The best national parks to visit in the United States, according to Americans who have visited them

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
January 20, 2023, 3:10 PM GMT+0

If you're interested in an epic outdoor adventure, look no further than one of 63 national parks, spread across 32 U.S. states and territories. National parks — which are congressionally designated, protected areas operated by the National Park Service — are visited by millions of Americans each year looking to connect with nature, learn about history, and see new places.

A YouGov poll conducted in 2022 asked Americans about their experiences with U.S. national parks, including which parks they have visited and which they would recommend to others. The national parks Americans are most likely to say they've visited are the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Grand Canyon National Park, and the Everglades National Park. Among people who have visited them, the parks most likely to be strongly recommended are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Which national parks have Americans visited?

To find out which of the 63 national parks Americans have been to, we first asked respondents if they had ever been to any of the U.S. states and territories containing a national park. People who had visited each state or territory were then asked whether they'd visited any of the national parks within it, which were listed by name.

The chart below displays the 25 national parks ever visited by the largest share of Americans. Of these, the five most likely to have ever been visited are:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (28% have visited)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park (26%)
  3. Everglades National Park (20%)
  4. Redwood National Park (20%)
  5. Yosemite National Park (18%)

Which national parks are most likely to be recommended by people who have visited?

Of the 25 national parks visited by the largest share of Americans, people who had visited the following were most likely to say they would strongly recommend visiting to others:

  1. Grand Canyon National Park (84% who have been strongly recommend it)
  2. Yellowstone National Park (84%)
  3. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (82%)
  4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (80% have visited)
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park (80%)

The national park that is least likely to be strongly recommended (among the 25 most visited) is Death Valley National Park (46% strongly recommend), Joshua Tree National Park (49%), Gateway Arch National Park (50%), Hot Springs National Park (50%), and Saguaro National Park (52%). The Everglades National Park — which was the third most likely to have been visited — ranks 18th in regard to the share of visitors who say they'd strongly recommend it.

Three-quarters of Americans say they are interested in visiting national parks in the U.S.: 38% say they are very interested in doing so, while 37% say they are somewhat interested. Just 12% say they are not very interested, and 5% say they are not at all interested.

When asked about the reasons why they are interested in visiting a national park, the top response chosen from 12 provided was "seeing nature," at 81%. Other popular reasons included "seeing someplace new" (71%), "taking a scenic drive" (64%), and "vacationing" (62%). Half of people (54%) said they are interested in learning about history, and 48% said they are interested in getting away from civilization.


— Matthew Smith, Carl Bialik, and Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on September 26 - 29, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Adobe Stock (kateleigh)