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312 Million: National Parks Set New Records For Visits

The numbers are in and they’re huge: In 2022, the National Park Service recorded 312 million visits—more than in 2021 and nearly as many as they did in the pre-pandemic years of 2018 and 2019.

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According to the latest stats release from NPS, a dozen individual parks broke their all-time visitation records last year, too. The most popular parks were the Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which each made up about 4 to 5 percent of overall visitation. Other top parks included the Grand Canyon, Zion, Rocky Mountain, and Acadia. 

What’s interesting about the data isn’t just the overall numbers, but the distribution of where people are going, according to U.S. News & World Report. Usually, park visitation is concentrated among a relatively small handful of the system’s more than 400 units. But last year, people started spreading out, and more people visited the least-visited parks. 

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Image by Geoff Livingston

“Visitor traffic has increased at lesser-known parks since 2019, with several dozen breaking records, while attendance has slowed at many of the most popular parks,” U.S. News & World Report wrote. About 70 parks have broken records since the pandemic. 

People are also staying overnight in parks more than they did last year, the NPS reported, with over 13.25 million people staying in campsites or park lodges. That’s an increase of about half a million overnight stays over 2021. 

In total, we’ve made over 15.7 billion visits to the parks since 1904. 

If you’re looking for true solitude, you can peruse the park’s visitation data to see where you’re least likely to come across another hiker. 
Here’s a hint: Alaska’s parks are generally the vastest and most remote, and often widely inaccessible by car—so many of them record fewer than 5,000 visitors over the span of the whole year.

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