Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors
The Top-10 Best National Parks in the USA
The National Park Service has been around for more than 100 years and is one of the most popular programs in North America. There are 63 national parks and sites that protect some of the best natural landscapes and historical places all across our country.
Here we list the top 10 national parks in America as voted by you, the visitor!
That's right: we use a 10-year average of annual visitation to America's national parks to determine the best national parks because people vote with their feet and the visitation numbers speak for themselves!
Watch this video on the best national parks in the USA!
We use a 10-year average of National Park Service visitation data (excluding 2020 because, wow, what a year...) to determine our ranking.
Which means we take the average of the total number of visitors to each park over the course of the last 10 years. We then rank each park based on this average.
Now, does this factor in things like accessibility, and scenery, and crowds, and price, etc.?
Actually, yes, it does...
People vote with their feet and all of the above criteria like "how accessible is the park from the nearest major city or airport", "how good are the views", "how crowded are the sites", and "how good / expensive is the lodging" are already factored in by you, the visitor.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the results that you helped create!
Average Rank - The average rank in total annual visitors that the national park achieved among the 63 national parks over the course of the 10 years (i.e., 1.0 is highest, 63.0 is lowest).
Average Annual Visitors (# millions) - The average number of annual visitors to the national park over the course of the 10 years.
Average % of Total National Park Visitors (%, 0-100) - The average % of total visitors to all national parks that visited the national park in a given year over the course of the 10 years.
The Top 10
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Average Rank: 1.0
Average Annual Visitors: 10.4M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 13.3%
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. It's located in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, and follows along a ridge line of mountains that are part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The Great Smoky Mountains offer visitors stunning fall colors, deep spruce forests with lush ferns lining mountain streams, 60 diverse species of native trees, herds of elk as well as over 100 types of wildlife including black bears and rare birds such as wood ducks or pileated woodpeckers.
Grand Canyon National Park
Average Rank: 2.0
Average Annual Visitors: 5.2M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 6.6%
The Grand Canyon is an absolutely amazing site to visit! You can spend days driving along the rim and still not see everything. There are many different trails you can hike down into the canyon for some close-up views of its natural beauty, but make sure to take precautions before deciding which trail to hike - some of the trails can be quite treacherous!
Yosemite National Park
Average Rank: 3.7
Average Annual Visitors: 4.1M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 5.3%
Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and was first protected as a national park by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864. It is known for its great views from Yosemite Valley and its waterfalls including Yosemite Falls, which includes a 2,400 foot drop from the top of the falls to the bottom!
Rocky Mountain National Park
Average Rank: 4.5
Average Annual Visitors: 3.73M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 4.7%
The park has more than 60 mountain peaks that are above 12,000 feet tall. Visitors can hike to the top of many peaks, including Longs Peak (14,259 feet) and Mount Meeker (13,911) or take a strenuous climb up challenging The Knife Edge on Longs Peak. Over 300 miles of trails throughout the park offer hikers an opportunity to view wildlife like black bears and elk as well as other animals such as marmots and bighorn sheep. Bikes are allowed only on paved roads but not hiking trails in order to protect visitors from collisions with wildlife.
Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone National Park were pretty much a toss-up, but we included Rocky Mountain first because it has the highest average ranking over the course of the 10 years and its ranking (and, consequently, visitation numbers) has consistently exceeded that of Yellowstone for the past 5 years.
Yellowstone National Park
Average Rank: 4.7
Average Annual Visitors: 3.74M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 4.8%
Yellowstone is a beautiful national park that has been preserved from undue interference. It's known for its hot springs and geysers, which are caused by the volcano underneath it. This volcanic activity makes Yellowstone special because there aren't many places in the world where you can see these things up close and personal!
Zion National Park
Average Rank: 5.8
Average Annual Visitors: 3.5M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 4.4%
Zion National Park in Utah is another stunning and popular park. This amazing area contains some of the most beautiful scenery on earth including rock cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and more. Hikers flock to Zion for its incredible trails such as Angels Landing or Emerald Pools Trail where you'll get a chance to see these natural treasures up close.
Olympic National Park
Average Rank: 6.8
Average Annual Visitors: 3.2M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 4.1%
The Olympic National Park is a great place to go camping, hiking and fishing. There are many trails throughout the park that offer stunning views of some old growth forests. You can also find beaches along the Pacific coast that have some amazing tide pools for exploring under water life. The wildlife in this area includes black bears, deer, elk and otters just to name a few. As you explore around this beautiful national park it’s easy to see why so many people love coming back year after year!
Grand Teton National Park
Average Rank: 8.2
Average Annual Visitors: 3.0M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 3.8%
Wyoming Grand Teton National Park, located in northwestern Wyoming along the Snake River offers mountains and meadows. It is the place to go for hiking, climbing, skiing, horseback riding, and camping. One of its most famous attractions are the 31 mountain peaks that reach an elevation over 13000 feet high including the highest point in Jackson Hole at 12,197 feet above sea level called Grand Teton Peak.
Acadia National Park
Average Rank: 8.7
Average Annual Visitors: 2.8M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 3.6%
Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks in America. It was established as a national park back in 1919 and has been attracting visitors from all over the world ever since, with more than two million people visiting each year. The best time to visit is probably during fall season when you can enjoy beautiful foliage colors on your hike through the mountains or to Mount Desert Island.
Glacier National Park
Average Rank: 10.8
Average Annual Visitors: 2.5M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 3.2%
Glacier National Park is located in the U.S. state of Montana along the Canadian border and is known for its stunning glaciers, wildlife (including grizzly bears!), and wildflowers that can be found along Going-to-the Sun Road. It's also known as a hiker's paradise! A scenic drive through Going-to-the Sun Road is a must when visiting Glacier National Park. The scenic 52 mile road was built in 1933 and crosses the Continental Divide of the Americas at Logan Pass, reaching an elevation of approximately 6,700 feet above sea level.
Joshua Tree National Park
Average Rank: 13.0
Average Annual Visitors: 2.0M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 2.5%
The desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park is unlike any other in the United States. The park features over six hundred thousand acres worth of craggy rock formations that are covered with thousands upon thousands of cacti, as well as trees like junipers and pinyon pine. It’s also home to quite a few endangered species including one of the world’s most famous – the Mojave Desert Tortoise!
Bryce Canyon National Park
Average Rank: 14.8
Average Annual Visitors: 1.8M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 2.3%
Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon is a National Park with scenic vistas and rock formations. The park got its name from explorer Ebenezer Bryce who saw this land as “a hell of a place to lose a cow” because it was so rugged. This national park has many hiking trails that go through groves of juniper trees, along the edge of cliffs, up to viewpoints overlooking red-hued Ponderosa Pine forests atop orange sandstone outcroppings called "hoodoos." Most people visit between May and October but winter visitors can see beautiful frozen waterfalls which are illuminated at night by moonlight or in early morning when there is no direct sunlight on the falls.
Arches National Park
Average Rank: 19.1
Average Annual Visitors: 1.3M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 1.7%
This park is well-known for having more than 2,000 sandstone arches, which are the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. It also has a wide variety of wildlife and plants that can be seen throughout its landscape.
Mount Rainier National Park
Average Rank: 19.4
Average Annual Visitors: 1.3M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 1.6%
Mount Rainier National Park is a national park located in the state of Washington. It was established on March 02, 1899 and has an area of 368 square miles (953 km) making it the fifth-largest national park in the United States. The most famous features are Mount Rainier itself - which stands at 14,411 feet tall - as well as its many glaciers covering more than 25 square miles of land within this immense landscape.
Sequoia National Park
Average Rank: 22.8
Average Annual Visitors: 12.1M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 1.4%
Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 as part of the original U.S. Forest Service Act, which stated that forests should be preserved for "use and enjoyment" by the people. For over 100 years Sequoia has been providing entertainment to visitors looking to explore one of this country's most beautiful regions while also preserving some of its oldest and tallest trees — many more than a millennium old!
Everglades National Park
Average Rank: 25.5
Average Annual Visitors: 1.0M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 1.3%
This park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and it has many species of animals to see. It's filled with birds, alligators, raccoons and turtles! Visitors can also hike trails just like they would do out west. There are airboat rides available for an additional fee where visitors can get up close and personal with nature while hearing stories from a pilot about what makes this national treasure so unique. The Everglades National Park is located on Florida’s southern tip near Miami.
Denali National Park
Average Rank: 37.8
Average Annual Visitors: 0.5M
Average % of Total National Park Visitors: 0.6%
Last but not least, Denali National Park is located in Alaska, and this park has a lot to offer. Most notable are North America’s highest peaks which include Denali itself at over 20,000 feet tall. The wildflowers here can be absolutely spectacular as well since they change colors throughout the summer months starting with purple lupine and yellow daisies most commonly seen in May/June and then moving through pink fireweed and blue forget-me-nots before finally reaching their peak color of bright red Indian Paintbrush by September/October. If you love wildlife viewing opportunities though don’t go until August when caribou herds move into the area!
Final Thoughts on the Best National Parks in the USA
Hope you enjoyed this article on the best parks in the USA!
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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
— John Muir