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Ten most (and least) visited national parklands in America

April 05, 2013|By Mary Forgione | This post has been corrected. See note below for details.
  • Upper, middle, and lower Yosemite Falls cascade in full springtime form in the Yosemite Valley. Yosemite was the third most-visited national park in 2012.
Upper, middle, and lower Yosemite Falls cascade in full springtime form… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Americans love big national parks in the West, seven of which made the 10 most visited parks in the country for 2012. More than 282 million people visited U.S. national parks in 2012, up 3 million from the year before, according to National Park Service statistics.

And the least visited national park? Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve in remote southern Alaska, which claimed just 19 visitors last year. "No Lines No Waiting!" reads the park's website. Two California sites made the least visited list too, but more on that later.

The top 10 ranking of the nation's 401 parklands hasn't changed in the last three years with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina as the most visited park, period. It tallied more than 9.5 million visitors, followed by:

--Grand Canyon in Arizona (4.4 million)
--Yosemite in California (3.8 million)
--Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming (3.4 million)
--Rocky Mountain in Colorado (3.2 million)
--Zion in Utah (2.9 million)
--Olympic in Washington (2.8 million)
--Grand Teton in Wyoming (2.7 million)
--Acadia in Maine (2.4 million)
--Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio (2.2 million).

When looking at the 10 most visited places within national parklands, sites in the East dominate.

The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia tops the list with 15.2 million visitors. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes several parklands around San Francisco, including the Presidio and Muir Woods, comes in second with 14.5 million visitors. Great Smoky Mountains takes third place followed by:

--George Washington Memorial Parkway in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia (7.4 million)
--Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona (6.2 million)
--Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (6.1 million)

[FOR THE RECORD, 2:30 p.m., April 5: A prior version of this post incorrectly said the Natchez Trace passed through Missouri. It passes through Mississippi, as corrected below.]

--Natchez Trace Parkway in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee (5.5 million)

--Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey (5.0 million, but lost an estimated 1.2 million visitors after Hurricane Sandy blew through the units in Jamaica Plain, Staten Island and Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook remains closed and is expected to open May 1)

--Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi (4.9 million)
--Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

And back to those least-visited places. The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., logged no visitors because it has been closed since 2011 because of earthquake damage. Then comes Aniakchak followed by Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial in Concord, Calif., where 320 Americans died in a WWII ammunition accident. It had 553 visitors last year and requires reservations. The rest:

--Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River in Texas (694)
--Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in Alaska (1,393)
--Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania (2,045)
--Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska (2,642)
--Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in Danville, Calif. (2,789; it's the writer's former home and reservations are required)
--Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in Texas (3,383)
--Nicodemus National Historic Site in Kansas (3,505)
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