All 63 USA National Parks Ranked Best to Worst

a map of the USA

There are a lot of national parks in the USA, so it can be hard to choose which one you might want to go to.

There are lots of factors in choosing which US national park is the best. Some of the things that go into the ranking of the parks are hiking trails, facilities, crowds, and photogenic. However, the biggest thing that goes into ranking national parks is the scenery. This list is mostly based on how breathtaking each park is. 

 

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited national parks.

Located in California, Yosemite National Park has lots of activities, accommodations, and accessibility. Yosemite Valley is the most famous stretch of road in the park and getting out of the car provides you with gorgeous views of the park.

There are lots of rock climbing routes for all kinds of rock climbers too. Iconic park views include El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome. There are miles of trails available to you to go hiking and biking and gorgeous wildflowers and wildlife to take in.

Everything about Yosemite is great, which means that it gets lots of visitors every year. Don’t let the crowds intimidate you though, there are 750,000 acres of land to be explored. 

2. Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

While some think this park is largely overshadowed by Yellowstone, it’s just as beautiful and a lot less crowded. Yellowstone and Grand Teton are the only two national parks in Wyoming. The most popular attraction in Grand Teton is Jackson Hole.

If you don’t want to get out and hike, the scenic drive down Teton Park Road offers great views of the park without getting out of your car. As for hikers, long-distance trails Cascade Canyon and Teton Crest are great hikes for experienced hikers. For non-experienced hikers, Jenny Lake Loop offers 7.6 miles of trail that everyone can hike. 

3. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Sometimes called the “Crown of the Continent,” this jaw-dropping park lives up to its name. There are one million acres of wilderness in Montana’s backcountry. There are two mountain ranges and over 130 lakes. If you want to experience Glacier from your car, there’s the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The road crosses the Continental Divide and goes on for 50 miles. Glacier is one of the best national parks in the country. Glacier National Park stops at the Canada line and shares a border with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.

These parks are a part of the first International Peace Park. Both parks are two of the most popular in North America. 

4. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park

Visiting this park will be like going back in time to the ice age. Harding Icefield sits in this park, which was a 700 square mile glacier that covered a majority of Alaska. You can take the 8.2-mile-long Harding Icefield Trail to view every part of the old glacier.

You can also hop in a kayak and take a guided tour of the fjords. The nearby city of Seward is a better place to find accommodations than inside the park itself. 

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Many people assume that the most visited national park is Yellowstone or Grand Canyon, when in fact, it’s the Great Smoky Mountains. This is because of how accessible the park is. It goes through Tennessee and North Carolina and has many small towns and several major cities in it.

There is also the world-famous Appalachian Trail that stretches for 70 miles. You can access the park by any means necessary. The only thing that the park doesn’t have is a peak over 10,000 feet. The fall season is the most popular time for the Great Smoky Mountains.

The hillsides turn breathtaking shades of orange, red, and yellow. Another great perk of this park is that it’s free to visit. 

6. Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

This park offers snowy mountain peaks, temperate rainforest ecosystems, and rugged coastlines. Located in Washington, Olympic National Park offers all of these terrains in one place. There’s Hurricane Ridge, Puget Sound, Ruby Beach, and Quinault Forest.

There are so many things to do here. You’ll definitely need more than one day to experience everything that Olympic National Park has to offer. You can go hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and biking. You can also go stargazing and take in the beauty of the galaxy. 

7. Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Wrangell St. Elias National Park

There are13.2 million acres of gorgeous landscape and four major mountain ranges to explore in this park. The park is said to be the same size as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Switzerland combined. The park also has 60% of the USA’s glaciers. Also, this park is completely isolated. The size and location are perfect for those who want to truly getaway to the wilderness. 

8. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier’s peak can be seen from over 200 miles away when it’s clear outside. Every backpacker wants to hike the Wonderland Trail, which is a 93-mile long trail that goes through valleys and forests while going around the volcanic Mount Rainier.

However, the Wonderland Trail is not meant for inexperienced hikers. There is the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center that is the trailhead for easier trails in the park. Mount Rainier is still an active volcano that is expected to have future eruptions, so it’s always a challenge to hike it. It’s very close to Seattle too, which is why it’s so popular. 

9. Denali National Park

Denali National Park

Denali is Alaska’s most visited national park. The mountain Denali, which the park is named after, is the tallest peak in North America at 20,320 feet high. There are many campgrounds and lodges for you to stay at during your visit. However, the reason that Denali isn’t visited as much as the other national parks are because it’s very hard to get to. It’s also hard to explore around the park safely. 

10. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the first national park and is most known for its geysers. The most famous geyser is Old Faithful. Yellowstone also has its own Grand Canyon, although it’s not the Grand Canyon that people think of when they hear Grand Canyon.

Even though millions of people visit the park each year, most don’t venture beyond the popular attractions. The park has 12 campgrounds and several restaurants and stores for everyone to visit. Even though the park is very popular, wildlife doesn’t care. There are often “bear jams” in the park that take park activity to a halt. 

11. Glacier Bay National Park

This park gets lots of visitors, but most of them are just stopping by on their way to an Alaskan cruise. However, this park deserves to be explored for everything it offers. You’re free to explore this park’s backcountry if you’ve already done the designated trails. While there aren’t any restaurants in park limits, there’s a town nearby where you can restock before heading back to Glacier Bay.

12. Zion National Park

This park is home to Angels Landing and is Utah’s pride and joy. Once you get to the tallest peak in the park, you can take a break and swim in the shallow water of the Narrows, which is the skinniest section of Zion Canyon. There are three campgrounds, but they fill up very fast. There are lots of towns around the park, though, and they all have plenty of places to stay. 

13. Katmai National Park and Preserve

When you think of Katmai National Park and Preserve, you should think of one animal: the brown bear. There are approximately 2,200 brown bears in this park, and there are companies that have viewing platforms where you can watch the brown bears catch salmon without disrupting them. This park is also home to the largest volcano eruption in the 20th century. Katmai is a gem in Alaska’s vast wilderness. 

14. North Cascades National Park

If you love waterfalls, North Cascades is perfect for you. Even though Washington state has Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park, North Cascades is the best park in the state if you want to hike. The trails stretch all over the backcountry and lead to beautiful scenery. 

There are lots of camping opportunities in North Cascades, so you won’t have to leave after just one day. You’ll be able to explore most of the park if you take your time. There are restaurants and lodges as well. 

 

15. Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains are world-famous.

Home to one of the most well-known mountain ranges, this park is visited by over four million people each year. You can find the best views of the park while driving on Trail Ridge Road. Be careful though, because the road doesn’t have a guardrail. There are great hikes as well. Some treks include Glacier Gorge, Hallett Peak, and Longs Peak. 

16. Lake Clark National Park

This is another park that you can only get to by boat or plane. This park is double the size of Yellowstone without all the people. Only about 22,000 people visit Lake Clark every year. The park doesn’t have any roads on it, which means no cars, so expect complete peace and serenity when visiting Lake Clark.

17. Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale is located in Michigan, and it’s only accessible by boat, plane, or ferry. Everything about this park is remote; you can find wolves and moose wandering the hiking trails and maybe even the northern lights. It sits on Lake Michigan, so you can go diving to shipwrecks at the lake’s bottom. This park isn’t open year-round, so make sure that you plan your trip accordingly. 

18. Acadia National Park

This park has the best display of colors during fall. It sits on the North Atlantic Coast in Maine and has the best hiking trails on the northeast coast. The only downside to this park is how popular it is. It has over 3.5 million visitors every year. However, you can climb Cadillac Mountain, sit on the shore at Sand Beach, and just enjoy the colors of fall. 

19. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is home to the hoodoos, which are tall, skinny formations of rocks that stick up from the bottom of basins. There are many different levels of trails inside the park that will take you all around the canyon. The park is very small in comparison to the other national parks, but its beauty makes up for its lack in size. 

20. Death Valley National Park

Don’t let the name scare you away; this park is amazing. There are 21 trails, and this park has some of the best stargazing in the country. This park is massive; it has nine campsites, four lodges, and five restaurants. Because this park is so big, you’ll have to spend lots of time inside your car. 

21. Kings Canyon National Park

This park is adjacent to Sequoia and is full of Sequoia trees. The park is named after a creek that used to run through the canyon. It used to be named after General Ulysses S. Grant, and its name changed in 1940. It’s home to mule deer, pika, and yellow-bellied marmots. 

22. Shenandoah National Park

This park is home to the famous 105-mile Skyline Drive. It sits right outside Washington D.C. You can see the Blue Mountains everywhere you are in the park. You can also hike the Appalachian Trail because it stretches that far north. Don’t worry about trying to find anywhere to eat or sleep because there are places to do everything within this park. 

23. Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon can be seen from space; that’s how big it is. It’s also one of the seven wonders of the world. The park is more of a tourist attraction than anything, but you can still do other things like hiking here. There are lots of campgrounds and lodges here too. 

24. Big Bend National Park

In terms of places to stay, you won’t find yourself struggling to get a place to sleep here. You can’t do this park in one day, and you won’t have to. You can also climb the Chisos Mountains, venture into the Santa Elena Canyon, and then soak off in the hot springs. The only downside to this park is that it’s about three hours away from any major cities.

25. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia trees are massive, and this park connects to Kings Canyon National Park. The park has a signature sequoia named General Sherman. The park has open hiking, so you have lots of land to explore. This park was one of the first parks that were created specifically to protect wildlife. 

26. Redwood State & National Park

This park is home to the tallest trees on earth, and it protects them perfectly. It’s also home to the drive-thru tree, which is exactly what you would imagine. It’s a massive redwood that has a hole carved into it for you to drive through. However, this isn’t the only great thing about the park. It also has lots of campgrounds, hiking trails, and rivers. 

27. Arches National Park

This park has the most land-made arches in the world. There’s the Delicate Arch, the Tower Arch, the Landscape Arch, and the Double Arch. This park only has one campsite and it fills up fast, so don’t wait too long. You can go biking, hiking, and rock climbing here too. 

28. Crater Lake National Park 

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the USA. The park also sits inside a dormant volcano, Mt. Mazama. This park is enjoyable any time of year because the park gets covered by almost 50 inches of snow. You can go swimming and fishing here too. There aren’t many places to stay here, but you can buy groceries and eat. 

29. Lassen Volcanic National Park

This park has four different kinds of volcanoes: plug dome, composite, cinder cone, and shield. It has almost every ecosystem inside it. You’ll find over 150 miles of hiking trails and opportunities to swim, kayak, and fish. Don’t forget to visit the remains of Mt. Tehama, which used to rule the area.

30. Great Basin National Park

This park will shock you because it has lakes and mountain peaks amongst the flat desert that inhabits the rest of Nevada. However, the best part of this park is when the sun goes down because you can see the Milky Way, meteors, and millions of stars. This park isn’t as popular as some of the ones that surround it, but it’s truly an underrated gem. 

31. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is broken into districts: the Island of the Sky and the Needles. The park can only be accessed by a handful of roads. The Island of the Sky is where most tourists visit. The Mesa Arch is the best place to take pictures. The Needles is more for people who like to go backpacking in the country.

 

32. Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park

A national park in the Virgin Islands sounds like a win-win!

Virgin Islands National Park looks like a postcard. It covers the majority of St. John island. You can also go snorkeling, swimming, fishing, boating, and sailing in the water. To reach the island, you’ll need to drive, fly, or take a ferry. This island isn’t as crowded as other islands in the area, so you don’t have to worry about too many people. 

33. Great Sand Dunes National Park

This park has both alpine peaks and sandy dunes for everyone to explore. The dunes don’t get many visitors due to the heat index that they reach on an otherwise regular day. However, in this park, you can go fishing, hiking, sandboarding, horseback riding, and stargazing. You won’t get bored, but remember to go anytime other than summer. 

34. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This park has lots of things to do and see, like a live orchestra, an art exhibit, theater productions, and railroad tours. You can go canoeing or kayaking down the Cuyahoga River. Brandywine Falls is breathtaking, and it’s what made Cuyahoga Valley so famous. There are only a handful of campsites here, though. 

35. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

This park is home to Kilauea and Mauna Loa, which are two of the most active volcanoes in Hawai’i. If you’ve ever wanted to see lava up close, you’ll get your chance here. They offer guided lava tours and self-guided lava tours. There are lots of hiking trails and a great rainforest for you to explore. Keep in mind that these are active volcanoes, so stay vigilant and keep up with park announcements. 

36. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is home to the Joshua Tree, and you can only find this tree here. It’s the oldest tree in the world, which is why so many people come to this park to see them. However, the trees aren’t the only thing that attracts visitors. The park also has many different kinds of wildflowers that give the desert horizon a brilliant splash of color. 

37. Haleakalā National Park

This park offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences like viewing the Milky Way, hiking a dormant volcano, or swimming in a jungle. This park’s main attraction is the Haleakalā Crater, which is a 2,270-foot crater that formed as the volcano eroded. There are a few campsites and lodges, but make sure to reserve your spot. 

38. Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is just another of Utah’s amazing national parks. This park is full of red rock canyons, buttes, and ridges. While this park might feel a lot like the others in its area, it’s worth it to see the beauty it has to offer. There’s an arch called the Hickman Bridge that’s over 130 feet long. 

39. Badlands National Park

While this park gets its fair share of visitors, most stay in their cars and don’t get out and explore. The park doesn’t have many designated trails, but you’re free to wander the backcountry as much as you please. Badlands has two campgrounds and one lodge; however, the lodge isn’t year-round like the campgrounds are. 

 

40. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

Crocodiles and alligators are indigenous to the Everglades.

The Everglades is home to several different endangered species, which is one of the things that attracts so many people every year. This park has a few hiking trails; however, alligators and crocodiles like to sunbathe on them, so watch where you’re walking. While there aren’t any lodges or restaurants, there are different kinds of campsites to accommodate everyone’s needs. 

41. Mesa Verde National Park

This park is home to over 5,000 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings from 600 A.D. It was all made by the Ancestral Pueblo culture, and you can find more information on them at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. You can trek the 116-mile Trail of Ancients to take in everything that this park’s history has to offer. 

42. Channel Islands National Park 

This park is made up of five islands, and they are mostly undeveloped and undisturbed. Santa Cruz island is one of them, and it holds one of the biggest sea caves in the world. This park has a little bit of everything: you can go hiking up a mountain or snorkeling in crystal clear water. There’s only one campground on each island, and you have to walk everywhere you go. 

43. Biscayne National Park

There aren’t many hiking trails here, but you can go down paddling trails. 95% of this park is underwater, and it’s home to the world’s third-largest coral reef. The best way to explore this park is by snorkeling, diving, boating, or paddling. This park is only accessible by boat, but it’s worth it to get this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

44. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

While this park offers lots in terms of things to look at, it doesn’t have much to do. There are hiking trails and you can go kayaking in the river at the bottom of the canyon; however, there aren’t as many hiking trails as other parks because of how steep the canyon is. You can stay inside your car and take the South Rim Drive and take in the park that way.

45. Pinnacles National Park

California’s least-known national park has more to do than meets the eye. This park has lots of hiking trails that take you all over the volcanic rock formations and show you gorgeous scenery. There’s only one campground in this park, and it’s on the eastern side. Because there’s only one, make sure to get there soon enough that you have a place to sleep. 

46. Voyageurs National Park

Rainy Lake, Namakan Lake, Sany Point Lake, and Kabetogama Lake are what makes up 40% of this national park. Also, these are just the large lakes; there are 26 other lakes within this park. You can explore this park on guided boat tours, which is most likely the best way to do so. There are campsites and hiking trails available to everyone. 

47. Dry Tortugas National Park

Just because this is America’s least visited national park doesn’t mean that it has nothing to do. Only 1% of this park is dry land, which means that this park is perfect for going snorkeling and diving. You could visit coral reefs or shipwrecks and observe different aquatic life in its natural habitat. This park is at the end of the Florida Reef system, so the coral reefs are hardly visited and in great condition. 

48. Mammoth Caves National Park

Kentucky is home to Mammoth Caves, which is the largest underground cave in the world. It’s over 400 miles long, and the park has loads of tours led by the National Park Service rangers. If you find yourself feeling claustrophobic, there are lots of other things to do outside of the cave. There are more trails above ground, and there are two rivers for you to cool off in. 

49. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Peak is the tallest mountain peak in Texas. This park is actually home to four of Texas’s tallest peaks. This park is great for those who like to mountain climb and hike in desert terrains. While the other national parks have better scenery, this park is hardly crowded and has great things to do. 

50. American Samoa National Park

This park technically sits on land that the USA doesn’t own. This is the only national park that lies on the south side of the equator, and it’s very underdeveloped. The island isn’t made for tourists to visit. There are only 13 hiking trails, and no camping is allowed. However, the park’s beauty and uniqueness make up for it all.

51. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Almost 1,000 feet below New Mexico is Carlsbad Caverns. It’s very close to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, so if you want to visit both, you could combine the trips. There isn’t much to do at this park when compared to the others. There are two trails, one restaurant, and primitive camping. 

 

52. Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park

The Gates of the Arctic is one of Alaska’s hidden gems.

The entirety of this park is above the arctic circle, and it has the Brooks Range, which is the tallest mountain range in America. This park is very difficult to access, though. You can either go on a sightseeing flight over the park or take a bush plane into it. Also, this park isn’t like the others at all. There are no trails, lodges, campgrounds, or roads. 

53. Wind Cave National Park

This cave is hidden beneath the grasslands of South Dakota. There are about 30 miles of hiking trails above the cave. Cave tours are available from the NPS rangers. There isn’t much to do in the park other than touring the cave, hiking the trails, and looking at the animals. There are no amenities like lodging, restaurants, or campsites. 

54. Indiana Dunes National Park

This park is only open during certain hours of the day. However, this park has a little bit of everything. There are marshes, prairies, swamps, and a forest. You can climb Mt. Tom, Mt. Jackson, or Mt. Holden to get gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. There isn’t anywhere to camp in this park, but there are many towns nearby for you to stay at. 

55. Congaree National Park

A lot of people think of Congaree as just swamplands because it used to be called Congaree Swamp National Monument. However, it’s so much more than that. While there aren’t any mountain peaks to climb, there are lots of hiking trails to explore the calming environment Congaree offers. There’s also a boardwalk that you can walk across instead of going through the dense wildlife. 

56. Petrified Forest National Park

This park used to be filled with lush green trees that were swallowed by a volcano eruption. The remains are beautifully colored rocks that are great to explore. However, this park isn’t open 24/7. It also doesn’t have any campgrounds, lodging, or restaurants. The main thing this park offers is something gorgeous to look at. 

57. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

This park is the only national park in North Dakota, and it’s the only park named after a president. It has paved paths that are easy to access and great backpacking trails. The park is home to mule deer, bison, prairie dogs, wild horses, and elk, so be extra careful. There’s also a painted canyon and a petrified forest. This park has a little bit of everything. 

58. Saguaro National Park

Located in Arizona, this park is most known for its saguaro cacti. Those cacti are the kind that everyone thinks of when they think of a cactus: two arms pointed towards the sky and attached to a base. This kind of cactus is actually only found in this region of the country. The Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District are the two parts of this park, and they have over 150 miles of hiking trails between the two of them. 

59. Hot Springs National Park

Otherwise known as the American Spa, people have been going to this park to relax for years. Not only does this park have a natural hot spring, but it also has scenic drives and hiking trails. If you don’t want to unwind in the hot springs, there are also European bathhouses for you to enjoy. The only downside to this park is its popularity because over one million people flock to it yearly to experience the spring’s healing powers. 

60. Gateway Arch National Park

This park made people question what it really takes to be a national park. Located in the middle of St. Louis, Gateway Arch is home to the famous arch that marks Thomas Jefferson’s westward expansion. Because it’s in the middle of a city, you don’t need to look very far for food and lodging. There’s very easy access to every accommodation you could ask for.

62. White Sands National Park

This park is the second most recent to be named a national park. It used to be a national monument. It’s located in New Mexico and is full of white sand dunes made of gypsum crystals, which is the biggest white sand dunes in the world. Coyotes, rabbits, and bobcats live here so be careful of finding a habitat. 

62. Kobuk Valley National Park

This park is as far away from society as you could possibly get. This isn’t the kind of place that you want to go to if you prefer glamping over roughing it. While this park is an arctic wonderland, it’s also home to three sand dune fields. The only way to access this park is by plane, boat, or snowmobile, so don’t try to just drive up there. You’ll need to plan your trip and get boat or plane tickets. 

63. New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge is the holy grail for rock climbers. It was just given national park status in 2021, but it was popular long before it was named a national park. The New River had protected status before the park had status, so you don’t have to worry about the river being full of pollution and trash. The park is located in West Virginia. 

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.