Golden Gate NRA Was the Second Most Visited National Park System in the U.S. in 2020

Photo by Varun Yadav

As the National Park released its annual visitation numbers for 2020, San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area fell to the second spot as the most visited National Park System in the United States. It had held the top spot on the list for the two years prior, with Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains taking the top spot.

The Golden Gate NRA, which includes Muir Woods, Alcatraz and Chrissy Field, was visited by 12.4 million people in 2020, down from 15.2 million visitors in 2018. The park, most popular for the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, has traded the top visitation numbers with Blue Ridge Parkway since 1978.

Photo by Rakshith Hatwar

Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park dropped out of the Top 10 for most visited National Parks for the first time since 2017, receiving just 2.2 million visitors, nearly half of the visitors seen in 2019. That significant drop was due to the limitations enacted by the National Park Service that only allowed half the visitors into Yosemite during the Covid pandemic. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park received by far the most visitors in the country in 2020 with 12.1 million.

“This past year has reminded us how important national parks and public lands are to overall wellbeing,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “Throughout the country, national parks provided close-to-home opportunities for people to spend much needed time outdoors for their physical and psychological health.”

Golden Gate NRA’s visitation numbers is of no surprise as these bayside attractions remain a top destination for people visiting from around the world to San Francisco. Crowds have become so immense that you now have to acquire a parking permit in advance to visit Muir Woods and Alcatraz tickets hard to acquire unless they’re purchased months out.

 Top Ten Most Visited National Park Service Sites    

  1. Blue Ridge Parkway 14.1 million.
  2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area 12.4 million.
  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park 12.1 million.
  4. Gateway National Recreation Area 8.4 million.
  5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area 8 million.
  6. George Washington Memorial Parkway 6.2 million.
  7. Natchez Trace Parkway 6.1 million.
  8. Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park 4.9 million.
  9. Cape Cod National Seashore 4.1 million.
  10. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area 4.1 million.

Top Ten Most Visited National Parks

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park 12.1 million.
  2. Yellowstone National Park 3.8 million.
  3. Zion National Park 3.6 million.
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park 3.3 million.
  5. Grand Teton National Park 3.3 million.
  6. Grand Canyon National Park 2.9 million.
  7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park 2.8 million.
  8. Acadia National Park 2.7 million.
  9. Olympic National Park 2.5 million.
  10. Joshua Tree National Park 2.4 million.

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