Camping Gear

Discover the Natural Beauty of America: 20 Most Visited National Parks 

Discover the Natural Beauty of America: 20 Most Visited National Parks 

The United States is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world, and there is no better way to experience them than by visiting the country’s national parks. From the iconic Grand Canyon to the rugged coastline of Acadia, these parks offer visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature and explore the unique ecosystems that make up this vast country.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the top 20 most visited national parks in the United States from 2020. We’ll provide you with a brief history of each park, highlight some of their most notable features, and offer tips for planning your own visit. Whether you’re an avid hiker, nature lover, or simply looking for a change of scenery, these parks are sure to leave you awe-inspired.

If you’re interested in learning more about the national parks of the United States, we recommend checking out “National Geographic Complete National Parks of the United States, 3rd Edition” by Mel White. This comprehensive guidebook offers in-depth information on all 84 national parks in the country, including maps, photographs, and insider tips for making the most of your visit. It’s available on Amazon and is a great resource for anyone looking to explore the natural beauty of America.

So, grab your hiking boots, pack your bags, and get ready to discover the natural wonders that await you in the top 20 most visited national parks in the United States.

The year 2020 was a year unlike any other, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting every aspect of life, including travel. Despite the challenges, millions of visitors still flocked to America’s national parks to experience the beauty and wonder of nature.

According to the National Park Service, here are the top 20 most visited national parks of 2020:

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 12.1 million visitors
Credit: U.S. National park Service

(Established: 1934) Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, was established on June 15, 1934. It is renowned for its stunning Appalachian Mountain landscapes, diverse wildlife, and vibrant forests. This park preserves the rich cultural history of the southern Appalachian region. Visitors can explore over 800 miles of trails, including a portion of the famous Appalachian Trail. With its scenic beauty and abundant biodiversity, Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts millions of visitors each year, making it one of the most popular national parks in the United States.

2. Yellowstone National Park – 3.8 million visitors

(Established: 1872) Yellowstone National Park holds the distinction of being the first national park in the United States and also the world. Established on March 1, 1872, it covers parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Yellowstone is celebrated for its iconic geothermal features, such as the Old Faithful geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring. The park is also home to diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk. Yellowstone’s natural wonders, including its geysers, canyons, and waterfalls, continue to captivate visitors and make it one of the most visited national parks in the country.

3. Zion National Park – 3.6 million visitors

(Established: 1919) Zion National Park, established on November 19, 1919, is located in southwestern Utah. It is characterized by its towering red sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, and the winding Virgin River. The park’s unique geology attracts rock climbers from around the world who come to conquer its challenging cliffs. Visitors can explore the famous Zion Canyon, hike the scenic trails, and witness breathtaking views from spots like Angels Landing and the Narrows. With its dramatic landscapes and opportunities for outdoor adventure, Zion National Park offers an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park – 3.3 million visitors
Beautiful view of a crystal blue  lake and snow covered mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park
Credit: U.S. National Park Service

(Established: 1915) Rocky Mountain National Park, established on January 26, 1915, is nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. This park showcases the splendor of the Rocky Mountains, with majestic peaks, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes. It offers a haven for wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, and black bears. Visitors can drive along the famous Trail Ridge Road, hike to the summit of Longs Peak, or explore the picturesque Bear Lake area. The park’s scenic beauty and diverse ecosystems make it a cherished destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

5. Grand Teton National Park – 3.3 million visitors

(Established: 1929) Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park was established on February 26, 1929. The park is named after the towering Grand Teton mountain range, which dominates its skyline. With its pristine lakes, verdant valleys, and abundant wildlife, Grand Teton offers a picturesque setting for outdoor recreation and exploration. Hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing are popular activities in the park. The iconic Snake River and the scenic Jenny Lake are among the park’s most recognizable features. Grand Teton National Park’s breathtaking landscapes and close proximity to Yellowstone make it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts

6. Grand Canyon National Park – 2.9 million visitors

(Established: 1919) Grand Canyon National Park, established on February 26, 1919, is located in northwestern Arizona. Carved by the mighty Colorado River, the Grand Canyon showcases awe-inspiring geological formations and unparalleled vistas. With its steep cliffs and vibrant colors, it is one of the world’s most famous natural wonders. Visitors can explore the park’s South Rim or venture into the more remote North Rim, enjoying hiking trails, scenic drives, and helicopter tours. Grand Canyon National Park attracts millions of visitors each year, who come to witness the breathtaking beauty of this iconic landscape.

7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park – 2.8 million visitors

(Established: 2000) Cuyahoga Valley National Park, established on October 11, 2000, is located in northeastern Ohio. It preserves and showcases the natural and cultural heritage of the Cuyahoga River Valley. The park features picturesque waterfalls, rolling hills, and historic structures. Visitors can explore numerous hiking and biking trails, enjoy scenic train rides, and even witness the return of bald eagles to the region. Cuyahoga Valley National Park provides an oasis of nature in an urbanized area, offering recreational opportunities and a place of tranquility for both locals and visitors.

Dutchman’s breeches blooming in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Credit: U.S. National Park Service
8. Acadia National Park – 2.7 million visitors

(Established: 1919) Acadia National Park, established on February 26, 1919, is situated primarily on Mount Desert Island, along the rugged coast of Maine. It encompasses granite peaks, rocky shores, and pristine lakes. The park offers a unique blend of natural beauty and rich cultural history, with opportunities for hiking, biking, wildlife watching, and scenic drives. Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the U.S. Atlantic coast, provides stunning sunrise views. With its mix of coastal landscapes and mountain vistas, Acadia National Park has become a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature photographers.

9. Olympic National Park – 2.5 million visitors

(Established: 1938) Olympic National Park, established on June 29, 1938, is located in the state of Washington. This diverse and expansive park encompasses rugged mountain ranges, old-growth forests, and a rugged coastline. Visitors can explore Hurricane Ridge for stunning alpine vistas, hike through the Hoh Rain Forest with its moss-covered trees, and relax on the picturesque beaches of the Pacific coast. Olympic National Park is also home to several distinct ecosystems, including temperate rainforests and subalpine meadows. Its ecological diversity and scenic beauty make it a cherished national park in the Pacific Northwest.

10. Joshua Tree National Park – 2.4 million visitors

(Established: 1994) Joshua Tree National Park, established on October 31, 1994, spans the desert landscapes of southeastern California. It is famous for its namesake Joshua trees, unique rock formations, and star-filled night skies. Visitors can hike among the iconic Joshua trees, explore hidden valleys, and climb massive granite formations. The park’s distinct blend of the Mojave and Colorado deserts creates a habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, including desert tortoises and bighorn sheep. Joshua Tree National Park offers a serene and otherworldly experience in the stark beauty of the desert.

11. Glacier National Park – 2.3 million visitors

(Established: 1910) Glacier National Park, established on May 11, 1910, is located in the state of Montana, along the border with Canada. Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” it encompasses over one million acres of breathtaking wilderness. The park features towering mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and glacial-carved valleys. Visitors can drive along the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, hike through spectacular landscapes, and spot wildlife such as grizzly bears and mountain goats. Glacier National Park’s glaciers are rapidly receding due to climate change, making it a poignant reminder of the Earth’s fragile ecosystems and the need for conservation.

12. Sequoia National Park – 1.8 million visitors
General Sherman
Credit: OutdoorsHub; photo of General Sherman

(Established: 1890) Sequoia National Park, established on September 25, 1890, is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It is home to some of the largest trees on Earth, including the iconic General Sherman Tree. The park’s ancient giant sequoias, granite peaks, and deep canyons create a dramatic landscape. Visitors can explore the underground wonders of Crystal Cave, hike to breathtaking viewpoints like Moro Rock, and enjoy scenic drives through towering forests. Sequoia National Park offers a glimpse into the majesty of the natural world and the resilience of these ancient trees.

13. Bryce Canyon National Park – 1.7 million visitors

(Established: 1928): Bryce Canyon National Park, established on February 25, 1928, is located in southern Utah. Despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon but rather a collection of natural amphitheaters carved into the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The park’s most striking features are its unique rock formations known as hoodoos, which are spire-shaped pillars of colorful sedimentary rock. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails that wind through the hoodoos, marvel at the vibrant colors during sunrise and sunset, and stargaze in one of the darkest skies in North America. Bryce Canyon National Park offers a surreal and otherworldly landscape for exploration.

14. Arches National Park – 1.6 million visitors

(Established: 1971) Arches National Park, established on November 12, 1971, is located in eastern Utah. It is renowned for its stunning natural arches and rock formations sculpted by millions of years of erosion. The park boasts over 2,000 sandstone arches, including the famous Delicate Arch, as well as towering spires and balanced rocks. Visitors can hike to the arches, drive the scenic Arches Road, and appreciate the unique desert ecosystem. Arches National Park showcases the beauty and fragility of the desert environment, captivating visitors with its otherworldly geology.

15. Capitol Reef National Park – 1.2 million visitors

(Established: 1971) Capitol Reef National Park, established on December 18, 1971, is located in southern Utah. The park’s defining feature is the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long geologic monocline that creates stunning cliffs, domes, and canyons. Visitors can hike through narrow slot canyons, admire ancient petroglyphs, and explore orchards that recall the area’s agricultural history. Capitol Reef offers a quieter and more remote experience compared to other Utah parks, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquility of its dramatic landscapes and cultural heritage.

High desert views of mountains and brush along the scenic drive in Capitol Reef National Park
Credit: U.S. National Park Service
16. Shenandoah National Park – 1.1 million visitors

(Established: 1935) Shenandoah National Park, established on December 26, 1935, is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The park stretches along the crest of the mountains and offers breathtaking views of the Shenandoah Valley. Visitors can hike along the scenic Appalachian Trail, enjoy cascading waterfalls, and meander through the park’s serene forests. Shenandoah is also known for its vibrant fall foliage, which attracts visitors from far and wide. With its proximity to major East Coast cities, Shenandoah National Park provides a natural escape for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

17. Everglades National Park – 1.1 million visitors

(Established: 1947) Everglades National Park, established on December 6, 1947, is located in southern Florida. It is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States, comprising wetlands, mangrove forests, and diverse ecosystems. The park is home to rare and endangered species such as the Florida panther and the American crocodile. Visitors can explore the park’s waterways by boat or kayak, hike through sawgrass prairies, and observe an incredible array of bird species. Everglades National Park serves as an important sanctuary for wildlife and an opportunity for visitors to appreciate the unique and fragile beauty of this subtropical wilderness.

18. Denali National Park and Preserve – 960,000 visitors

(Established: 1917) Denali National Park, established on February 26, 1917, is located in the interior of Alaska. It encompasses Denali, North America’s highest peak, as well as vast expanses of pristine wilderness. The park’s rugged landscapes are dominated by tundra, glaciers, and mountains. Visitors can take a bus tour along the Denali Park Road, which offers unparalleled opportunities to view wildlife such as grizzly bears, moose, and caribou. Denali National Park showcases the unspoiled beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and serves as a testament to the preservation of its unique ecosystems.

19. Mount Rainier National Park – 922,000 visitors
Beautiful purple flowers bask in the meadows under a backdrop of Mount Rainier.
Credit U.S. National Park Service

(Established: 1899) Mount Rainier National Park, established on March 2, 1899, is located in the state of Washington. It is named after Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano and the highest peak in the state. The park features glaciers, alpine meadows, and old-growth forests. Visitors can hike numerous trails, marvel at the magnificent wildflower displays, and witness the power of the mountain’s glaciers. Mount Rainier National Park offers a diverse range of ecosystems and stunning landscapes, showcasing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest region.

20. Death Valley National Park – 919,000 visitors

(Established: 1994) Death Valley National Park, established on October 31, 1994, is located in eastern California and western Nevada. It is known for its extreme desert environment, being the hottest and driest place in North America. The park showcases vast salt flats, sand dunes, rugged mountains, and unique geological features. Visitors can explore the Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, hike through canyons, and marvel at the night sky in one of the darkest places in the country. Despite its harsh conditions, Death Valley National Park offers a mesmerizing and surreal landscape for adventurers and nature enthusiasts.

In conclusion, America’s national parks offer visitors a chance to experience the beauty and wonder of nature. Despite the challenges of 2020, millions of visitors still flocked to these breathtaking destinations. From the towering mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park to the unique rock formations of Arches National Park, there is something for every nature enthusiast to explore. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime!

National Park Service:


Where We Tow Now and OutdoorsHub is a participant in an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to various products for sale. Read our privacy policy for more information.

Published by outdoorshub