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Where are the most popular spots in the US park system? In North Carolina, of course.

Sights and Sounds in Watauga County

Watch sights and sound video clips of Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County, N.C.
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Watch sights and sound video clips of Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Watauga County, N.C.

The Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone may be heavyweights in the National Park realm, but they aren’t by any means the most popular park destinations lately.

Nature lovers seek out a couple of North Carolina locations more than any other in the country, according to the National Park Service.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which spans 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia, attracted more visitors than any other park system in the nation in 2017 – 16,093,765 guests, to be exact. And the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, shared by North Carolina and Tennessee, recorded 11,388,893 visitors to make it the single most-visited park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park also qualifies as a park system – which include national monuments and recreational areas – and came in third on that list.

The Blue Ridge Parkway overtook the Golden Gate National Recreational Area in visits since 2016, when the parkway ranked second.

Video: A visit to Catawba Falls near Old Fort, N.C. Located just off I-40 at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

One of the most popular stretches of the parkway closed March 1 for maintenance to the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct, and is expected to reopen Memorial Day weekend.

The 10 most-visited park systems are:

Blue Ridge Parkway (16 million visits)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (14.9 million)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (11.3 million)

Gateway National Recreation Area (9.1 million)

Lincoln Memorial (7.9 million)

Lake Mead National Recreation Area (7.8 million)

George Washington Memorial Parkway (7.5 million)

Natchez Trace Parkway (6.3 million)

Grand Canyon National Park (6.2 million)

Vietnam Veterans Memorial (5 million)

The 10 most-visited national parks are:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (11.3 million visits)

Grand Canyon National Park (6.2 million)

Zion National Park (4.5 million)

Rocky Mountain National Park (4.4 million)

Yosemite National Park (4.3 million)

Yellowstone National Park (4.1 million)

Acadia National Park (3.5 million)

Olympic National Park (3.4 million)

Grand Teton National Park (3.3 million)

Glacier National Park (3.3 million)

National Park Week is April 16 to 24, 2016. It's about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks!

There were nearly 331 million total recreation visits in 2017, slightly less than the record high (330,971,689) set in 2016. While the interest in national parks is a good thing, the park service said it also puts more strain on already aging facilities.

“Our National Parks are being loved to death," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a press release from the park service. "As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure.”

There is currently $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance in the National Park System, including $461 million along the Blue Ridge Parkway and $215 million at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the park service.

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