AAA: National Parks Attract the Most Visitors in a Year

National Park Service Celebrates its Centennial in August

PORTLAND, Ore., – The most Americans in recent years are heading to national parks in recognition of the U.S. National Park Service’s 100th anniversary on Aug. 25. Visitation to the national parks reached an all-time high in 2015, with more than 307 million visitors, according to the National Park Service, and travelers can expect the parks to remain busy in the year ahead. According to a recent AAA survey, 79 percent of Americans say they are as likely (42 percent) or more likely (37 percent) to visit a national park in the next 12 months, building on the momentum of this year’s centennial celebrations.

“National parks have never been more popular, and our AAA survey shows travelers plan to take even more vacations to national parks in the coming years,” says Doreen Loofburrow, Vice President of Travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Especially in times of global uncertainty, national parks are a prime destination and offer something for every traveler to discover.”

AAA’s survey shows that 85 percent of Americans have visited at least one national park, and most say national parks are a “must-see” vacation destination (73 percent). National parks are growing in popularity among younger generations, with nearly half of Millennials (46 percent) citing that they are more likely to visit a national park in the next year, outpacing both Generation X and Baby Boomers.

National Park Survey 1

National Park Survey

“We would expect to see younger generations interested in visiting national parks,” adds Loofburow. “Travel and experiences are important to Millennials so national parks are a good fit.”

The most visited national parks in 2015 were Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain, according to the National Park Service,. AAA’s survey reveals the national parks that top most Americans’ bucket lists for future travels include Yellowstone (33 percent), Yosemite (17 percent) and Grand Canyon (12 percent). AAA Oregon/Idaho says the favorite national parks for visitors from Oregon are Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

Americans feel the best times to visit the national parks are during the spring (35 percent), fall (33 percent) and summer (27 percent). Travelers planning trips to national parks for the remainder of 2016 can enjoy a discount on select dates in honor of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. All sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission Aug. 25-28, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11.

Results from the AAA survey reveal additional details about Americans’ national park vacation preferences:

  • The vast majority (91 percent) of visitors to national parks drive to their destination. The rest choose to fly (18 percent), ride on trains or buses (10 percent each) or take a cruise or boat (7 percent).
  • The majority of Americans (66 percent) typically stay in a hotel, motel or lodge when visiting a national park. Camping (41 percent), vacation rentals or cabins (38 percent), staying with friends and family (33 percent) and bed and breakfasts (27 percent) are also popular accommodation options.
  • Visitors’ favorite national park activities include walking or hiking on park trails (53 percent) and sightseeing (35 percent).

Visits to national parks greatly impact the national and state economies as visitors spend money on things such as hotels, restaurants, gasoline, recreation activities, groceries, shopping, transportation, and camping. In 2015, park visitors spent an estimated $16.9 billion while visiting National Park Service lands across the country. In Oregon in 2015, park visitors spent an estimated $81.4 Million while visiting NPS lands in Oregon. Visit www.nps.gov for more info.

AAA offers travelers a variety of tools and resources to plan a national park vacation. Featuring one-of-a-kind national park itineraries, AAA Vacations is a collection of specially designed cruises, guided tours and independent vacations offering unique, engaging travel experiences. TripTik Travel Planner on AAA.com and the mapping section of the AAA Mobile app include nearly 200 Travel Guides and Drive Trips — many featuring national parks — to help travelers plan the perfect road trip either from their PC or on their phone. Both tools help travelers map complete travel routes, locate the lowest gas prices, identify exclusive member discounts, and find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants and more. For more information, visit AAA.com/Travel.

To evaluate national park travel intentions, AAA contracted with a national research company to perform a telephone survey of 1,012 adults living in the continental United States. Survey results are an accurate representation of the total continental U.S. population with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The survey was conducted June 23-26, 2016.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

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