2009 was a banner year for America’s National Park System, which remained popular with travelers, both foreign and domestic, despite the sluggish economy. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced that the parks experienced 10 million more visitors last year than they did in 2008, which represented a 3.9 percent increase.
The Park Service says that more 285 million people payed a visit to one of the parks or monuments that are under their care in 2009, which made it the fifth busiest year in the history of the system. The record for most visits ever was set back in 1987 when 287.2 million people spent time in the national parks.
The news of the upswing in visitors is seen as a good thing on a number of different levels. It meant that Americans and foreign visitors were still viewing the national parks as quality destinations despite challenging economic conditions around the globe. It was also seen as a good sign for Americans becoming more active, with many travelers hiking the trails and enjoying other outdoor activities.
The list of the top ten most visited parks remains generally the same year in and year out. In 2009 that list, along with the number of visitors, was as follows:
• Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 9,491,437 visitors
• Grand Canyon National Park, 4,348,068
• Yosemite National Park, 3,737,472
• Yellowstone National Park, 3,295,187
• Olympic National Park, 3,276,459
• Rocky Mountain National Park, 2,822,325
• Zion National Park, 2,735,402
• Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 2,589,288
• Grand Teton National Park, 2,580,081
• Acadia National Park, 2,227,698
Hopefully this is a trend that will continue. The parks have been called “America’s best idea”, and visiting any one of the top destinations will only reinforce that. So? What is your favorite national park, and which ones are you planning on visiting this year?