Ranking of the 32 United States National Parks: A Personal Journey
Visiting the 63 national parks across the United States has been an intriguing adventure for me over the last couple of years. To capture the beauty and have a keepsake, I have made videos documenting my experience in each of the parks along the way. A total of 32 parks have been visited, and I thought it’d be fun to rank them based on my experiences and adventures. I, however, count the park visited if I’ve made a video on it, and thus parks like Yellowstone and others are missing from my list.
My Unique Scoring Criteria
This list ranks these parks based on personal experiences and the time spent exploring each park. Some parks have offered far more immersive and adventurous experiences than others. These rankings may not represent any official standings but rather represent my views and experiences.
Note: Before ranking these parks, it’s undeniable that choosing between these stunningly beautiful parks is quite challenging. All rankings are based on personal exploration and experience – so don’t skip on sharing your top five national parks in the comments section!
Let’s Get to Ranking!
Starting with Park number 32, I was pleased to begin my adventure at Gateway Arch National Park. Located in St. Louis, this park houses an impressive arch with intriguing history. Despite being claustrophobic in the elevator, its panoramic views certainly make it a worthy visit. However, it doesn’t offer much for repeat visits hence why it is last on my list.
The Underrated Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park was my 31st stoop. It was visited at the end of my loneliest Road road trip. Well-known for its ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, I thoroughly enjoyed my hike to the forest. However, the remoteness and the lack of other activities hold it back from climbing higher on this list.
Wet and Wild in Biz K National Park
The 30th park on my list, Biz K National Park, is based in Florida and provided me with a unique experience. I enjoyed a four-hour boat ride, catching glimpses of various lighthouses and even got the chance to hike one of the islands. Nevertheless, the true beauty was underwater, with snorkeling and scuba diving being popular activities here.
Alluring Hot Springs National Park
Occupying 29th place is Hot Springs National Park. More of a historical park with preserved baths rather than a traditional park, this spot offered meaningful insights into history. Although not traditionally stunning in terms of natural beauty, the well-preserved Visitor Center makes it worthwhile.
Why the Pinnacles National Park Made It To The 28th Spot
Despite spending considerable time in Pinnacles National Park, it only finds its place at the 28th spot in my list. The reason for this is mainly due to the competition it faces from other national parks in California. However, the hiking and exploring opportunities in its caves are worth mentioning, particularly the Bear Gulch cave.
Hidden Gems like Kanai fjords National Park
Ranking 27th on this list, Kanai fjords National Park allowed me to only explore a small part of it. The one area we could access by car – the hike to exit Glacier – nonetheless left a lasting impression. With stunning views of the glacier, this park certainly deserves more exploration.
Exploring The Uniqueness of Kings Canyon National Park
At 26th place, Kings Canyon National Park offers beautiful natural views and an adventurous drive through massive redwood trees, creeks, and an amazing cave. However, the limited accessibility – the park can only be visited in summer – pulls it down to the 26th spot on my list.
Utah’s Capital Reef National Park – A Fantastic Blend of Everything
The Capital Reef National Park in Utah is a fantastic spectacle. It graces the 25th spot due to its blend of a scenic drive, hiking trails leading to arches, and a historical district. The highlight, however, is the fruit picking experience which becomes much more enjoyable when the fruit is in season.
Shenandoah National Park and Its Unique Charm
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia boasts of the ‘Skyline Drive’ that covers over a hundred miles of overlooks, hiking trails, and beautiful waterfalls. My 24th park visit felt like a continuation of my road trip and exceeded all expectations.
Desert Delight with Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, located in Arizona, was an entirely unique experience at number 23. This park is home to the largest concentration of cacti I have ever seen and was the perfect embodiment of desert beauty. The breathtaking sunsets there were an unforgettable experience.
Canyonlands National Park: A Mesmerizer
Ranked 22, Canyonlands National Park is truly a mesmerizer. The park comprises three districts, two of which I visited. The island in the sky district was my favorite as it is essentially a cliff overlooking a vast and distant canyon. Add to that the rugged hiking and upheaval dome, it’s indeed a classic landscape.
A Walk Back in Time with Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park, ranking 21, is unique and hosts an incredible number of petrified wood. An exhibition about Route 66 within the park is an exciting touch, providing a glimpse into the road’s history.
White Sands: A Paradise for Photographers
White Sands National Park, located in New Mexico, ranks 20th. The main appeal for me was the contrast of the white sands with the sky, which made for perfect photography. Add sledding in the sand, and the park becomes a truly family-oriented adventure.
Wildlife Galore at Everglades national Park
Everglades National Park takes the 19th spot due to its abundant wildlife present due to subtle elevation changes. This park in Florida is likely one of the best spots for Wildlife viewing. I had the opportunity to see dozens of alligators, a few manatees, and many different bird types.
Death Valley National Park: A Land with Extremes
Death Valley National Park ranks 18th in my list. Known as the hottest place on Earth, it is indeed a challenging place to experience. The park boasts the lowest point in North America. You need to spend several days experiencing this vast area, as the weather changes drastically from summer to winter.
Mammoth Cave National Park: An Adventurous Experience
Mammoth Cave National Park, 17th on my list, is known for its massive cave system, the world’s longest. The park provided a thrilling experience where I descended into the cave, passed through an area called “Fat Man’s Misery,” and climbed the stairs’ challenging path to exit.
Sequoia National Park: Home of the World’s Largest Tree
Sequoia National Park holds the 16th spot, known for its world’s largest tree, General Sherman. This park offers several attractions like the Moro Rock hike, Crystal Cave explorations, and mesmerizing waterfalls. The majestic views of massive trees make it an awe-inspiring visit.
Investigating Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park at number 15, despite offering stunning views, posed a challenge for me due to bad weather. However, the vast valleys, breathtaking lakes, and multiple hiking trails make this park an irresistible hiking destination.
Channel Islands National Park: Rugged and Remote
Located off the coast of Southern California, Channel Islands National Park, ranked 14, left an indelible mark on my memory. Experiencing the rugged, remote, boat-accessible islands was completely out of the ordinary, and camping on Santa Cruz Island added to this unparalleled experience.
Lassen Volcanic National Park: Paradise for Adventurers
Ranked 13, Lassen Volcanic National Park, one of California’s least visited parks, is a personal favorite. The park is a geographical marvel, complete with a geothermal area known as Bumpus Hell, a volcanic peak, and stunning lakes.
Big Bend National Park: Exploring the Extreme
Big Bend National Park holds the 12th position on my list. Despite being hard to access thus challenging to visit, this national park is a treasure trove of unique ecosystems ranging from deserts to mountains.
Redwood National Park: Revisiting Basic Roots
Despite receiving mixed opinions from many travellers, Redwood National Park ranks 11th on my list. The park is spread out, but a thorough pre-visit research ensures that you can make the most out of your time there. Trust me; you’ll cherish the experience of driving and hiking there.
My Top Ten Parks
The Top Ten are those parks that truly left their mark. Starting at 10th I have Dry Tortugas National Park, a uniquely intriguing spot due to its historical brick fort and stunning beaches. Number nine, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park does justice to its name and houses the most fabulous waterfalls. However, the park can get quite congested during peak times.
Up next at eighth place is Bryce Canyon National Park, a site so surreal, it looks ‘otherworldly’. The canyon’s hoodoos and the trails are not something to be missed. Joshua Tree National Park is my seventh pick, not just because it’s closest to my home but for the glorious sunrises and sunsets it offers.
Arches National Park is at number six, with its distinguishing collection of arches. Delicate arch happens to be one of the most iconic natural views in the country. At number five is Zion National Park. A personal favorite, this park has offered me plenty of awe-inspiring moments.
The fourth place goes to Carlsbad Caverns, which arguably offers the best cave experience. Grand Canyon National Park takes third place due to its spectacular views. This park embodies the term grand, to say the least. Number two is home to Denali National Park. An untouched paradise, the wildlife sightings and the weather here can make for quite the memorable experience.
My Number One: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, with its jaw-dropping natural beauty, tops my list. Driving through the tunnel for the first time is something you will never forget. This park, along with attractions like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Firefall, becomes my favorite National Park in the United States.
With that, my list draws to a close covering my journey in 32 national parks. Do you agree or disagree with my rankings? Comment below, and let me know. Happy Exploring!