National park tourism in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

National parks are areas of land protected by the government, often chosen for their natural beauty and ecology. In the United States, the 59 national parks are operated by the National Park Service. National parks attract millions of visitors each year owing to their vast capacity for outdoor recreation - an estimated 307 million people visited national parks in the U.S. in 2015. They are among the most popular types of destinations for U.S. leisure travelers, particularly campers. Around 40 million people go on camping trips in the U.S. each year.

The most visited national park in the U.S. is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains were chartered as a national park by U.S. Congress in 1934 and now welcome around 10.7 million visitors per year. The mountains range from 876 feet to 6,643 feet and are home to an abundance of animal and plant species due to their varied climate. The park is popular among hikers, another favorite outdoor activity in which around 37 million Americans participate annually. Other most visited national parks include the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the first national park in the U.S., Yellowstone, which was established in 1872.

National park tourism benefits both the national and local economies. In 2015, national park visitor spending reached over 16 billion U.S. dollars – around one third of this was spent on accommodation and one fifth in restaurants and bars.

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National park tourism in the U.S. - Important statistics

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