This Definitive National Parks Ranking Will Help You Plan Your Next Vacation
Every National Park is a worthy destination — but with 85 million acres covered, where to start?
The summer season is upon us, whether we’re prepared or not — and whether we've gotten around to making summer plans or not. Luckily, for outdoor-minded or outdoor-curious families. the National Park system contains some 85 million acres of rugged beauty and cultural history, spread across all 50 states. But the sheer vastness of the parks system, even for the initiated, might be overwhelming. If you’re thinking of having a national parks vacation, a new definitive list could make it much easier to choose a park by helping you determine the best place to visit first based on what you most value when it comes to travel.
Hawaiianislands.com sorted through loads of data in order to rank the National Parks across several different categories: which parks are the most popular, most affordable, the quietest, most crowded, and more.
The Hawaiian Islands used data from the National Park Service and Wikipedia to compile their rankings, looking at everything from visitor spending and recreation hours to the frequency and density of crowds, for all 62 National Parks.
But rankings aside, “whether you’re dog sledding in Denali, golfing in Yosemite, or enjoying scenic views of the Great Smoky Mountains from an open rail car, each National Park has something special to offer,” Hawaiian Islands added.
Wondering where you can camp, which of the system’s 21,000 trails you should hike next, or where you might go days without seeing another soul? Look no further.
Top 5 National Parks Where Visitors Spend the Most Time
Last year, some 312 million people visited National Parks — but where do they settle in and spend the longest?
- Isle Royale in Michigan with 55.16 hours on average
- Wrangell – St Elias in Alaska with 46 hours on average
- Kings Canyon & Sequoia in California with 32.35 hours on average
- Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho with 19.31 hours on average
- North Cascades in Washington with 18.70 hours on average
Top 5 Quietest National Parks, Based on Visitor Density
Do you want a national park experience where you and the family could potentially not see another soul? Consider one of these five parks, which are all in Alaska.
- Gates of the Arctic in Alaska with 31 visitors per 100 km2
- Lake Clark in Alaska with 172 visitors per 100 km2
- Wrangell - St Elias in Alaska with 194 visitors per 100 km2
- Katmai in Alaska with 228 visitors per 100 km2
- Kobuk Valley in Alaska with 239 visitors per 100 km2
Top 5 National Parks That Attract the Largest Crowds, Based on Visitor Density
Curious about what everyone else loves to see? Here are the parks that attract the largest crowds, based on visitor density.
- Hot Springs in Arkansas with 11,760,591 visitors per 100 km2
- New River Gorge in West Virginia with 5,610,996 visitors per 100 km2
- Indiana Dunes in Indiana with 4,563,897 visitors per 100 km2
- Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio with 2,210,404 visitors per 100 km2
- Acadia in Maine with 1,999,124 visitors per 100 km2
Top 5 National Parks Where Visitors Spend the Most Money
Not all National Parks are equally affordable, and the ones that are harder to get to are the most expensive. The 5 spendiest National Parks are all in Alaska, natch.
- Kobuk Valley in Alaska with an average visitor spend of $1,629.32
- Gates of the Arctic in Alaska with an average visitor spend of $1,629.31
- Katmai in Alaska with an average visitor spend of $1,629.31
- Wrangell - Ste Elias in Alaska with an average visitor spend of $1,629.29
- Lake Clark in Alaska with an average visitor spend of $1,629.22
“As the U.S. approaches its 250th anniversary, its National Parks are inherently part of the American story,” Hawaiian Islands writes. “Today, they are more popular than ever, with visitor numbers increasing by 75% in the last 40 years.”
You can check out more national park rankings with this interactive chart. How busy is Big Bend? How popular is Bruce Canyon? How expensive is Zion? The interactive tool also helps you break down the busyness of National Parks by season, or in the case of visitor spend, in what categories you might spend the most money.
You can read the full report on The Hawaiian Islands.