January 21, 2015 Updated 10:15 PM
The Updates/Editorial Should be Pretty Obvious
After the numbers have been tabulated, double and triple checked, the National Park Service of America has released their annual visitation numbers for the National Parks. While there was a close battle for 4th,5th and 6th place, the bottom of the order switched around. While we would normally do a top five list, today we are doing the top six of America’s best and most scenic National Parks based on attendance.
As per usual, the most popular National Park in America for 2014 was Great Smokey Mountains National Park, with over 10 million visitors in 12 months. While the numbers may seen staggering compared to other National Park’s attendance numbers, it is important to remember that this is the largest National Park near the east coast, making it a popular local place to go for the heavily populated Eastern Seaboard.
Second place goes to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, with 4,785,006 visitors. Close to a few of the larger cities on the West Coast, Grand Canyon has consistently placed in the top five most visited National Parks.
Third place is the always popular Yosemite National Park in California with 3,882,642 visitors in 2014. Home to iconic images and of course close to Los Angeles, San Francisco and the other large California cities, Yosemite is always one of the most visited National Parks, as the crowds in the summer prove.
Fourth Place is America’s first National Park. Yellowstone National Park had 3,513,484 visitors in 2014, giving the park its best year since 2010. Home to bison, wolfs, bears and geysers, Yellowstone is a fantastic destination and should be visited by all. We recommend going here, and have even written a guidebook to help visitors see the best spots in park and how to experience the surrounding must-see cities, museums and natural wonders.
Fifth place is where we saw the most drastic change. In the opposite of the outcome of Superbowl 48, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado beats the Seattle area National Park. 3,434,754 people visited RMNP, compared to 3,432,259 in Olympic National Park. Rocky Mountain is a fantastic and beautiful National Park. It really is.
Rounding out the top six is Olympic National Park in the northwest corner of Washington State. While the park should have been ranked in the top five (and for a brief few hours before my last edit, it was), it came in with 3,432,259 visitors. The glorious Olympic National Park, with every type of terrain you could ever want, ranging in average annual rainfall from 14-160 inches of rain. The National Park with 611 miles of trails through nearly one million acres of wilderness. With more glaciers than Glacier National Park and wild beaches more gorgeous that anything found to the state to our south, it is easy to be disappoint we got beat out of the top 10. I know I didn’t go to the park nearly as many times as it deserves, or as many times as I deserved.
Many of you are probably thinking the same thing. Only 2,495 people and we would once again be in the top five. Being in the top five is important for so many reasons. Obviously, Olympic is the home park for Exotic Hikes, and we have written numerous guidebooks on the region, but we also want the region around Olympic National Park to survive. As it is, Olympic National Park is and will forever be designated as 95% Wilderness. That means absolutely no human interaction what-so-ever, aside from hikers. As long as we have the National Park system funded and operations;, 95% of nearly 1,000,000 acres of land is protected from any sort of development. Being in the top five gets more awareness on the region and a great opportunity to show the rest of the country how to sustain wilderness with growth and tourism. The Olympic Peninsula is in a unique opportunity, with a little work, to become known as one of the best wilderness areas and national parks in America. We know Olympic is the best park in the country, so lets visit it like it is. Make 2015 a year to explore Olympic again, often, for the love of the wilderness.
While we are at it, we need to visit Mount Rainier National Park a bit more as well. While it is popular, only 1,264,260 people visited the most-iconic image in Washington State.
Further north in the cascade range, North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited National Parks run by the Department of the Interior. With 2014 only seeing 23,768 visitors in the entire year, few of us visit this amazingly beautiful and wild park. For those looking for true solitude in beautiful mountains, consider helping bump these numbers up and backpack around this amazingly beautiful region.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park saw 837,409 visitors around this water-filled ancient volcano. As Oregon’s only National Park, the visitation numbers leave something to be desired, but are pretty good considering the remote location of this park.
Montana’s Glacier National Park saw a decent year of visitors, with 2,338,528 experiencing this park in America’s Northern Rockies. This was the park’s best year in history, and is sure to grow with increasing popularity of this gorgeous park.
Finally, Grand Teton National Park, south of Yellowstone saw 2,791,392 visitors. Thanks to the incredible views and its location close to Yellowstone, many visitors to the region visit both parks.
2014 Six Most-Visited National Parks by the Numbers
Great Smokey Mountains National Park: 10,099,277
Grand Canyon: 4,785,006
Rocky Mountain National Park: 3,434,754
Olympic National Park: 3,432,259
Other Pacific Northwest Region National Park Attendance Numbers
Glacier National Park: 2,338,528
Grand Teton National Park: 2,791,392
Mount Rainier National Park: 1,264,260
North Cascades National Park: 23,768
Crater Lake National Park: 837,409