This is a map pinpointing the locations of the top 5 National parks and briefly describing why I chose each one. The top pick is marked in gold, second in silver, and third in bronze. The remaining two are marked in red and were honestly a toss-up. I based my rankings on a blend of personal experience, attendance statistics and (of course) research on the internet.
It was a close race between first and second place, but in the end Yellowstone’s wildlife, camping, fishing, hiking and rock climbing trumped the Grand Canyon’s awe-inspiring sights. As a child at Yellowstone, I caught my first rainbow trout, stood within a few inches of a moose, and got held up by a herd of bison crossing in front of the family van. Basically, Yellowstone was just more fun.
That’s not to say the Grand Canyon was a bad experience. Most people think they’ve gotten the measure of the canyon through photos and videos, but actually standing on the precipice of the cliff is completely different. Another interesting selling point for the canyon is the extensive remains of a cave-dwelling Native American civilization that peppers the fissure’s walls.
As far as the others are concerned, Acadia National Park grabbed my attention with this picture of the park in fall. It is also the only one of the top five that offers whale watching and is located in the Northeast. The park was designed by John D. Rockefeller Jr.
Although it’s one of the top parks for attendance, Yosemite got bumped to fourth on the list because of its accessibility to the generally messy general public and the fact that it didn’t really exceed expectations in the areas that the other parks did. The scenery is amazing but can’t match the Grand Canyon, and there’s some wildlife but nothing compared to Yellowstone. This is, however, a great place for the family to go and has North America’s tallest waterfall inside its boundaries.
Denali National Park interested me more than any of the others on this list. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite all represent some of the most heavily toured parks even by those who have no interest in the outdoors. Denali, with its remote location and mammoth size (six million acres in all), seems like the adventurer’s paradise where it’s easy to get both literally and metaphorically lost in the nature and wildlife. Not to mention North America’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley, looms regally over the park’s territory. I think if I had actually visited Denali it might be closer to the top of the list than it currently stands.