Every US National Park Ranked

I’ve updated this post of every US National Park ranked; which now stands at 63. Rankings of course are all subjective and based on the voters or in this case, my experience and tastes. People will agree or disagree, some will call me a moron, scream and yell and some will simply add to their unending bucket list. But what myself and all those people have in common is we like lists even if we don’t admit it. We like rankings. People always want to know what’s best and what’s worst and debate it. That’s why “listicals” do so well and 63 is a manageable number. Here is my criteria for every US National Park ranked.

All 60 US National Parks ranked

Standing high above Canyonlands National Park staring at one of natures greatest creations

  1. I have been to the national park
  2. It’s based on my experience and thoughts from my visit
  3. Nothing else

Now here is every US National Park ranked backwards from 63 to 1. Tell me what you think of my list and what your top 5-10 would be. Enjoy!

63 Hot Springs

I found Hot Springs just really boring, uninteresting and I don’t understand why it’s a national park.

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs National Park

62 Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes is a recent addition to the National Park list for political reasons. It’s essentially a marginal beach on a lake with power plants ands factories surrounding it. Plus, if you drive from Chicago, you’ll pay a fortune in tolls and wait in traffic just to get into the park in summer. It shouldn’t be a National Park.

Indiana Dunes National Park

Sunrise over Indiana Dunes National Park

61 Pinnacles

There isn’t really much to see in Pinnacles. The drive into the park is better than the park itself. Plus I found it annoying that the 2 sides of the park didn’t connect.

Rocks in Pinnacles National Park

Rocks in Pinnacles National Park

60 Cuyahoga Valley

I honestly didn’t know I was in a national park. I thought I was in a rural neighborhood or town. There’s a decent waterfall but that’s about it in terms of excitement for a visitor.

Waterfall at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Waterfall at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

59 Congaree

It’s literally a big swamp that you can walk a couple of miles loop. There’s a ton of mosquitos and it all kind of looks the same. I wasn’t impressed but plants and bugs aren’t really my thing.

Reflections in the swamps of Congaree National Park

Reflections in the swamps of Congaree National Park

58 Gateway Arch

This only became a national park recently and I’m not exactly sure why other than politics. The Gateway Arch is cool to see the first time but that’s really about it in my opinion.

St Louis and the Gateway Arch National Park

St Louis and the Gateway Arch National Park

57 Mammoth Cave

I like caves, don’t love them but wasn’t overly impressed by Mammoth. There are 3 other national parks with caves I liked more and wouldn’t go out of my way to return to Mammoth.

Inside Mammoth Cave National Park

Inside Mammoth Cave National Park

56 Biscayne

This is a weird park to me as it’s pretty much all water. It’s pretty of course and I get the biodiversity angle but I’d rather just travel around the keys. I’m more of a visual person than getting into scientific things.

Out of the water in Biscayne National Park

Out of the water in Biscayne National Park

55 Voyageurs

Much like Biscayne, it’s mostly water and it’s really pleasant to be there but not that exciting. I hear if you do a houseboat it’s better but I wouldn’t travel all the way to International Falls to go on a houseboat in a lake to drink some beers.

Entrance to Voyageurs National Park in Northern Minnesota

Entrance to Voyageurs National Park in Northern Minnesota

54 Wind Cave

Again, I like caves but wasn’t overly impressed by Wind Cave. If you’d never seen a cave before you’d probably be impressed and I hate to sound jaded but it wasn’t nearly as good as others I’ve seen. The park also features buffalo and other animals but the day I was there it was raining so I didn’t see much activity.

The Assembly Room inside Wind Cave National Park

The Assembly Room inside Wind Cave National Park

53 Guadalupe Mountains

This park was pretty of course but I found it relatively indistinguishable from some others. I didn’t see much that made it stand out to me. Although, it’s certainly a nice place to pass through on a road trip.

Desert scenery in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Desert scenery in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

52 American Samoa

This park is a pain to get to for obvious reasons like it’s in American Samoa! To be fair, I’ve been twice but only on the main island as the park is spread out over a few islands. This makes it even harder to get to see most of it and honestly, it is nice enough but nothing too impressive. If it were in Hawaii, it would just be another view or maybe a state park.

Viewpoint in the National Park of American Samoa

Viewpoint in the National Park of American Samoa

51 Shenandoah

Technically, Shenandoah was the first national park I went to when I was a young child but I don’t really remember it so I don’t count that visit. So when I went back, I thought it was a nice drive of course because it is but nothing overly impressive about it. I found it to be a poor mans Smoky Mountains but again an enjoyable and peaceful place to drive and I finally got to visit Monticello!

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello very close to Shenandoah National Park

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello very close to Shenandoah National Park

50 Sequoia

I think I’d have Sequoia higher if I hadn’t seen Redwood and Kings Canyon first on the same road trip. By the time I saw Sequoia I was kind of over the big trees. Seeing these giants the first few times is great but then it’s like seeing yet another elephant on safari. I know people love Sequoia and that’s fine. It is nice, I just prefer the other two.

Trees in Sequoia National Park

Trees in Sequoia National Park

49 Petrified Forest

I was at the Petrified Forest back in 2008 on a road trip from Business School and I remember we all collectively thought it was cool but we expected more. I hope to return soon to see if that was just us being young and immature or that’s still an accurate statement.

A different kind of forest in Petrified Forest National Park

A different kind of forest in Petrified Forest National Park

48 New River Gorge

The newest addition to the National Parks list, as of December 2020, and it’s nice to visit but it’s essentially a day trip place and the most famous site is the bridge. I am fine with it being a National Park as it’s beautiful but this is as high as I can rank it.

New River Gorge National Park

The Famous Bridge in New River Gorge National Park

47 Saguaro

Saguaro is a cool place to drive around but after a while you’re like, I get it there’s a lot of Saguaro Cacti here. I love Arizona and may move there sooner rather than later and I’d make sure I had cacti in my yard but Saguaro would not be a top place I’d return to. Most highways kind of look like it!

Cacti in Saguaro National Park

Cacti in Saguaro National Park

46 Virgin Islands

I have been twice to this park on St. John and while I’m pretty clear about my distaste for the US Virgin Islands (based on multiple bad experiences), there’s no denying the beauty of the beaches in the national park. If you get a sunny day, there are few places with prettier beaches in the Caribbean.

Trunk Bay in Virgin Islands National Park

Trunk Bay in Virgin Islands National Park

45 Isle Royale

Right about here is where it gets tough to rank the parks because they’re all good. I really liked Isle Royale and of course it was my last of the then 60 National Parks to complete the list (which has since expanded to 63) so it has a special place in my heart. It is really pretty but if we’re ranking there has to be something that sets it apart and there really wasn’t anything special. It was just really nice and pleasant.

My 60th US National Park was Isle Royale

My 60th US National Park was Isle Royale

44 Everglades

I love the Everglades. I love hopping on a fan boat and scooting through the swamps on top of alligators and cruising around. I love gators and you can see them everywhere down in the Glades. It’s a fun place to be and if it were prettier I’d have it ranked higher.

Everglades National park is unique

Everglades National park is unique

43 Mesa Verde

I really liked Mesa Verde and would totally return. It has great scenery, reminiscent of the Four Corners region. It’s laid out well and easy to visit. It’s not as dramatic as some other hence it’s lower ranking but it’s a nice place.

Scenic goodness in Mesa Verde National Park

Scenic goodness in Mesa Verde National Park

42 White Sands

I’m a little torn on where to rank White Sands as it’s fantastic but it kind of is what it is. So here it lies at 42 but don’t let the lower ranking fool you, White Sands is fantastic but so are the other ones ranked higher.

White Sands National Park

Stunning scenery abounds in White Sands National Park

41 Kenai Fjords

I was here back in 2008 and I remember thinking it was really pretty but nothing overwhelming about it. It’s not Norway and would be my least favorite of the 8 great Alaskan parks but of course, it’s still really pretty and worth a visit.

Floating around Kenai Fjords National Park

Floating around Kenai Fjords National Park

40 Great Smoky Mountains

This is the single most visited national park in America and by a large margin. Mostly because of location and straddling two states, Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s pretty for sure but I was really turned off by the cheesy towns surrounding it like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It also can’t hold a candle to the great parks in the west hence its lower ranking but still nice and worth a visit.

Typical view in Smoky Mountains National Park

Typical view in Smoky Mountains National Park

39 Hawaii Volcanoes

This park I expected more from. Of course it’s nice and interesting but it’s a lot of science type stuff instead of real volcano stuff. For my money, a helicopter tour over the volcano itself is much cooler and worth the money. I also happened to get lucky and catch it on a lava flow day. But separating the actual National park to flying over it are different things.

Lava flowing in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava flowing in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

38 Redwood

I loved driving through Redwood. Honestly, it’s one of the cooler drives anywhere in America. The park itself is intertwined with the state park and there are beautiful beaches that few know about along the way as you come down from Oregon. Redwood is classic and well worth a visit.

Love driving and walking through Redwood National Park

Love driving and walking through Redwood National Park

37 Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon has massive trees which are cool of course but the reason I have it ranked ahead of Redwood is it also has a gorgeous canyon with a killer drive down into it. Scenery is great and worth a half day of your time. Plus, if you’re choosing between this and Sequoia, devote more time to Kings Canyon as they are attached but I found Kings to be much more interesting.

Looking down into Kings Canyon National Park

Looking down into Kings Canyon National Park

36 Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is classic and a great park to visit. It is a nice place to be and there are some cool desert landscapes. It’s a nice break on a road trip from Arizona to California or a good day trip from Palm Springs. It’s not the best desert park but worth a visit.

Joshua Tree National Park scenes

Joshua Tree National Park scenes

35 Great Basin

I didn’t love Great Basin when I was there but in hindsight I appreciate it more and more. It’s a solid 5 hours from Las Vegas but worth a drive up. It has a good cave system that you can tour and some great vistas. It’s pretty representative of the area and nice change from the usual Nevada.

Views in Great Basin National Park in Nevada

Views in Great Basin National Park in Nevada

34 Great Sand Dunes

There’s no easy way to get here. It’s a solid 4 hours from Denver and if you do a day trip as I did, it’s a slog. It’s cool to see of course and walking on it is a lot of fun too. Get there early or late for the best light and least people and remember to bring a sand board!

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

33 Lassen Volcanic

I wasn’t expecting much from Lassen because I didn’t know anything about it. It’s by far the most unknown of California’s 9 national parks and tucked away in the northeast of the state about 50 miles from Redding. I got there at like 7am and basically had the park to myself for the entire morning. It was great and the park itself was very picturesque with great hikes.

Awesome frozen water colors below Mount Lassen in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Awesome frozen water colors below Mount Lassen in Lassen Volcanic National Park

32 Haleakala

If you play golf on Maui, you know that all putts break away from Haleakala! It’s so big and imposing on Maui that you can see it from everywhere on the island. Getting up there at sunrise is a right of passage for anyone visiting Maui for the first time. Maui is my favorite island in Hawaii and perhaps the world. Haleakala is gorgeous, worth the trip and is a quintessential Maui experience. Just bring a coat for sunrise!

The rim view atop Haleakala National Park

The rim view atop Haleakala National Park

31 Lake Clark

Lake Clark is the first place I saw bears up close, like really up close. They were 15 feet away and it was a real thrill. Lake Clark is not easy to get to. You need to fly in on a float charter with wheels and have a guide. Once you arrive it’s phenomenal. I saw so many bears I wasn’t even sure what to take photos of and what not to. Lake Clark is the place to see bears in the wild in Alaska.

15 feet away from a bear in Lake Clark National Park

15 feet away from a bear in Lake Clark National Park

30 Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Aside from having a really cool name, Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a great park. It’s not that big, easily manageable and has great views from many different angles. Western Colorado is littered with beauty but this park is probably my favorite in that region because it’s simple yet stunning with good hikes and views.

The view inside Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The view inside Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

29 Channel Islands

I wanted to rank this higher but I realized I’ve only been to one of the Channel Islands and there are several. You’d need days to see them all and I hope to do that sometime. But what I did see was amazing hikes, killer views and a little slice of California that most locals don’t even see because it takes some effort to get there. I really liked the Channel Islands and that didn’t even include the hundreds of dolphins I saw on the ferry out and back!

One of the gorgeous beaches in Channel Islands National Park

One of the gorgeous beaches in Channel Islands National Park

28 Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay is the place to see the ice calving in America. It’s what you see on the ads, videos and on social media. It happens in Glacier Bay, Alaska. It’s the centerpiece of most Alaskan cruises and for good reason. It’s the best place to see glacial activity in the world outside of Perito Moreno in Argentina in my opinion. Glacier Bay can be done on a day trip as well if you’re visiting Alaska independently but it takes some planning ahead for logistics. What a great place.

Amazing glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park

Amazing glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park

27 Badlands

I was in the Badlands back in 2011 and remember loving it. I thought the landscapes were tremendous and like nothing I’d seen before. It’s a park that’s well set up for driving and hiking like many of the continental US parks. It’s a great park to visit and only an hour so from Rapid City, South Dakota and nearby to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial that are must sees as well.

Badlands National Park is awesome

Badlands National Park is awesome

26 North Cascades

For me personally, I’ll remember this park for having to sleep in my car because I couldn’t find a place to stay where I arrived up there at midnight a few years ago. When I did get in at 5am the next morning I had the park all to myself and loved every second of it. The Cascades are gorgeous and there are some really stunning views. I didn’t know much about this park but really liked it.

Stunning scenery in North Cascades National Park

Stunning scenery in North Cascades National Park

25 Theodore Roosevelt

I literally knew nothing about this park except that it was in middle of nowhere western North Dakota. That’s no mans land but what I discovered was a great park with a lot to see and do. It was a mix of a lot of other places with trippy looking badlands and millions of prairie dogs, buffalo and other animals. There’s a 30 plus mile loop road that’s a must to see this park but don’t forget to get out and check out the views!

Amazing pink sky in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Amazing pink sky in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

24 Acadia

This park is special to me because I was able to bring my dog Hector as it’s very dog friendly and beautiful. I love the whole Bar Harbor area and Acadia is easily the best east coast park. Acadia makes a great weekend trip for anyone and is a place you can see yourself going back to again and again. My best advice is to drive it, take a boat tour to see from the water and then take a scenic flight to see it from the sky.

Hector enjoying the view atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Hector enjoying the view atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

23 Carlsbad Caverns

The jewel of the American cave parks and in my opinion, aside from the Postojna Caves in Slovenia, the ATM Cave in Belize and the Underground River Cave in the Philippines, Carlsbad Caverns are the best in the world. It’s well worth a visit to this great national park.

Inside Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Inside Carlsbad Caverns National Park

22 Big Bend

Big Bend is one of the least visited parks and I think the least visited in the continental US. It’s a pain in the butt to get to. It’s about 4-5 hours from El Paso and Midland, the two closest airports and aside from the famous Prada Marfa art installation about 2 hours away, there isn’t much to see along the way. It takes effort and desire to get to Big Bend but if you make it you’ll be happy you did. It straddles the Mexican border and it really hot. There’s great views and hikes and the park is massive. I drove at least 100 miles in the park itself and that wasn’t even a loop. Make sure to hike to see the Balanced Rocks, very cool stuff.

Balanced Rock in Big Bend National Park in West Texas

Balanced Rock in Big Bend National Park in West Texas

21 Rocky Mountain

As the name implies, it’s the Rocky Mountains and they are awesome. I had a bit of everything the day I went with a blizzard at 12,000 feet to the Continental Divide. But all in all I loved it and even though the weather was rough I could see how awesome the park itself was. I look forward to returning soon in better weather-hopefully!

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado

20 Mount Rainier

On a clear day you can see Mount Rainier from Seattle and it looks magnificent. Visit the park with its namesake and you’ll be standing under one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I loved this park and would encourage everyone to check it out.

Gorgeous Mount Rainier National Park

Gorgeous Mount Rainier National Park

19 Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef is the worst of the big 5 parks in Utah but it would be the best in just about any other state! Trust me that is a compliment-I loved Capitol Reef. It’s a bit of a pain to get to, about 2 hours drive from Moab but easily manageable when you arrive. It’ll be hot so bring water and sunscreen for the hikes. Also, be sure to stop into the general store for some homemade pie and ice cream-it has all the feels!

Offroading in amazing scenery in Capitol Reef National Park

Offroading in amazing scenery in Capitol Reef National Park

18 Dry Tortugas

I absolutely loved the Dry Tortugas. I think you must fly because seeing it from the air really adds to the experience. The ferry I am sure is fine but it doesn’t really add anything and takes a long time. Once on island, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. To me, that’s what you want in a national park. The walk around the island on the seawall is a can’t miss experience. A fun, obscure park you won’t regret visiting.

Flying into Dry Tortugas National Park

Flying into Dry Tortugas National Park

17 Olympic

Olympic really surprised me because I wasn’t expecting much from my visit. It doesn’t really have one particular thing to see or do but it is all beautiful and has so much diversity of landscapes that you feel like you’re visiting more than one national park. From the beach to the rainforest, Olympic has a lot to offer.

The beauty of Olympic National Park

The beauty of Olympic National Park

16 Death Valley

Death Valley is the hottest and lowest point in America and a beautiful park to boot. It’s exactly 2 hours from Las Vegas just across the border in California and one of my favorite parks to visit. I love the desert and Death Valley is exactly that-desert! Great landscapes, cool hikes and extreme heat. Bring water!

Solid view over Death Valley National Park

Solid view over Death Valley National Park

15 Kobuk Valley

I feel very fortunate to have actually visited Kobuk Valley. It’s by far the least visited park in America. I was told less than 100 people go a year. The numbers published include people who simply go to the visitor center to get the stamp. Getting to the park is complicated and involves chartering a float plane. That said, seeing the sand dunes above the Arctic Circle and landing in absolute silence in the Kobuk River was magical. It’s an amazing experience that you can combine with a Gates of the Arctic visit if planned well.

12 miles of sand dunes high above the Arctic Circle in Kobuk Valley National Park

12 miles of sand dunes high above the Arctic Circle in Kobuk Valley National Park

14 Katmai

You know those epic photos and videos of bears catching the salmon jumping out of the water on a small waterfall. That happens here at Katmai National Park. This is why you come to Katmai and you won’t be disappointed. You fly in from King Salmon, Alaska and stay at Brooks Camp and you watch the bears in their shining moments of glory as they easily catch salmon at record pace! It’s one of the coolest things you’ll see at any national park and you’ll be standing about 2o feet away on a great viewing platform.

Bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park looking for salmon

Bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park looking for salmon

13 Bryce Canyon

Again, this could easily be #1 and probably is on many peoples lists. It’s one of four parks in Utah I have in the top 10. The bright orange hoodoos are a sight to behold. Hiking down around the canyon is memorable and I can’t say enough about this amazing park. It’s small and manageable and easily visitable as a day trip from Las Vegas but it’s perfect to do for a few days along with Zion nearby.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Gorgeous hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park

12 Grand Teton

Grand Teton is glorious and is worthy of a top ten ranking. The mountains and the Snake River make for amazing photos, hiking and climbing in the shadow of Jackson Hole, Wyoming; on of my favorite places in America. It’s often overshadowed by Yellowstone but Grand Teton is preferable in many ways-especially because it’s much less crowded. I could sit and stare at Jenny Lake all day. I love the Tetons!

Reflections in Grand Teton National Park

Reflections in Grand Teton National Park

11 Glacier

Glacier is a gem and could top this list. I’ve been twice in different types of weather and it’s simply breathtaking. It’s pristine nature at it’s finest and all I want to do is go back to this great park of Montana along with neighboring Whitefish and Kalispell.

Perfect nature scenery in Glacier National Park in Montana

Perfect nature scenery in Glacier National Park in Montana

10 Denali

Denali is amazing. Denali could’ve easily been #1 on this list. In fact, any of the top 20 really could’ve been. It depends on your taste and experience but Denali really has it all. Mount Denali (formerly McKinley), the tallest mountain in North America, is truly breathtaking. The 92 mile road into the park is gorgeous and the animals and views along the way will have you wanting more. I loved every second of my trip to Denali.

Mount Denali is North America's tallest mountain inside Denali National Park

Mount Denali is North America’s tallest mountain inside Denali National Park

9 Yellowstone

Yellowstone was the first park to be designated as a National Park in America. Like many others on the top of this list, it could be #1. I think what holds me back is the over-tourism aspect of Yellowstone but as I always say, tourists only go to good places! Yellowstone is a national treasure.

Gorgeous Yellowstone National Park

Gorgeous Yellowstone National Park


8 Gates of the Arctic

One of the great sights in America is flying on a float plane around the Brooks Range that makes up Gates of the Arctic. Honestly, mountains and nature doesn’t get much more beautiful than this little visited gem above the Arctic Circle. It’s nature the way God intended it to be and should be on everyones extended list!

The stunning aerial view of Gates of the Arctic National Park

The stunning aerial view of Gates of the Arctic National Park

7 Zion

Again, this could easily be tops on the list. I love everything about Zion. It has amazing hikes like Angels Landing and the Narrows and views go on forever. It’s easy to get around and it’s a very accessible park. You can spend days in Zion and never get bored. Zion is a gift from Mother Nature herself.

Looking out over Zion National Park

Looking out over Zion National Park

6 Grand Canyon

My first national park back in 2002 and I’ve been back 7-8 other times. The Grand Canyon is as good as anything in nature anywhere in the world. It sounds almost cliche to say how beautiful it is but it is just that. Whether you view from the north or south rim, hike down into the canyon or take a helicopter into or over it, you can’t go wrong. The Grand Canyon is a jewel of nature. It takes my breath away.

South rim in Grand Canyon National Park

South rim in Grand Canyon National Park

5 Crater Lake

I really struggled ranking the top 10 and the top 5 was even harder because they’re all so good. But seeing Crater Lake on a perfect sunny day was one of the highlights of my travel life. I may even rank it ahead of the Grand Canyon for a wonder of nature. It’s just sheer perfection in Southern Oregon. The only reason I don’t have it higher is because it’s the lake and the rest of the park is just trees more or less but man is Crater Lake stunning. Must see and right at the top for me. Perhaps the best singular site in America.

The impeccable Crater Lake high atop Crater Lake National Park

The impeccable Crater Lake high atop Crater Lake National Park

4 Wrangell-St. Elias

This is the largest national park in America. It’s almost twice the size of Denali and it’s bigger than the country of Switzerland. I hiked the root glacier in Kennecott surrounded by the Wrangell Mountains with the St. Elias’s in the distance. It was perfect. The drive in was perfect, the towns, the rivers, the scenery-they were all perfect. I can’t say enough about how great a park this was.

Gorgeous nature in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Gorgeous nature in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

3 Arches

One of the best known parks for good reason. Plus it’s literally right in Moab, Utah-one of my favorite places in all of America. Arches is the quintessential national park. You’re floored by just about everything you see and the sunset hike to the Delicate Arch is priceless. Plus, there’s so many other amazing places to see, hikes to do and just iconic vistas. What else can I say, Arches rocks!

Delicate Arch at sunset in Moab, Utah inside Arches National Park

Delicate Arch at sunset in Moab, Utah inside Arches National Park

2 Canyonlands

To me, Canyonlands is like a modern day Grand Canyon. It’s sleeker, it’s more succinct and has varied viewpoints and hikes. Canyonlands is often overshadowed by nearby Arches which is a little more photogenic but Canyonlands for me is just plain awesome. I urge everyone to visit both sides including the Needles area about 90 minutes south of Moab for a totally different perspective. Nature at its finest!

View from Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, All 60 US National Parks Ranked

View from Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

1 Yosemite

Yosemite is the epitome of a national park. It has it all. It is perfect. It’s a little crowded but that’s because it’s so brilliant. Yosemite is big, it has iconic hikes like Half Dome. It has amazing waterfalls, trees and vistas. Tunnel View at sunset is the single most beautiful view in America when half dome turns orange at the top. I urge people to see both sides of the park. I entered from the Nevada side and exited in California driving the whole park. It doesn’t get much better than the great Yosemite National Park. It’s the top park!

Half Dome from Tunnel View at sunset in Yosemite National Park, All 60 US National Parks Ranked

Half Dome from Tunnel View at sunset in Yosemite National Park

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  1. I’m from Utah and thrilled to see the Utah parks do so well on your list. I have been to all but Capitol Reef and think Zion is my favorite.

  2. Great list! I miss your 30 best lists. I agree on Yosemite although I’ve only been to 16 or so of the parks. This has inspired me to see more. Thanks again!

  3. I haven’t been to many but Zion was incredible.

  4. Yellowstone for me but I’ve only been to 5-6 of them. The Dry Tortugas looks amazing. I first heard about it from your post a while ago and I really want to go there. I live in Florida so it’s not that far for me.

  5. Miriam Arroyo says

    Great list Lee! Yosemite is truly amazing and is well deserved of the #1 spot on your list. I\’ve visited the park in the spring, summer and winter and it\’s a different landscape view each season.
    It\’s always hard to leave such a majestic place. Thanks for sharing your experiences and inspiring us to travel more!

  6. Wow. Great visual report to read and look at. Thanks for taking all the time to do this. I think it’s one of your best. Good job.

  7. Yosemite is the best I agree! Now I have a great guide to go off visiting the others!

  8. Bryce and Zion

  9. I’ve been to 56 of the 60 so far and our lists would probably be very similar if I made one. I suspect I would downgrade many of the most crowded parks. Yosemite and Acadia, to me, have been loved to death. I struggled to enjoy them because I just never felt like I was “getting away.”

    Having said that, I would suggest to you to visit Yellowstone in mid-May or mid-September. You’ll miss 99% of the crowds and see just how incredible the place is. I’ve had that privilege and it would absolutely blow your mind.

    • Yes the crowds at certain parks can be a pain but the way I look at it tourists only go to good places so there’s a reason there’s a crowd. I agree shoulder season is best but I’m excited to be back in Yellowstone in 2 weeks! Thanks for the great comment and congrats on 56, which are you missing?

      • Fast Eddie says

        In speaking with a veteran park ranger in yellowstone, she informed me that the National Park System is at the ‘Braking point’. Reasons range from poor Federal Government support to the ever increasing flow of visitors. Now that the Chinese have money to blow,,they get in their big white buses and make the tour of GC, Yosemite and Yellowstone. . I’m sick of them with their crude manners and unfriendly ways.
        Tons of European visitors also but they are mostly respectable people with manners about them.
        My suggestion-Double the entry fees for ALL foreign nationals and first camping spot system to all U.S. citizens.

        • Yes, the crowds at the major National Parks are a real problem. I dislike the buses full of foreign tourists, but on the other hand, I have been to some foreign countries on a bus, so I am a bit hypocritical. The good news is there are many areas in our country that are just as beautiful as many of the National Parks and far less crowded.

          By the way, my wife just reached her goal of visiting all 61 National Parks. She won’t rank them, but my favorite is Canyonlands.

      • Fred Sandford says

        Yosemite. Everything else is nice, but just commentary.

  10. Congratulations on another awesome achievement! What’s next?

  11. Yosemite for sure is #1

  12. The National parks are the best thing to visit in America. I’d love to see them all but I’ll settle for living in the southwest where I can drive to several different parks in a day. I would love to do an Alaska trip sometime. Great post.

  13. Glad to see you have Death Valley ranked relatively high at #16. I’ve been twice and feel it is such an underrated National Park given that a lot of people generally only think of the Grand Canyon as a potential day trip when they visit Las Vegas. It’s the only place I’ve been to where I’ve literally felt like I was on another planet! Since you’ve visited every country, Lee, is there anywhere else in the world comparable to Death Valley in your opinion?

  14. Really enjoyed reading this, Lee.
    I’m working on visiting them all and this weekend will be going to Channel Islands, my 44th. You mention visiting only one the islands there- which one?
    I enjoyed your list and while I haven’t visited all, I would put Gateway Arch, which I just visited last month, at number 60. It actually makes me angry this was made a national park instead of a national memorial or monument. The Arch and museum are definitely worth seeing, but it is, I believe, the smallest national park by a large margin, and simply doesn’t belong in a class that includes Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.
    I don’t know if I could rank the top in order as you do, but I generally agree with your top 20 and fortunately, living in Las Vegas allows me to visit many of them easily.

  15. Wondering what other parks/nature destinations abroad are on par with the top 10 of this list (Soasusvlei, Banff, Patagonia?) Maybe time for a new list!

    • That’s a great question and yes there are so many but Banff and Jasper are right there among several other Canadian parks. That would be a great post on other great national parks around the world.

      • Travis From Wisconsin says

        Researching Canada many of the 39 national parks seem underwhelming vs the USA but Banff and Jasper look like they can hang with any national park in the USA. I will be headed on a 7200 mile trip around canada and visiting Banff, Jasper, Kootanay, Yoho and Glacier. Elk Island, Riding mountain and Grasslands seemed too underwhelming to go out of my way to.

  16. Fantastic list! I’ve only been to about half, so I still have a ways to go. Glacier is my favorite by far. Definitely go back during late summer. Death Valley, Dry Tortugas, Grand Canyon, Denali, and Everglades rank up there for me as well.

  17. Richard Deneault says

    Love it Lee! Not an easy thing to do but I particularly like that you laid out the rankings were based on your own experience and nothing else! I always love your travel for its integrity and authenticity. Thank you! I’m also sort of sad to see that having been to half the parks myself, most of the ones I have yet to see are in your bottom half! I still look forward to visiting the remaining!!

  18. The discussions on the bottom half of this list strike one thought: brother does this guy bore easily!

  19. This list is goals!

  20. You are confusing Kobuk Valley NP with Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve (which gets around/under 100 visitors each year). Kobuk Valley had at least 25 visitors just in the 3 days I camped there and at least 30 visitors through Alaska Alpine Adventures alone this summer.

  21. Chelsea Ballard says

    It’s a bit disappointing Mammoth Cave and Great Smoky Mountains were ranked so low. Not sure I agree with many of the rankings. Congrats on visiting all 60!

  22. Great list and appreciate your reasoning.

    Best to enter Yosemite from its scenic east entrance as you did. (Closed in winter.) From the west you receive a terrible first impression with fire damage and major pine beetle devastation, both of which disappear as you rise in elevation.

    With more time, visit Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove main redwood area.

    In my opinion, Humboldt Redwoods State Park near Redwood National Park is the best of California’s redwood parks. It contains the greatest biomass density in the world and preserves 10 percent of the remaining old growth virgin coastal redwoods.

  23. Just completed the circuit of visiting all 60
    National Parks having seen Gateway Arch earlier today. All are magnificent testimony to the
    beauty, wilderness and human ingenuity, although
    in unequal measure, across this nation. If possible, see them
    all and at a pace to truly appreciate how unique and wonderful they are.

  24. I just don’t agree with your presumptive attitude questioning why Cuyahoga or other national parks just aren’t state parks. Just because you were there obviously doesn’t awaken your awareness of each sites historical record. I thought your commentary was lazy, generic, and childish

  25. Fantastic list and an incredible accomplishment visiting all 60.

    I visited Patagonia and am curious about your thoughts on how the great parks there such as Torres del Paine compare to these parks.

    • Thanks! As far as I’m concerned Patagonia is as beautiful as it gets anywhere in the world so it’s be right at the top. Torres del Paine and Fitzroy are tops plus Perito Moreno glacier are all fabulous amongst all else!

  26. Congrats on seeing all the parks and great topic for a list, but it seems like you barely spent any time in half the parks you visited. How can you fairly rank a park? I mean even Yosemite as your number one, you spent half a day in, which hardly gives you time to do any of the hikes and see the sights. Same with many other big name parks in your top 20 – Glacier, Rainier, Yellowstone etc. Would love to see a list with more detailed information on the sights and hikes to see in the parks you visited. That would be super informative and helpful!
    To be fair, I have been to many (not all) of the parks listed above multiple times and they are all awesome, but it seems like your review of them is similar to someone landing at JFK for the first time, not leaving the airport and saying, “I was NYC briefly… looked out the window ….NYC is great!”

    • How much time do you need to know if a place is good or not? You can never do everything but you set an agenda beforehand and enjoy. Re Yosemite, I drove the entire park, did 2 hikes, saw every top lookout and did everything I aimed to do in the time I had but it doesn’t take a month long stay to see how awesome it is. You just know and I can’t wait to go back and hike half dome!

  27. I have to completely agree with your 1 through 3! I love Moab, and when you put Arches and Canyons together, they beat Yosemite, but since you are ranking individual National Parks, Yosemite is hard to beat!

  28. Darren Ross says

    In light of one of the comments above, I wanted to let you know I share your “lazy, generic and childish” view of Cuyahoga Valley. We could not believe that was a NP.

    I bet you boost Yellowstone well up the list after a visit there. I’ve been to 27 parks, including your top 7, and Yellowstone is #1 for me.

  29. Very Nice summary of the 60 National Parks, I am at # 44 of 69 this week. Have not done any in Alaska even though I have been to Alaska 3 times. Look forward to completing my National Park Pilgrimage.

  30. Very sad that North Cascades and Mt Rainier aren’t higher on your list, but I spend a lot of time in both so it’s understandable that I’m more biased towards them! (And honestly, glad to see them relatively high up anyway :D) I’d say the two together have given me a passion for the outdoors in a life-changing way. If you ever go back to the North Cascades, I really encourage you to do the hike to Sahale Arm through Cascade Pass. It’s been called one of the best day hikes in the U.S. and rightfully so.

    I also have a feeling that our styles of seeing national parks are very different – recently I spent a week doing a loop in Sequoia National Park that was as stunning as any I’ve done in Washington/B.C. (I did think the big trees that you can drive up to, but not walk up to, were “meh” compared to wandering through the most remote redwood/sequoia grove with just me and my sisters for the whole day.)

    This past weekend I snowshoed up to Crater Lake and thought, “it’s a cool lake but glad I live in Washington.” Same parks, different experiences. 🙂 However, it is super cool to read about all of the Alaska parks! I hope to one day summit Denali, build my skills up so I can glacier traverse in Wrangel-St. Elias, and packraft Kobuk Valley.

  31. Elizabeth Reeves says

    Shenandoah should be way higher on this list. If you visited Monticello, you definitely didn’t do Shenandoah right. I saw some of the most breathtaking views on Skyline Drive of the Blue Ridge mountains

  32. Now that Indiana Dunes is a National Park, interested to hear where you would place it on the list. Personally I don’t think it’s as special as the Oregon Dunes and the coast over there, nor is it as special as nearby lakeshores but I’m interested to hear what you think.

  33. Travis From WI says

    Ive been to 31 of the now 61 national parks and I agree with most of your lower ranked ones and wonder why they are even national parks when places like white sands in nm, sedona arizona and highway 128 outside moab utah arent national parks. its a money thing i guess… you know a big state like ohio needs a national park. id say of the 7 newest parks established 5 of them shouldnt be national parks.

    ive traveled to 48/50 states and have driven 42k miles around the us and my favorite parts are southern utah and it’s 5 national parks, glacier area in montana, pacific coast highway in california, anything in the Appalachian Mts and the quaint areas of VT/NH/ME/Upstate NY. i like places like western colorado but im not fond of the people/lifestyle… california is probably my 1st or 2nd ranked state for beauty (utah) but its too chaotic. Id say canyonlands and capitol reef are some of the most underrated parks. most overrated are mostly due to being over touristy and crowded and that would be yellowstone/the grand canyon.

    anyways, thank you for doing an honest list. i could tell right off the bat reading cuyahoga valley and hot springs descriptions that you werent going to blow smoke. its nice seeing a list where someone has actually visited and its not trying to push anything. you now have to go to Indiana dunes national park. id guess its another that will be near the bottom and probably shouldnt be a national park. in americas defense looking at what qualifies as national parks in some countries id say america has probably the greatest national parks system overall for beauty wise.

  34. thanks for putting these thumbnails together. I\’ve seen about 60% of these parks. of the one\’s ive seen, heres a couple of takes, both agreements, disagreements & a couple of supplements to your takes:

    agreements- 1. nice testament to the Grand Canyon. Too many people scoff it off & perhaps deter some from seeing it. Its a nature much see & is literally a natural work of grandeur art that can move you & place you into the infinitium of time. 2. Crater indeed blows ones mind in how land can be transformed & in the big sweep of time, it happened not all that long ago. Also a pretty area to drive thru to get there. 3. agree re Olympic & its diversity of landscape. Id rank it even higher in my top 5-10.. It has so much in packed in 1 park. 4.agree, if you like caves, carlsbad is mystic. 5. North Cascades indeed is gorgeous & so refreshingly remote. 6. excellent description of the coolness of the badlands. underrated to say the least. 7. agree, hot springs as a natl park is a joke.

    disagreements: 1. you\’re beating up the Congaree too much. You have to get in the river via kayak to really take it in. 2. Biscayne deserves a higher ranking when you take advantage of the reefs by getting in and snorkeling them. It also important to save & enjoy the beauty of coastal sea life. 3. Guadalupe should be better ranked. they are starkly beautiful and remote. Gives you a real sense of the old west & the Apaches. Also mckintrick canyon is incredible for fall leaves. 4. everglades should be better ranked. More then gators. the Flamingo area of the Fla Bay mangroves is amazing. 5. Grand Tetons are stunning mountains and linked to Yellowstone. The beauty and wildlife of its joining park connect. Grizzleys roam. Top 10 park. 6. Teddy Roosevelt park is cool, but you have it too high in your list. It doesnt have as much wildlife as you\’d expect & no mountains.I\’d put it in the 40\’s. 7. Yellowstone should be in the top 5. the wildlife is thru the roof & the beauty and diversity of formations is stellar. 8. Yosemite is gorgeous, but weak on wildlife. I\’d therefore place it 7-10, not top 5.9. Dry Tortugas isnt worthy of top 10 in comparison to the scope and grandeur of other parks . Its cool to go to & the water and diving is nice, but its too one trick to rank it so high.

    a couple of supplements worth noting: 1. north cascades is one of only 4 parks in the 48, where you might meet the griz. There are 5-10 now roaming in the park. 2. Yellowstone is also historically very important aside from its early forming. Most don\’t know that Chief Joseph roamed thru the park on his famous exodus from the USA military when it had just been deemed a park. 3. Allegiant Air is worth looking at. they fly out of vegas on very cheap non stop flights to remote airports like Kalispel, Bellingham and Idaho Falls wh/ can get you to national parks ($100 round trip flights literally) much cheaper then any other airlines.

  35. one more headsup re allegiantair. They just opened a non stop direct flight from bellingham, washington to anchorage, alaska. Roundtrip flights as low as $170. That town is only an hour away from seattle. Can make flights to anchorage much cheaper then using typical airlines.

  36. Mark Cooper says

    I think Glacier will be in your top 3 when you are able to travel The Road to the Sun.

  37. Fred Appleyard says

    I avoid the US National Parks. Most are too crowded, and admission fees are expensive. In Colorado, I find there are plenty of great National Forest Lands and BLM lands that are just as nice but without the tourist crowds, lines, parking hassles. or traffic jambs, and they are free to visit. I think Canadian National Parks are much nicer than US, and much cheaper admission fees.

    • An annual pass runs you $80 a year and gets you into NPS site. That’s a bargain. Plus you’re missing out on a ton of great stuff!

      • Fred Appleyard says

        That’s true, but I don’t travel enough to make the annual pass practical. Some US National Parks do see very few visitors, so not all of them draw big tourist crowds. I will be very close to Great Sand Dunes NP, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison later this month, but I got discouraged last year when I read warnings from the NPS about long lines and running out of parking spaces. The trick is to arrive super early.

  38. Thanks for your list and info. I think I agree with you about sequoia vs redwoods. If you go back to redwoods take the Fern Canyon hike. Massive walls of ferns on either side of a winding steam. I was also glad to see you appreciated Teddy Roosevelt since it isn’t well known. Since you were not super excited about Petrified Forest NP I’d recommend the petrified forest hike in TRNP. Massive petrified tree stumps too big to put your arms around. Sucks the weather stopped you short in Glacier. You MUST return and do the Grinnell glacier hike. I think it will might bump Glacier NP even higher on your list. Did you do a hike at Saguaro or stay on the main road? I found the hike really brought out a different aspect of the Saguaros as well as brought the other types of cacti and wildlife into focus in a way I didn’t get from the main road. I’m glad you gave the GC it’s due. I know it gets a lot of attention but if you aren’t awestruck walking up to the edge of the Grand Canyon I don’t know what you’d be impressed with.

  39. Larry Brown says

    Thanks for your list and ranking of our National Parks. It\’s a great list and fun to read your comments and experiences. I\’m at 42 and counting. Denali is the only Alaska park I\’ve visited so I have no way of ranking the others which I find too far away and inaccessible; however, I\’m hoping to make Glacier Bay #43 in the next year.or so. I appreciate your comment about the top 20 and being number one. It really does matter about personal \”taste and experience.\” I find that I keep going back to my favorites and put off adding to my list parks that I don\’t \”think\” I would enjoy as much. I\’ve been to Gateway Arch and it\’s fine, but it doesn\’t belong among the parks … some other list perhaps. Hot Springs doesn\’t either? I have a top 11 list for today and find that I can easily move them around on my list for a variety of reasons … part of the fun. So, ranking from 1-11: Mr Rainier, Yosemite, Zion, Redwood, Canyonlands, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Crater Lake, Bryce Canyon, and Arches. Can you tell I like wildflowers and trees?

  40. Thanks for putting this together; loved the list.

    I just visited the five Utah parks this summer and loved them all. The park that surprised me the most was Capitol Reef. I expected the other Utah ones to be stunning, but I had done the least amount of research on Capitol Reef. I was blown away by how gorgeous it was and how different it was with the orchards, etc. Agree that it would be the best park in most states.

  41. I grew up in Colorado and have spent a lot of time camping in Utah (and elsewhere in the U.S.). It wasn\’t until ten years ago that I finally visited Capitol Reef. I not only found it spectacular, but was surprised at how easy it was to hike to places where there wasn\’t another soul. Did you have a chance to hike past the pioneer registry? I tend to rate my favorite parks not just on amazing scenery and great hikes but on the quality of night sky viewing and the number of people and cars I have to contend with – after an early June trip to Yosemite 16 years ago, I realized the most responsible thing for me to do was to never go back, as it was collapsing under the weight of day-trippers, cars, and all of the infrastructure necessary to keep those people as comfortable as they would be in their own living rooms. It was not possible to find a place to camp, as the valley was crammed with families and campgrounds elsewhere in the park were still closed for the season. Public transportation should be required for anyone visiting the valley for the day only.

    Canyonlands and Capitol reef are my two favorites in Utah, and I look forward to visiting Death Valley again this spring (it was recently officially designated a Dark Sky Park). Thank you for ranking Crater Lake so highly. It is not possible to adequately describe the beauty of such a huge, pristine, high altitude lake that also happens to be electric blue on sunny days.

  42. matt winebrenner says

    Help me understand how Yellowstone is #13?

  43. matt winebrenner says

    Help me understand how Yellowstone is #13? I believe you need more time to evaluate the parks more than a drive by.

  44. Hi Lee,

    Thanks for your ranking of the parks. My wife and I have a goal to visit all of them, although if they keep adding National Parks it will be hard to keep up! We’ve been to 32 so far, so we have a ways to go. I completely agree with your comments on Pinnacles — really disappointing. Also agree about Gateway Arch — we live about 15 minutes away, and although it is a cool place I just don’t see how it merits being a National Park. Also agree with your comments about Capitol Reef — it definitely exceeded our expectations. Same with Crater Lake — there was something about it that really appealed to me. Personally I would rank Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain a little higher. Rocky Mountain has a special place in my heart because it was the first real date my wife and I had. Rainier also is a special place for me because I was able to climb it with my dad back in 1994. Went back a couple of years ago and wondered how I managed to do it. My opinion of Glacier is tainted by the fact that it rained all three days we were there and the clouds completely covered the mountains the whole time. Guess we’ll have to go back. Loved Yosemite, and can’t disagree with your #1 rating. The great thing about the National Parks is that there is something for everyone.

  45. Alvin Smith says

    I actually congratulate you on keeping this list updated to correct number of National Parks. Many of the ranking articles still have the number around 59 or 60. With that update though I think you need to visit the newest park, New River Gorge, in more detail Your placement is decent, but I would actually move it up a few spots.. It is one of the smaller parks, and like Pinnacles there are two unique sides, You won\\\’t see another park like this one though, and broadness of different things to do in its boundaries you actually need to take closer to a week and really explore that area before you can judge it properly. It really is a hidden gem (an the longer it is kept that way the better lol)

    I have traveled to the New River area many times over the years. It really does deserve the title \\\”West Virginia\\\’s best kept secret\\\”. To start, that area is one of the oldest river valleys in the world. The river is different on each of its distinct sides. In the bridge area of the park, the river is narrower and faster. The originating side of the river valley the is calmer and a lot wider. Good fishing in spots there as well.

    The bridge side is the most active side. There are trails on both sides of the bridge and throughout the park to explore each one unique and scenic in its own way. The Endless Wall trail is considered one of the best in the US by some websites. It features hiking through the woods and along the top of rocks cliffs open to the New River Gorge (the endless wall). There are even ladders to climb down to different levels and a cave if you dare. You want lost civilizations? How about lost coal communities to explore like Thurmond, Nuttallburg, Kaymoor and a literal place known as Seldom Seen to explore and discover their histories. The Kaymoor Mine trail will kick your butt. How about climbing 780 steps down then back up from the bottom mining camp to the Kaymoor community. Above the steps there is still about a mile of switchbacks above to get back to your car. In addition to hiking, other recreational opportunities abound. World class white water rafting (several class V rapids), kayaking, rock climbing, zip lining, and even being able to cross the catwalk underneath \\\”the bridge\\\” if you choose to pay. All that is on the bridge side of the park.

    The Grandview area side is a lot quieter and spread out. Grandview itself contains hiking and beautiful river overlooks. The main overlook is actually handicap accessible and overlooks a horseshoe curve on the New River. A main trail goes through the whole park. Other trails branch off of the main trail. One is a rocky trail along the cliff edge of the river valley and another short path crosses underneath a rock ledges and technically considered a cave. Also on that side of the park is Sandstone Falls, the furthest point in the park area. The New River is still wide at this point and the falls, while not tall, encompasses the whole width of the river. It takes some travel backtracking but there is an island you can travel to and walk out on for the best view of the Sandstone falls. The park as a whole has a beauty not found in any of the other parks and the State parks and small towns in the area only add to its uniqueness. I am surprised they have not yet pulled Babcock State Park into the National Park area. It features one of the most photographed grist mills in the US. Overall the best park comparison I can think of is Smokey Mountain NP without the hype and only in one state. Give it a try in more depth. That area may just surprise you.

  46. Cheryl Fertig says

    Excellent once again
    Wonderful and tanks??

  47. I’m jealous that you have been able to visit all 63. I’ve visited perhaps 30 of the parks. That said, you seem to judge parks solely on your own perception of beauty. Nothing wrong with that, but you are missing, in my view, the primary purpose for designation of parks and national monuments, which is the preservation and conservation of our natural heritage. The preservation and protection of indigenous species, whether plants, mammals, reptiles, insects, fungi–is at the top of the list of reasons we have parks.

    I live in Utah. I’ve snow shoed in Bryce when it was -10ºF. I lived in Tucson for several years and visited Saguaro–both the east and west units (you seem to have missed out on the higher elevation areas of the east unit.

    Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Arches and Grand Canyon are so mobbed that it is difficult to find much enjoyment in them, despite their beauty. There is solitude if you get out and hike, but in Yosemite and Yellowstone, just finding a place to park so you can hike is nearly impossible.

  48. You don’t have to take the toll road IL to IN you can simply take 94 that takes u there seems you do not know how to research traffic’s routes and to say it should Not be a national park you clearly don’t understand the nature behind it and what the dunes do for the great lakes how important they are to local eco system. It seems you must of went on a holiday weekend otherwise almost no wait times to get on. No different then many other parks. Not to mention it is now in top 15 of most visited National Parks.

  49. You didn’t mention Maze District in Canyonlands. It is difficult to reach, especially if you head into places like The Dollhouse. But it is far and away the most dramatic part of that park. Canyonlands is best visited for with a 4WD vehicle in the backcountry. Once you’ve driven into Canyonlands, you’ll downgrade your opinion of Grand Canyon. But, there is a 4WD road to camp on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Check out Tuweep or Toroweap. There is also BLM land for camping on the edge of the canyon.

    Wrangell-St Elias also has three regions. Kennecottt is incredible, but busy. At Nabesna, we were by ourselves. The third region is not accessible by car.

    Kenai Fjords is best visited by boat. The Alaskan coast was one of the real highlights of my 44 day, 9550 mile trip all over western Canada and Alaska, including into the Arctic in both.

    Death Valley and Big Bend and Capitol Reef are other parks best visited with a 4WD vehicle.

    BTW, I don’t have quite all the parks under my belt that you do, but more or less agreed with some of your thoughts on why certain national parks shouldn’t be so. Did you know there was a national park in Oklahoma? Platt National Park was decommissioned, and made a part of a Chickasaw National Recreation Area. I’d think some of those lessor parks should be so redesignated.

    If you’re interested in those 4WD accessible national parks, check out my YouTube channel listed as my website.

  50. Eric (National Park Wild) says

    I’m so glad to see this updated post! I am 16, have been to 51 national parks and love almost all of them. I am happy to see Yosemite high up. When I last went to Yosemite, I saw a landslide from Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, so I now have very fond memories of the park. Personally, Yellowstone and Glacier are my top 2, but I respect your opinions. Keep travelling!

  51. I’m a little bias, but Alaska parks should definitely be all of the top 10.

  52. Curious how much time you actually spent in Cuyahoga. Because your description is true for part of it but not all of it. Around brandywine an peninsula feels like a rural town-ish area, because those are the the most visited. If you only dropped by and visited the big attractions and trails, you’d get that notion, but if you really spent time there and ventured onto the other parts, you’d find its really only the central part around peninsula that feels like that.

  53. II would have put Yellowstone somewhere in the top five!

  54. Thanks for doing the ranking. I will agree that Indiana Sand Dunes, Congaree, and Cuyahoga Valley should not be national parks. Just went to all three in the past 6 months and while they are nice compared to the local area, they are not national park worthy. I have a goal to take my kids to all 63 parks before they finish high school. 3 down, 60 to go!!! should be fun!!!

  55. I agree, Yosemite is definitely the best! I also loved Zion, it was incredible. Thank you for the list, now I just have to complete mine by visiting those I have never been!

  56. Awesome list. Having only been to a few of them, I’m keen to experience more. Zion was my favourite.

  57. Amazing list!
    Grand Canyon is my favorite. This place is amazing.
    I have to visit the others, I hope to do it very soon.
    Thank you!

  58. Good list! In my opinion, I found Arches SUPER overrated. Delicate Arch specifically, I was incredibly underwhelmed by. The only arch I really enjoyed was Double Arch, which was actually really neat! But overall, I was INCREDIBLY underwhelmed by Arches. It’s good to see a different opinion though!
    Also, I’m SO glad somebody else finally sees how amazing Canyonlands is! I have it as my 4th favorite park, only behind Yellowstone, Glacier, and Bryce. It’s simply stunning!
    Finally, and this opinion is SUPER unpopular, but I don’t mind the built-up nature of Yellowstone! I don’t mind that there’s hotels, and whatnot through it. In fact, I enjoyed it! I wish MORE parks had areas like Yellowstone, with hotels, restaurants, stores, and whatever to go into. I don’t know why, but that plays a part in why Yellowstone is my favorite!

  59. The Dry Tortugas looks amazing. I first heard about it from your post a while ago and I really want to go there. I live in Florida so it’s not that far for me. thanks for this post I learned a lot from this post.

  60. Nice list! I will say- maybe give Pinnacles another chance. It might not compare with some of the greatest parks and scenery in the US, but I really enjoyed it despite not having as many things to do or see as some other places. I was born and raised in Ohio and am now living in California- I was stunned to see Cuyahoga Valley ranked higher than Pinnacles! CVNP is in an urban area and feels like a state park, it is nice but I agree does not feel like a national park. Pinnacles is (fairly) remote, has great trails though there aren’t a ton, mountains, interesting animal and plant life, caves, massive cliffs, etc. Plus the trail construction at Pinnacles around the high peak section is fascinating.

  61. You didn’t even mention Buffalo National River. I been working there for 23 yrs. now it is a beautiful place, or have you not been there? If not stop by and check it out lots to do hiking, camping, canoeing. The Ozark mtns. are a beautiful place.

  62. recurrenTopology says

    This is quite a superficial evaluation of the parks, which is representative of the author\’s travel style: constantly on the move covering large areas in a relatively short amount of time. It would probably better be titled \”All 63 US National Parks ranked if you only had half-a-day to visit each\”. So while this list would be helpful for someone who approaches visiting NPs like the author, mostly driving interspersed by short hikes, it\’s utility is limited for many travels.

    Couple examples of what I mean:
    – I don\’t think the author has actually been in North Cascades National Park (NCNP). Reading his Washington road trip post, while he has driven and done a couple of short hikes of Highway 20, the road which one would use to access NCNP, that road and accent area are not in NCNP. Either side of Highway 20 for at least a mile are part of the Ross Lake National Recreation Area (RLNRA), with what he calls \”the most scenic spot by far in the Park\”, the Diablo Lake lookout, actually being part of RLNRA. Given that he only spent 5 hours along the corridor, my guess is he never hiked far enough to make it through RLNRA into NCNP.

    – Characterizing Sequoia as just another place to see big trees is a clear indication that he hasn\’t strayed more than an hour from the road. Sequoia (and Kings Canyon for that matter) is full of dramatic glacial carved granite valleys and towering peaks that rival Yosemite, you just need to put in a little effort to see them.

  63. I have seen 33 of the parks. I’d probably rate Yellowstone number 1 based on the magnificent wildlife and variety in scenery(lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, geysers, etc). Grand Canyon would be next. I apparently like spectacular sights.
    I think my ratings are influenced by the amount of time spent in the park. There’s a few that I’ve only visited for a few hours and others I’ve spent a week more than a few times. I love near the desert so while I enjoy those parks I’d tend to rate them lower than the mountainous ones.
    I’ve been to Indiana Dunes, Gateway in St Louis and Hot Springs. I have no idea why any are national parks. Pinnacles is better than those three but should have remained a national monument.
    I enjoyed the list and didn’t disagree too much with most selections. It’s a shame that some of the really great parks have to be in the 40s or even the 50s. Maybe there should be a limit of 60. To add a new one we’d have to throw out the lowest rated one.

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