The U.S. National Park Service announced a record-breaking number of visitors in 2016 recently, stating 331 million people visited their parks last year; marking a record and an increase by over seven percent from 2015.
The announcement was made at Glacier National Park by Ryan Zinke, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary, who also declared that these parks are considered national treasures.
This was the third year in a row that the service parks’ attendance record has been broken and the good news gets even better, with 77 national parks setting records as it relates to yearly visits. It’s important to note, National Park Service has 417 sites, with 382 of them that counts visitors.
There was a ton of hype in 2016, as National Park Service celebrated it centennial 100-year birthday, with a “Find Your Park” theme to encourage everyone to visit national parks. Former president Barack Obama listed 34 additional park sites to hit the National Parks list during his tenure as president, with four parks hitting that list during the final weeks of his presidency. Interestingly enough, four new sites Obama added as National Parks this year (Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Belmont Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park) reportedly had 300,000 people visit them in 2016.
Additionally, fourth graders across the United States were given a free national park pass for the year, as well as their family, for the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that helped attract over two million students within the first year.
But, who what park was the most popular? Attracting over 15.6 million people, Golden Gate National Recreation Area hit that number one spot, followed by Blue Ridge Parkway, with 15.2 million. Great Smoky Mountain National Park hit third spot with 11.3 million, George Washington Memorial hit the fourth spot with 10.3 million, and Gateway National Recreation Area rounded off the top five at over 8.6 million visitors.
CNN reported that people spent 1.4 billion hours in these parks last year, which meant there was more time spent outside in wonder and beauty, as last year’s stat on this was 93 million hours. The parks also saw an increase in overnight stays, a 2.5 percent increase from last year. This number includes park property, park service-run campgrounds, backcountry camping, as well as lodges that were concession run and campgrounds.