America's most popular national parks

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina/Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway meanders for 469 miles through two states, revealing gorgeous views of the Appalachian Highlands that vary by season. Autumn's changing foliage is evident in a sunrise view of the mountains in Brevard, North Carolina mountains near Asheville.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California: Hikers can spot these old redwood trees in Muir Woods, which is part of the Golden Gate site.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee: The most popular of the 59 headliner National Parks, Great Smoky Mountains protects a variety of animal and plant life. Enter the park's southern entrance near Cherokee, North Carolina, to enjoy the view from the Oconaluftee Overlook.

Gateway National Recreation Area, New York/New Jersey: Sunrise at Sandy Hook, on the New Jersey side, is worth waking up for. Gateway has three geographic units: Sandy Hook in New Jersey, and Jamaica Bay and Staten Island, both in New York City.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.: President Abraham Lincoln's influence on the country was so vast, there are 16 sites associated with the 16th president's legacy. Construction of the Lincoln Memorial was completed in 1922.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona/Nevada. Lake Mead, observed here from the Hoover Dam, is one of the most popular spots to play in this 1.5 million acre park site that includes canyons, mountains, valleys and two lakes (the other is Lake Mohave). There are also nine wilderness areas to explore.

George Washington Memorial Parkway, Washington, D.C./Virginia/Maryland: While the parkway is a commuting route for many working in the region, it's also a carefully planned "park and playground" near the nation's capital. Forts, wildlife preserves, gardens and memorials can be found along the route, including these springtime tulips and dogwood in McLean, Virginia.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee: The historic Old Trace trail was once the main road through the Old Southwest, going through Chickasaw and Choctaw lands to get from Natchez to Nashville. Commemorated by the Natchez Trace Parkway, the trail still exists in part today. This location is milepost 221.4.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: The second most popular National Park, the Grand Canyon was first protected as a national monument by then-President Theodore Roosevelt. Watching the sunrise at the park's North Rim is majestic.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.: Designed by Maya Lin, the memorial lists the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Their names are listed chronologically by date of casualty.

Nearly 331 million people visited the National Park Service's 417 sites around the United States in 2017, a slight dip from the 331 million record-breaking visits during its centennial anniversary year in 2016. Park service officials expected the slight decline after the centennial celebrations during the previous year. In 2016, the park service recorded its third consecutive all-time attendance record, and 77 national park sites set new records for annual recreation visits. (Of the 417 sites in the National Park Service, 385 count visits.) While attendance numbers remained relatively stable, people actually spent more time in the parks in 2017 -- more than 1.4 billion hours last year, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016. [cnn]
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