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Most Visited U.S. National Parks in a Record-Setting Year

The National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016, and a record number of guests joined the party.

The agency logged 331 million visits at the sites it manages, including 59 national parks as well as hundreds of monuments, memorials, scenic drives, historical landmarks, and nature preserves across the United States. The numbers for 2016 were 7.7% higher than the previous year's figure, which was itself a record. 

The park service's centennial was highly touted, with campaigns encouraging everybody to "Find Your Park" and the launching of a program that gives every U.S. fourth grader a one-year parks pass for free. Also creating intrest in federally owned lands: Former President Barack Obama, who in his last year in office designated 12 new national monuments, for a total of 34 throughout his two terms in office.

The most popular National Park Service site was San Francisco Bay's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which received 15.6 million visits. The Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina and Virginia was close behind with 15.2 million. The nearby Great Smoky Mountains were the most popular of the agency's 59 national parks, logging more than 11 million visits.