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North Hills Monthly

Which National Park Gets the Most Visitors Each Year?

Jul 30, 2015 01:34PM ● By Charles Reichblum

Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, TN

Of all the national parks in the United States, the one that attracts the most visitors is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located in North Carolina and Tennessee. More than 9 million people visit there annually. The second-most visited national park is Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, with some 4 million annual visitors.

So what makes a park a national park? A national park must be officially designated by an act of Congress, following the criteria that it has “natural beauty, unique features and recreational opportunities.”

There are just 59 national parks in the U.S., though there are many historical parks, seashores, monuments, battlefields, historic sites and recreation areas that are also under the purview of the National Park Service. The first national park was Yellowstone, designated a national park in 1872. Home to the famous Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone, which sprawls over three states—Wyoming, Montana and Idaho—was not only the first national park in the U.S., but also the first one in the world with that designation.

The 59 national parks in the U.S. are located in just 27 states, which means that 23 states, including Pennsylvania, have none. California has the most national parks at nine, followed by Alaska, which has eight. The closest national park to western Pennsylvania is Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is situated between Akron and Cleveland, along the Cuyahoga River. The largest U.S. national park is the Wrangell-St. Elias Park in Alaska, which covers more than 8 million acres.

So are new national parks in the United States still being established today? The answer is yes. Four parks have been designated national parks since the year 2000, including Pinnacles Park in California, Great Sand Dunes Park in Colorado, Congaree Park in South Carolina, and the Cuyahoga Valley Park in Ohio. 

Dr. Knowledge is heard on KDKA and the CBS radio network with his “Knowledge in a Nutshell” feature, and is author of the “Knowledge in a Nutshell” book series. His website is