2016 represents the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in the U.S. For the past century, the dedicated men and women of the NPS have helped manage the parks, keeping them well protected from encroaching interests while also turning them into some of the most famous travel destinations on the planet. Everyone from serious adventure travelers to family road-trippers can find something to love inside these beautiful and iconic places, which is why millions visit them on an annual basis.
Recently, travel booking site Expedia.com conducted a survey of more than a thousand Americans to determine their thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions of the National Parks. Their findings, which have been compiled into the Expedia National Parks Index, offered some surprising insights into what travelers think about these places that are such an indelible part of American culture.
The study showed that the national parks are highly valued by Americans. According to the survey, 76% of those who responded said that they "strongly agreed" that the National Parks are "valuable and beautiful." Furthermore, 50% of those who participated in the poll indicated that they had visited a National Park at some point in their life, with 38% having done so within the past 5 years. Even more encouraging, 32% said they had gone to park within the past year.
So which parks rank amongst America's favorites?
According to Expedia, Yellowstone ranks number one, with the Grand Canyon claiming the second spot. The Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Yosemite rounded out the top five respectively.
When asked which park they thought was the most beautiful, the top five choices remained the same, although the order changed up a bit.
The Grand Canyon took the top spot, with Yellowstone in second, followed by Yosemite, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Rocky Mountain.
Mount Rushmore topped the list of the place that most Americans would like to take a selfie in front of, with the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. and Old Faithful in Yellowstone also getting nods. Each of those is a selfie-worth place of course, and iconic in their own right.
The survey even asked Americans which face they would like to add to Mount Rushmore given the opportunity. The magnificent rock sculpture already includes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. But 29% of those surveyed said they would add Franklin Delano Roosevelt if the could, while another 21% voted in favor of John F. Kennedy joining the ranks of the Presidents already on that rocky face in South Dakota. Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton were amongst the others getting votes.
As for non-presidents that should be added to the Mount Rushmore pantheon the respondents of the survey had a lot to offer there too. Most say they would like to see Martin Luther King, Jr. added to the wall, while others vote in favor of Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ, and even Donald Trump.
Coming off a record year of attendance at the National Parks in 2015, it seems that Americans have not lost their love for traveling to these beautiful places. With the Park Service centennial now upon us, I wouldn't expect 2016 to see much of a decrease in visitors either, and a new record is entirely possible. If you're thinking about visiting a National Park sometime this year, Expedia can help. The website has put together a page dedicated to helping you plan, organize, and book your trip, making it easier than ever to see the parks in style.
Personally, I'm a big fan of Yellowstone, Glacier, and the Grand Tetons, each of which is located within a relatively short drive of one another. If you want to make an epic road trip through the American west, and see some of the best landscapes imaginable, than plan a visit to Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho to take in these great destinations.