America’s National Parks – Ranked Best to Worst

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Kenai Fjords National Park

Most articles ranking America’s National Parks are based on other people’s impressions and not necessarily from the experience of the author. That’s because it’s quite the feat to travel to every single national park in one consecutive trip, AND manage to document one’s impressions along the way. That’s where we come in!

In 2017, my husband and I road tripped to all the US national parks. It took us 7 months, 25,000+ miles of driving (see our route), 26 flights, and countless trails hiked. Along the way, we passed through 39 US States, 2 US Territories, and drove some of the most beautiful roads in the country. So if you’re looking for first-hand details then you’ve come to the right place!

Update – four new national parks have been added since our road trip, namely Gateway Arch, Indiana Sand Dunes, White Sands, and New River Gorge National Parks. We will update this blog post once we get a chance to visit, but for now, this is just based on the 59 national parks that were designated as of 2017.

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Van Alabama Hills

America’s National Parks – Ranked Best to Worst

My husband and I ranked all the national parks on numerous factors, including their beauty, trails, accessibility, transport, crowds, facilities, how photogenic they were, etc. Here is a breakdown of the categories:

  • Facilities – proximity to lodging, variety of lodging types and affordability, food availability, bathrooms, visitor centers, showers, etc.
  • Trails – the actual park trails, as well as other opportunities for adventure such as snorkeling, rafting, diving, boating etc.
  • Scenery – overall beauty of the park, including landscapes, wildlife, and buildings.
  • Photogenic – how easy the park was to photograph and how well it translated into images
  • Crowds/Transport – how busy the park was and overall how easy it was to get there and transport yourself around (e.g. ability to self drive versus having to take park buses etc.)

Note – some of the park’s had the same score so in those situations we ordered them alphabetically.

Remember, this is an overall ranking, with some parks scoring lower due to things like the extreme methods visitors must take to access them, or often due to large crowds dampening the overall experience of a beautiful park. 

I also put together a checklist of all the national parks, so you can mark each off as you visit them! It’s free to download via my travel resource library! Click the image below.

National Park Checklist Free Printable Download - Renee Roaming

10 Highest Ranked National Parks

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Grand Teton National Park

1. Grand Teton National Park

Location: Wyoming

Score = 45/50

  • Facilities: 9/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 10/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

North America is home to some incredible views, but you just can’t beat the Tetons… This was our 5th visit to the park and it won’t be our last. So why did Grand Teton National Park score so highly? Simple – it’s is insanely beautiful, easy to access and get around, has great hikes, camping opportunities, nearby accommodation and restaurants, and the crowds are manageable even in the peak of summer. Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Kenai Fjords National Park

2. Kenai Fjords National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 44.5/50

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 9.5/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 9/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

Kenai Fjords was our highest ranked Alaskan park and our second highest overall. Why? For it’s sheer beauty, accessibility, incredible wildlife, amazing hikes, and ample photography opportunities. We can’t wait to return this summer! Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Wrangell St Elias National Park

3. Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 44/50

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 9/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

I’m itching to get back and explore the backcountry and mountain ranges of Wrangell St. Elias National Park… I feel like we just scratched the surface! The Wrangell Mountains are out of this world beautiful! Plus, you can drive to the park in only 4-5 hours from Anchorage (or around 8 hours from Anchorage to Kennicott) with the option for also flying there. Once in the park visitors can access accommodations and restaurants (McCarthy/Kennicott) and the crowds are minimal even in the height of summer.

RELATED: 15 Least Crowded National Parks


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Denali National Park

4. Denali National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 43/50 (equal with Mount Rainier)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 10/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

Everything is on another scale in Denali – the grizzly bears, mountains, roads, rivers, valleys… (list could go on). The park is also home to America’s largest peak, Denali at a crazy 20,310 feet. We  had an incredible time exploring the park, despite the weather being a little fickle.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Mount Rainier National Park

5. Mount Rainier National Park

Location: Washington

Score = 43/50 (equal with Denali)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 10/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

Mount Rainier will always be one of our favorite parks and we were stoked it made the top 5 of this list. Large crowds in summer were the main reason it didn’t score even higher, but we think it’s worth the visit regardless. Some places just need to be seen to be believed! Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Yosemite National Park

6. Yosemite National Park

Location: California

Score = 42.5/50

  • Facilities: 9.5/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 10/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 3/10

It’s not surprising that Yosemite was one of America’s first recognized national parks. Its incredible beauty, opportunities for adventure, rock climbing, and easy to access nature really do make it a park for everyone. Similar to Mount Rainier, Yosemite would have scored higher if the crowds weren’t so large. Our recommendation is to visit some of the less-visited areas and try to go during off-peak months. Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Glacier Bay National Park

7. Glacier Bay National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 42/50

  • Facilities: 6.5/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 9.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

We were not expecting Glacier Bay to make the top 10! Why? We visited on a cruise ship in 2012 and despite enjoying the experience we weren’t absolutely awe struck. This time was completely different. We were in the area for multiple days, which allowed for adventures on the land and sea. We got closer up to the glaciers, saw more wildlife and hiked some gorgeous vast forest trails. We plan to return for a backcountry kayaking trip someday in the (hopefully) near future!


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Glacier National Park

8. Glacier National Park

Location: Montana

Score = 41.5/50 

  • Facilities: 8.5/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 9.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 3.5/10

Oh Glacier, you continue to steal our hearts over and over again. This was our third visit to the park and it definitely won’t be our last. Home to large, you guessed it, glaciers, this national park offers insanely beautiful scenery, ample wildlife, and epic hiking trail opportunities. Plus, the views along the Going-to-the-Sun Road are really something else…


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Katmai National Park

9. Katmai National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 41/50 (equal with Lake Clark)

  • Facilities: 6/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 10/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

Katmai National Park is one of the few places in the world that allows such an up close experience with wild bears. At Brooks Falls there are raised viewing platforms that visitors can “safely” observe bears fishing for salmon. It was quite the experience and one we hope to have again! Check out our trip report.

RELATED: The 15 Most Underrated National Parks in America


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Lake Clark National Park

10. Lake Clark National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 41/50 (equal with Katmai)

  • Facilities: 6/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 10/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

We LOVED Lake Clark National Park. The main reason it didn’t score in the top 5 is because of the Park’s remote nature, lack of facilities, and expensive transportation (floatplanes). I wrote a blog post on our experience staying on Upper Twin Lake.

RELATED: 15 Least Crowded National Parks



Middle Ranked National Parks

Some of our favorites are in this bunch, like Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Zion, Big Bend, North Cascades, Redwood, Gates of the Arctic, and Virgin Islands. Our rating system meant that many of the crowded or hard to access parks scored lower despite some incredible scenery. We wanted to provide a score based on our overall experience, not just how beautiful each park was.

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Olympic National Park

11. Olympic National Park

Location: Washington

Score = 40.5/50

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Photogenic: 8/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Bryce National Park

12. Bryce Canyon National Park

Location: Utah

Score = 40/50 (equal with Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Kings Canyon)

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Photogenic: 8.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

13. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: Tennessee and North Carolina

Score = 40/50 (equal with Rocky Mountain, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Kings Canyon)

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Photogenic: 9/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 5/10

Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Kings Canyon National Park

14. Kings Canyon National Park

Location: California

Score = 40/50 (equal with Rocky Mountain, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 8.5/10
  • Scenery: 8.5/10
  • Photogenic: 8/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Rocky Mountain National Park

15. Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Colorado

Score = 40/50 (equal with Kings Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains)

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Photogenic: 8.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 5.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Yellowstone National Park

16. Yellowstone National Park

Location: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho

Score = 40/50 (equal with Rocky Mountain, Bryce Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Kings Canyon)

  • Facilities: 9/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 9.5/10
  • Photogenic: 9/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 3.5/10

Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Death Valley National Park

17. Death Valley National Park

Location: California

Score = 39.5/50

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 8.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8.5/10

Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Grand Canyon National Park

18. Grand Canyon National Park

Location: Arizona

Score = 39/50 (equal with Zion)

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 8/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 8/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Zion National Park

19. Zion National Park

Location: Utah

Score = 39/50 (equal with Grand Canyon)

  • Facilities: 8.5/10
  • Trails: 10/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Photogenic: 9/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 2.5/10

Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Big Bend National Park

20. Big Bend National Park

Location: Texas

Score = 38.5/50 (equal with North Cascades, Redwood)

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 7.5/10
  • Photogenic: 7.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 9/10

RELATED: The 15 Most Underrated National Parks in America


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - North Cascades National Park

21. North Cascades National Park

Location: Washington

Score = 38.5/50 (equal with Big Bend, Redwood)

  • Facilities: 5/10
  • Trails: 9/10
  • Scenery: 9/10
  • Photogenic: 8.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Redwood National and State Parks

22. Redwood State & National Parks

Location: California

Score = 38.5/50 (equal with Big Bend, North Cascades)

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 7.5/10
  • Scenery: 8.5/10
  • Photogenic: 8/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

photography mini guide Renee Roaming
America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Arches National Park

23. Arches National Park

Location: Utah

Score = 38/50 (equal with Crater Lake)

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 7.5/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 8/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6.5/10

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS – ALL 59 RANKED BEST TO WORST - CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

24. Crater Lake National Park

Location: Oregon

Score = 38/50 (equal with Arches)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 8.5/10
  • Photogenic: 8.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Acadia National Park

25. Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

Score = 37.5/50 (equal with Great Basin, Shenandoah, Virgin Islands)

  • Facilities: 9/10
  • Trails: 6.5/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 7/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

READ NEXT: Best National Parks to Visit in October


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Great Basin National Park

26. Great Basin National Park

Location: Nevada

Score = 37.5/50 (equal with Acadia, Shenandoah, Virgin Islands)

  • Facilities: 6.5/10
  • Trails: 7.5/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 7/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Shenandoah National Park

27. Shenandoah National Park

Location: Virginia

Score = 37.5/50 (equal with Acadia, Great Basin, Virgin Islands)

  • Facilities: 9/10
  • Trails: 8/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 6.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Virgin Islands National Park

28. Virgin Islands National Park

Location: St. John, US Virgin Islands

Score = 37.5/50 (equal with Acadia, Shenandoah, Virgin Islands)

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 7.5/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 7.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

29. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Location: Hawaii

Score = 37/50 (equal with Lassen Volcanic)

  • Facilities: 7.5/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 7.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Lassen Volcano National Park

30. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Location: California

Score = 37/50 (equal with Hawai’i Volcanoes)

  • Facilities: 5/10
  • Trails: 8/10
  • Scenery: 8.5/10
  • Photogenic: 7.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Joshua Tree National Park

31. Joshua Tree National Park

Location: California

Score = 36/50

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 7/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Haleakala National Park

32. Haleakalā National Park

Location: Hawaii

Score = 35/50

  • Facilities: 5.5/10
  • Trails: 8/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 8/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 5.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Canyonlands National Park

33. Canyonlands National Park

Location: Utah

Score = 34.5/50 (equal with Sequoia)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 6/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 6.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Sequoia National Park

34. Sequoia National Park

Location: California

Score = 34.5/50 (equal with Canyonlands)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 8/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 5.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Badlands National Park

35. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Location: Colorado

Score = 34/50

  • Facilities: 4/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 7/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 9/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Badlands National Park

36. Badlands National Park

Location: South Dakota

Score = 33.5/50

  • Facilities: 6.5/10
  • Trails: 4/10
  • Scenery: 7.5/10
  • Photogenic: 7.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Isle Royale National Park

37. Isle Royale National Park

Location: Michigan

Score = 33/50 (equal with American Samoa, Saguaro)

  • Facilities: 6/10
  • Trails: 7.5/10
  • Scenery: 6.5/10
  • Photogenic: 6/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - American Samoa National Park

38. National Park of American Samoa

Location: American Samoa

Score = 33/50 (equal with Isle Royale, Saguaro)

  • Facilities: 3/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 7/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Saguaro National Park

39. Saguaro National Park

Location: Arizona

Score = 33/50 (equal with Isle Royale, American Samoa)

  • Facilities: 8.5/10
  • Trails: 6/10
  • Scenery: 5/10
  • Photogenic: 6/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7.5/10

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS – ALL 59 RANKED BEST TO WORST - CARLSBAD CAVERNS NATIONAL PARK

40. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Location: New Mexico

Score = 32.5/50 (equal with Mesa Verde)

  • Facilities: 4.5/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 7.5/10
  • Photogenic: 6/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Mesa Verde National Park

41. Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Colorado

Score = 32.5/50 (equal with Carlsbad Caverns)

  • Facilities: 6.5/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 5/10
  • Photogenic: 5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 9/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Capitol Reef National Park

42. Capitol Reef National Park

Location: Utah

Score = 32/50 (equal with Gates of the Arctic, Mammoth Cave)

  • Facilities: 5/10
  • Trails: 5/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 6.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Gates of the Arctic National Park

43. Gates of the Arctic National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 32/50 (equal with Capitol Reef, Mammoth Cave)

  • Facilities: 0/10
  • Trails: 8/10
  • Scenery: 10/10
  • Photogenic: 9/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 5/10

Check out our park guide here.


America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Mammoth Cave National Park

44. Mammoth Cave National Park

Location: Kentucky

Score = 32/50 (equal with Gates of the Arctic, Capitol Reef)

  • Facilities: 7/10
  • Trails: 6.5/10
  • Scenery: 6.5/10
  • Photogenic: 5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Hot Springs National Park

45. Hot Springs National Park

Location: Arkansas

Score = 31.5/50 (equal with Petrified Forest)

  • Facilities: 9/10
  • Trails: 6/10
  • Scenery: 5/10
  • Photogenic: 3/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Petrified Forest National Park

46. Petrified Forest National Park

Location: Arizona

Score = 31.5/50 (equal with Hot Springs)

  • Facilities: 6/10
  • Trails: 6/10
  • Scenery: 5/10
  • Photogenic: 5.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 9/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Everglades National Park

47. Everglades National Park

Location: Florida

Score = 31/50 (equal with Theodore Roosevelt)

  • Facilities: 6/10
  • Trails: 6/10
  • Scenery: 6/10
  • Photogenic: 6/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Theodore Roosevelt National Park

48. Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Location: North Dakota

Score = 31/50 (equal with Everglades)

  • Facilities: 5/10
  • Trails: 5/10
  • Scenery: 6.5/10
  • Photogenic: 6/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8.5/10

10 Lowest Ranked National Parks

We still enjoyed our time at these parks but felt the overall experience wasn’t as good as the higher-scoring parks. Please don’t be put off visiting any of the places below – they were still 100% worth seeing.

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS – ALL 59 RANKED BEST TO WORST - BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK

49. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Location: Colorado

Score = 30/50 (equal with Guadalupe Mountains)

  • Facilities: 6/10
  • Trails: 5.5/10
  • Scenery: 6/10
  • Photogenic: 3.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 9/10

15 Least Crowded National Parks in the US - Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Renee Roaming

50. Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Location: Texas

Score = 30/50 (equal with Black Canyon of the Gunnison)

  • Facilities: 4/10
  • Trails: 6.5/10
  • Scenery: 5.5/10
  • Photogenic: 5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 9/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Dry Tortugas National Park

51. Dry Tortugas National Park

Location: Florida

Score = 28.5/50 (equal with Wind Cave, Voyageurs)

  • Facilities: 3/10
  • Trails: 6/10
  • Scenery: 7/10
  • Photogenic: 5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Voyageurs National Park

52. Voyageurs National Park

Location: Minnesota

Score = 28.5/50 (equal with Wind Cave, Dry Tortugas)

  • Facilities: 6.5/10
  • Trails: 5/10
  • Scenery: 5.5/10
  • Photogenic: 4/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Wind Cave National Park

53. Wind Cave National Park

Location: South Dakota

Score = 28.5/50 (equal with Voyageurs, Dry Tortugas)

  • Facilities: 4/10
  • Trails: 5.5/10
  • Scenery: 6/10
  • Photogenic: 4.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Cuyahoga National Park

54. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Location: Ohio

Score = 27.5/50

  • Facilities: 8/10
  • Trails: 5/10
  • Scenery: 4.5/10
  • Photogenic: 4/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PARKS – ALL 59 RANKED BEST TO WORST - KOBUK VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

55. Kobuk Valley National Park

Location: Alaska

Score = 27/50

  • Facilities: 0/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 8/10
  • Photogenic: 7/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Channel Islands National Park

56. Channel Islands National Park

Location: California

Score = 26/50 (equal with Pinnacles)

  • Facilities: 2/10
  • Trails: 7/10
  • Scenery: 6/10
  • Photogenic: 5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Pinnacles National Park

57. Pinnacles National Park

Location: California

Score = 26/50 (equal with Channel Islands)

  • Facilities: 4/10
  • Trails: 5.5/10
  • Scenery: 5/10
  • Photogenic: 4/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 7.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Biscayne National Park

58. Biscayne National Park

Location: Florida

Score = 25/50

  • Facilities: 5/10
  • Trails: 5.5/10
  • Scenery: 4.5/10
  • Photogenic: 3.5/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 6.5/10

America's National Parks - Ranked Best to Worst - Congaree National Park

59. Congaree National Park

Location: South Carolina

Score = 23.5/50

  • Facilities: 5.5/10
  • Trails: 4/10
  • Scenery: 3/10
  • Photogenic: 3/10
  • Crowds/Transport: 8/10

How long is your bucket list now?!

I hope we have inspired you to explore these beautiful parks and to get outside and do everything in your power to help cherish protected areas, respect our beautiful natural spaces and follow the National Park Service’s guidelines. Stay tuned for in-depth posts about the best parks for hiking trails, camping, family trips, wildlife encounters, photography, and more!


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83 comments

  1. Hello there, You’ve performed a fantastic job. I’ll certainly Dig it and in my view suggest it to my friends. Greate post. Keep writing such kind of info. I’m really impressed. Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the issues

  2. Great post! Found the trail rating to be inconsistent. Great Smoky Mountains has maybe 300+ miles of trails which gave it a 9/10 yet Denali which maybe has 20 miles of trails got a 10/10. I was also surprised to see Grand Canyon, which has the epic and long hikes across the rim was only a 8/10. Of course quantity does not always trump over quality, but it’s just strange to me that parks with so few trails got a perfect score while others with many miles of fantastic trails were barely above average.

    1. Thanks! Just wanted to mention that the trail scores were not based on the amount or length of a park’s trails, rather how amazing/scenic they were

  3. Hi Renee, nice list. Your bias for the northwest part of the US and it’s parks is strong – draw a triangle from Yosemite through Yellowstone and 14 of your top 15 are in this region or Alaska. It just means you think trees/green/mountains make the best experience. My wife and I started two years ago visiting national parks – we hope to hit about ten or so per year. (The three in Washington are next) What we have discovered is every park is so different and unique and each must be appreciated for what it offers on its own merits as opposed to what it offers compared to others. For example, Consider the drive in entrance to each park and the feeling you get when one just grabs your attention: like driving up the road in Arches and rounding the bend into the valley or the feeling of driving to a jungle of cactus in Saguaro. I guess I am saying each park is number 1 in its own way and maybe a ranking of the best highlight/trail/photo opportunity would be more valuable to your readers?

  4. This is such a great list! They way you scored, organized, and summarized is so useful!
    I’m off on my journey to visit as many as possible starting in 2021! Here’s to checking them all off the list! Wish me luck!

  5. Born and raised St Louisan here…if you haven’t already taken your trip to the Gateway Arch, I’d advise that you find something else big and spectacular to center that trip on, with the Arch as a quick stopover point. The arch is a way to spend a boring afternoon, in order to be just slightly less bored. A couple hours tops, in the heart of a downtown that is the opposite of thriving, and a view that will make you go, “huh?!” I love my city, but oof. Good luck with that one. At least you may get some laughs out of it when you get there. No doubt it’ll end up to be the lowest ranking. Happy travels!

  6. I am 15 years old and have been to 50 national parks. I hope to get to the 5 Alaska parks that you can’t drive to next year. I have been documenting the parks on my YouTube channel, National Park Wild. I am curious as to whether you’ve gotten to the 3 newest parks yet and how much you like them. I also would appreciate if you saw some of my videos and told me what you think. Thanks, Renee.
    My Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkHUX-NG1Tzxmx0IU8zNOLg

  7. This post is very helpful, I am bookmarking this for future. Thank you so much, I love the way you have given separate scores for each aspect, which means we can choose what we like the most!

  8. Scenery should trump all other considerations (except maybe for Gates of the Arctic, where access is probably the most difficult)

    1. That’s why I have the ranking breakdowns, so people can see for themselves what scores the parks received. I plan to do another blog post on which parks are the most stunning just based on scenery

  9. The overall score for Bryce Canyon (40) does not equal the sum of it’s individual scores (they add to 39.5). Can you let us know what the discrepancy is? I’m referencing these scores in a research paper for school 🙂 Looking forward to purchasing and reading your book!

    1. Also hoping you can double check Congaree NP (off by 1), Glacier NP (off by 0.5) for us? Basically wondering if we should reference the overall scores or the categorical scores.

  10. I am impressed you made it to all the parks, let alone in 7 months! My husband and I have been to 37 of the 62 so far. Honestly, I was surprised to see Petrified Forest ranked that highly. Guadalupe Mountains was a real disappointment. Many of the parks you ranked the lowest are among the parks we haven’t visited yet. Gotta make it to all of them!

  11. Thanks so much for this list! My favorites are certainly Canyonlands and Arches! (Arches can get a little busy, though)

  12. Hi great project and site. I noticed you didn’t visit grand canyon North rim. Although not officially a separate park to the South rim it feels like a different one and is bigger and more spectacular than many other parks. Did you end up going there?

  13. Hi Renee! Great post and it’s so incredible how you got to see all of the national parks, that is just mind blowing since a lot of people don’t get the chance to do that. I’ve seen 9 national parks so far and I did it all within a year (with not having many months to travel) so I can’t imagine all the dedication and time you put to this. Now I can see from your post what almost each one is like.

  14. This is so cool! It’s on my bucket list to visit all of them as well; the last two summers I’ve been trying to see as many as I can. I’ve been to 20 of these 59 plus Indiana Dunes! I will be adding another 5 next month!

  15. Thanks for this list. So envious of all the beauty you’ve seen! Our country is truly beautiful.
    You may want to check the picture you posted for Dry Tortugas in Florida. We were there in the spring and that it not accurate. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  16. I really enjoyed your list… they are all beautiful indeed. I am sad you used the word “worst”. None of these deserve to be associated with such a negative word.

  17. Love that you are promoting our national parks and have been able to visit so many. I think when you start ranking the parks it becomes very subjective and what in your opinion ranks as “worst”could be in someone else’s opinion “best”.
    Ratings for crowded conditions is entirely dependent on the time of year one visits each park. Scenery and Photogenic is all in the eyes of each individual and how they interpret beauty. Lack/abundance of facilities is also open to personal preferences. Trails also can be judged using a wide criteria.
    Guess I would rather you presented info about each park but allowed each traveler to determine their own favorites after their own personal visit.

  18. This is a reallllllly great ranking! We’re working our way through all the NP’s as well except at a much slower pace! I agree with other commenters that seeing the breakdown of your scoring would be super beneficial. It would allow people using your list as a guide to better determine if an area you ranked low or high Is a dealbreaker for them. For example, being a geologist, and from California, and visiting Yosemite and Death Valley more times than I can count… I find that Death Valley has far more to offer in terms of beauty, rugged nature, adventures, and photography than Yosemite. The crowds at Yosemite kill a lot of the vibe for me personally and outweigh any driving I need to do between spots in Death Valley. I read your info about Death Valley and nothing in it tells me why the points were so low. I know this was your ranking of your experience/preferences which is why more info on the ranking would be a huge help! Thanks!!

  19. Really inspiring! The photos are great however in your rankings the pic you have under Guadalupe National Park is actually a shot of the del Carmen mountains in Big Bend National Park. Great pic but not accurate.

  20. i am a male from Oman 55 years old I am interested to visit the wild places in USA for more than one year so is it possible for me to get a visa and stay their for long time .
    please who knows the role reply me back as soon as possible .
    My email: jadadsuhail@gmail.com

  21. Good list, even though it is subjective. I prefer northern forests and lakes to deserts. Most of the Alaska parks take some serious travel to get to but they are huge and the most impressive.

  22. Gateway is not a national park but, in fact, a national recreation area. Not the same designation. Very cool to see someone visiting all the parks all within a year. As an Arkansas native and someone who has been to about half of the parks so far, I’m very much surprised to see Hot Springs so high on the list ahead of Wind Cave, Black Canyon, Channel Islands, and Pinnacles. However, I think that this brings up a great point that there is something for everyone in our national parks system and everyone is going to enjoy every park in a different way.

    1. The only thing I was surprised by was low ratings on a few for photogenic. They all looked so pretty, I don’t know how you could not want to rate them all high! Although that would probably defeat the purpose of the rating. 😂 I look forward to one day visiting them all, too. For now, I’ve only done 4 with plans for 2-6 more. So many to go!

  23. We are heading to Crater Lake next week. Unfortunately there are fires burning in the area again. : ( What was your favorite trail there, and your favorite viewpoint?
    My husband and I also shoot with Sony a7rII ‘s ; )

  24. Great to know about your passion. I have visited 33 of the 59. Mostly not done away from main land NPS. Liked your post very much although YNP ranked 16 is too low ranking from my opinion. Anyway I must respect your opinion as you have made a visit to all 59, a huge achievement.

    1. We are also in the misdst of visiting all national parks…. 47 done right now. Even after 47, I still rank Yellowstone as #1 for the sheer variety and beauty. It has elements of so many of the other parks all in one. The main downside is the crowd but if you go in shoulder season and willing to put up with the weather, and go hike in the trails, no problem!

  25. You sure you ranked Pinnacles right on this list? Seems crazy for that to be so low, and when you click over to the guide via the link, it’s ranked much higher.

    1. We didn’t include the rankings on our individuals guides, you may be getting confused with the park number (order in which we visited each one)

  26. This ranking is tremendously subjective. Yellowstone is easily one of the single best. Grand Teton is beautiful but the wildlife is hardly equal to the scenery. Katmai is amazing, in fact the cover Brown Bear at Brooks Falls is the cover photo along with I assume Renee standing overlooking I am not even sure where. Fact is the National Parks are easily one of America’s Best Ideas. I have been a member of the National Park Foundation for years and have worked at several. I have never been to them all. My Brother Kermit and I have donated about a thousand acres to the USA. Fortunately there is still some private farm and ranch land that is very well managed.

  27. Hello! I was wondering how much time we would need to do all four national parks in Colorado!? How much time would you allot for each? Also on a separate leg we are planning to do the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier and since you’re the expert I was also wondering how much time for those as well (sorry for bugging). You guys are a real inspiration to me and my husband, thank you for sharing your life with us!

  28. We’re only at 8 national parks! 🙂 We moved to the US a little over a year ago and have been continuously blown away by how beautiful and well-maintained the national parks are (well, the ones we’ve visited anyway). Thanks for sharing this list – so much more travel inspiration here!

  29. Thank you for this blog! I’m trying to make all the parks, also. Will visit Alaska this month, but know I won’t have time to make all the parks there. I have been to 29 parks. Love to see what our beautiful country offers!

  30. It’s very cool to see how others rate their top parks! A few of our favorites were toward the end of your list. Goes to show that EVERYONE can have a different experience at each of our National Parks! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  31. Wow what a fantastic evaluation of all the parks. Incredible photos and and lots of very helpful info and stats. Amazing work Renee and Matt.

      1. Hmm, we really have a different take and some of your worst were our best. I can only say that although everything has its beauty, not everyone sees it. Obviously, we have a different lens.

        1. Absolutely, and that’s why this is a personal opinion piece and not fact. Everyone is going to appreciate different parks and different things about each park. I make it pretty clear at the beginning of this post that it’s just based on the experience I had and the things I like to see.

  32. Wow, Stunning pictures! You must have been patient to wait for just the right lighting for some of these pictures.
    We are in the process of visiting all 59 National Parks. While we’ve been to the Gateway Arch, I still can’t really accept that it was named a National Park! It’s not deserving!
    I also created a ranked list of National Parks, but based not on my ratings (although I rate them also in my blog), but based on visitation and distance. Check it out at https://journey2allnationalparks.com/general/best-national-parks/ and see what you think.
    Of course, most of the fun is to debate this list. There is no definitive rank order. Everyone has their take on it. I’m surprised Teton #1 while Yellowstone is #16! I do agree Congaree is #59.
    Also check out my blog at https://journey2allnationalparks.com/

    1. Thanks Sidney! I agree with you about Gateway Arch… seems like a very odd choice for a national park! Love our stat heavy your post is – super informative!

    1. Hi Renee! First, love this post! I regularly refer back to it 🙂 however, after recently visiting Gates of the Arctic, I slightly disagree with your assessment of transport/crowds. While most people fly in, it is also possible to hike in from the Dalton Highway and definitely visible from the highway. Moreover, it’s closer to Coldfoot and Bettles than Kobuk Valley, making it less likely that weather will impede flights. So while transport there isn’t super easy, it’s not nearly as hard to reach as Kobuk and so, in my opinion, should probably have a higher score, if only by a little bit.

  33. This is amazing. Thanks for showing us this. Can you please comment on how you rated these? Just curious.

      1. Hi,
        I get your point system. Did i miss the breakdown though? I see the totals, but I am not seeing the categories like in your example. Oh and Steve, If i missed it, please dont be rude!

        1. I totally agree with MP. I’d love to see how you rated each park, rather than just the sum. My personal preference puts a lot more emphasis on crowds and trails over facilities and how photogenic a place is, plus I could calibrate your scale using my own impressions of parks I’ve visited. It’s just a suggestion – thanks for putting this together!

  34. Love to see which ones you liked from best to worst. Trying my hardest to see all 59 but it is a long process! I am at 14 right now and I will see Glacier, Channel Islands, Hot Springs, Acadia and Great Sand dunes in the next year. I am so excited!

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