Reader Participation Day: What's Your Favorite National Park, and Why?

The Firehole River in the Upper Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park near sundown. Kurt Repanshek photo.

Everybody has favorites. We have favorite colors, favorite ice creams, even favorite uncles and aunts. And no doubt we all have favorite national parks.

My favorite park would have to be Yellowstone National Park. It's a wild place, it has great backcountry trails for exploring, great lakes for paddling, the incredible thermal basins, and more wildlife than most parks. A close second probably would be Acadia National Park, both because of its setting and because it was the first national park I ever visited.

But what's your favorite national park? Tell us which one, and a little bit about why.


I'll second Kurt's opinion. Yellowstone is just awesome. A park that you could visit over and over without seeing all of the beauty and hidden spots.
As a runner up I'll choose Death Valley. Huge, varied and hot!

My all-time favorites would have to be Zion, Olympic, and Yosemite. Although not quite as grand, several Washington DC area national parks are also on that list including Rock Creek Park; Fort Washington Park; and last but not least, Shenandoah. Oh, and the National Mall can be kinda cool, too :)

I'll third Kurt's opinion. Definitely Yellowstone. I didn't know much about it before I worked there during the summer of 2006, but I fell in love with the area for all the reasons mentioned thus far.

My family and I love going to Mt Rainier. Not just because it is fairly close to us but because when it is 100+ degrees here in the Columbia Basin, we can drive to Mt Rainier and find a small patch of snow to cool off. We take in the breath taking views, enjoy the wild flowers, feel the mist from one of the many waterfalls and relax in the peacefulness among the tall trees. It is a real stress reducer and you leave the park feeling better than you did when you arrived.

Glacier National Park is pretty amazing, it has all the right features (at least in high-summer). The Blue Ridge Parkway too is special. This place is an endless adventure, Moses Cone, Peaks of Otter, Linville Falls (filmed last of the Mohicans there), and my favorite campground Otter Creek(it has a restaurant in the campground). The upper stretches of the C and O Canal near Paw Paw is also very special, oh yes, Wolf Trap National Park for the performing arts at the cedar-paneled Filene Center with a picnic dinner is hard to beat, Oh wait, Olympic National Park during a rainstorm with rain pounding on the roof of a hideaway lodge. Shenandoah during the Fall, with a black bear roaming across the yellow and crimson trail is special, or the traveling on the Alaska Railroad in an open vestibule over Hurrican Gulch, less than twenty miles from Mount Mckinley(Denali), on a clear day on the periphery of many good many yet to see (I have not seen the Grand Canyon or Yosemite!)

Ben Lord

Acadia is by far my favorite national park:
I visit every year, hike the Dorr Mtn. trail, enjoy a bar-b-que at Seawall, and a beer at McKay's Public House. Ah, heaven.

I haven't been to Yellowstone in a while, but I think right now I'd have to say Big Bend. It was a rather magical experience being able to look (walk, if you care to violate federal law) across the river to another country, I thought. When we first arrived we'd driven basically 25 hours straight, and as we came up, I thought, "this is it?" But it grew on me very quickly with all there is to see, do and experience there. I hear there is some even neater stuff on the other side of the river!

Most of the National Parks Iv seen was when I was a kid and each one I visited became my new favorite. Now that Im all grown up, ah, well, at least a lot older, and live in New England, Acadia is my pick. I live in MA, but the entire coast of Maine is spectacular. If you havent been to Acadia give it a shot, you will be glad you did. Here is hoping they go forward and create the Maine North Woods National Park.

Yellowstone is an incredible destination and we hope to visit often over the years to come.

Living in Seattle, though, I have to second Mt. Rainier as a local treasure. For me, driving onto the mountain, visiting the Grove of the Patriarchs, just driving about the natural beauty, is my version of visiting a cathedral.

I've worked in a few parks where my experience was soured by my co-workers and based on that I have to say Zion is my current favorite, right up there with Assateague Island. I'm a little biased since I"m currently working in Zion but I feel like this is the park that is really taking the mission seriously. The visitor center and the EOC (emergency operations) are both 'green' buildings and will be 100% sustainable when the solar panels are put on. The shuttle system is also a great idea and has really helped the park without ruining the exerience for the visitors. On top of all that, it is one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen and the beauty still takes my breath away. I really feel like this place is a sanctuary.

And I just really love Assateague because I grew up near the Chesepeake reading Misty of Chincoteague so that place makes me think of home and steamed blue crabs...yummmm....

Ranger Holly

Although I live within the boundaries of V.I. National Park on St. John, I have to say that Canyonlands is my favorite. A few years back, DH and I did a canoe trip down the Green River through Canyonlands. It was my all time, number one, five-star vacation. That said, DH said Yellowstone was his favorite. But then, the back country car camping trip we did in March in Death Valley was spectacular. The appeal for me is the ability to get off the beaten path without backpacking. We've been to quite a number of national park sites and they all were wonderful. Even the one where I live.

This is too much like asking a mother which child is her favorite, but I'll play. Links are just shameless plugs for my vacation photos. :-)

Kurt slipped up and didn't say "U.S." National Parks, so I'm going vote for Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. Just got back from a couple weeks there, and I'm almost at a loss for words to describe it. Imagine a look-alike to Yosemite Valley, 2,000 foot vertical rock walls, only a quarter mile across, waterfalls plunging off the cliffs everywhere....but the bottom of the valley is a 600 foot deep freshwater former fjord....and no crowds. And that's just one corner of the park. It's full of whales, caribou, and other odd critters. And despite the lack of crowds, you might hike a few miles back into the woods and run into two guys, first people you've seen in hours, and after chatting a while, realize they are friends and colleagues of Traveler's own Bob Janiskee. That's a true story.

My favorite in the U.S. has to be Olympic National Park. Sea-stack studded beaches, some of the world's best temperate rainforest, and glacier filled mountain valleys....all of which you can see in one day. And despite its popularity, it's very easy to get away from the crowds.

Honorable mentions:

Congaree National Park. A unique and truly hidden gem. I'm a sucker for old growth forest, and there isn't much old growth cypress left.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Yellowstone without the crowds. No, it doesn't have the vast grandeur of Yellowstone, but the wildlife there is underrated and it's easy to feel a sense of complete isolation and remoteness just a couple miles from I-94. The scenery is unique. More subtle and mysterious than the South Dakota Badlands.

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Another Canadian gem. Moss gardens that rival Olympic, and tides that can approach 50 feet! Wading amongst some rocks and watching the tide rise at over an inch a minute is fascinating, and a bit frightening when you quit paying attention for more than a few minutes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. My "home" park. Canoeing, kayaking, island wilderness camping, 400ft. dunes...

-Kirby.....Lansing, MI

Dang, Kirby, I hate when I screw up. But I gotta admit, Gros Morne sure looks pretty. If it wasn't so far from Utah, I'd put my canoe atop my rig and head there!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is my favorite. Spring wildflowers, fall color, waterfalls, wildlife - a wonderfully relaxing beautiful place. And less than 8 hours from DC so I'm able to get here several times a year.

I always try to get to Shenandoah in May or June when it's rainy. After dark heavy fog settles on the mountains, and the owls come out to hunt. Lots of wildlife come out to take advantage of foggy camouflage. It's spooky and super special. I don't even mind when the cabin leaks. When the sun does come out, the wildflowers pop up! It's my comfort and my refuge.

A second choice would be Prince William Forest; quiet, green, never crowded, and entirely trash-free!

This is a tough one. So many great parks to choose from. However, if I have to narrow it down a single one I guess it would have to be Katmai. It has a dynamic mixture of active volcanism, terrific fishing, great wildlife viewing, opportunities for water travel, expanses of true wilderness, world class hiking, comfortable lodge and campground accommodations, etc., etc.

This question is tormenting me, because each park I've been lucky enough to visit is so unique and magical. If I absolutely had to pick one, I'd go with Olympic because it's like visiting three parks in one. We caught it on an absolutely beautiful clear day -- Hurricane Ridge looked like something out of the Sound of Music. A short distance away is another world at Rialto Beach, where the forest meets the ocean. Not far south of that is the Hoh Rainforest, an absolute wonderland where everything is dripping with green. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

1. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (why? It's self evident.)
2. Badlands National Park
3. Capitol Reef National Park
4. Glacier National Park
5. Mt. Rainier National Park
6. Olympic National Park
7. Arches National Park
8. Canyonlands National Park
9. North Cascades National Park
10. Bryce Canyon National Park

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

Yosemite because it makes me happy.

For the best wildflowers, backcountry skiing and exhilarating recreation - Mount Rainier

For astonishing biological wholeness & variety - Olympic

All time favorite because of the grandeur, mystery, and challenge of backcountry travel - Grand Canyon
Walk beneath the rims into the Smithsonian Museum of field geology and wonder... Oh, I forgot the solitude!
One has to get pretty far from the Bright Angel corridor, but it's the only place in all my many wanderings I've repeatedly backpacked for two weeks without encountering another soul.

I feel that every National Park that I have visited is special in it's own way and for the memories I made there. I've visited Glacier, where I saw a Big Horned Sheep and hiked on snow in July. I've visited Yellowstone, where I got to see and capture on film a coyote running with prey in its mouth. I've been to Denali, where I got to see Mt. Denali for 3 days and saw a pack of wolves! Last summer I visited Zion, where the scenery took my breath away. I also visited Bryce, where I saw amazing land formations. I went to the Grand Canyon (North and South Rim). While staying on the North Rim, in a rim cabin, I got to watch a thunderstorm happening on the South Rim. Also there, I got to get pictures of an amazing sunset with a storm rolling in. My first experience with the South Rim was a coyote posing on the side of the road. I also visted Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and was utterly fascinated. I highly recommend a visit to this National Monument. Though, I do have to admit that Glacier does hold a special place in my heart because up until that trip I had never crossed the Mississippi River, and I live on the east coast.

There are 58 National Parks and I hope someday to visit all of them. So far I've visited 29, so I'm half way.

I obviously cannot speak to the 29 that I haven't been to, but of the ones I've visited, my favorite is Isle Royale. It is wilderness personified and I am deeply moved when I am there. I love bacpacking from one end to the other. Each of you should try it. Thank you.

Glacier National Park for it amazing views and wildlife.

Grand Teton for the same reasons as well as having a little more solitude compared to it's northern neighbor...Yellowstone

Lassen Volcanic National Park for its splendor, views, awesome hikes through the devastated area with forest, lava beds, baby cinder cones, stinky sulfur works, small alpine lakes, Manzanita Campground, Kings Meadow...etc...etc...etc.

Mesa Verde National Park for the education that we received about the native civilizations on the Colorado Plateau and the impetus that was created to explore a lot of the other cultural remnants of the Ancient Puebloans