Last updated: 10:14 AM ET, Thu July 28 2016

Survey: Americans' Record-Breaking National Parks Visits Expected to Continue into 2017

Destination & Tourism | Tim Wood | July 28, 2016

Survey: Americans' Record-Breaking National Parks Visits Expected to Continue into 2017

PHOTO: A bison and its calf roam Yellowstone National Park. (photo via ThinkStock)

The National Park Service’s multi-layered promotion of the 100th anniversary of U.S. national parks is opening our eyes to the budget-friendly getaways the parks provide, according to a study by AAA.

Visitation to the national parks reached an all-time high in 2015 with more than 307 million visitors and AAA expects the parks to remain busy over the next year. According to their survey, 79 percent of Americans say they are as likely or more likely to visit a national park in the next 12 months.

The parks celebrate their official centennial on Aug. 25, and the re-discovery of the National Park System has been a further sign that Americans are taking more and more advantage of local and regional attractions as gas prices continue to stay below $3 per gallon.

“The demand for national parks is off the charts this year, and it’s exciting to see that Americans are poised to take even more national park vacations in the years to come,” said Bryan Shilling, managing director of AAA Travel Products and Services. “In times of global uncertainty, many people are turning to domestic vacations and the wide variety of national parks offer something for every traveler to discover.”

Millennials have been a big part of the growth, as nearly half of the age group surveyed said they are more likely to visit a national park in the next year, more so than both Generation X and Baby Boomer survey participants.

READ MORE: Celebrate 100 Years of U.S. National Parks With These Amazing Tours 

“It’s not surprising to see that younger generations are particularly interested in visiting national parks,” added Shilling. “Travel is part of Millennials’ DNA, and they consistently seek experiential travel opportunities, a major draw for national park visitors.”

Overall, 85 percent of Americans have visited at least one national park and 73 percent of those surveyed say the parks have become a “must-see” attraction. 

The most visited national parks in 2015 were Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain. As far as the bucket list for the upcoming year, Yellowstone (33 percent), Yosemite (17 percent) and Grand Canyon (12 percent) were the top must-sees.

And here's more incentive to visit the parks over the coming months. The National Park Service is waiving all entrance fees in celebration of the centennial, with free admission to any national park Aug. 25-28, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11.

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