Cougar Ridge

National Park Facts to Know in 2024

Mar 14, 2024 | Capitol Reef National Park, National Parks, Our Blog | 0 comments

Thinking about planning a visit to Cougar Ridge and Capitol Reef National Park, or other national parks in 2024? Check out these national park facts ahead of your visit!

1. There are 429 National Parks

When most people think of national parks, a few names come to mind. This usually includes the most popular national parks, like Zion, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Maybe a few of the national parks closest to you come to mind, or perhaps the ones that you like to visit each year on vacation.

But what many people don’t realize is that there are actually more than 400 national parks in the U.S. As of March 2024, there are 429 national parks, as well as over 150 other related areas managed by the National Park Service. This includes areas like national battlefields, national monuments, and national forests. 

The 429 national parks cover more than 85 million acres and are located across all 50 states. That’s 85 million acres of protected land to explore today that will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

2. The First National Park Opened in 1872

The road to opening 429 national parks has been a long one. The very first park opened in 1872 when Yellowstone National Park was officially established. At the time, the National Park Service hadn’t been founded. For forty years, the park was managed by several government agencies, including the Department of War, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior.

In 1916, the National Park Service was founded and took over management of Yellowstone as well as the 13 other national parks and 21 national monuments that had opened by that time.

3. More than 300 Million People Visit National Parks Each Year

In 2015, the National Park Service marked the milestone of welcoming more than 300 million people into the nation’s national parks for the first time. Since then, there have been more than 300 million people visiting the parks each year, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 when travel restrictions caused a dip. In 2023, 325 million people visited our national parks.

The first year that records on visitor numbers to national parks were kept was 1904, when 120,000 people visited them. By 1920, that number passed one million visitors. So far, the year 2016 holds the record for the highest number of visitors to the park, with more than 330 million people visiting that year.

4. A Utah Park Made the List of Most Popular National Parks

One of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks has been making the list of top ten most popular national parks for a number of years now. In fact, it’s been named in the top three for several years.

With more than 4.6 million annual visitors, Zion is the third most popular national park in the U.S. Only Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Grand Canyon National Park beat it in 2023, with Yellowstone National Park coming in a close fourth at 4.5 million visitors.

5. The Least-Visited National Park Saw Just 11,000 Visitors

The list of the most-visited parks are some of the most popular national parks, especially for those planning their own adventure. But what about the parks that see the fewest number of guests?

The most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains, welcomed more than 13 million visitors in 2023. By comparison, the least-visited park welcomed just 11,000. That title belongs to Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, located in a remote part of Alaska. 

In fact, five of the top ten least visited national parks are located in Alaska. One, Dry Tortugas National Park, located in the Florida Keys, is accessible only by boat or seaplane.

6. You Can Visit the Parks for Free in 2024

Many national parks, including Capitol Reef, charge an entrance fee. This fee varies from one park to the next. More than 80 percent of the entrance fee that you pay will stay in the park where you pay it. The money is used to maintain park facilities, restore natural areas, implement changes to improve the visitor experience, and more.

In most cases, including at the parks you can visit during your stay in Capitol Reef National Park hotels, your entrance fee will get you access to the park for seven consecutive days for up to 14 passengers in a non-commercial vehicle. This can make planning a visit to a national park an affordable option for families, as you’ll pay once and be able to enjoy the park for a full week.

But if you’re looking to save a little money on your next visit to a national park, you’re in luck. Every year, the National Park Service announces their Free Entrance Days. As the name suggests, entrance fees are waived on these days.

In 2024, there will be six Free Entrance Days. One already passed on January 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. The remaining five are:

  • April 20
  • June 19
  • August 4
  • September 28
  • November 11

Putting These National Park Facts to Work

Now that you know a few interesting national park facts, it’s time to put them to work. Whether you want to visit a little-known park or take advantage of a Free Entrance Day in the parks, 2024 is a great year to do so.

If you’re dreaming of exploring the beautiful landscapes of Capitol Reef, why not plan a visit in 2024? Capitol Reef National Park hotels are the perfect base camp for exploring all that this unique park has to offer. And now is a great time to book your stay at Cougar Ridge.

When you book a stay of three or more nights before October 31, you’ll enjoy a 25 percent discount on your booking. Book today to take advantage of these savings!

Skip to content