Ranked: These Are the Best National Parks in the USA

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There are as many opinions about the best national parks as there are people giving those opinions. And with so many to choose from, all with vastly different features, it’s easy to see why no one can agree.

But we have decided to give you a starting place for your next argument with other national park lovers. Here’s our time-tested list of the seven best national parks in the USA.

How Many National Parks Are There?

Currently, there are 63 national parks in the United States vying for the “best national parks in the USA” spot. However, there are 423 national park sites within the National Park System (NPS). 

These sites include national parks, monuments, historical parks, seashores, battlefields, military parks, historic sites, and lakeshores.

There are also national memorials, parkways, preserves, reserves, recreation areas, rivers, scenic trails, wild and scenic rivers, and several other designations.

Bryce Canyon National Park showing it's orange hoodoos for miles

What is the Most Visited National Park?

The park most often visited has remained the same for many years. Great Smoky Mountain National Park gets 14 million visitors a year. That may seem unusual, as many people see Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. They appear quite popular. 

But if you look at a map of the Great Smoky Mountains, you will find that the park lies directly on one of the few connections between southeastern Tennessee and northeastern North Carolina.

People drive through the park daily to get from one location to another. So they inadvertently could be visitors. Its name, however, gives an accurate description of the park – it is Great!

There are dozens of hiking trails and historical destinations within the park, so many visitors are certainly exploring the park.

What is the Least Visited National Park?

The Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the least visited national park. However, this national park with the designation of “least visited” is not in that position because of a lack of worthiness.

On the contrary, tastounding in its scenery, size, and grandeur. With 8.5 million acres all lying north of the Arctic Circle, it is easy to see why only 7,362 people visited this wild and wooly destination.

There are no roads or trails to or in the park. Visitors are most likely very committed to a wilderness experience, as they must hike or fly into the Gates of the Arctic.

This northernmost American national park has good company, as seven of the fifteen least visited parks are neighbors in Alaska.

Keep in Mind: While they may be the least visited national parks in the U.S, they definitely deserve your attention! These 5 Least Visited National Parks Are Worth Checking Out.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve with giant mountains in the background a a body of water and grass in the foreground

These Are the Best National Parks in the USA

We haven’t just pulled these seven park names out of a hat. We selected them for our list based on the number of visitors they have racked up, their online reviews, and their stunning scenery.

See if you agree with the seven choices listed below!

1. Yellowstone National Park

Location:  The northwestern corner of Wyoming
Average Yearly Visits:  4.86 million

About the Park: As the country’s oldest national park, Yellowstone holds an amazing selection of wildlife and geologic features and history.

Signed into law in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant, the park preserves an enormous collection of animals and plant life. He also signed to preserve geothermal wonders like the Grand Prismatic Spring, Steamboat Geyser and Sulphur Caldron, and historical destinations at Fort Yellowstone and Old Faithful Lodge.  

Why It’s Worth a Visit:  With geysers like Old Faithful, bubbling paint pots, and hot springs with beautiful travertine terraces, Yellowstone provides a look into volcanic activity after (and possibly before) an event.

Safely view fumaroles, where steam pushes out from the earth’s crust, geysers that spew hot water hundreds of feet in the air, and mud percolating in small ponds. 

2. Yosemite National Park

Location: East central California
Average Yearly Visits:  3.3 million people

About the Park: Founded as a national park in 1890, Yosemite actually helped create the national park “idea.” Activists worked to protect the lands within its region years before it joined the NPS.

The park is known for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, stunning meadows, and mountain views, all byproducts of glacial erosion.

Why It’s Worth a Visit:  From Angel Point to El Capitan, Horsetail Falls to Half Dome, visitors are familiar with the overwhelming landscapes of Yosemite National Park.

Hiking is a favorite way to wander through Yosemite Valley, but fishing and rock climbing are two other popular ways to experience one of the best national parks in the USA.

Yosemite National Park, one of the best national parks in usa

3. Glacier National Park

Location:  Northwestern Montana
Average Yearly Visits:  3 million people

About The Park:  It’s no wonder Glacier gained park status in 1910, with its tremendous scenic views and variety of plant and animal life.

But with its size, hiking is definitely the way to get around in the immense backcountry, where more than 130 lakes and two mountain ranges lay scattered across over one million acres.

The famous Red Jammer buses can also navigate this vast wilderness, which travels most of the main roads and have historical significance. 

Why It’s Worth A Visit:  Follow Going-to-the-Sun Road to view Glacier National Park from a heavenly vantage point. Look down this valley and capture sight of the 25 active glaciers in the park, then participate in the most popular activity here, fly fishing.

There’s plenty of water to explore, with many lakes offering up trout. Mountain whitefish and northern pike are just a few of the species in this region.

Keep in Mind: You’ll need to know a few things before camping at Glacier National Park. Here’s what they don’t tell you!

View of Glacier National Park, one of the best national parks in usa

4. Grand Teton National Park

Location:  Just south of Yellowstone National Park in the northwestern corner of Wyoming
Average Yearly Visits:  3.89 million people

About the Park:  Encompassing the immediately recognizable Teton Range of mountains, Grand Teton constitutes 310,000 acres just south of Yellowstone.

It was a late bloomer in the NPS, gaining park status almost 40 years after its larger sibling but doing a good job of protecting the ecosystem.

Why It’s Worth a Visit:  Famous for its variety of hiking trails, Grant Teton National Park caters to campers, with over 1,000 drive-in campsites and 200 backcountry campsites.

The mountain range provides challenging mountaineering feats and is a dream come true for photographers. 

A woman standing at Grant Teton, one of the best national parks in usa

5. Arches National Park

Location:  East Central Utah
Average Yearly Visits:  1.8 million people

About The Park:  Aptly named with over 2,000 arches within its boundaries, Arches National Park is unlike any other. Its sandstone rock formations like pinnacles, fins, and balanced rocks are eye-catching at worst and mesmerizing at best.

Named a national monument in 1929, it was given national park status in 1971. The park only covers 76,000 acres – small in size but extremely popular. It’s so popular that entry to the park requires a reservation.

Why It’s Worth a Visit:  There is nothing as awe-inspiring as viewing a fragile rock arch that overlooks a sandstone canyon in the deserts of eastern Utah.

Delicate Arch leaves its viewers with a sense of wonder at nature’s ability to carve beauty from rock. That secures its place as one of the best national parks in the USA.

Arches National Park at sunrise with two famous arches lit up

6. Acadia National Park

Location:  The central coast of Maine
Average Yearly Visits:  4.71 million people

About The Park:  First named Lafayette National Park in 1919, Acadia came into being 10 years later. It was designated to preserve biodiversity with several specific habitats along its rocky granite coastline.

From mountains and forests to islands and streams, the park has a rich selection of plants and animals native to coastal Maine.

Why It’s Worth a Visit:  Visitors flock to Acadia for quiet reflection, spectacular sunrises, boating, and stargazing. But there is also a preserved historic carriage road system.

Acadia National Park at sunset with jagged rocks along the water

7. North Cascades National Park

Location:  Northcentral Washington State
Average Yearly Visits:  980,000 people

About the Park:  North Cascades National Park came about because environmental activists intended to preserve the highest percentage of floral diversity of any national park in the country.

Dam building along the Skagit River was destroying much of the forests that provided the ecosystem for these plants. North Cascades protected much of that land, being named a national park in 1968.

Why It’s Worth a Visit:  With widely varied landscapes, North Cascade mixes mountain peaks topped with glaciers and forested valleys surrounded by waterfalls.

It’s eye candy for the many hikers and backcountry explorers that revel in the quiet of the land. This is where the moist coastlands of the west meet the arid plains of the east. 

North Cascades National Park showing the river running through the mountain range thats covered in snow

Enjoy the Breathtaking Views in These National Parks

There can be no argument that the parks listed above provide scenery in spades and outdoor adventure for every member of the family. The number of visitors to each proves that we’re not the only ones who gravitate to them.

But we will concede that many other national parks astound and allure us. So quite possibly, every park could be considered the best national park in the USA. 

Why not start with these seven and create your own list of favorites as you explore more?

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