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10 national parks you love most -- and why they may be even busier this year

10 national parks you love most -- and why they may be even busier this year
Smoke rises off the mountains in fall at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It's the most visited national park in the country. (National Park Service)

It's a big year for national parks. Last year, America's most beloved public lands welcomed a record 307 million visitors.

Why are those numbers likely to rise this year? The National Park Service has been banging a drum about its centennial year. The agency was created Aug. 25, 1916.

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Parks have been busy scheduling lots of events and urging people to come and explore.

A grizzly bear walks through a backcountry campsite in Montana's Glacier National Park.
A grizzly bear walks through a backcountry campsite in Montana's Glacier National Park. (Doug Kelley / Associated Press)

The almost 5% rise in visitors in 2015 included many national parks in the West — Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon — setting their own records.

And overnight stays in the parks, including hotels, cabins, camping and other lodgings, increased 6% over 2014.

Bison graze in Yellowstone National Park.
Bison graze in Yellowstone National Park. (Neal Herbert/National Park Service)

Here are the 10 most popular national parks according to number of visitors. Most of them are in the West, so expect to see more people out and about if you're planning a visit anytime soon.

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee

A photographer walks with his tripod over his shoulder and Half Dome in the background at Yosemite National Park.
A photographer walks with his tripod over his shoulder and Half Dome in the background at Yosemite National Park. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

4. Yosemite National Park in California

5. Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming

6. Zion National Park in Utah

7. Olympic National Park in Washington state

9. Acadia National Park in Maine

10. Glacier National Park in Montana

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The National Park System includes 409 areas and units, which include national parks.

Here are the 10 most popular areas in the country:

1. Blue Ridge Parkway from North Carolina to Virginia

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee

4. Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada

6. George Washington Memorial Parkway in the Washington, D.C., area

7. Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey

8. Natchez Trace Parkway in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee

9. Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

ALSO

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