In a typical year, there are over 330 million visitors to parks in the National Park System. Last year, travel to these parks netted over $40 billion in economic benefit across the US and supported over 340 thousand jobs. This enormous amount of tourism and travel helps to support many “gateway towns” near parks throughout the country. Money spent by tourists at hotels and motels, restaurants, and gas stations is often the lifeblood of these small economies.

During 2020, there’s been almost a 25 percent decline in visits to the National Park System, which will impact these communities and their economies. However, even with social distancing orders in place, outdoor recreation and visiting these areas can be a COVID-safe activity.

To find the states that offer the best access to the National Park System, researchers at Outdoorsy looked at data from the National Park Service’s National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics. They ranked states based on the number of NPS-managed parks that are partially or fully contained within the state. They also included the annual visits to the NPS parks in each state, a measure of the economic benefit from NPS park tourism, and the name of the most visited park in each state.

The analysis found that in Missouri, 3,629,384 people visit the six national parks annually, which generates $419,200,000 in revenue for the state per year. Here is a summary of the data for Missouri:

  • Number of NPS parks*: 6
  • Annual visitors to NPS parks: 3,629,384
  • Economic benefit from NPS park tourism: $419,200,000
  • Most visited NPS park (& visits): Gateway Arch National Park (2,055,309)

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

  • Number of NPS parks: 422
  • Annual visitors to NPS parks: 327,516,619
  • Economic benefit from NPS park tourism: $41,700,000,000
  • Most visited NPS park (& visits): Golden Gate National Recreation Area (15,002,227)

The National Park System is managed by the National Park Service (NPS), which oversees 422 different parks that span over 80 million acres across all 50 states. While some of the most visited parks are recreational areas, parkways, and national parks, the National Park System is comprised of many different types of parks, including monuments, memorials, battlefields, and historic sites. In fact, less than one-third of annual visits are visits to the 62 parks with “national park” in their name.

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Outdoorsy’s website:

*Some parks are listed in more than one state; parks include national parks, national preserves, national monuments, and national memorials, among others.