Fame, beauty and accessibility all factor in to a National Park’s number of visitors. In 2014, millions flocked to our nation’s preserved, picturesque lands. While some parks are easy to slot in the top 10 like Yosemite, others were less obvious. How many of these parks have you checked off your list?
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TN, NC)
2014 Visitors: 10,099,276
Salamander Central: Hikers are likely to encounter at least a few of the 30 species of Salamanders that call the Smokies home, earning this park the nickname the “Salamander Capital of the World.”
The Smokies see more than twice the traffic of the next most-frequented park on this list. Spreading between North Carolina and Tennessee, proximity to outdoor outposts like Asheville and Chattanooga as well as major metros like Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville help explain this overwhelming number of visitors. That said, with over half a million acres to peruse, you can definitely find solitude here; you just have to work for it.
2. Grand Canyon National Park (AZ)
2014 Visitors: 4,756,771
Grand Indeed: The Canyon is up to a mile deep, offering backpackers a spectacular backdrop and tough trails with ample vertical.
The Grand Canyon is a must-stop destination for every cross-country road trip and a shoe-in for this list. No American landmark maintains such iconic grandeur, calling everyone from advanced whitewater kayakers to buses full of foreign tourists. There’s adventure to be had here, of course – especially if you’re willing to venture below the rim.
3. Yosemite National Park (CA)
2014 Visitors: 3,882,642
Miles upon miles: Over 750 miles of trail beckon backpackers of all fitness levels and creeds.
Home to Half Dome, Yosemite is no stranger to dirtbag climbers, hordes of tourists and screensaver photographers. This year, the park will turn 125, so hit the trails in celebration.
4. Yellowstone National Park (WY, MT, ID)
2014 Visitors: 3,513,484
Grant’s Legacy: Yellowstone is the first of 59 National Parks, protected by the benevolent and bearded Ulysses S. Grant in 1872.
There’s more to Yellowstone than Old Faithful. In addition to the world’s largest collection of geysers, Yellowstone is the habitat to some of America’s most impressive residents including Grizzlies, wolves and bison.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park (CO)
2014 Visitors: 3,434,751
High Country: When winter’s begun to subside, you can drive all the way up Trail Ridge Road to 12,000 feet, making RMNP one of the highest altitude parks in the country.
If you’ve been to Rocky Mountain National Park, you’re likely familiar with the throngs of tourists who venture no further than a mile from their cars. Push onward and explore some of Colorado’s most iconic vistas. RMNP is also a top destination for Colorado’s backcountry skiers given ease of access and variety of terrain.
6. Olympic National Park (WA)
2014 Visitors: 3,243,872
The Enormity of Olympic: Covering nearly a million acres, Olympic National Park is one of the largest and most diverse areas on this list.
This behemoth of a park contains everything from rugged Pacific coastline to temperate rain forest. Stick to the trails, don’t get lost and head on the trip of a lifetime.
7. Zion National Park (UT)
2014 Visitors: 3,189,696
Bird Watching: Campers and hikers keep an eye – and an ear – out for 288 species of birds that nest within Zion.
Follow the Road to Zion and you won’t be disappointed. Utah’s first national park, sandstone cliffs, brilliant red dirt and tight slot canyons characterize Zion. Though Zion is a highly visited destination, it’s easy to get lost among the rock formations.
8. Grand Teton National Park (WY)
2014 Visitors: 2,791,392
Bear Aware: It’s not just Black Bears that live in the Tetons, but Grizzlies as well. Backpackers should properly store food when exploring these mountains.
Only a quick jaunt from Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park is most famous for the Grand Teton, the jagged summit that dominates Jackson Hole’s striking horizon. A veritable valley of paradise for the multi-sport outdoor enthusiast, you can enjoy Park on foot, bike, skis and more.
9. Acadia National Park (ME)
2014 Visitors: 2,563,129
First Sun: At 1,530-ft, Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the Atlantic coast. This summit is definitely worth hiking in the dark, as it sees the sunrise before any other point in the country.
Go for the lobster, stay for the views of Maine’s gorgeous coast. Acadia welcomes visitors from all over the east coast – and the world, for that matter – who find solace (if not solitude) among the islands and inlets of this storied park.
10. Glacier National Park (MT)
2014 Visitors: 2,338,528
Campsites Aplenty: With 13 campgrounds, Glacier has almost 1000 campsites available. Few can be reserved, however, so get there early to take your pick.
Montana’s crown jewel, Glacier sprawls along the Canadian border, home to Grizzly Bears and grizzled, snow-streaked peaks. Not for the faint of heart, Glacier’s backcountry trails push into remote and dangerous terrain.