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Top 10 National Parks: Is Your List Better Than Mine?

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Yellowstone belongs on every park lover's Top 10 list of parks, no? Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River by Kurt Repanshek.

People like lists. No, check that, they love them. Particularly when they disagree with them and think they have a better list. So, here's my personal Top 10 list of national parks.*  How does it match up with yours?

1. Yellowstone. Does this selection really need to be explained? It's the world's first national park, it features the world's greatest collection of thermal features (hot springs, fumaroles, geysers, etc.), has wolves, two species of bears, eagles, osprey, moose, bighorn sheep, streams for angling, lakes for paddling and angling, and an incredible backcountry for getting away from it all.

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You could spend an entire vacation watching the surf at Acadia. NPS photo.

2. Acadia. Perhaps because this was the very first national park I ever visited, this deserves to be in my Top 10. That said, it can stand on its own. The wonderful mix of forests and surf, the carriage paths, the eclectic vibe that runs through Bar Harbor, the great B&Bs and cottages, and, of course, the fresh lawbsta make this park a crowd pleaser.

3. Olympic. One park, three vastly different experiences: Surf, rainforest, and alpine. Just one of those three would justify a visit to this park overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Washington state's peninsula. But when you have all three in one visit...well, it's a no brainer.

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Great Smoky is rife with hiking options. Kurt Repanshek photo.

4. Great Smoky. Family friendly, rich in American history, fantastic hiking, it's all here. When the dog days of summer get hot and lazy, there are more than a few streams to cool off in. The historic structures found in Cades Cove, (Big and Little) Cataloochee, and Oconaluftee allow you to peer into an earlier, somewhat simpler, more self-reliant time.

5. Canyonlands. This park likely won't make everyone's list, but then, that's probably because they haven't visited. There's prehistory on display in the form of granaries, petroglyphs and pictographs, vestiges of cowboy history, bizarre geology, bucking rivers for white-water cowboys, and vast expanses to walk into.

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Glacier Bay. Again, not likely to make everyone's list. But it's rich in glacial history, boasts a cornucopia of wildlife (both terrestrial and marine), and is most definitely wild. And the fishing is not lacking.

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You want glaciers? Glacier Bay has glaciers. Kurt Repanshek photo.

7. Sequoia. Big trees, big backcountry, great backcountry and front-country trails, a kid-pleaser. A bonus is that it's connected by border, and administratively, to Kings Canyon National Park. 

8. Yosemite. While the Yosemite Valley is the main attraction, if you spend all your time there with the millions of other visitors, you won't really get to know this park. The high country with its granite domes, peaks, and hiking trails is sublime. 

9. Everglades. Sure, it's hot in summer, but show up between November and April and you've got a reasonable climate in which to explore the paddling trails, go birding, take in a hike or two, explore the largest officially designated wilderness east of the Rockies, and the fishing is waiting for you.

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You haven't experienced Yosemite if you neglect the high country. Kurt Repanshek photo.

10. Virgin Islands. Another personal favorite that might not show up on many lists. But if you're looking for relaxation in the form of reclining in your beach chair on the park's sugar-sand beaches, want to explore some dazzling marinelife while snorkeling the park's coral reefs, or study Caribbean history, this is the place to head.

 

 

* For the purposes of this list, I considered just the 58 "national" parks.

 

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Comments

By just adding one more national park i.e. Shenandoah National Park in your list, it can be more effective. It has river beaches, ponds, Blue Ridge Mountains, natural beauty, animals etc. enough to admire people for visiting.


My ten:

1. Yellowstone
2. Yosemite
3. Zion
4. Wrangells-St. Elias
5. Glacier Bay
6. Arches
7. Mesa Verde
8. Joshua Tree
9. Grand Canyon
10. Saguaro

Rick


It's great reading everyone's list and why they are their favorites or sharing a specific memory!There are many new favorite places, I am sure, just waiting for us to explore, this is from what we've done!
1) Glacier NP-a hiker's paradise, tons of unbelievable memories!
2) Yellowstone NP- Where else can you see so much diversity?
3) Arches NP- a smaller treasure but so many amazigng geological wonders!
4) Bryce Canyon NP-Hiking in the hoodoos is such a blast!
5) Grand Canyon NP- It's 2 different parks!
North Rim is my favorite, North Kaibab Trail, less visitors, more isolated, intentional.
South Rim has so many amazing viewpoints, Lipan Point is one of the best for sunrise!
6) Yosemite NP- Waterfalls and sheer granite!
7) SEKI NP- The trees overwhelm me! (personal note:we need more time there so we can do some great hikes!)
8) Mesa Verde NP- I love the ruins and the record of human history there!
9) Sand Dunes NP-it holds many wonderful family memories for us! Hiking to the top, kids and grown ups playing in Medano Creek, camping amongst Pinon Pinres, sigh...
10) Rocky Mountain NP- My very first ever National Park so it holds a special place in my heart!


To pick out the top ten of the 29 I have been to is kind of hard when you love all of them. Like picking out which kid is your favorite in the family.
Yosemite: First, because I can't wait to get back for the third time. Just there in 2011
Yellowstone: The fishing is great. The sights fantastic. Animals all over the place.
Glacier: The last three visits, the Road to the Sun Highway was closed. Even at the end of June in 2011.
Zion: I just fell in love with this one. Been there 5 times over the years.
Canyonlands: Wow! What a Park.
Rocky Moutain: Another Wow!
Arches: Hard to believe the wind and rain could do all that.
Death Valley: On the list because it was the hottest place I have ever been to. 117 degrees with 30MPH winds. Something you don't see or feel around the Great Lakes
Bryce Canyon: Just beautiful. Looking forward to another visit this summer.
Grand Canyon: I put this one last because I haven't seen it all yet. This summer I'll get to see the South Rim and then the bottom of the canyon on a raft. Seen Marble Canyon, Toroweap, and the North Rim already. The GC could move up this list after the summer trip.
Hope to add at least three new parks to my list this summer and hopefully before I die, I can see all of the 58.


I've been to twenty National Parks so far, plus three in the Canadian Rockies. It's hard to put them in order, but I'll give it a try.
1. Glacier
2. Grand Teton
3. Olympic
4. Yosemite
5. Yellowstone
6. Bryce Canyon
7. Zion
8. Grand Canyon
9. Arches
10. Acadia


1. Zion
2. Sequoia
3. Olympic
4. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
5. Rocky Mountain
6. Mammoth Cave
7. Wrangell St-Elias
8. Kenai Fjords
9. Death Valley
10. Joshua Tree


Since I have only started to go to national parks in 1980, on my honeymoon. They have been all out west.
Yellowstone, watching Disney growing up I always wanted to go there. I have numerous times
Grand tetons
Arches
Canyonlands
Grand Canyon, I saw this the 1st time last week. What an amazing place. We have made plans to revisit in the fall. (we were in vegas and drove to the south rim)
Carlsbad Caverns, I esp like when the bats fly out at dusk. But I didn't like the lights out portion of the tour.
Capital Reef
Zion
Bryce Canyon.
I would like to go to Vermillion one day as well.
I live about 2hrs from RMNP, but it is not a favorite of mine. I have the rockies as my playground. There are a lot of state parks in Colorado that are less touristy then RMNP. Estes is such a big turn off with the attitiude that they have in the town.


Its so hard to narrow it down to ten, so many spectacular parks.....
My number one is Yosemite, followed by Denali, Yellowstone, Zion, Acadia, Capitol Reef, Death Valley, Sequoia, Olympic, and Rocky Mountain.
Also love Great Smoky Mountain, Kenai Fjords, Arches...


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