The Most Popular Recreation Areas in the US

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Most recreational activities in 2020 consisted of outdoor activities in large spaces due to COVID-19 travel and social distancing restrictions. Millions of people ventured out of the city and into national parks and recreation areas that span thousands of acres and where people don’t have to worry about being too close to each other.

 National recreation areas are lands near large reservoirs. They are usually protected areas that offer visitors a variety of outdoor recreational activities, both water and land based. There are dozens of protected areas in the U.S. that are designated as national recreation areas, and, as of 2020, the National Park Service managed a total of 18 such areas.

To identify the most popular national recreational areas in 2020, 24/7 Tempo reviewed last year’s recreational visits published in the NPS’ annual visitation report. The NPS aggregates visitation data for various government land designations and visitation purposes.

The NPS takes care of more than 85 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Though NPS locations are generally referred to as parks, there are several name designations. Of the 18 national recreation areas the NPS manages, three are in California, three are in Washington, and five cross borders of  two states.

Exploring the wilderness, hiking through mountains, and sleeping under the stars are just some of the nature experiences these parks have to offer, often free of charge. And these are the national parks that had the most visitors in 2020.

To identify the most popular national recreational areas in 2020, 24/7 Tempo reviewed last year’s recreational visits published in the National Park Service’s annual visitation report. The NPS aggregates visitation data for various government land designations and visitation purposes. We considered only National Recreation Areas in our analysis. There are a total of 18 national recreation areas administered by the National Park Service. 

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