Most Popular National Parks

Visitors down across national park system in 2013 due to shutdown, other factors

Move over, Blue Ridge Parkway: the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the most popular national park unit of 2013, according to visitation data released by the National Park Service. The most popular official national park remained Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as it has been for decades.

Annual visitor numbers for 2013 are now available on the NPS website, revealing the most visited parks in the 401-unit national park system and a host of other data, too.

Overall, it was a rough year for the parks: with the 5-percent budget sequestration taking effect in March and the government shutdown in October, the number of recreational visitors to the parks was down significantly, from 282.8 million in 2012 to 273.6 million in 2013—a decline of over 3 percent.

There were several other factors contributing to the lower numbers, points out Kurt Repanshek of National Parks Traveler: the Yosemite Rim Fire, damage from Superstorm Sandy and the Colorado floods, among them.

But ultimately the shutdown took the biggest toll: there were 6.4 million fewer visitors in October 2013 compared to the previous year, NPS statistician Butch Street told National Parks Traveler.

The Most Visited National Parks of 2013

1. Great Smoky Mountains (9,354,695)
2. Grand Canyon (4,564,840)
3. Yosemite (3,691,191)
4. Yellowstone (3,188,030)
5. Olympic (3,085,340)
6. Rocky Mountain (2,991,141)
7. Zion (2,807,387)
8. Grand Teton (2,688,794)
9. Acadia (2,254,922)
10. Glacier (2,190,374)

The Most Visited Places in the National Park System, 2013

1. Golden Gate National Recreation Area (14,289,121)
2. Blue Ridge Parkway (12,877,368)
3. Great Smoky Mountains NP (9,354,695)
4. George Washington Memorial Parkway (7,360,392)
5. Lincoln Memorial (6,546,518)
6. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (6,344,714)
7. Gateway National Recreation Area (6,191,246)
8. Natchez Trace Parkway (6,012,740)
9. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (4,941,367)
10. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (4,843,350) 

Most Popular National Parks of 2012

See also: 13 of the Best National Parks to Visit on Free Days