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The 15 Most Popular National Parks for RVs

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Outdoorsy.

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 was found to be 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.

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 the Great Smoky Mountains, respectively.

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.

The following are the most popular national parks for RVs.

15. Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park in Calfornia
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  • 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

14. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
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  • 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

13. Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
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  • 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

12. Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine
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  • Number of overnight stays by RV campers: 57,241
  • Total overnight stays: 217,588
  • Total recreation visits: 3,494,711
  • Total park area (acres): 49,07

11. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
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  • 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

10. Grand Canyon National Park

Sunset at the Grand Canyon's North Rim.
Erik Harrison / Shutterstock.com
  • 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

9. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park in California
Andreas C. Fischer / Shutterstock.com
  • 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

8. Zion National Park

Zion National Park
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  • 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

7. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
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  • 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

6. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park in Washington
Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock.com
  • 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

5. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park in California
Gary C. Tognoni / Shutterstock.com
  • 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

4. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley holds the world record for highest air temperature ever recorded with a temperature of 134 degrees recorded on July 10, 1913.
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  • 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

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee
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  • 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

2. Glacier National Park

Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock.com
  • 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

1. Yosemite National Park

Onenes / Shutterstock.com
  • 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

RV
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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.

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