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.
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.
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.
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.
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.