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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Top 10 Most Visited Parks

1. Great Smoky Mountains

Clouds obscure a valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The nation’s busiest park, Great Smoky Mountains draws more than nine million visitors a year, twice the number of any other national park. It's located in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Great Smoky Mountains

Fog casts a veil over Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6,643 feet. The park preserves the world’s best examples of deciduous forest and a matchless variety of plants and animals.

2. Grand Canyon

The setting sun strikes the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Nearly five million people travel to the canyon each year.

Grand Canyon

A visitor takes in the view from the South Rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Ninety percent of travelers first see the canyon from the South Rim, but crowds can be avoided by hiking the park’s many trails or driving to the cool evergreen forests of the North Rim.

3. Yosemite

The 317-foot Vernal Fall is seen from a gorge in California’s Yosemite National Park. In addition to waterfalls, the park boasts deep valleys, ancient sequoias, and hundreds of animal species.


Winter sunlight appears to set Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Fall aflame. The third most visited national park, Yosemite is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

4. Yellowstone

Fog from a nearby hot spring nearly conceals two bison grazing on winter grasses in Yellowstone National Park. The park is also home to elk, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, and other Rocky Mountain fauna.


The Lone Star Geyser erupts in Yellowstone National Park. Located in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, the park has more geysers and hot springs than anywhere else on Earth.

5. Rocky Mountain

Sweeping vistas are a main attraction at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The park contains 150 lakes and 450 miles of streams, plus ecosystems ranging from wetlands to pine forests to montane areas to alpine tundra.

Rocky Mountain

An elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. A wide variety of animals inhabit the park, including beaver, elk, and bighorn sheep, as well as many bird species.

6. Olympic

Rock outcroppings called sea stacks are home to birds and other animals on the Pacific shore of Washington’s Olympic National Park. The shore is one of three distinct ecosystems within the park.


Olympic National Park encompasses 1,441 square miles of the Olympic Peninsula. Because of the park’s relatively unspoiled condition and outstanding scenery, UNESCO has declared it both an international biosphere reserve and a World Heritage site.

7. Grand Teton

Autumn brings vibrant color to a valley in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Though visitors can enjoy the park year-round, September and October bring pleasant days, brisk nights, fewer crowds, and a better chance of seeing elk than in summer.

Grand Teton

The peaks of the Teton Range are seen at sunrise from Schwabacher Landing, a popular viewing point. Unencumbered by foothills, the regal and imposing peaks make one of the boldest geologic statements in the Rockies.

8. Zion

Rising in Utah’s high plateau country, the Virgin River carves its way through Zion Canyon to the desert below. The park’s striking vertical topography—rock towers, sandstone canyons, and sharp cliffs—attracts 2.5 million visitors a year.


A climber tests a sandstone boulder in Utah’s Zion National Park. Established in 1919, Zion has more than 100 miles of wilderness trails crisscrossing the backcountry.

9. Acadia

Sea and mountain meet at Acadia National Park in Maine. Most of the park is on Mount Desert Island, a patchwork of parkland, private property, and seaside villages.


Eagle Lake is visible from a wooded hill at Acadia National Park. The park has more than 120 miles of hiking trails, which range from easy strolls along the ocean to steep climbs up Cadillac and other mountains.

10. Cuyahoga Valley

Although Brandywine Falls draws most of the tourists to Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park, less crowded Blue Hen Falls, pictured here, offers an oasis in the middle of a heavily forested valley.

Cuyahoga Valley

A cardinal perches on a branch along the popular Towpath Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Established in 2000, the park features marshes with abundant wildlife, vistas of tree-covered hills, and secluded trails through rugged gorges