Team Outdoorsy
by Team Outdoorsy
Posted May 5, 2021

2020 saw a major decline in most segments of the travel and tourism industry due to stay-at-home orders in the spring and ongoing restrictions to promote social distancing and discourage the spread of the coronavirus.

But once many of the strongest restrictions were dialed back, outdoor recreation became more appealing. Because the risk of outdoor virus transmission is low, many who were eager to get out of their homes saw camping and RV travel as safe options for leisure.

Few destinations attract outdoor enthusiasts like America’s national parks. Overall visitation numbers to the national parks were down substantially in 2020, as many parks were completely closed for two months or more during the early stages of the pandemic. But notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic, interest in America’s national parks has grown over time.

Yellowstone became America’s first national park in 1872; since then, America’s national parks system has grown to 63 parks with dozens more monuments, historical sites, and other units managed through the National Park Service (NPS). The national parks alone attracted more than 91 million visits in 2019, which marked the peak of a rapid increase in visitation that began following the Great Recession and showed no signs of slowing down until the COVID-induced decline to approximately 68 million visits in 2020.

One popular way to experience America’s national parks is through RV camping. As a result, many of the states that have the most national parks also draw the most RV overnight stays. California is home to nine national parks, the most of any state, and sees nearly 600,000 overnight stays from RV campers—a number 3.5 times higher than the next closest state. Other leading states for RV stays include Utah (five parks) and Colorado (four), followed by Montana and Tennessee, which are home to two of the system’s most popular parks in Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains, respectively.

National parks are not the only attractions that bring in recreational visits: the National Park Service also maintains national recreation areas, parkways, historical parks, and national seashores that also prove popular with visitors. But national parks remain the primary draw, and this reality has not changed due to COVID. Visitation is down across all types of attractions, but national parks still outstrip other types by a healthy margin. In 2020, visits to national parks were 40% greater than for any other category of NPS unit.


TRENDING

It’s the best time of the year for a trip to a national park. Read about the most visited parks in the country, and plan your trip today.


To identify which particular national parks attract the most RV visitors, researchers at Outdoorsy evaluated National Park Service data from 2017–2019 on the total number of recreation visits, the number of overnight stays, and the number of overnight stays by RV campers. The research team used this data to rank parks by the average annual number of overnight stays by RV campers.

Here are the most popular national parks for RVs.

The most popular national parks for RVs

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Kings Canyon National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 36,846
  • Total overnight stays: 232,286
  • Total recreation visits: 674,688
  • Total park area (acres): 461,901
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Bryce Canyon National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 38,219
  • Total overnight stays: 132,120
  • Total recreation visits: 2,615,355
  • Total park area (acres): 35,835
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Shenandoah National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 54,699
  • Total overnight stays: 317,515
  • Total recreation visits: 1,383,087
  • Total park area (acres): 199,224
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. Acadia National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 57,241
  • Total overnight stays: 217,588
  • Total recreation visits: 3,494,711
  • Total park area (acres): 49,077
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 64,484
  • Total overnight stays: 233,196
  • Total recreation visits: 4,565,920
  • Total park area (acres): 265,807

RELATED

Home to more than 400 square miles of majestic peaks that soar as high as 14,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect getaway this spring.


Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Grand Canyon National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 67,476
  • Total overnight stays: 1,224,546
  • Total recreation visits: 6,203,048
  • Total park area (acres): 1,201,647
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Sequoia National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 68,055
  • Total overnight stays: 312,060
  • Total recreation visits: 1,255,634
  • Total park area (acres): 404,063
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Zion National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 74,382
  • Total overnight stays: 334,645
  • Total recreation visits: 4,437,704
  • Total park area (acres): 147,243
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Yellowstone National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 74,929
  • Total overnight stays: 1,417,285
  • Total recreation visits: 4,083,937
  • Total park area (acres): 2,219,791
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Olympic National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 75,774
  • Total overnight stays: 441,629
  • Total recreation visits: 3,250,752
  • Total park area (acres): 922,649
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Joshua Tree National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 76,604
  • Total overnight stays: 400,780
  • Total recreation visits: 2,928,183
  • Total park area (acres): 795,156
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Death Valley National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 97,069
  • Total overnight stays: 216,725
  • Total recreation visits: 1,571,477
  • Total park area (acres): 3,408,396
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 112,429
  • Total overnight stays: 398,779
  • Total recreation visits: 11,769,279
  • Total park area (acres): 522,427

RELATED

Outdoorsy has detailed guides on America’s national parks, including Olympic National Park in Washington and Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddling Tennessee and North Carolina.


Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Glacier National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 115,768
  • Total overnight stays: 381,367
  • Total recreation visits: 3,106,887
  • Total park area (acres): 1,013,126
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Yosemite National Park

  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 255,180
  • Total overnight stays: 1,576,865
  • Total recreation visits: 4,256,396
  • Total park area (acres): 761,748

Detailed findings & methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the National Park Service. To determine the most popular national parks for RVs, researchers used data from 2017 through 2019 to rank national parks by the average annual number of overnight stays by RV campers. In the event of a tie, the national park with the greater number of total overnight stays (including lodge guests, backcountry campers, tent campers, etc.) was ranked higher.

Team Outdoorsy

Outdoorsy Author

Previous Post
 

Ready to get started.

Be the first to get doses of destination inspiration, and discount codes.

We care about the protection of your data. Read our privacy policy