Our Most Popular National Parks


The number of people who visit America’s national parks is staggering—in 2014 it was nearly 70 million. Wonder which parks are the most popular? Here are the top ten. (Nat Geo Travel)

Check out our collection of resources on national parks.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including a link to today’s MapMaker Interactive map!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Why would anyone want to visit this? Photograph by National Park Service
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Why would anyone want to visit this?
Photograph by National Park Service

Discussion Ideas


  • Compare the first bookmark in today’s MapMaker Interactive map of the most-visited national parks in 2014 with the second bookmark, which lists the most-visited national park units. What’s the difference between a national park and a national park unit?
    • According to the National Park Service itself, “National parks are places that represent America’s beauty, wildlife, history, and people. They also represent our heritage. They protect fragile or unique ecosystems, wildlife habitat, human-made or natural structures, waterways, and riparian zones. Each park has one or more of these features, which is why it is protected.”
    • National parks are just one type of unit in the National Park System. In addition to national parks, national park units include monuments, preserves, reserves, lakeshores, seashores, rivers, wild and scenic rivers, scenic trails, historic sites, military parks, battlefields, memorials, and recreation areas. (Whew!)


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  • Take a look at the least-visited national parks, in bookmark three. These are the least-crowded parks in the system—hidden gems! The spectacular national parks of one state in particular seem to be neglected. Why?
    • Three of the least-visited national parks are in Alaska—the most sparsely populated state in the nation. There are simply fewer people around, and it can be difficult and costly to get there from the “Lower 48.”


Map by National Geographic
  • The protected lands of our national parks have of course been around long before the founding of our nation. Take a look at our “Native American Cultures” map, which shows major cultural regions in northern North America before large-scale European settlement. This map, “Native American Languages and Groups,” provides a little more detail. Using both maps, what Native American cultures lived in and around what are now our most-popular national parks?
    • Great Smoky Mountains: Cherokee
    • Grand Canyon: Hopi, Navajo, Havasupai
    • Yosemite: Miwok, Mono
    • Yellowstone: Shoshone, Paiute
    • Rocky Mountain: Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho
    • Olympic: Chinook, Quileute, Quinault, Klallam
    • Zion: Ute, Paiute
    • Grand Teton: Shoshone
    • Acadia: Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot
    • Glacier: Blackfeet, Gros Ventre



Nat Geo: Top 10 Most Visited National Parks

Nat Geo: Most-Visited National Parks map

Nat Geo: Native American Cultures map

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