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These New National Park Rankings Will Shock You

Let’s start with the real shockers: Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion don’t even break the top 10 in a new ranking of U.S. national parks. Can we even trust a list that puts these incredible places in the middle of the pack? We’ll let you decide.

In celebration of National Park Week 2024, an online travel guide company called Travel Lemming released its updated list of best U.S. national parks for 2024. The team calculated each park’s overall ranking based on its average ranking across seven categories: crowds, reviews, weather, affordability, jobs, accessibility, and biodiversity. 

We’ll discuss more about methodology later. For now, let’s get to the rankings.

Travel Lemming’s Ranking of the U.S.’s 63 National Parks

  1. Shenandoah National Park
  2. Joshua Tree National Park
  3. Olympic National Park
  4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  5. North Cascades National Park
  6. Grand Canyon National Park
  7. Channel Islands National Park
  8. New River Gorge National Park
  9. Everglades National Park
  10. Redwood National Park
  11. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  12. Saguaro National Park
  13. Big Bend National Park
  14. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
  15. Death Valley National Park
  16. Yellowstone National Park
  17. Mount Rainier National Park
  18. Zion National Park
  19. Kenai Fjords National Park
  20. Haleakalā National Park
  21. Capitol Reef National Park
  22. Sequoia National Park
  23. Yosemite National Park
  24. Grand Teton National Park
  25. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  26. Canyonlands National Park
  27. Dry Tortugas National Park
  28. Biscayne National Park
  29. Indiana Dunes National Park
  30. White Sands National Park
  31. Pinnacles National Park
  32. Mammoth Cave National Park
  33. Arches National Park
  34. Rocky Mountain National Park
  35. Badlands National Park
  36. Congaree National Park
  37. Kings Canyon National Park
  38. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
  39. Lassen Volcanic National Park
  40. Bryce Canyon National Park
  41. Acadia National Park
  42. Crater Lake National Park
  43. Katmai National Park and Preserve
  44. Denali National Park and Preserve
  45. Petrified Forest National Park
  46. Glacier National Park
  47. Gateway Arch National Park
  48. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
  49. Hot Springs National Park
  50. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  51. Voyageurs National Park
  52. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  53. Mesa Verde National Park
  54. Great Basin National Park
  55. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
  56. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
  57. Isle Royale National Park
  58. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  59. Virgin Islands National Park
  60. Wind Cave National Park
  61. American Samoa National Park
  62. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
  63. Kobuk Valley National Park

Where does your favorite park fall on the list?

worth visiting North Cascades
(Source: NPS)

Methodology

Travel Lemming explains its methodology quite extensively, detailing all seven categories and how they calculated a score for each one.

For instance, they took into consideration how crowded parks are by dividing the total recreation visits in 2023 by the number of square acres. They determined a “reviews” ranking by taking the average user-review score from multiple sources, including Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

They also considered average monthly temperature and precipitation, plus the likelihood for extreme weather to determine each park’s “weather” ranking, and they calculated affordability in part by digging up the National Park Service’s reports on total visitor spending per park.

A new category added in 2024 is “jobs.” Travel Lemming says it calculated each park’s jobs score by looking at the number of jobs each park creates. This is an attempt to gauge how significantly the park economically benefits the community around it.

For accessibility, the researchers looked at how easy or difficult it is to access the park. This category likely pulled the overall ranking down for stunning parks that require a helicopter or ferry to access, like Alaska’s remote Kobuk Valley National Park, which came in last place.

The final category that contributed to this year’s national park ranking is biodiversity. Travel Lemming gave a score in this category based on the total number of species present in each park.

What do you think? Will you choose your next national park adventure based on this ranking?

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