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ALL 63 US NATIONAL PARKS RANKED By Experts (Best to Worst) 2021

All 63 US National Parks ranked from best to worst by the team at More Than Just Parks. Find out the must sees vs the ones you can skip 2021.

List of National Parks Ranked

olympic national park washington
National Parks | A Complete Ranking of All 63

Well folks, we had to do it. We’ve spent a decade filming America’s national parks, and after countless requests from viewers, we finally sat down, put our heads together, and created this comprehensive list of US national parks ranked from best to worst.

Now mind you, this was no easy task — America has 63 national parks (and counting)!

Our method? We decided to be brutally honest about the reality of each and every national park (you might be surprised to see where we ranked some very famous national parks) because nothing is worse than feeling misled by jaw-dropping photos void of crowds, right?


The Experts Behind This Ranked National Parks List

the pattiz brothers
Jim Pattiz (left) and Will Pattiz (right) somewhere in Idaho | National Parks Ranked

You should probably know that we didn’t just make this list out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.

We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.

The National Parks Brothers

We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers.

Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.

This article (National Parks Ranked) featured on The Weather Channel with MYJP co-founders, The Pattiz Brothers.

Now that you’re absolutely and completely sold that we’re the right people to make national park rankings like this let’s get on to just how we made these rankings.


How We Ranked the National Parks

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Now, you might ask how on earth we ranked America’s national parks from best to worst. We ranked all of the national parks based on a variety of factors including accessibility, crowd sizes, recreational opportunities, park amenities, and of course, scenic beauty.

You should also know that this list only covers the 63 congressional designated National Parks. Not National Grasslands, National Forests, National Historic Parks, National Monuments, Wilderness, etc.

While this ranking system may not be perfect, we’re always working to improve so feel free to leave us a comment at the bottom of the post. Have a look at the breakdown below.

National Parks Ranking Criteria

  • Accessibility – Is this national park easy to access? We analyzed vehicle access, transportation options, proximity to major airports, lodging and accommodations, conveniences, and other signs of civilization.
  • Recreation – Recreation opportunities found in the park like hiking, biking, boating, climbing, etc.
  • Crowds – How crowded is this national park? We considered traffic, crowded overlooks & trails, limited campsite availability, lines, etc.
  • Amenities – Developed amenities in the park like visitors centers, campgrounds, bathrooms, lodges, etc.
  • Scenery – The scenic beauty of the park. Purely subjective of course, but has to be taken into account.

How Many National Parks Are There?

To be clear, there are only 63 congressionally designated National Parks. While the National Park Service manages hundreds of sites, only 63 of them are capital letter National Parks.

We’ve outlined that criteria at the bottom of the post and even did an entire post on just that subject for the discerning park-goer.


Justifications for National Park Rankings

If any rankings surprise you, we encourage you to keep in mind that we’re ranking them based on their combined scoring in the respective categories above.

Some of these national parks may be incredibly scenic and offer great recreational opportunities and amenities, but are severely crowded (like Yosemite or Zion), thus the crowds will drag down the overall score.

One more note! This list of the best US national parks is not a list of our personal favorite national parks. This is a ranked list of the best national parks based on real world logistics and overall visitor experience. Now, to the rankings!


List of National Parks Ranked

Top 5 Best US National Parks

olympic national park
High among the Olympics – Olympic National Park, WA | List of National Parks in the US

1. Olympic National Park

Location: Washington, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 48/50

  • Accessibility – 10/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 9/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Ranking Olympic National Park (see our complete guide) as the best national park in America – you weren’t ready for this shocker were you? But hear us out. It’s high time this absolutely majestic national park got its due.

Olympic National Park is the most diverse national park in America, hands down. This park has everything from lowland forests, striking mountain ranges, pristine alpine lakes, sparkling rivers, temperate rain forests (the largest in the lower 48), iconic wildlife, and over 50 miles of wild coastline!

Oh, and it’s a stones throw from Seattle! Olympic National Park truly has it all and without the crowds that have become so insidious in other US national parks in recent years – which is why we rank this Pacific Northwest gem as the best national park in America.

READ: Our Guide to All Washington’s National Parks

Olympic National Park Video | List of National Parks Ranked

more than just parks grand teton
Sunset at Grand Teton National Park, WY | National Parks Ranked

2. Grand Teton National Park

Location: Wyoming, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 47/50

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 8/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Ranking this national park as number two shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Grand Teton National Park is truly iconic and, thanks to strong management and foresight, has been able to avoid the crowding more characteristic of its neighbor to the north, Yellowstone.

Here you’ll find the spectacular Teton mountains, the winding Snake River, gorgeous lakes and valleys, and some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the entire national park system.

READ: Comprehensive Guide to Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park Video | National Parks Ranked

best national parks
Sunrise Hike at Mount Rainier National Park | Best US National Parks

3. Mount Rainier National Park

Location: Washington, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 46/50

  • Accessibility – 10/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 9/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

We could justify, Mount Rainier’s position as number three on this list, but we think John Muir did it much better when he called it, “The most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings”.

This most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous US is downright mesmerizing. Similar to the feeling one gets when looking into the Grand Canyon, you can gaze upon this mountain for hours without fathoming what exactly you’re looking at.

For some amazing Mt. Rainier facts including the time a guy landed a plane on the summit, check out our post: 10+ (AMAZING) Mount Rainier National Park Facts You Probably Didn’t Know.

This park has so much more to offer than the magnificently glaciated mountain surrounded by carpets of the most beautiful wildflowers you’ve ever seen. It has vast old growth forests, clear blue rivers, abundant wildlife, countless vistas, and so many wonderful hiking opportunities.

Summer crowds can be troublesome and wildfires seem to be more present with each passing year, but plan accordingly and you’ll be amazed by this immensely beautiful national park.

RELATED: Check out these 13 EPIC hikes at Mount Rainier National Park.


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Early Spring in Yosemite National Park | National Parks in the US

4. Yosemite National Park

Location: California, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 43/50

  • Accessibility – 9.5/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 3.5/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

There was a time when Yosemite National Park likely would’ve been #1 on this list. But alas, it’s the 21st century and John Muir’s “grandest of all temples of nature” is bursting at the seams with tourists in search of their latest social media trophy.

But at the end of the day it’s still Yosemite National Park. Once there you’ll realize just why the park is one of the most popular in the US.

Despite the summer crowds, the valley and the park are truly one of the natural wonders of the world. The immense beauty found here is overwhelming and has a tendency to make one feel small in the most humbling way. We recommend visiting in the off-season for the best experience.

READ: Our Guide to All California’s National Parks


lady bird johnson grove redwood national park
Redwood National Park | Best National Parks America

5. Redwood National Park

Location: California, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 43/50

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

Surprised? Good! Redwood National Park’s misty forests, wild coastline, pristine streams, and valleys teeming with wildlife are one of the best kept “secrets” in the national park system. 40 miles of wild and rugged coastline where whales swim and elk roam are more than enough to take your breath away.

Waterfalls and clear blue streams rush against a backdrop of vivid green ferns. The tallest trees in the world soar to unimaginable heights all around you and command your awed gaze.

Yes, here in Redwood National Park you’ll be forgiven if you start to think you’re another planet, like say Endor.

Redwood National Park Video | List of National Parks Ranked

Read our Best Things to Do Redwood National Park post for trip ideas.


List of Top 10 Best US National Parks

Glacier National Park (courtesy NPS) | National Parks in the US

6. Glacier National Park

Location: Montana, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 42.5/50

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 6/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Glacier National Park is one of the grandfathers of the National Park Service and continues to stand the test of time. This exceedingly beautiful mountainous park and its jaw-dropping vistas make other park overlooks seem tame by comparison.

If you can make the drive from the nearest major airport or city, (which aren’t exactly close), Glacier provides ample recreation opportunities and a park experience that people of all abilities can enjoy.

Among the musts in this park is driving the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road, a true engineering marvel that winds through the mountains providing unparalleled views of one of the best national parks in America.


national parks
Winter in Sequoia National Park | Best US National Parks

7. Sequoia National Park

Location: California, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 42.5/50

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 8.5/10
  • Crowds – 7.5/10
  • Amenities – 8.5/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

The beauty of the ancient Sequoia trees found in Sequoia National Park defy any attempt to describe them as John Muir so aptly wrote, “The Big Tree is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and, so far as I know, the greatest of living things. No description can give any adequate idea of their singular majesty, much less their beauty.

Here, amongst groves of the largest trees in the world, one can’t possibly avoid being humbled and awed by the power of of nature. In addition to its namesake trees, the park has abundant amenities and outside of peak summer crowding isn’t too bad. We highly recommend adding this national park to your list.

Do behold the King in his glory, King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say. Some time ago I left all for Sequoia and have been and am at his feet, fasting and praying for light, for is he not the greatest light in the woods, in the world?”

John Muir

RELATED: General Sherman Tree: Everything You Need To Know About the World’s Largest Tree


rocky mountain national park
Rocky Mountain National Park | Best National Parks Ranked

8. Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Colorado, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 42.5/50

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 4/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 9.5/10

Tucked into the heart of Colorado’s Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park spans more than 400 square miles of breathtaking mountain scenery.

This national park is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the American Rockies and it’s no wonder why. Rocky Mountain is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including elk, moose, bighorn sheep, beaver, deer, black bear, eagles, marmots, mountain lions, and so much more. 

Rocky Mountain National Park Video | America’s National Parks Ranked
And the catch…

However, in recent years visitation has increased dramatically at the expense of the visitor experience (not to mention the impact on the park itself).

What was once mostly an issue reserved for the bear lake area of the park has spread to the rest of the park (especially around the Estes Park entrance).

Crowd sizes have swelled to the point that the National Park Service has instituted a timed entry program to control the crowds. With population centers soaring near the park, we expect this issue to become more exacerbated with each passing year.

READ: Our Rocky Mountain National Park Guide & Guide to All Colorado’s National Parks


top 10 national parks in 2021
The Northern Lights over Voyageurs National Park | Best US National Parks List

9. Voyageurs National Park

Location: Minnesota, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map

Score: 42/50

  • Accessibility – 4.5/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

In the far reaches of Northern Minnesota, straddling the Canadian border, you’ll find this watery wonderland almost exclusively accessible by boat. Here, in the pristine waters of vast lakes and the mosaic of islands and boreal forest that comprise the park, you can truly get away from it all and listen to nothing but the sound of your canoe gliding in the tranquil water and the distant calls of loons.

From kaleidoscopic sunrises and sunsets mirrored on the glassy waters of its lakes, to some of the most spectacular displays of the northern lights you’ll find anywhere on earth, Voyageurs is a true monument to the wonders of nature.

Voyageurs National Park Video | Best National Parks Ranked
The Most Underrated Park in America

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of this supremely underrated national park in Minnesota’s far north. There is so much to see and do in Voyageurs and you can truly feel like you have the place to yourself.

In the summer you can spend seemingly endless days on the water, fishing, exploring, and stopping and hiking island bluffs or just relaxing on the beach. In the fall the shorelines and islands are ablaze with reds, yellows, and oranges, and the waters are calm and quiet.

Winter brings a deep freeze to this coldest part of the continental U.S. and with it a whole new array of activities, like snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country-skiing, and even dog-sledding.

The only drawback to Voyageurs is its remoteness and the fact that the park is exclusively accessible by water, meaning you’ll have to rent a canoe, kayak, or motorboat to get around. Obviously it’s a catch-22, because that’s also what makes this national park so special.

Read our Best Things to Do Voyageurs National Park post for trip ideas.


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Autumn in Great Smoky Mountains National Park | America’s National Parks Ranked

10. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: Tennessee & North Carolina, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 42/50

  • Accessibility – 10/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 5.5/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 8.5/10

One of the best national parks in America and the crown jewel of the eastern U.S. parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park protects a vast swath of the immense beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

These old mountains and forests and streams have a character about them that tends to invite one to slow down and imagine a world where this was what much of the eastern United States looked like. Herds of elk freely roam the park and bears, otters, deer, foxes, and woodpeckers are commonly sighted.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Video | Ranked National Parks
The Most Visited National Park in America

Though Great Smoky Mountains is the most-visited national park in the United States, it’s important to note that some of this “visitation” is due to the park having no entrance fees or stations and being home to a highway that serves as a busy commuter corridor.

In reality, apart from peak summer and any time in the Cades Cove area – which can see serious crowding, the park is actually not that crowded and it can be quite easy to find yourself on a trail with no one around.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is flush with amenities like visitors centers and campgrounds, and thanks to the nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge has plenty of food and lodging opportunities.


Top 20 National Parks List in the USA

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Grand Canyon National Park | National Parks USA

11. Grand Canyon National Park

Location: Arizona, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 41/50

  • Accessibility – 8/10
  • Recreation – 9/10
  • Crowds – 4/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Sure we could try to describe to you the singular beauty and majesty of one of the great wonders of the world or we could let one of America’s greatest presidents do it.

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.

I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.

Theodore Roosevelt

Yes the South Rim of the Grand Canyon sees crowds in the summer that are reminiscent of a Disney World parking lot, but the Grand Canyon is a large national park.

You might be surprised to learn that there are many areas in the park with the same jaw-dropping views that won’t make you feel like you’re in the busiest terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Christmas Eve.


yellowstone national park
Yellowstone National Park | US National Parks Ranked

12. Yellowstone National Park

Location: Wyoming, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 39.5/50

  • Accessibility – 7/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 2.5/10
  • Amenities – 10/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Ah, Yellowstone National Park, the national park that started it all. Seeing the original national park rank outside of our list of the top 10 national parks in America is sure to raise some eyebrows, but hear us out.

Yellowstone is an absolutely spectacular and magical national park. A landscape dotted with otherworldly thermal works, bison holdouts from a time when they ruled the prairie, a thriving wolf population, and an encapsulation of the great American west.

What’s not to love, you ask?

Quite frankly, the crowds.

I mean sure, we get it. When you’re managing a place that swells with millions of eager tourists annually, you’re bound to come across challenges managing the influx.

But today, Yellowstone is the Disneyland of national parks complete with food courts, souvenir shops, resort villages, and more. Street traffic (and we’re not talking “bison jams”) due to the sheer amount of cars entering the park has become a real issue here.

As a result, and despite its stunning beauty, we’ve dropped it to number 12 on our list of the best national parks in America ranked.

Planning a National Park Road Trip? We’ve detailed all the best ones with planning tips, itineraries, and more in our NATIONAL PARKS ROAD TRIPS post.


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Death Valley National Park | Best US National Parks Ranked

13. Death Valley National Park

Location: California, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 39/50

  • Accessibility – 7/10
  • Recreation – 9/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

As the largest park in the contiguous United States at over 1.6 million acres, Death Valley embodies every aspect of an epic US national park. Star Wars landscapes fill the mind with wonder as superlatives are the name of the game here.

Death Valley features the lowest point in North America, has the hottest ever recorded air temperature on the planet, the tallest sand dunes in North America, and the driest place in the United States.

Death Valley National Park Video | America’s Best National Parks

Despite the morbid name Death Valley has an abundance of life and incredible sights. So long as you don’t visit during the summer when temperatures can soar into the 130s you’re bound to have a great time here.

READ: Our Best Things to Do Death Valley National Park post here for trip ideas.


zion national park more than just parks
Zion National Park, Utah | Best National Parks America

14. Zion National Park

Location: Utah, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 38/50

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 0.5/10
  • Amenities – 9.5/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

Cue the furious Zion fans. Listen folks, we love Zion, but the truth is this park is an absolute mess right now. We hear a lot today about our national parks being “loved to death” and no park epitomizes this problem more than Zion.

While the park is jaw-droppingly beautiful and home to world-class recreational opportunities, it’s also completely choked with tourists on every trail and crowding every vista. Buses, lottery systems, permits, closures, and still the crowds swarm like moths to a flame. What’s that old proverb? If you love it, let it go.

READ: Utah National Parks Road Trip Comprehensive Guide

“…the near constant head-shaking necessitated by seeing the endless crowds of tourists desperately angling for their next social media masterpiece at the expense of the park.”

Zion National Park Video | Ranked National Parks

All that said, we gave it a half point on crowds because there actually are a few areas of the park that are not completely overrun, like Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons.

In those parts of the park you can actually enjoy the beauty of the place without the near constant head-shaking necessitated by seeing the endless crowds of tourists desperately angling for their next social media masterpiece.

READ: Our Best Things to Do Zion National Park post here for trip ideas.


List of National Parks

great sand dunes national park
The Majestic Great Sand Dunes National Park | US National Parks Ranked

15. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Location: Colorado, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 38/50

  • Accessibility – 4.5/10
  • Recreation – 7.5/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

Imagine the Sahara Desert with a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains – you’re looking at one of the most underrated national parks in America, Great Sand Dunes National Park. Great Sand Dunes is a spectacular park located in southern Colorado that features some of the most breathtaking and unique scenery anywhere in the world.

The tough part is getting to the park because it’s fairly remote and doesn’t easily make its way into a national park road trip. The good news is that when you arrive crowds will be minimal. FYI bugs can be a bit of an issue in the Spring so plan accordingly.

READ: These 4 Colorado National Parks Will Blow Your Mind


kenai fjords
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska | Best National Parks USA

16. Kenai Fjords National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 38/50

  • Accessibility – 4.5/10
  • Recreation – 7.5/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

Kenai Fjords is perhaps the most accessible of Alaska’s national parks. Unlike most other national parks in Alaska, there is actual driving in the park (however limited) that allows access to hiking trails.

There’s also regular boat tours out of Seward that take visitors by many of the most breathtaking areas and sites. Couple that with its close proximity to the major city of Anchorage with regular commercial flights and we’ve got ourselves a real winner.

READ: Our detailed Kenai Fjords National Park Guide


delicate arch, arches national park
Arches National Park | US National Parks Ranked

17. Arches National Park

Location: Utah, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 7/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 8/10
  • Scenery – 8.5/10

Arches National Park is perhaps the most interactive of all the Utah parks filled with scenery that brings out the child in all of us. Sandstone hallways and tunnels, rocks to climb on and over, sandy trails perfect for sandals or even bare feet at times, and red rock vistas that make for an unforgettable experience.

Is the park a bit one-dimensional? Sure. Does it get crowded? Sure. Yet its seemingly very well managed and once you’re in you don’t get the hectic feeling that you do in most crowded parks.

You can fan out and pick your hiking spots and for the most part instead of crowds you’re just dealing with the warm desert wind whipping your hair every place. If you’re making the pilgrimage to Moab, put the mountain bike away for a day or two and get out and hike this park, you’ll be so glad you did.

READ: Our comprehensive guide to Utah’s National Parks


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North Cascades National Park, Washington | National Parks In The US

18. North Cascades National Park

Location: Washington, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 37.5/50

  • Accessibility – 6/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 5/10
  • Scenery – 9.5/10

Here’s a park I’m sure will be moving up this list in the coming years. Referred to by some as the “American Alps” with mountain beauty that rivals any range on the planet, North Cascades is the crown jewel of the mighty cascade range.

One of three Washington state national parks, North Cascades is the least visited, the most difficult to access all around, and perhaps the most rewarding for those who dare. A backpackers paradise to be sure, but it’s just not very approachable for the average national park/outdoors enthusiast. For that reason we had to dock it on amenities as there really aren’t any.

That said, the park’s interior is absolutely stunningly beautiful as a simple Google image search will show you, and its lack of crowds and backcountry offerings are a major plus. If you’re interested in getting off the beaten path and seeing some amazing scenery, here’s your chance.

RELATED: Our Guide to All Washington’s National Parks


Denali National Park (courtesy NPS) | National Parks Ranked

19. Denali National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

My Favorite Resources: Map / Guidebook

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 6/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 5/10
  • Scenery – 9.5/10

Alaska’s flagship national park named for its tallest mountain which happens to be the highest peak in North America, Denali is on every park-goers bucket list. The breadth of this mountain is hard to appreciate and so is the size of the park itself at 6.1 million acres. 

Denali also happens to be one of the most accessible Alaskan national parks with limited driving access, bus access that gets you further, visitor center, campgrounds, and the famous car lottery.

READ: Our detailed Denali National Park Guide


Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska (courtesy NPS) | List of US National Parks Ranked

20. Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 6/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 5/10
  • Scenery – 9.5/10

As one of the more accessible Alaska parks, Wrangell makes it into our top 20 US national parks for that reason alone. Wrangell is an Alaska national park full of superlatives and a world unto itself. It is a park of otherworldly and seemingly impossible landscapes. The difference at Wrangell vs some of Alaska’s national parks is that you can take a car and drive to some of them.

Wrangell St. Elias National Park is the largest in the US at over 13 million acres. The park features 9 of the 16 tallest mountain peaks in the country. If Wrangell were a state, it would be larger than Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

Now, the drive is a bit of a trek (5 hours from Anchorage) to get to McCarthy, Alaska where visitors can access the historic Kennecot mine and Root Glacier.

READ: Our detailed Wrangell St Elias National Park Guide


List of Top 30 US National Parks

acadia national park
Acadia National Park, Maine | US National Parks List

21. Acadia National Park

Location: Maine, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 7.5/10
  • Crowds – 6/10
  • Amenities – 9/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

Along the rocky shores of Maine’s coast you’ll find this easternmost national park. Once the exclusive domain of the gilded age elite, a few civic-minded residents decided to make Acadia’s beauty available to all Americans by donating the land to the national park service – and boy are we glad they did.

With rounded mountains, shimmering lakes (called ponds here) , rugged coastline, and forests dotted with old stone roads and trails this New England national park is a real treasure.

READ: Acadia National Park: A World Class Fall Destination

Acadia National Park Video | National Parks Ranked

We dock it a few points for accessibility as it’s pretty remote, and flights into Bangor aren’t the easiest to come by.

Crowding can be a real issue in the summer as tourist buses and cars fill the park and parking becomes very scarce. Fall brings some of the best foliage in the parks system to Acadia and is not to be missed.

READ: Best East Coast National Parks


capitol reef national park
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah | Best National Parks

22. Capitol Reef National Park

Location: Utah, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

Probably the least known Utah national park, and yet it’s easily one of the best. No crowds, abundant scenery, and there’s even a small town (Torrey) nestled up against the park that has restaurants and conveniences that will surprise you.

Lots of great day-hikes and truly out of this world stargazing opportunities (pun intended).

READ: Utah National Parks Road Trip Comprehensive Guide


joshua tree national park
Joshua Tree National Park Sunrise | Best National Parks List

23. Joshua Tree National Park

Location: California, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 8/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 7/10

Oh Joshua Tree. Has any park been more idolized by musicians and pop-culture? What was once thought of as an interesting other-worldly filming location for old Hollywood television productions like Star Trek, is now every budding artist’s pilgrimage for photo shoots and experimental…well, anyway. 

Watch our 5 minute Joshua Tree National Park Video

Alas, through all of its publicity Joshua Tree has not lost any of its beauty, and despite its crowds still provides plenty of space to explore its magical desert landscapes.


mesa arch canyonlands national park
Canyonlands National Park, Utah | Best National Parks Ranked

24. Canyonlands National Park

Location: Utah, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 5.5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 8.5/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

Canyonlands is one of the parks that has views that one can seemingly gaze upon for days without losing interest or truly comprehending the vastness of the landscape.

Mesa Arch here represents one of the most photographed sunrises in all of the national park system and Green River overlook one of the most dazzling sunsets. It’s also devoid of the crowds found in some other Utah national parks.

The catch? Four-wheel drive. If you’ve got it you’re set and have full access to all of the unbelievable destinations the park has to offer. Without it, your time in the park will be mostly limited to overlooks and a few trails from above, which are still well worth the trip.

READ: Utah National Parks Road Trip


badlands national park more than just parks
Badlands National Park, South Dakota | US National Parks Ranked

25. Badlands National Park

Location: South Dakota, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

Here’s a true national park lovers national park. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the vastness of South Dakota’s Northern Great Plains you’ll stumble upon this beautiful national park.

Upon entering you’ll be greeted by towns of playful prairie dogs before seeing scores of the grand emblem of the American west roaming the park freely (that’s bison).

Sunsets here are absolutely magnificent as the light sweeps across the seemingly unending landscapes of striped hills and plains.

Watch our 4 minute Badlands National Park video.

We knock off some points for its remoteness and lack of diversity in activities to do, but overall this is a wonderful park that can be paired with the Black Hills to make for an epic road trip.

READ: Things to Do Badlands National Park


List of US National Parks

sunrise bryce canyon national park
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah | List of All 63 National Parks Ranked

26. Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Utah, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 6.5/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 9/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

As far as the mighty 5 Utah national parks go, Bryce Canyon clocks in at number 5 on the list. I’ll be the first to say that the Wall Street trail in Bryce Canyon is among the most beautiful I’ve hiked in the parks system. Sunrises in the park are nothing short of jaw-dropping.

However, the scenery here, while beautiful, doesn’t change past the main viewing area near Sunset Point. Add the crowds here which are tour bus large, with the relative small size of the park and we arrive at 5th out of 5.

With that being said, even Utah’s lowest ranking park still ranks higher than most other parks.


general grant tree kings canyon national park california

27. Kings Canyon National Park

Location: California, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 5.5/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 6.5/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

Located directly adjacent to Sequoia National Park and featuring similar scenery (the second largest tree on the planet lives here) and even a similar lodge you might be asking yourself why it ranks so much lower.

Well, it’s a matter of accessibility, burned areas, crowds, and the sequoia groves here aren’t quite as gorgeous as those you’ll find down the road. Call it national park snobbery, spoiled with a wealth of natural splendor, but here we are.


National Parks List

shenandoah national park virginia - us national parks ranked
Shenandoah National Park | US National Parks Ranked

28. Shenandoah National Park

Location: Virginia, USA

Score: 37/50

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 7.5/10
  • Scenery – 6.5/10

As one of the Eastern United States premiere parks, Shenandoah is mostly a ridge line destination with the top attraction here being its incredibly scenic Skyline Drive. Autumn in the park is especially spectacular with a fall foliage display that rivals those of the Great Smoky Mountains to the south.

While it doesn’t have a massive volcanic mountain, or Yosemite valley, its accessibility, amenities, and reasonable crowds bring it into the top half of parks on our list.

READ: Best East Coast National Parks


kilauea crater hawaii volcanoes national park
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park | Best National Parks Ranked

29. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Score: 36.5/50

  • Accessibility – 5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 7.5/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

Hawaii’s flagship national park, Hawai’i Volcanoes used to encompass Haleakala National Park on the neighboring island of Maui as well.

Despite that subtraction the place is otherworldly (very mars-esque) and presents a rare opportunity to see lava (or at least its effects depending on whether it’s active during your visit) up close. 

Watch our 3 minute film on Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

This park is always changing as eruptions over the past few decades have both created and destroyed park attractions. The Thurston Lava tube is amazing to hike through and the tropical birds that can be viewed here are rare and beautiful.

RELATED: See our full Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Guide here!

READ: Best Things to Do Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park post here for trip ideas.


Top 40 List of US National Parks

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Petrified Forest National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

30. Petrified Forest National Park

Location: Arizona, USA

Score: 36.5/50

  • Accessibility – 7/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 5.5/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

Petrified Forest holds a special place in our hearts as the first national park we ever visited and the place where we fell in love with America’s public lands.

Upon arriving we were dazzled by blue mesas, striped hills, warm winds, distant storms, rainbows, petroglyphs, and the most beautiful collection of rocks (petrified wood – leave it there) we have ever seen. Oh and no crowds!

We docked it some points due to its lack of amenities – unfortunately there are no campgrounds in the park. With that said, located right off the I-40 in Arizona, Petrified is a great park to add to your next southwest road trip.


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Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park (courtesy NPS) | America’s National Parks Ranked

31. Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Colorado, USA

Score: 36/50

  • Accessibility – 5.5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 8.5/10
  • Amenities – 8/10
  • Scenery – 7/10

Known for the cliff dwellings it protects, Mesa Verde is a budding archaeologists’ dream national park. Ancient pueblo dwellings and ruins are beautifully preserved in this remote desert park.

Located in the southwest corner of Colorado this park is out there but totally worth a trip if you’re in the area.

READ: Our Guide to All Colorado’s National Parks


crater lake national park oregon - us national parks ranked
Crater Lake | Best National Parks Ranked

32. Crater Lake National Park

Location: Oregon, USA

Score: 35.5/50

  • Accessibility – 6/10
  • Recreation – 6.5/10
  • Crowds – 6/10
  • Amenities – 8.5/10
  • Scenery – 8.5/10

The deepest lake in America is one of the seven wonders of Oregon and is surprisingly the state’s only national park. The kind of blue water that exists here is unlike any other in the world and is sure to captivate you. While the park itself is fairly remote and requires quite a drive to get to, trust us, it’s worth it.

In the summer a ferry runs to and from Wizard island where folks can get a unique view of the surrounding area and swimming is a popular activity.

In the winter, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and backcountry camping are popular among the hardy outdoors enthusiast. Crater Lake actually sees more snowfall than most other parks in the lower 48.


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Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park | National Parks Ranked

33. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Location: California, USA

Score: 35.5/50

  • Accessibility – 6/10
  • Recreation – 7.5/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

We liken Lassen to a Yosemite meets Yellowstone. Situated just below the mighty volcanic Cascade Range and at the northern tip of the Sierra Nevadas, this park features some otherworldly scenery.

Thermal works here in an area known as Bumpass Hell rival some of those you can find in Yellowstone. 

Throw in some stunning alpine lakes, sugar pine forests, and purple mountain majesty and you’ve got a general feeling for the place. The catch here is distance from a major airport or conveniences.

It’s a bit out there. Wildfires and crowding in the summer are also growing threats.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison Colorado - us national parks ranked
Black Canyon of the Gunnison | Best National Parks Ranked

34. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Location: Colorado, USA

Score: 35.5/50

  • Accessibility – 4.5/10
  • Recreation – 6/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

Of all the underrated national parks out there, this one is near the top of the list. As a relatively new park it has flown under the radar of most park-goers’ summer travel plans. For those who love Black Canyon, this is great news as it means more of the park for us.

The scenery here is mesmerizing and warrants the same long gazes afforded to places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

The major drawback here is its distance from, well everything, and out-of-the-way relativity to national park road trips. If you do make it out you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

READ: Our Guide to All Colorado’s National Parks


List of U.S. National Parks

katmai national park alaska - us national parks ranked
Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park (courtesy NPS)

35. Katmai National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

Score: 35/50

  • Accessibility – 1/10
  • Recreation – 10/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 4/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

We’ve all seen the famous bearcam of the grizzlies hunting salmon at Brooks Falls, and we all want to see that in person (safely behind the plexiglass viewing area) along with the countless other hard-to-fathom landscapes that exist within this amazing park.

The fact of the matter is that it just ain’t easy (or cheap) to do so. Getting to Katmai typically requires multiple flights and thousands of dollars which puts it squarely out of reach for most Americans.

READ: Our detailed Katmai National Park Guide


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Virgin Islands National Park | Best National Parks Ranked

36. Virgin Islands National Park

Location: US Virgin Islands, USA

Score: 35/50

  • Accessibility – 4.5/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 8/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

There’s a national park in the Virgin Islands!? Yes!! And it’s everything you could imagine and more. While the 2017 hurricanes forever changed the landscape here, leveling most of the towering palms and mangroves, it is still stunningly beautiful albeit in a different way than before.

Warm crystal waters, palm trees, white sand beaches, sea turtles, iguanas, ocean sunsets and more await you here.

Getting to the island is a bit tricky as you have to fly to the neighboring island of St. Thomas first, rent a car, and then take the car on the ferry to St. John where the park is located. The layout of this park is a bit funky, somewhat like that of Acadia with roads on St. John that lead in and out of the park (sometimes without even realizing you’ve left). 

Read our Best Things to Do Virgin Islands National Park post here for trip ideas.


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Saguaro National Park Sunset | America’s National Parks Ranked

37. Saguaro National Park

Location: Arizona, USA

Score: 35/50

  • Accessibility – 8/10
  • Recreation – 6/10
  • Crowds – 8/10
  • Amenities – 6/10
  • Scenery – 7/10

Named for the cactus that has become the emblem of the southwest (the saguaro), Saguaro National Park is relatively small but packs a punch. The park’s close proximity to Tucson makes it a worthwhile and easy stop for folks who happen to be in the area.

Sunsets here are truly magical and visitors from outside the area will be surprised at just how large the saguaro cacti can be. The scenery, while special, particularly for those who don’t live in a desert, doesn’t vary much throughout the park.


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Haleakala National Park | US National Parks Ranked

38. Haleakala National Park

Location: Hawaii, USA

Score: 34/50

  • Accessibility – 5.5/10
  • Recreation – 7.5/10
  • Crowds – 6.5/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

National park + Hawaii – what’s not to like? Located on the island of Maui, this tropical park is a feast for the eyes with two main areas to explore.

The crater is all the rage and has been deemed “the greatest sunrise in the national parks” by many… if you can beat the crowds (which are substantial and require a reservation) and get lucky with the weather. The other section is the more tropical side (near Hana) with jaw-dropping waterfalls, ocean, palm trees, and rainforest.

Read our Best Things to Do Haleakala National Park post here for trip ideas.


Big Bend National Park Texas - us national parks ranked
Big Bend National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best US National Parks Ranked

39. Big Bend National Park

Location: Texas, USA

Score: 34/50

  • Accessibility – 3.5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 6.5/10
  • Scenery – 7/10

The greater of the two Texas parks both in size and scenery, Big Bend is a hot time. Quite literally hot, if you’re visiting during pretty much any season other than Winter.

This park’s proximity to the Mexican border (right on it) means it gets awfully hot in Spring and Summer with temperatures often climbing into the triple digits.

If not for the remoteness of the park (it is out in the middle of nowhere – we’re talking 4.5hours from a major airport or city) it would rank much higher on this list as with this sort of solitude comes fewer amenities and less food options.


Top 50 List of US National Parks

theodore roosevelt national park north dakota – us national parks ranked
Theodore Roosevelt National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks Ranked

40. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Location: North Dakota, USA

Score: 33.5/50

  • Accessibility – 3.5/10
  • Recreation – 6.5/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 6.5/10

Named for the great conservationist and president, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to magnificent high plains landscapes complete with the iconic American Bison. There are even badlands here that are similar in stature to those found to the south in Badlands National Park.

The catch? Getting there. This park is located way out in North Dakota where no average American road trips will take you. We also knock it a few points due to the proximity of large-scale industrial fossil fuel activity within view of the park.


wind cave south dakota - us national parks ranked
Wind Cave National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

41. Wind Cave National Park

Location: South Dakota, USA

Score: 33.5/50

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 6/10
  • Crowds – 8.5/10
  • Amenities – 6.5/10
  • Scenery – 6/10

Wind Cave is the lesser of two South Dakota Parks and as a result is an underrated park. Because “cave” is in the name, many non-cave-enthusiasts write it off prematurely. But there’s a lot more to the park than just the cave!

For starters, there are some impressive herds of bison which roam some beautiful high plains landscapes. Throw in some coniferous forests and prairie dog towns and we’ve got ourselves a destination!


Texas - us national parks ranked
Guadalupe Mountains National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

42. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Location: Texas, USA

Score: 33.5/50

  • Accessibility – 4.5/10
  • Recreation – 6.5/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 6/10
  • Scenery – 6.5/10

The second of two Texas parks, both in size and scenery, Guadalupe Mountains still has a lot to offer. Impressive high country desert landscapes, a diversity of wildlife (even the rare Mexican black bear), and no crowds to speak of. Perfect, right?

Almost – accessibility is an issue here as it is kinda out in the middle of nowhere. While not quite as remote as its sister Texas park, Big Bend, it’s still a long drive to get there.

The good news is that it’s right next to Carlsbad Caverns and not too far (3 hours) from White Sands. Sounds like the makings of a great road trip!


glacier bay national park alaska - us national parks ranked
Glacier Bay National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks Ranked

43. Glacier Bay National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

Score: 33/50

  • Accessibility – 2/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 3/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Glacier Bay is a wonderful “cruising park” with spectacular views from the water including orcas, whales, massive glaciers, and so much more. It’s hard to ask for more breathtaking scenery than what you can find in this park. So what’s the catch?

Getting to the park is exceedingly difficult, requiring a flight and then either another flight or ferry. It also comes with quite a hefty price tag and for that reason it ranks lower on our list despite the incredible sites.

READ: Our detailed Glacier Bay National Park Guide


isle royale national park michigan – us national parks ranked
Isle Royale National Park (courtesy NPS)

44. Isle Royale National Park

Location: Michigan, USA

Score: 32.5/50

  • Accessibility – 3/10
  • Recreation – 6.5/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 6.5/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

Clocking in as one of the least visited parks in the entire system (including the Alaska parks), Isle Royale is a place often overlooked by park-goers. Its location, a network of 450 islands (mostly very small) out in Lake Superior, makes it difficult to get to. 

The fact that you cannot drive to the park seems to serve as quite the deterrent to visitors. Getting to the main island requires a 2 hour ferry ride (the shortest route) and costs $60-100 per passenger.


us national parks ranked – everglades national park florida
Everglades National Park (courtesy NPS) | USA National Parks Ranked

45. Everglades National Park

Location: Florida, USA

Score: 32.5/50

  • Accessibility – 5/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 7.5/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 6/10

Known for its reptiles, Everglades National Park represents the best chance people have to see the American Alligator in a national park. While the park itself is actually quite massive (third largest in the lower 48), the hike-able regions of it are somewhat limited.

The best user experience is on a boat and the most popular iteration of this is the fan boat where folks can travel at high speeds and cover a lot of ground. 

One of Florida’s many parks, the Everglades is a great addition to any south Florida trip.

READ: Best East Coast National Parks


great basin national park nevada – us national parks ranked
Bristlecone Pine Tree at Great Basin National Park | Best US National Parks Ranked

46. Great Basin National Park

Location: Nevada, USA

Score: 32/50

  • Accessibility – 4/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 8.5/10
  • Amenities – 5/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

This park falls into the underrated category for sure as it is a place full of superlatives. Great Basin is an anomaly in the high desert of Nevada and rises from the hot desert floor with very little vegetation, up into lush coniferous forests high above.

There is even a glacier in the park – in Nevada – how crazy is that!

The park features alpine lakes, and our favorite part, groves of ancient Bristlecone Pines (we’re talking thousands of years old). Fall is a great time to see the park as the foliage is pretty grand.


us national parks ranked
White Sands National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

47. White Sands National Park

Location: New Mexico, USA

Score: 32/50

  • Accessibility – 5/10
  • Recreation – 5.5/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 6/10
  • Scenery – 6.5/10

We first visited White Sands back in its monument days (not too long ago) and left saying “this place would make a great national park”. Apparently we weren’t alone in our thinking.

Today, White Sands has achieved park status, and if you can figure a way to add it to a road trip (without adding 8 hours), it is definitely worth the stop! Boardwalks out into the sands make for a great user experience along with decent facilities.

The white color of the sand is dazzling (pack the sunglasses) and unlike anything we’ve experienced.


us national parks ranked
Congaree National Park (credit jtfineart.com) | Best National Parks Ranked

48. Congaree National Park

Location: South Carolina, USA

Score: 32

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 6/10
  • Crowds – 8.5/10
  • Amenities – 6/10
  • Scenery – 5/10

Known for its infamous “Mosquito Meter”, Congaree does not rank very high on most folks’ national parks lists but we say, “give it a chance!” (in the fall anyway). Congaree has some really cool canoeing/kayaking trails, elevated boardwalks, bald cypress trees (which are quite beautiful), and underrated displays of fall foliage.

While it might be best to avoid Congaree during late spring & summer months (skeeters), other times of the year are fair game.


us national parks ranked
Lake Clark National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks Ranked

49. Lake Clark National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

Score: 31.5

  • Accessibility – 1/10
  • Recreation – 9/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 1.5/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Lake Clark is home to some of the most extraordinary landscape scenery on the planet. Add in the vast array of wildlife present in the park and you’ve got a real home run. The only problem, as is the case with most of the Alaska parks, is getting there.

Getting to Lake Clark, while not quite as difficult as Gates of the Arctic or Kobuk Valley, is still pretty darn tough. Visitors must take a seasonal ferry or small plane to reach jumping off points into the park. 

The cost for all this? Substantial.

READ: Our detailed Lake Clark National Park Guide


scuba diving channel islands national park california
Channel Islands National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks United States

50. Channel Islands National Park

Location: California, USA

Score: 31

  • Accessibility – 4/10
  • Recreation – 6.5/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 3.5/10
  • Scenery – 8/10

Deemed “the American Galapagos”, Channel Islands feature an unbelievable amount of biodiversity. Located just off the coast of Southern California, this eight island chain is another bucket-lister for park-lovers. 

Getting to the islands themselves presents a bit of difficulty as visitors have to take a ferry and usually make reservations well in advance. Once arriving to the islands activities including hiking, kayaking, diving, and relaxing. Amenities are a bit limited so make sure to pack water and food for your trip.


dry tortugas national park best national parks to escape winter us national parks ranked
Dry Tortugas National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks US Ranked

51. Dry Tortugas National Park

Location: Florida, USA

Score: 30.5

  • Accessibility – 4/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 9.5/10
  • Amenities – 2.5/10
  • Scenery – 7.5/10

What was once a strategic fort far out on the Florida Keys is now an incredible island national park. Dry Tortugas is one of the few “tropical” national parks in the system which is reason-alone to make the trip. And making the trip is half the fun.

Getting to this park requires an additional plane ride from Key West or ferry ride out to the island. Once there, visitors can snorkel, swim, relax, and otherwise enjoy the remains (well-intact) of Fort Jefferson.

Facilities are quite limited on the island and if you’re camping make sure to pack all of your own food and water.


us national parks ranked
Biscayne National Park (courtesy NPS) | National Parks US Ranked

52. Biscayne National Park

Location: Florida, USA

Score: 30.5

  • Accessibility – 5/10
  • Recreation – 6/10
  • Crowds – 8/10
  • Amenities – 5./10
  • Scenery – 6.5/10

Biscayne is a snorkelers & divers dream with an immense diversity of underwater sea life begging to be explored.

While this park is not really a hikers park with more than 90% of it being underwater, it is a unique addition to the National Park System that is a great add-on to a south Florida trip.


New River Gorge National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

53. New River Gorge National Park

Location: West Virginia, USA

Score: 30

  • Accessibility – 6/10
  • Recreation – 7.5/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 3/10
  • Scenery – 6.5/10

America’s newest National Park is West Virginia’s first and it’s a beauty! New River Gorge has lots of great recreational opportunities including rafting, kayaking, fishing, canoeing, hiking, and more.

The fall foliage here is magnificent with bright reds, oranges, and yellows filling the gorge.


The Worst National Parks (The Bottom 10 Parks)

Somebody’s got to do it. All of these parks are still worth a visit, just not as worthwhile as the others.

mammoth cave kentucky national parks
Mammoth Cave National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks USA Ranked

54. Mammoth Cave National Park

Location: Kentucky, USA

Score: 30

  • Accessibility – 7/10
  • Recreation – 3/10
  • Crowds – 8.5/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 4.5/10

The longest known cave system is Kentucky’s only national park and it is a true gem. While the scenery here is a bit one-dimensional it is indeed grand. Mammoth Cave is one of the eastern United States’ few parks and is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.


US National Parks Ranked – american samoa
National Park of American Samoa (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks Ranked

55. American Samoa National Park

Location: American Samoa, USA

Score: 29

  • Accessibility – 1/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 2/10
  • Scenery – 9/10

A picture-perfect postcard of tropical paradise, American Samoa National Park is a bucket list park for NPS enthusiasts. Crystal blue waters meet tall, lush mountains in the heart of the South Pacific creating one of the dreamiest looking national parks in the system.

Getting there, however, is going to cost you. Average flight prices from the mainland US typically range from 1,800 – 3,000 dollars putting it out of reach for most of us.

Once you get there, exploring the park’s incredible beauty isn’t exactly easy either with relatively few hiking trails and very limited park facilities.


pinnacles national park california
Pinnacles National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

56. Pinnacles National Park

Location: California, USA

Score: 29

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 6/10
  • Crowds – 8/10
  • Amenities – 3/10
  • Scenery – 5.5/10

The most recent addition of the California National Parks is a beauty featuring some lovely dry mountain scenery, caves exploration, condor viewing, and lots of great rock climbing opportunities.

With that being said, hiking is the main activity in the park and there’s plenty of it. A great time to check out the park is in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.


gates of the arctic national park
Gates of the Arctic National Park (courtesy NPS) | List of All National Parks

57. Gates of the Arctic National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

Score: 28

  • Accessibility – 0/10
  • Recreation – 8/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 0/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

Gates of the Arctic is a breathtakingly beautiful place that is nearly impossible for the average person to get to. Getting into the park requires multiple flights, a guide (to do it safely), and thousands of dollars.

It seems to us this park would have been more fitting for a wilderness designation than a National Park. For that reason it ranks near the bottom of our list.

READ: Our detailed Gates of the Arctic National Park Guide


national parks ranked
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (courtesy NPS) | Ranking America’s National Parks

58. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Location: Ohio, USA

Score: 28

  • Accessibility – 7/10
  • Recreation – 4/10
  • Crowds – 7/10
  • Amenities – 6/10
  • Scenery – 4/10

What was once a superfund cleanup site is now a beautiful national park. Cuyahoga is a great place to spend a day and soak in the natural beauty of Ohio. Its location near Cleveland makes it an easy stop for any park-lover to add on their trip to the city.


US National Parks Ranked - Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park (courtesy NPS) | Ranking the US National Parks

59. Indiana Dunes National Park

Location: Indiana, USA

Score: 27

  • Accessibility – 7.5/10
  • Recreation – 4/10
  • Crowds – 6.5/10
  • Amenities – 5.5/10
  • Scenery – 4.5/10

We can now have a day on the beach in the great lakes *in* a national park – about time, right? Indiana Dunes is a really cool spot and one of the most recent additions to the NPS system.

While not quite on the level of most of the other parks in terms of scenery it’s still a great place to see!


US national parks ranked – carlsbad caverns
Carlsbad Caverns National Park (courtesy NPS) | US National Parks Ranked

60. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Location: New Mexico, USA

Score: 27.5

  • Accessibility – 4/10
  • Recreation – 3/10
  • Crowds – 9/10
  • Amenities – 6.5/10
  • Scenery – 5/10

Carlsbad Caverns is a really amazing place, home to over a hundred caves and some of the most spectacular subterranean sites in the world.

What drags it down on our list is the accessibility, limited recreation opportunities, and overall scenery (while beautiful) being pretty one-dimensional. With that being said, it’s definitely worth the visit!


national parks ranked – kobuk valley national park
Kobuk Valley National Park (courtesy NPS) | America’s National Parks Ranked

61. Kobuk Valley National Park

Location: Alaska, USA

Score: 27

  • Accessibility – 0/10
  • Recreation – 7/10
  • Crowds – 10/10
  • Amenities – 0/10
  • Scenery – 10/10

See our Gates of the Arctic justification above. Kobuk Valley is a jaw-droppingly beautiful place that is nearly impossible for the average person to get to. Getting into the park requires multiple flights, a guide (to do it safely), and thousands of dollars.

It seems to us this park would have been more fitting for a wilderness designation than a National Park. For that reason it ranks near the bottom of our list.

READ: Our detailed Kobuk Valley National Park Guide


national parks ranked – hot springs national park
Hot Springs National Park (courtesy NPS)

62. Hot Springs National Park

Location: Arkansas, USA

Score: 25.5

  • Accessibility – 6.5/10
  • Recreation – 3.5/10
  • Crowds – 6.5/10
  • Amenities – 7/10
  • Scenery – 2/10

While this site should definitely be protected, featuring some really great historical and natural areas, are we sure the full “National Park” designation is the right one for Hot Springs? In our estimation it seems it would be perfect for a National Historic Park designation or perhaps even a National Monument designation.

It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area but were it not for a recent addition to the national park system it would rank at the bottom of our list.


national parks ranked – gateway arch national park
Gateway Arch National Park (courtesy NPS) | Best National Parks Ranked

63. Gateway Arch National Park

Location: Missouri, USA

Score: 16.5

  • Accessibility – 9/10
  • Recreation – 1/10
  • Crowds – 2.5/10
  • Amenities – 3/10
  • Scenery – 1/10
Last but, well, least…

We were not alone in our head-scratching upon hearing the news that Gateway Arch had been elevated to full park status alongside the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite. Receiving a coveted congressional designation as a national park is usually a long and hard fought process with long justification statements and passionate debate.

In this case the justification statement is a mere paragraph long and does not, in and of itself, hold up to the criteria set forth by congress.

We are very much for the creation of new parks and different kinds of parks, but the system we have allows for diverse designations. Would not a National Historic Site or National Historic Park designation be more fitting in this case?

We’re Calling this a *National Park*, Really?

Typically parks under consideration need to demonstrate a need for the designation which was not done so (at least publicly) in this case. When the bill to create this was brought to the house floor it seems that getting it done quickly so that it could be celebrated by the 4th of July was a leading justification for elevating it to park status.

Clocking in at 62 acres it is by far the smallest park and could fit into the next smallest park (Hot Springs) more than 88 times with room to spare.

The question we are left asking ourselves is what sort of political, backroom horse trading was done in order to slap the “National Park” tag on the arch? Might make for some interesting investigative journalism.


List of National Parks (All 63 Alphabetical)

  1. Acadia National Park
  2. American Samoa National Park
  3. Arches National Park
  4. Badlands National Park
  5. Big Bend National Park
  6. Biscayne National Park
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  8. Bryce Canyon National Park
  9. Canyonlands National Park
  10. Capitol Reef National Park
  11. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  12. Channel Islands National Park
  13. Congaree National Park
  14. Crater Lake National Park
  15. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  16. Death Valley National Park
  17. Denali National Park
  18. Dry Tortugas National Park
  19. Everglades National Park
  20. Gates of the Arctic National Park
  21. Gateway Arch National Park
  22. Glacier National Park
  23. Glacier Bay National Park
  24. Grand Canyon National Park
  25. Grand Teton National Park
  26. Great Basin National Park
  27. Great Sand Dunes National Park
  28. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  29. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  30. Haleakala National Park
  31. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  32. Hot Springs National Park
  33. Indiana Dunes National Park
  34. Isle Royale National Park
  35. Joshua Tree National Park
  36. Katmai National Park
  37. Kenai Fjords National Park
  38. Kings Canyon National Park
  39. Kobuk Valley National Park
  40. Lake Clark National Park
  41. Lassen Volcanic National Park
  42. Mammoth Cave National Park
  43. Mesa Verde National Park
  44. Mount Rainier National Park
  45. New River Gorge National Park
  46. North Cascades National Park
  47. Olympic National Park
  48. Petrified Forest National Park
  49. Pinnacles National Park
  50. Redwood National Park
  51. Rocky Mountain National Park
  52. Saguaro National Park
  53. Sequoia National Park
  54. Shenandoah National Park
  55. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  56. Virgin Islands National Park
  57. Voyageurs National Park
  58. White Sands National Park
  59. Wind Cave National Park
  60. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
  61. Yellowstone National Park
  62. Yosemite National Park
  63. Zion National Park

Map of All US National Parks

We’ve included map locations for all 63 of America’s National Parks below.


Top 10 Best National Parks

  1. Olympic National Park
  2. Grand Teton National Park
  3. Mt Rainier National Park
  4. Yosemite National Park
  5. Redwood National Park
  6. Glacier National Park
  7. Sequoia National Park
  8. Rocky Mountain National Park
  9. Voyageurs National Park
  10. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Top 10 Most Visited US National Parks

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park12.1 million visitors
  2. Yellowstone National Park – 3.8 million visitors
  3. Zion National Park3.6 million visitors
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park – 3.3 million visitors
  5. Grand Teton National Park – 3.3 million visitors
  6. Grand Canyon National Park – 2.9 million visitors
  7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park – 2.8 million visitors
  8. Acadia National Park2.7 million visitors
  9. Olympic National Park – 2.5 million visitors
  10. Joshua Tree National Park2.4 million visitors

*based on 2021 visitation statistics provided by the National Park Service


What Qualifies as a National Park?

There seems to be some confusion out there about what exactly qualifies as a “national park” in the United States, so let’s clear that up.

There are many different types of designations within the national park system, like national monuments, national historical parks, national battlefields, national historic sites, national parks, and so on.

Each one of these specific designations carries with it a different meaning, a different type of administration, and affords the area different levels of protection.

For a more in-depth explanation of these designations visit our designations article, What Exactly Is A National Park?


How Many National Parks Are There In The US?

To be clear, there are 63 national parks in the US. National parks can only be designated by an act of congress – unlike many other units in the national park system which can gain their designation through executive action or even secretarial orders.

National historical parks, for instance, are not national parks, even though they contain the phrase “national park” in their title. Confused yet?

The same goes for national preserves, national monuments and anything else that is not simply named “[Insert Title] National Park”. But don’t take our word for it, you can read all about these different designations on the National Park Service website here.

The National Park System

The national park system is full of incredible places that constitute the all-important natural and cultural heritage of the United States.

These special places, from Gettysburg National Military Park to Yosemite National Park, are of immense importance and are equally deserving of preservation and administration that fits their unique place in the story of this country.

So whether your favorite national park service unit is a national park, a national monument, a national recreation area, or any other type of designation, the point is they’re all important, but there’s only 63 congressionally-designated “national parks”.


Well done, fellow park fan.

Well folks, that’s a wrap! If you made it this far you can give yourself a nice pat on the back! Time to plan that next trip and get out there into the wide world of National Parks.

We’ve got some trips of our own planned for this year and will be updating you further as we go. Feel free to subscribe to our mailing list (at the bottom of the page) to stay up to date with our adventures in the parks!


Do you agree with our US national park rankings?

Okay we’re sure you’ll have your own opinions – we want to hear them! Where do you think the parks stack up with one another?


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Jim Pattiz

Co-Founder of More Than Just Parks. Filmmaker, Conservationist, Public Lands Enthusiast

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