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Blue Ridge Parkway Most Visited National Park in 2023

The National Park Service (NPS) recently published its 2023 visitation numbers, revealing an increase of over 13 million visitors from 2022. Within the 400 national parks that counted visitors last year, 325.5 million total recreation visits were recorded, and at the top of the list was the Blue Ridge Parkway with 16.7 million unique visits.

“The Parkway’s location, design, and proximity to so many gateway communities provide a wide array of rich natural, cultural, recreational, and historical experiences for park visitors,” Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout stated in a press release. “Appealing to so many visitors of so many different interests and abilities is a hallmark of the Parkway experience across the decades.”

Established in June of 1936, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway travels through the five major mountain ranges as its links Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Parkway visitors were first tallied in 1941, when 895,874 people explored the scenic roadway. The numbers from 2023 mark the Blue Ridge Parkway’s second year as the country’s top-visited national park, with an increase of one million visitors from 2022. 

“The Blue Ridge Parkway, unlike most national park areas, is a planned landscape—planned down to the smallest detail in ways that most visitors do not notice at first glance,” NPS states on its website. “Landscape architects and engineers dovetailed their skills and creative genius for the benefit of the millions who have enjoyed this drive for more than eight decades.”

According to the NPS, visitation at many parks has been affected by natural disasters and increasingly severe weather, even though numbers are increasing overall. The 2023 data also revealed an increase in off-season visitation along with record-high visitation numbers for 20 lesser-known parks, including New River Gorge National Park & Preserve in West Virginia and Congaree National Park in South Carolina. 

“Parks are attracting more visitors each year to learn about our shared history,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams stated in a press release. “Our national parks tell our shared American story.”

Cover photo: Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina courtesy of Getty Images

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