The vast natural beauty of America attracts millions of admirers each year. From mountains to deserts to beaches, each region of the United States has something special to offer. Here are the top 10 most popular attractions according to the National Park Service's 2012 report on visitors.
10. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Once deemed a Wonder of the World, the Delaware Water Gap – with its winding river, vast valley and waterfalls – draws just under 5 million visitors each year.
9. Gulf Islands National Seashore
Photo: Lil Castner/Flickr
The soft, sandy beaches of the northern Gulf of Mexico continue their rebound from the July 2010 oil spill, attracting nearly 5 million visitors with its white beaches, barrier islands, water activities, history and wildlife.
8. Gateway National Recreation Area
The Gateway National Recreation Area survived Hurricane Sandy and, after a quick and determined recovery, continues to provide beach fun to more than 5 million visitors. In addition to inviting coastlines, visitors can observe Fort Wadsworth, one of the oldest military sites in the United States, and the Sandy Hook lighthouse, the oldest in the country.
7. Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway stretches 444 miles through Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. A variety of outdoor activities accompany great historical significance, inviting more than 5 million visitors each year to learn and enjoy the area.
6. Lincoln Memorial
Photo: Randy Pertiet/Flickr
The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., is an iconic piece of history situated in the gorgeous West Potomac Park near the Potomac River. More than 6 million people visit the memorial — part of the National Mall — to drink up the history and the greenery.
5. Lake Mead National Recreation Center
Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona and Nevada attracts more than 6 million kayakers, boaters, fishers, hikers, photographers — and anyone who loves breathtaking desert views and unique wildlife.
4. George Washington Memorial Parkway
Photo: National Park Service
Amidst the bustling Washington, D.C., area is a beautiful and historical wildlife preservation, the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Its careful combination of scenery and history is just one reason why more than 7 million people visit it each year.
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
It’s no wonder that nearly 10 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee, which offer a rich Southern Appalachian mountain culture and incredible wildlife diversity.
2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Photo: britta heise/Flickr
More than 14 million visitors venture to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for its rich history and the picturesque San Francisco Bay Area, taking part in such activities as trail walking and windsurfing.
1. Blue Ridge Parkway
With more than 15 million annual visitors, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 miles of scenic landscapes and mountains boast 100 trails, seasonal wildflowers, historical and cultural demonstrations, horseback riding and migratory bird-watching.
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