The most commonly reported answer is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). According to the National Park Service, there were 12.9 million visitors in 2022 as compared to the second most visited national park, the Grand Canyon, at 4.7 million.
Based on this data, it is fair to argue that the Great Smoky Mountains are the most popular. Although it is meaningful data, it is also misleading data when it comes to determining which national park is the most popular.
What Makes It Misleading?
The GSMNP is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Gatlinburg is a tourist destination and it sits right on the border of the national park. Highway 441 is passes thru the national park from the south as tourist make their way to Gatlinburg.
Highway 23 and highway 441 connect as a scenic route between Atlanta, GA and Knoxville, TN. Similarly, I40, highway 19, and highway 441 combine as a pass through between Asheville, NC and Knoxville, TN. Many visitors are passing through the national park versus visiting the national park. What do you think, do these visitors represent popularity or convenience?
A Different Measure?
The most visited national park certainly seems like the right barometer for determining popularity. However, the Internet and online searches tell a different story. Currently, Yellowstone National Park is the most frequently searched national park at 450,000 monthly searches. Second place Zion often holds the number one spot, currently sitting at 368,000 monthly searches. Yellowstone's fluctuations tend to be associated with the popularity and airing of the TV series after the same name.
The Grand Canyon, one of the 7 wonders of the world, is the second most visited national park in the United States with 4.7 million annual visitors. Although approximately one-third of the visitors as compared to the GSMNP, it is searched equally as Yellowstone National Park if the search query does not include 'national park' in the name.
Dr. Phillip Imler, President of the Global Alliance of National Parks notes, "The popularity of our country's national parks is more easily determined by combining both online searches as well as actual visitors to the park."
Yellowstone is ranked number one based on the number of searches, however, it is only ranked number seven with actual visitors at 3.66 million. The GSMNP is ranked number one based on actual visitors, however, it is not even in the top 15 most frequently searched national parks. This placement based on the number of online searches makes it challenging to call the GSMNP the most popular.
Which National Park is the most Popular?
When combing the metrics of online searches and actual visitors, the Grand Canyon is tied with Yellowstone National Park with monthly searches and sits in second place based on the actual number of visitors. This suggests that the Grand Canyon is actually the most popular national park.
Zion National Park could easily argue that it is the most popular based on fluctuating monthly searches where it sits in the number one position at different times. It was the third ranked most visited national park with only 40,000 fewer visitors than the Grand Canyon. So, it is sometimes the most frequently searched and the third most visited.
Based on the differing metrics, what do you believe is the most popular national park? Should it be the GSMNP with the most visitors, Yellowstone National Park with the most searches, or the Grand Canyon with the equal number of searches (without national park in the name) and the second most visited?
You can explore all of the US National Parks by visiting https://national-parks.org/ and there you can pick your favorite. Dr. Imler added, "What is the most favorite national park is a whole other question." Best wishes as you explore the splendor and beauty of the country's national parks.
Original Source of the original story >> What is the Most Popular National Park in the United States?