Fun Facts And Trivia From The National Park System’s Visitation Data

Death Valley National Park’s unique landscape attracted about 1.1 million visitors in 2023, and park staff provided them with 700 miles of toilet paper!/Patrick Cone file

In the wake of the news that the National Park System attracted 325.5 million visitors last year, individual parks sent out their own releases about last year’s visitation, and some interesting tidbits rose to the surface.

For instance:

  • At Death Valley National Park, which counted roughly 1.1 million visitors last year, the park’s maintenance staff cleaned restrooms and stocked them with 700 miles of toilet paper (3,780 jumbo rolls). Death Valley’s rangers also responded to 13 fires, 88 emergency medical calls, 23 search-and-rescue requests, and 27 vehicle crashes.
  • At Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, while the park counted a record 703,659 visitors, “Most visitors never go ashore, visiting on cruise ships…” The park also saw 157,901 more visitors in 2023 than in 2022 (545,758).
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore saw 910,939 total visitors in 2023, a 1.5 percent decrease from 2022 visitation, and a 30 percent decrease from 2021, when the park saw its highest visitation of 1.3 million visitors. Still, since 2010 visitation has nearly doubled, as has the number of campers.
  • Yellowstone National Park hosted 4,501,382 recreation visits in 2023, up 37 percent over 2022 (3,290,242 recreation visits). Lower visitation numbers in 2022 were likely due to an historic flood event that closed the park from June 13 through June 21. Three entrances opened June 22 and two remained closed until October.
  • At Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the 5.2 million visitors last year not only set an all-time high record for the park, but represented an increase of 2.36 million from 2022. The largest increase to visitation, according to park staff, was in the Lees Ferry District, which increased from 1,052,978 visits in 2022 to 2,190,250 visits in 2023. Lees Ferry is situated below the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. Recreational opportunities in the area include hiking, camping, fishing, camping, motorized boating, rafting and kayaking.
  • Grand Teton National Park hosted 3,417,106 recreation visits in 2023, a 22% increase from 2022. Recreation visits in 2023 are most similar to the number of visits in 2019, the park staff said. While 2019 and 2023 had similar overall numbers in visitation, how that visitation occurred throughout the year was different. In 2019, Grand Teton had higher levels of visitation in the summer, with peak months being June, July, and August; while in 2023 the peak months shifted later in the year to July, August, and September.
  • At Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, visitation numbers increased by 11 percent in 2023 to 316,770. This increase reflects the improved access to the site after becoming a fee free site in January 2023 and the opportunity for more people to learn about the significance of the site and reflect on the events of August 10, 1861, park staff said.
  • At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 2023 visitation was 3 percent higher than 2022. With 13.3 million visits, it is the second highest year on record at the park, after 2021. June through October were the busiest months, with over 1 million visits each month. 
  • At New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, 1,709,623 visitors entered the park reflecting an increase of 7.12% over 2022 at 1,595,923. Nearby Gauley River National Recreation Area saw visitation increase 14.5 percent with 187,223 visitors in 2023 and 163,510 in 2022. Bluestone National Scenic River increased 53 percent from 14,113 visitors in 2022 to 21,592 visitors in 2023, though the significant jump was attributed, in part, to the addition of new trail counters at the Bluestone State Park and Lilly entrances to the park.
  • At Gulf Islands National Seashore, visitation numbers visitation increased 40 percent from last year’s 5.7 million visitors to 8.2 million, and it is now the fifth-most visited national park site. Many factors contributed to the increase in visitation in 2023 including the return of the ferry service to Fort Pickens by Pensacola City Bay Ferry and the reopening of the Fort Barrancas Area in the Florida district. Also, an increase in public programs and visitation to Ship Island in the Mississippi district. 
  • Valles Caldera National Preserve saw 76,090 people experience the park, an increase of more than 12,000—or 19 percent—over 2022.
  • Olympic National Park’s mossy forests, rugged peaks, and wild coastlines hosted 2.9 million recreation visits in 2023. With half a million more visits than in 2022, Olympic National Park became the 10th most visited national park. Visitation increased in spite of the loss of one of the most visited sites, the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge. 
  • Congaree National Park was one of 20 National Park Service units to break annual visitation records in 2023, welcoming 250,114 visitors. This is an increase of almost 35,000 more visits than that of the park’s previous record, set in 2021. Park visitation data shows that more people are visiting the park year-round, rather than seasonally. Over the course of 2023, nine new monthly visitation records were set, with the month of May becoming the most visited month ever for Congaree National Park. The summer months of July through September, which have historically seen some of the lowest visitation, saw a substantial increase in 2023. Driving this increase is the continued interest in annual park events such as the viewing of the synchronized fireflies and the celebration of Juneteenth.
  • On the Blue Ridge Parkway, visitation numbers saw an increase of 1 million, or 6 percent, over 2022, with slight increases across most months of the year. Overall, the Parkway counted 16.7 million visitors last year.

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