A Deep Dive into America’s National Parks: Which is The Best?
With 63 national parks spanning the vibrant landscapes of the United States, choosing which one is the best can stir up quite a debate. Is there an objective way to rank these precious natural havens? Ranking national parks is a subjective endeavor that heavily depends on personal preferences. Do you prefer red rocks or pristine oceans, bears or flamingos, glaciers or waterfalls?
The Subjectivity of Ranking National Parks
Residing on the east coast, I find red rocks and deep canyons pretty unusual, while someone living in the west may possibly find tall pines and green mountains as the pretty and unusual. Therefore, the “best” national park is a truly personal choice.
Ranking based on Popularity
Debates aside, is it possible to rank the national parks based on objective data like visitor count? Looking at 2021 data, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park emerges as the most popular park with 14 million visitors, nearly three times as many as Zion- the second on the list.
But is Visitor Count Enough?
But visitor count alone cannot cement the title of ‘best’ national park. Parks that are challenging and remote to visit should also be credited for their unique appeal. After all, a well-located park with easy access is more likely to attract more visitors than ones in remote areas.
Ranking National Parks—An Objective Approach based on Accessibility
A new criterion for ranking could be the effort it takes to get to a park, which reflects its desirability. In this case, certain adjustments would be essential to account for parks without road access or ones in tourist heavy areas like Hawaii and Alaska that naturally draw more tourists than residents.
The Element of Personal and Subjective Preferences
Despite the objectivity, it is crucial to state again that ranking national parks is largely a personal and subjective process. Personal experiences, interactions with the local flora and fauna, or the sheer awe inspired by the unique landscapes make each national park visit a unique experience.
Alternative Data for Ranking National Parks
Naturally, the ranking might stir disagreement. Some parks that didn’t make the top spots might still provide you with the best experiences. However, these ranks offer an intriguing perspective into people’s choices and the parks’ accessibility.
The “Best” Parks—An Objective List
The Top Ten National Parks
Here is the top ten list of the best national parks based on their popularity and accessibility:
1. Yellowstone National Park – The park’s geothermal features, wildlife, and awe-inspiring landscapes pack a serious punch.
2. Rocky Mountain National Park – This park offers fun trails for all abilities and a drive that peaks at 12,183 feet.
3. Grand Teton National Park – With some of the best mountain scenery in the U.S, it draws in lots of visitors.
4. Glacier National Park – Despite high visitation, most visitors can still enjoy a sense of quiet and uncrowded trails.
5. Olympic National Park – A delightfully diverse park home to the mountains, a rainforest, and a coast.
6. Kenai Fjords National Park – A surprise entrant but thoroughly enjoyable to visit.
7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park– Visitors flock to this park due to zero entrance fee.
8. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – A surprisingly wonderful park that takes its place in the top 10.
9. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – A landscape in constant change due to the active volcano.
10. Grand Canyon National Park – A world-famous park that attracts global visitors.
Yellowstone takes the cake both objectively and subjectively – it’s a microcosm of many of the wonders offered by other national parks. Whether it’s the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, wildlife viewing par excellence, or unique geothermal features, Yellowstone has it all. However, every national park has its unique charm and beauty and deserves a visit. So, strap on your hiking boots and set off to create your own subjective ranking of these national treasures! Don’t forget to subscribe and turn on the notifications to accompany me on my explorations of the national parks.