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Most Popular National Parks

Updated on June 6, 2017
Armchair Traveler profile image

Thelma has traveled extensively in the United States but still has a bucket list of future destinations!

Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina


Glacier Park in Montana


Which are the Most Popular National Parks?

You may be surprised by some of the parks listed on the top ten list of most visited parks. Is your favorite park included?

These ratings are for the year 2015 and were calculated by the National Park Service:

Top Ten Most Popular National Parks

1. Great Smoky Mountains
2. Grand Canyon
3. Rocky Mountain
4. Yosemite
5. Yellowstone
6. Zion
7. Olympic
8. Grand Teton
9. Arcadia
10. Glacier

American Samoa National Park


Over the years, our national parks have thrilled generations including the 305 million visitors in the record breaking year of 2015. Yet, there are many people who have never experienced the natural wonders of a national park.

The United States boasts 59 national parks, some more well known than others. Not all of our 50 states and territories feature these national treasures. Currently, there are national parks located in only 27 states. In addition, 2 territories have national parks, American Samoa and the United States Virgin Islands.

Which States Have the Most?

California with its 9 parks is the state with the most, Alaska is a close second with 8, followed by Utah with 5. Following is a list of the parks located in those states:

Chanel Islands
Death Valley
Gates of the Arctic
Bryce Canyon
Joshua Tree
Glacier Bay
Kings Canyon
Capitol Reef
Lassen Volcanic
Kenai Fjords
Kobuk Valley
Lake Clark
Wrangell-St. Elias

All 3 of the states that are home to the most national parks are fortunate to have such diverse terrain, natural beauty and abundant wildlife. However, the state of Alaska is still uncharted territory for many vacationers who have not yet experienced what the 49th state has to offer. For a small glimpse of the Katmai National Park, there is a live webcam at Brooks Falls which features brown bears catching salmon for dinner.

Yosemite National Park in California


Which are the Largest and Smallest?

Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest of our national parks with over 13.2 million acres. That's the size of Yellowstone National Park and the country of Switzerland put together!

Visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve can be quite different from a trip to a park in the lower-48. Visitor services are limited, access can be challenging, weather varies widely, and a variety of wildlife can be encountered. Flexibility and patience are required. But the reward is worth the effort.

— National Park Service

Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is the smallest park with less than 6,000 acres. It was established to protect the 47 hot springs that come out of Hot Springs Mountain at a temperature of 143 degrees. The water is perfectly safe to drink and many people bring bottles with them to fill up and take home.

The acreage of the largest and smallest parks mentioned here, along with the other 57 parks, make up an amazing total of almost 52 million acres which is the heritage of future generations.

Which are the Oldest?

President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone as our first national park in 1872, Located in parts of 3 states, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it has become one of the most popular parks, largely because of "Old Faithful", the well-known geyser.

California's Sequoia National Park is the second oldest park having been established in 1890 to protect the amazing sequoia trees that are some of the world's largest trees.

Also in 1890, Yosemite was christened as a national park. Located in California, it is home to North America's tallest waterfall.

The National park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

— National Park Service

Please Participate in Our Poll

Have you ever visited a national park?

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Plan a Visit

From Arcadia to Zion, there is a national park waiting for you to explore. The National Park Service offers a website with information to assist you in planning a vacation or to provide a memorable "internet visit" for armchair travelers. Their "Find a Park" page has a map which makes it simple to locate a park in a particular state.

Whether you are camping, hiking, looking for that perfect photo, bird watching, or just sightseeing, our national parks have it all. Why not visit all 59 of them?

Everglades National Park in Florida


© 2016 Armchair Traveler

Please share your comments and tell us which is your favorite national park

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      Ruth Gideon 18 months ago

      Lots of good information here and you selected some beautiful pictures to share. I think my favorite park is Arcadia in Maine.