National Park Visitors Contribute $2.9BN to California Economy, Top in the Nation

New report shows visitor spending supports 289,000 jobs

SAN FRANCISCO – A new National Park Service report shows that nearly 42 million visitors to national parks in California spent more than $2 billion in the state in 2016. That spending resulted in 289,000 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of more than $2.9 billion.

“The national parks of California attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Laura Joss, regional director for National Park Service’s Pacific West Region. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way. This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”

There are 28 national parks in California, including iconic parks such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Death Valley National Park and Redwood National and State Parks. Parks such as Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego and César E. Chávez National Monument in Keene preserve California and U.S. history. California is also home to the nation’s most visited national park, the Bay Area’s own Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $ 34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the Park Service’s Social Science Program webpage: The report includes information for visitor spending by park and by state.

To learn more about national parks in California and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to

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The National Park Service has more than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 National Parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at

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