National Park Travel Is at an All-Time High

U.S. national parks are seeing an all-time high in demand for travel to the U.S. destinations, particularly from millennials By: Valerie Chen
U.S. national parks are increasingly drawing visitors, particularly millennials. // © 2016 iStock
U.S. national parks are increasingly drawing visitors, particularly millennials. // © 2016 iStock

The Details

The National Park Service’s (NPS) 100th-birthday celebrations might be coming to a close in a few months, but demand for national parks travel shows no signs of slowing down. According to a survey conducted by AAA in late June, 79 percent of Americans say they are likely to visit a national park within the next 12 months.

Why It Matters:
Parks across America attracted more than 307 million visitors in 2015 — an unprecedented high for the NPS — and the total visitor count for 2016 will likely surpass that number, due in part to the parks’ centennial efforts. Plenty of these parkgoers will be millennials; nearly 46 percent of respondents in the generation say they are more likely to visit a park in the next year. If selling national parks travel isn’t on already on your radar, now is a great time to start.

Fast Facts:
- Thirty-five percent of respondents say the best times to visit national parks are during spring, while 33 percent prefer fall, and 27 percent would rather go during summer.

- Most parkgoers travel by car (91 percent). Other modes of transportation include planes (18 percent), trains (10 percent), buses (10 percent) and cruises or boats (7 percent).

- Top choices for national park travel accommodations include hotels, motels or lodges (66 percent); camping (41 percent); vacation rentals or cabins (38 percent); staying with friends and family (33 percent); and bed-and-breakfasts (27 percent).

- Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain are the top three most-visited national parks, according to NPS.

- As for future trips, AAA reports that Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon rank as the top three bucket-list national parks.

- This year, national parks that typically require an entrance fee will open for free Aug. 25-28, Sept. 24 and Nov 11.

What They Are Saying:
“The demand for national parks is off the charts this year, and it’s exciting to see that Americans are poised to take even more national park vacations in the years to come,” said Bryan Shilling, managing director for AAA Travel Products and Services. “In times of global uncertainty, many people are turning to domestic vacations, and the wide variety of national parks offer something for every traveler to discover.”

“It’s not surprising to see that younger generations are particularly interested in visiting national parks,” Shilling added. “Travel is part of millennials’ DNA, and they consistently seek experiential travel opportunities — a major draw for national park visitors.”