Best National Parks in the U.S.

Touted as “the best idea America has ever had” by author Wallace Stegner, our national parks attract over 300 million travelers of all types every year. One of my passions is to plan family vacations and our goal is to visit as many national parks as possible. Sure, we love the beaches of Hawaii and Mexico but there is just something about nature unblemished by human touch that makes you do good things in life.

There are over 60 national parks in the U.S. Alaska and California tie for the states with the most at 8 each. Between my better half and me, we have visited about 12 and we both agree that one park could never substitute another. Yes, we love'em all but Bestville is about ranking things so here it is.

Forbes Traveler introduces 10 Best U.S. National Parks. It was unclear to me what the criteria were but looking at the list, I am guessing it was by the level of prestige and popularity they command. There were a few surprises too (to me anyway).

  1. Yellowstone – Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
  2. Yosemite – California
  3. Cuyahoga Valley - Ohio
  4. Grand Canyon – Arizona
  5. Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee and Arizona
  6. Acadia – Maine
  7. Olympic - Washington
  8. Glacier Bay – Alaska
  9. Zion – Utah
  10. Rocky Mountain - Colorado


Best Kept Secrets

If you don't like the crowds (we don't), there are some off-the-radar parks you should consider. There are two lists I found. Forbes Traveler features 10 Uncrowded National Park Gems. The list includes names like Great Basin National Park in Nevada, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, and Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

Huffington Post also featured an article in August this year titled Top Ten Best National Parks You Don’t Know About. Glacier came in at #1 and the list also included Arches in Utah, Olympic in Washington, and Crater Lake in Oregon. We enthusiastically endorse Crater Lake. We took our very first RV trip to Crater Lake this summer and loved every minute of it. We showed up at 11am in the morning with no campground reservation (in fact, they don't take reservations) and got in.

If you are ever in Seattle, make time to visit Olympic and the Hoh Rainforest. It was voted as one of 50 most amazing places to visit by Life magazine a few years ago. You will not be disappointed.

Trivia: Which is the most visited national park?

If you are guessing Yellowstone or Yosemite, you are wrong. Give up? It is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in TN. Over 9 million travelers visit it every year. Grand Canyon is the distant second at a little over 4 million. I feel really silly now. I lived in Nashville, TN for over 7 years and being young and foolish, never bothered to visit it. Too busy going to Florida I guess :)