Millions of people are flocking to prime outdoor spots around the country, including two Texas locations.  

With restrictions lifting and pent-up energy launching us out of our houses as if we were cannonballs, outdoor vacations are going to be huge again this year.  After a surprisingly successful year of visits last year at national parks, millions are expected to be back again this year.

For much of last year, it felt like nobody was going anywhere, but apparently, that wasn't the case.

Fox News said Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee was the most-visited out of 62 national parks, with 12.1 million visitors last year, and it's has been the top national park since 1944.

Yellowstone National Park covers parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming followed in second place with 3.8 million visitors.  Zion National Park in Utah came in third, with 3.6 million visitors, according to Fox News.

The National Park Service's most popular spot overall was the Blue Ridge Parkway which covers 469 miles and winds through Virginia and North Carolina.  That scenic route had 14.1 million visitors in 2020, and it makes sense because so many people last year wanted to take a drive.  I bet half of the visitors were moms that needed a break from home-schooling, and the other half were remote workers looking for a better Zoom background than the living room ceiling.

Overall the NPS had 237 million visitors in 2020, which is mind-blowing considering all of the closures and quarantines.  As things open up again, the summer of 2021 will be big for national parks.  I visited Yellowstone in 2018 and can't wait to go back!  The scenery is gorgeous, and it's the breath of fresh air that we all need right now.  Now is a good time to start planning the trip.

Some restrictions are in place at Texas' Big Bend National Park, including a limit on how many people you can take with you.  They have a maximum of 8 right now, but that could change this spring and summer as more restrictions lift.  Big Bend is a great spot for camping, day hikes, scenic drives, and exploring Texas' geology and ecosystems.

Fifteen national parks set new records for visitors last year and five parks broke visitor records they had set in 2019.  All during a pandemic, which is more proof that outdoor vacations are where it's at.

LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.

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