Most U.S. Park Visitors Take Road Trips to Get There

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There’s not a lot of summer left, but the good news is that there is still enough time to fit in a road trip to visit a national park. However, we have to warn you, you probably won’t be the only one with the idea.

The U.S. National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday on August 25th —  and that centennial birthday is one reason U.S. parks are packed with visitors this year. But it hasn’t just been busy in 2016. The American Automobile Association says a record 307 million people visited national parks last year.  The most popular parks in 2015 were the Great Smoky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain.

Not only is the number of park visitors up. So, too, is park traffic. That’s because the vast majority are road tripping to parks. According to AAA, about 91 percent of visitors drive to their destination. The rest either catch a flight (18 percent), bus or train (10 percent), or cruise or boat (7 percent).

You can check out one Atlanta couple’s road trip this summer with an airstream in tow in this NBC News video.

So why are park visitor numbers up? Aside from it being the Park Service’s centennial that is? Well, AAA researchers say recent economic uncertainty and global unrest are both reasons American’s are choosing parks for their vacations. They also say millennials love to travel. (We also have to throw in low gas prices which are putting more people on the road, period.)

Of course visiting a park can be an extended stay or just a day thing. Over half, 66 percent, stay in hotels, motels, and lodges. Only 41 percent actually camp. Other options include staying in a cabin (38 percent), staying with family and friends (33 percent), and staying in B&Bs (27 percent).

If a park visit sounds fun to you, check out the National Park Service’s Find Your Park website. You can search for parks by state. You can also use a filter to find the park with the activities you want.

Related Video: Jared Leto Celebrates National Park Centennial’s 100th

Actor and director Jared Leto decided to get involved in celebrating the National Park Centennial. He’s currently directing a 5 part short film series called Great Wide Open. Episode 3 came out just last week. It features Alex Honnold “The Rockstar” climber.

Photo Credit: Stanisic Vladimir/Shutterstock
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