preserve
  • New River Gorge National Park & Preserve
  • Nez Perce National Historic Park
  • Ninety Six National Historic Site

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She will beg you not to put pineapple on pizza. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.