I like data, I'm a bit of a nerd in that regard. One side of my brain likes the organic, unordered world of our natural national parks, but then the other side of my brain likes order and numbers and rankings. And so today, I present ranked visitation data for similar minded left-brained folks out there.
The National Park Service count people visiting the parks. Each park in the system has a method for figuring this out, which is actually a little more complex than clicking a counter every time a car drives past the entrance station. How do you separate recreation visits from, say, commuters which drive along a road that is managed by the park? Tough to answer, and that's why the NPS has statisticians on staff to figure it out. These statisticians once a year release a document that ranks all park units in the system based on visitation. Here is what they found for visits in 2006.
Top 10 Most Visited NPS Units RankPark NameVisitation 1Blue Ridge PKWY 18,953,4782Golden Gate NRA 13,486,8243Great Smoky Mountains NP 9,289,2154Gateway NRA 8,456,4565Lake Mead NRA 7,777,7536George Washington MEM PKWY 6,872,2137Natchez Trace PKWY 5,713,5838Delaware Water Gap NRA 5,254,2169Cape Cod NS 4,487,71610Grand Canyon NP 4,279,439
With 3 parkways and 4 recreation areas, that list doesn't necessarily represent the big, out-of-the-way destination parks that we typically picture when we think of a 'National Park'. And so, let me apply a filter to the data to isolate just the top ten National Parks.
Top 10 Most Visited National Parks RankPark NameVisitation1Great Smoky Mountains NP 9,289,2152Grand Canyon NP 4,279,4393Yosemite NP 3,242,6444Yellowstone NP 2,870,2955Olympic NP 2,749,1976Rocky Mountain NP 2,743,6767Zion NP 2,567,3508Cuyahoga Valley NP 2,468,8169Grand Teton NP 2,406,47610Acadia NP 2,083,588
These two 'top ten' lists look pretty similar to last year's numbers, but there has been some movement in the bottom ten parks. Want to avoid the crowds? Check out these least visited park units. Aniakchak had only 60 visitors last year! It has been noted though, counting must be tough at Aniakchak considering there are no permanent buildings (NPS or otherwise) at the monument. The only real way to get there is by float plane, and even that can be tricky I've been told. Counting down from 10 ...
Bottom 10 : The Least Visited Park Units RankPark NameVisitation10Noatak NPRES 3,2729Kobuk Valley NP 3,0058Cape Krusenstern NM 2,5987Salt River Bay NHP 2,5266Alibates Flint Quarries NM 1,8825Frederick Law Olmsted NHS 1,5594Bering Land Bridge NPRES 1,2653National Park of American Samoa 1,2392Rio Grande W&SR 1351Aniakchak NM & PRES 60
- NHS - National Historic Site
- NM - National Monument
- NMEM - National Memorial
- NP - National Park
- NPRES - National Preserve
- NRA - National Recreation Area
- PKWY - Parkway
- W&SR - Wild Scenic & Recreational River