Year in Review
The official park visitation numbers for 2020 will start rolling in the next few weeks and they may break some records – which is incredible considering many parks were closed for portions of the year. National Park stories were some of our most popular (check out the entire list of our Top Travel Stories from 2020) and they gave us some clues about where everyone is dreaming to go.
Explore our list of 2020 National Parks content below and see where your favorite national park ranks. Or, explore all of our parks content on our dedicated Parks page.
Read on for our most popular National Parks stories in 2020.
1. Denali National Park and Preserve
Coming in at the top of our list is our article about Alaska’s wildlife: Wildlife Viewing in Denali National Park. Denali National Park’s 6 million acres only draws about 600,000 visitors a year. But it’s high on people’s bucket lists for its incredible wildlife and rugged landscapes.
“If you travel to this gem of a lake formed by retreating glaciers, you’ll be among the lucky few who ever do—this site is reward enough but if you go at dawn or dusk, you may get the added benefit of seeing the moose who tend to congregate here at those times of day.”
2. Canyonlands National Park
In second place is Utah’s Dark Skies: Canyonlands National Park. This park has plenty to see during the day, but it’s night that holds a special sight. The park has been awarded Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark-Sky Association, an honor reserved for “the darkest of dark skies and the most stunning of starscapes.” We cover one trip specifically designed to make the most of the night sky in this stunning park.
“Other amazing sights that’ll have you gawking: the Gambel’s oak tree groves, inscriptions carved into the rocks by early river runners (Norm Nevills, Buzz Holmstrom, the Kolb brothers and Denis Julien), 1940’s-era uranium boom artifacts and incredible wildlife, such as blue herons, beavers, bighorn sheep and deer.”
3. Death Valley National Park
The article Death Valley National Park Winter Hikes and Camping comes in at number 3 with a slew of can’t-miss sights and geological wonders. There are the famous salt flats at Badwater Basin, rainbow colored formations at Zabriskie Point and towering sand dunes at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes among other outdoor stops.
“Here, you can take a ¼-mile hike to the expansive polygon salt formations that the park is known for. Walking the trail, you’ll feel as if you’re on another planet, in a landscape with no beginning or end.”
4. Hot Springs National Park
Our article in 4th place brings healing and relaxation, something we could all do with a little more. Travel that Heals in Hot Springs and Eureka Springs, Arkansas outlined a trip to America’s oldest and smallest national park, exploring the historic bathhouses and nearby outdoor stops.
“If you’d rather drink thermal spring waters than soak in them, head over to Superior Bathhouse, once the smallest bathhouse on the row and now a brewery. It’s the first one in the world to use thermal spring water to make beer and the only one located in a U.S. National Park.”
5. Joshua Tree National Park
Named for the ancient and oddly-shaped Joshua trees in the park, Joshua Tree National Park is a unique desert landscape filled with alien-like plants and impressive canyons and vistas. It’s also a favorite spot for bouldering and rock climbing.
“Pass through and remember to breathe because what’s in store are 800,000 acres of otherworldly geological features, multi-color mountain views, monolithic granite boulders, forests of ancient teddy bear-like Joshua trees (don’t cuddle ‘em—they have massive thorns), blankets of wildflowers, towering cholla cacti and spiky ocotillo plants, coyotes and desert bighorn.”
6. National Park of American Samoa
With around 5,000 visitors a year, this park is one of the least visited parks in the National Park system. But it’s not for a lack of amazing natural wonders. Our article National Park of American Samoa: The Most Isolated National Park dives into some of the unique wonders of this park and the difficulties of getting there. It takes around 14 hours of flight time to reach the island but once there, you might never want to leave.
“A hike in the National Park of American Samoa isn’t just an experience out in nature. Samoan villages in the park carry on the tradition of Fa’asoma: the Samoan way. “
7. Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is easily a top “must-see” place for any traveler. But one thing you have to decide is “which side?” The Great Grand Canyon Debate article lays out the pros and cons of each (although, there’s really no cons with views like these.)
“Anyone who only has time to see one side of this enchanting land of fascinating shapes and colors, this sacred spot of shifting shadows and sculpted cliffs, well, I have to ask what they really want: a walk in the park or a deeper trek; an easy Insta post begging for some love or a collection of fabulous shots they have to earn?”
8. Haleakalā National Park
Located in Hawaiʻi, this park has an early wake-up call. Haleakalā National Park – From Sunrise at the Summit to Sunset in Kula outlined the sunrise experience along with hiking volcanic landscapes and where to go for a delicious meal.
“The trek to the crater floor is fascinating, with more than 1.1 million years of geology revealed on the 2,600-foot descent. You’ll likely see a nene or two – the world’s rarest goose – grousing beside or flying above you.”