Fun Facts About U.S. National Parks: Where to Stay, What to Do

Visiting a U.S. National Park? Check out these fun facts for information on where to stay, what to do, discounts, and more!

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. In honor of the centennial, we are sharing 100 facts, from the basic to the bizarre, to inspire you to join in the celebration at one of the many beautiful national parks across the country.

If you’re planning a trip to a national park soon, these 24 facts will help you discover interesting things to do, sites to see and places to stay.

1) More than 307 million people visited U.S. national parks in 2015, the most ever recorded.

307 million people visited U.S. national parks in 2015

2) The most-visited NPS site was the Blue Ridge Parkway, with more than 15 million visitors. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile stretch of road in Virginia and North Carolina containing multitudes of scenic overlooks, historic sites, buildings and other structures, all managed by the National Park Service.

Blue Ridge Parkway

3) The most-visited national park in 2015 was Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 10.7 million visitors.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

4) You can visit any national park site for free on 16 days during 2016 in honor of the NPS centennial. But don’t worry if you can’t make a trip on one of these days, because 283 of NPS’s 410 sites don’t ever charge admission!

5) If you plan to visit lots of national parks and federal recreational lands over the next year, you can buy an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80, which covers entrance and standard amenity fees for more than 2,000 federal recreational sites.

6)  Fourth graders and their families can visit these federal public lands for free through Aug. 31, 2016, through the Every Kid in a Park program.

7) Others who can receive free or discounted passes include current U.S. military members and their dependents, seniors, Americans with permanent disabilities, and volunteers who pitch in 250 or more volunteer hours to federal public lands per year.

8) Once inside, there are plenty of unique places to spend the night if you know where to look, including Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn, a national historic landmark and one of the world’s largest log buildings.

Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn

9) Experience a twist on the typical cabin experience at the Ross Lake Resort in North Cascades National Park by staying in cabins that rest atop log floats.

Ross Lake Resort

10) Sleep as the cowboys did at the Triangle X Ranch, a dude ranch in Grand Teton National Park.

11) Sleep 15 miles away from any road at the remote Kettle Falls Hotel and Resort in Voyageurs National Park, located in northern Minnesota.

12) Or lie your head where royalty has stayed at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly known as the Ahwahnee Hotel), which features views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point.

Majestic Yosemite Hotel

13) Camp out on the sand and under millions of stars at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

14) Or camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon by hiking down to the Bright Angel Campground.

15) If you crave camping mates, Assateague Island National Seashore will allow you to camp on the same beach as wild horses.

Assateague Island National Seashore

16) Many national parks offer rare activities to visitors, such as the opportunity to eat lunch 750 feet underground inside the Carlsbad Caverns National Park snack bar.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

17) On New Year’s Day, you can experience the first sunrise in the U.S. atop the summit of Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain.

Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain

18) And later in the year at Acadia National Park, (mid-May through late-October,) you can experience a tradition dating back to the 1890s – afternoon tea with popovers on the lawn at Acadia’s Jordan Pond House.

19) You can explore Denali National Park and Preserve by dog sled.

Denali National Park

20) Experience the dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve by sand sled or sandboard, a snowboard designed for sand.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

21) Many western parks, including Big Bend National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument, are recognized as International Dark-Sky Parks for their idyllic stargazing conditions.

22) Kenai Fjords National Park is an ideal place to go whale watching. Look for humpbacks, orcas, and gray, fin and minke whales, as well as puffins and other exotic animals.

Kenai Fjords National Park

23) In winter, try ice climbing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

24) Any time of year, soak your cares away in the therapeutic waters of the historic bathhouses of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.