A couple relaxing on the banks of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park. (Photo via DNY59/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
National Parks continued to be popular with U.S. travelers during the pandemic.
Data from ValuePenguin shows that these treasured spaces recovered 91 percent of their pre-pandemic visitation in 2021 despite COVID-19. In fact, some places out-performed their previous numbers, likely due to the fact that spending time outdoors became even more popular with the spread of the coronavirus.
Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida saw a 154 percent increase in visitation last year, jumping from approximately one million visitors in 2019 to 2.6 million in 2021. However, overall visitation for all the parks was down nine percent.
While there were fewer visitors, those who did go were staying longer. The number of hours spent at national parks was down only five percent. The parks seeing the largest increase in time spent include Hot Springs National Park, Virgin Islands National Park and New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
While the parks saw visitor numbers dip just nine percent overall, some parks saw steeper declines. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Alaska saw a drop in visitors from more than 1.1 million in 2019 to only 297 in 2020.
As the pandemic persisted, U.S. travelers sought to go more and more off the beaten path. ValuePenguin’s data shows that travelers preferred to go farther afield rather than explore cities. Urban parks, monuments and memorials typically have seen the slowest recoveries.
Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Boston National Historic Park and the Statue of Liberty National Park in New York all ranked in the bottom five for percentage change in visitors between 2019 and 2021.
Those thinking of visiting one of the nation’s many National Parks can stop in for free on April 16, 2022, kicking off National Park Week, which runs through April 24, 2022.
“Since Yellowstone National Park was established 150 years ago, over 400 extraordinary places have been added to the National Park System,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “Throughout the country, these sites are sources of inspiration, recreation, and education—each one preserving and sharing a part of our national story. I hope National Park Week provides a spark to visit a nearby national park and make some memories.”