National Park Tourism Contributes $2.7B to California Economy, Tops in Nation

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the most visited National Park in the United States

A new National Park Service report shows that about 40.5 million visitors to national parks in California spent nearly $2 billion in the state in 2017. That spending resulted in 255,000 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of $2.7 billion.

“The national parks of California attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Martha Lee, acting regional director for National Park Service’s Pacific West Region. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way.  This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy — returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service — and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”

There are 28 national parks in California, including iconic parks such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Death Valley National Park and Redwood National and State Parks. Parks such as Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego and César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene preserve California and U.S. history. California is also home to the nation’s most visited national park, the Bay Area’s own Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by more than 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; 255,900 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion.

The lodging sector received  the highest direct contributions with $5.5 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 49,000 jobs. The restaurants sector -received the next greatest direct contributions with $3.7 billion in economic output to local gateway economies and 60,500 jobs.

According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging/camping (32.9 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the Park Service’s Social Science Program webpage: The report includes information for visitor spending by park and by state.

To learn more about national parks in California and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to

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