I think my favorite nearby state park is Frenchtown Pond, IF the bass are letting me catch them.

And while it never seems like they just can't wait for me to toss a lure in the water, the occasional good-sized one keeps me coming back. And this year's numbers so far indicate that nearly 3 million visitors have their own favorites for no doubt all kinds of reasons.

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, there have been more than 2.9 million visitors at state parks from January through September of this year. And that is actually a bit of a dip compared with the same time period last year. Visitation decreased by 2%. But, compared to 2019, it increased by 27.1%. After a record setting July, many parks experienced a decrease in visitation as smoke from regional wildfires enveloped much of Montana for extended periods.

According to Hope Stockwell, administrator of the Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division at FWP, “As we look back on another summer of extremely high visitation at state parks across Montana, it’s clear they provide not only extraordinary cultural, historical and recreational experiences for our users but also play a vital role in their health and well-being.”

The top five most-visited Montana state parks so far this year are:

Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls – 342,466 visits (up 9.5%)

Flathead Lake State Park, Flathead Lake – 307,815 visits (down 29.0%) - This number is for all units.

Cooney Reservoir State Park, Roberts –  231,265 visits (down 30.1%)

Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena –  216,998 visits (up 48.3%)

Lake Elmo State Park, Billings – 177,860 visits (down 13.7%)

For western Montana (Region 2 - Missoula, Milltown State Park had the highest visitation in the region with 95,820 visits, an increase of 45.7% from the first three quarters of 2020.

While some opportunities may be a bit more limited this time of year, here's hoping you will be able to get out and enjoy some of what Montana state parks have to offer in the final 9 weeks of 2021!

RANKED: Here are the most popular national parks

To determine the most popular national parks in the United States, Stacker compiled data from the National Park Service on the number of recreational visits each site had in 2020. Keep reading to discover the 50 most popular national parks in the United States, in reverse order from #50 to #1. And be sure to check with individuals parks before you visit to find out about ongoing, pandemic-related safety precautions at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.