Ranked: Survey Finds America’s Top 10 Favorite National Parks
These all look breathtaking! How could you just choose one?
When it comes to planning a vacation, chances are a visit to a national park ranks high on many bucket lists. From the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone, the Badlands to Death Valley, the 59 U.S. National Parks have so much to offer.
But which national park takes the cake as America’s favorite? We asked this and more in a survey all about travel and vacation.
The Simplemost/Don’t Waste Your Money Travel Survey was an audience survey of nearly 8,000 respondents collected via Simplemost and our sister site, Don’t Waste Your Money. We sought to find out more about people’s most and least favorite states to visit on vacation, the things that stress them out while traveling (and no, traveling companions is not No. 1!), vacation expenses they prefer to avoid and more.
We asked people to tell us which U.S. national park they’d most live to visit—if they could choose just one. The results? An interesting look at Americans’ favorite national parks.
While Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska is the largest park at more than 8.3 million acres and the Great Smokey Mountains draws the most annual visitors (to the tune of around 11 million people, here are the top 10 parks people most want to visit.
10. Olympic National Park
Where: Port Angeles, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest.
Size: 922,651 acres, of which 876,669 acres (95 percent of the park) are Congressionally-designated wilderness. The national park boasts 73 miles of wilderness coast and more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams
Year founded: In 1897, Olympic Forest Reserve was established. The land was designated as Olympic National Park in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Yearly visitors: 3,390,221 people visited Olympic National Park in 2016.
9. Grand Teton National Park
Where: Northwestern Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park and north of the town of Jackson.
Size: Park boundaries include approximately 310,000 acres, 485 square miles. Grand Teton National Park is 45 miles in length from north to south and 26 miles at its widest point.
Year founded: Although the park was initially established in 1929, Jackson Hole National Monument (created in 1943) was combined with it in 1950 to become the present-day Grand Teton National Park.
Yearly visitors: 3,270,076 people visited Grand Teton National Park in 2016.
8. Acadia National Park
Where: Acadia is located on Mount Desert Island along the Atlantic coastline in Maine, southwest of Bar Harbor.
Size: The park protects more than 47,000 acres. 35,332 acres are owned by the National Park Service, while
12,416 acres are privately owned lands under conservation easements managed by the NPS.
Year founded: President Woodrow Wilson established Sieur de Monts National Monument in July 1916. The park was renamed Lafayette National Park in February 1919. In 1929, it became Acadia National Park.
Yearly visitors: 3,303,393 people visited the park in 2016.
7. Zion National Park (Utah)
Where: Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah, not far from St. George near the city of Springdale.
Size: 148,733 acres or 232 square miles, which includes more than 100 miles of wilderness trails and 15 miles of paved trails.
Year founded: In 1908, a small group of ranchers applied for a survey of lands near Little Zion Canyon, prompting President William Howard Taft to set aside some 15,840 acres in Little Zion Canyon as Mukuntuweep National Monument. President Woodrow Wilson enlarged the monument from its original 15,840 acres to 76,800 acres in 1918, changing the name to Zion National Monument. The dedication of Zion as a national park was held on September 15, 1920.
Yearly visitors: 4,295,127 visitors traveled to Zion National Park in 2016.
6. Rocky Mountain National Park
Where: Rocky Mountain National Park is in Colorado, northwest of Denver between Estes Park and Grand Lake. The park is within the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
Size: The park spans 265,769 acres or 358 square miles. It is 12,183 feet at its highest elevation point.
Year founded: The United States government acquired the land in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act on January 26, 1915.
Yearly visitors: Rocky Mountain National Park hosted 4,517,585 visitors in 2016.
5. Glacier National Park
Where: Located in Montana on the Canada/U.S. border, Glacier National Park is known as the Crown of the Continent. It includes the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and Canada’s Hudson’s Bay.
Size: The park is a massive 1,012,837 acres with 25,622 acres of named lakes.
Year founded: Nature enthusiasts including American anthropologist George Bird Grinnell lobbied for the creation of a national park and the government listened. President Taft established Glacier as the country’s 10th national park in 1910.
Yearly visitors: 2,946,681 people visited Glacier National Park in 2016.
4. Yosemite National Park
Where: In the mountainous terrain of the central Sierra Nevada of California.
Size: The park covers 748,436 acres or 1,169 square miles. 704,624 acres (more than 94 percent of the park) is designated wilderness.
Year founded: On October 1, 1890, Congress designated Yosemite as a national park, making it the third national park in the U.S.
Yearly visitors: Yosemite had 5,028,868 visitors in 2016.
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Where: This national park straddles the borders of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.
Size: The park covers 522,427 acres, which are almost evenly divided between the two states. The park includes 10 developed campgrounds and more than 100 backcountry campsites as well as 850 miles of trails, 384 miles of roads and 342 maintained structures.
Year founded: Tennessee and North Carolina legislatures as well as Congress and the wealthy Rockefeller family helped fund the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was established in 1934.
Yearly visitors: 11,312,786 visited this national park in 2016.
2. Yellowstone National Park
Where: Although it is primarily in Wyoming, Yellowstone spreads into Montana and Idaho, as well.
Size: A whopping 2,221,766 acres, Yellowstone is comprised of about 80 percent forests, 15 percent grasslands and 5 percent water.
Year founded: President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill on March 1, 1872 making Yellowstone the nation’s first national park.
Yearly visitors: 4,257,177 visited Yellowstone in 2016.
1. Grand Canyon National Park
Where: The Grand Canyon is in the northwest corner of Arizona, near the borders of Nevada and Utah.
Size: 1,217,403.32 acres or 1,904 square miles, the park has an average depth of 1 mile and 277 miles of river running through it.
Year founded: In 1893, President Benjamin Harrison designated the Grand Canyon as a “forest reserve.” Theodore Roosevelt made it a national monument in 1908. Finally, in 1919 Congress declared it a national park.
Yearly visitors: 5,969,811 people visited Grand Canyon National Park in 2016.
Which national park is your favorite?
This ultimate road trip hits all of the 48 contiguous states, with each stop being a national park, landmark or historic site: