Every year, the national parks across the United States receive more than 325 million visitors every year. With the epidemic creating more demand to find safe, outdoor recreation options, these parks hold a great opportunity to safely cure that itch to get a change of scenery. So which park deserves the title of visitors top pick? Podium, the customer messaging platform, analyzed hundreds of thousands of online reviews and ranked them based on the overall star rating and the total number of reviews and there were some surprising contenders that mixed in with the famous heavyweights.

  1. Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, WA

4.8 stars, 7,749 reviews

With an incredible Washington coastline, deep forest and high mountain environments, Olympic National Park has some of the best range of experiences in the national park system. Olympic was the ninth most visited national park in 2019. Reviewers frequently highlighted Hurricane Ridge and Crescent Lake as highlights. Only drawback from visitors seems to be coordinating weather. “Getting great weather is tricky – the only con to my trip.”

  1. White Sands National Park, Alamogordo, NM

4.8 stars, 9,004 reviews

White Sands National Park is an otherworldly landscape filled with snow white sand dunes. A 16 mile drive is suitable for most vehicles, but reviews show that the can’t miss activity is sledding. “You can rent or buy sand sleds and wax from the gift shop for $20 and $5 returned if the sled is not damaged,” claimed one reviewer. While guided moonlit tours have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, backcountry camping in the park is available on a first come, first served basis with a permit.

  1. Cuyahoga National Park, Cuyahoga Valley, OH

4.8 stars, 10,170 reviews

Between Akron and Cleveland, the Cuyahoga National Park follows the Cuyahoga River and the surrounding area. Connected by the famous Cuyahoga train, visitors can see several gorges and waterfalls, which reviewers commented the Brandywine Falls as a can’t miss. “Blue hen falls is overrated but the brandy wine falls is the best…good for easy to moderate hiking.”

  1. Crater Lake National Park, OR

4.8 stars, 10,196 reviews

Best known for the volcanic lake, formed in the former crater of the now-collapsed Mount Mazama. Several reviewers noted that the park is a great visit due to fewer crowds and more pristine conditions. “With COVID, boat tours ceased and it left the lake unblemished as it should be. Lots of great little picnic areas along the route,” commented one reviewer. One of the most highlighted trails was the Sun Notch trail, which gives great views of the Phantom Ship island.

  1. Sequoia National Park, CA

4.8 stars 10,409 reviews

Home to some of the largest redwood forests in the world, Sequoia National Park is the second oldest national park and the first that was specifically created to protect a living organism. While the park holds some of the oldest and largest trees in the world, it also boasts having the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48 states, Mt Whitney at 14,494 feet. “We knew in advance not to expect much in the way of services and visitors centers being open, etc. due to COVID-19, but more was available than we expected and to our surprise the park was empty,” one reviewer wrote. “Yes, there were people, but like a tiny fraction of the usual throngs of people that are usually here. It ended up making our visit one of the best ever.”

  1. Shenandoah National Park, VA

4.8 stars, 11,400 reviews

Shenandoah National Park contains over 500 miles of trails, including a 101 mile section of the famed Appalachian Trail. The 105 mile Skyline Drive runs through the middle of the park, which gives visitors an incredible view of the nearly 1,300 species of trees and plants that are native to the park, but reviewers recommend you give yourself time to take it all in. “I love the waterfalls and we got to see bears and deers on our Skyline Drive,” one reviewer noted. “Definitely coming back for more views. We needed more than one day to explore the place.” 

  1. Glacier National Park, MT

4.8 stars, 11,461 reviews

Glacier National Park is positioned directly on the Continental Divide as well as the US-Canadian border. Due to this, Glacier National Park was the world’s first international peace park, joining up with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park to seamlessly share responsibility for preservation, fire management and research within the two park system. The partnership seems to have paid off as many reviewers note that it is home to incredible wildlife populations. “Truly a paradise for hikers and wildlife watchers!” noted a review. “There is beauty in any direction you look. Even with the amount of people who come here, you can easily find places of solitude. Awesome place to refresh the soul!”

  1. Arches National Park, UT

4.8 stars, 19,230 reviews

One of the most iconic parks in the National Park system, Arches National Park near Moab, Utah is home to nearly 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the pictured Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, an arch that spans 306 feet, the largest in North America and the fourth largest in the world. “Gorgeous park with incredible views in every direction,” one five-star reviewer said. “Boulders the size of semis and houses are delicately balanced in natural formations; it’s mind boggling. Probably my favorite national park.”

  1. Zion National Park, UT

4.8 stars, 26,028 reviews

Zion National Park in Southern Utah is home to some of the most dramatic red sandstone formations in the world. It is also the fourth most popular national park with over 4.5 million visitors coming every year. The Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel and Highway connects the park to Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon via a 25-mile stretch of highway that snakes through incredible rock formations and includes a 1.1 mile tunnel that was carved through the mountainside. While the park remains open to visitors, reviewers note that some amenities are unavailable. “ Let’s start by just saying wow,” said one review. “The drive is great and very scenic. Due to Covid we were not able to get the shuttle that takes you to the upper end of the park. Tickets start selling the day before so on the Recreation.gov website so be sure to get them in advance. There are many trails to hike, some have limited shade so be prepared with plenty of water and a hat.”

  1. Yellowstone National Park

4.8 stars, 29,987 reviews

The nation’s first national park is also one of it’s most famous. Yellowstone National Park comprises 3,472 square miles of some of the most stunning and active geothermal and wildlife habitat. This is an area larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Over half of the world’s active geysers are found in the park, as a part of the more than 10,000 geothermal features, such as geysers, hot pots, and fumaroles that give the terrain an otherworldly appearance. “ Come out to the first National Park and enjoy the sights and smells of nature near its most wildest,” said one visitor. “Went during the peak season but I always enjoy the shoulder seasons where you encounter less visitors and traffic and more views of wildlife and enjoying what the park has to offer.” 

  1. Yosemite National Park, CA

4.8 reviews, 34,443 reviews

Even though Yosemite was actually the third official national park, it was the park that sparked the idea of creating the national park system. Although most visitors stay to the six square miles of the Yosemite Valley, the park expands into 1,100 additional square miles of wilderness. Yosemite is also home to some of the most legendary rock climbing, such as several challenging routes up El Capitan and Half Dome, as climbers come in droves to scale the vast granite cliffs. “I rank it as the second best place after the Grand Canyon,” rates one reviewer. “Unbelievable scenery anywhere you look. The only issue is that it’s also the most popular national park and gets 4+ million visitors a year, so get in early to beat the crowds. Plenty of lodging options and hundreds of miles of roads and trails. This one is not to be missed.”

  1. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

4.8 stars, 47,193 reviews

The Grand Canyon is the most famous canyon in the world, thanks to its dramatic depth and vistas. The drive from the North Rim Visitor Center to the South Rim Visitor Center is about 200 miles and takes roughly four hours. While many sections of the park remain open, COVID has altered some operations. “It’s difficult for me to give a fair opinion of Grand Canyon National Park since I decided to make my first visit during the pandemic,” said one recent visitor. “Much of what the park had to offer was closed or only provided partial service. The park obviously is beautiful and the sights are truly grand! It tends to induce a perspective of how small we and our insignificant worries really are.”

  1. Kenai Fjords National Park, AK

4.9 stars, 1,256 reviews

Created in 1980 from the Kenai Fjords National Monument, Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the newer and less-visited parks due to the remote location on Alaska’s southern coast. But as shown by the reviews, this is one of the most stunning parks in the national park system. Over half of the park is covered by ice in massive glaciers that fill mountain valleys and extend down to the coast. “Definitely a top five national park in the United States,” said one reviewer. “There are stunning views of glaciers unlike you see elsewhere, and the surrounding fjords and gulf are teeming with unique wildlife. Many nice smaller islands and sea arches, especially in Spire Cove. The Harding Icefield Trail is simply breathtaking and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

  1. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, AK

4.9 stars, 2,452 reviews

Glacier Bay National Park, while totaling less than 1% of the state of Alaska, at 3.2 million acres is larger than the state of Connecticut. Located in the southeast panhandle of the state close to the Canadian border, the park ranges elevations of zero at the coast up to 15,320 feet at the top of Mt. Fairweather. The majority of the park is only accessible by boat. The ice that calves off into the bay, sometimes 200 feet tall, is typically up to 75 years old. “A bucket list experience for sure,” read a recent review. “Absolutely a must see before they disappear, which is a sad reality. One of the most breathtaking experiences is to hear the Glaciers crackle and shift. Truly something everyone should experience.”

  1. Badlands National Park, SD

4.9 stars, 10,405 reviews

The rock formations that create the landscape of Badlands National Park are the result of tens of millions of years of sediment. Some of the rarest fossils, including saber tooth tigers, have been found throughout the park. In the present day, over 1,200 American Bison roam throughout the park. “So many stops for beautiful views!” said one visitor. “Wish I could have taken the Sage Road to see more bison, but 240 was great too. Loved the hiking area (Notch Trail) towards the end – the breeze channeled through the rock formations.”

  1. Mount Rainier National Park, WA

4.9 stars, 12,251 reviews

Mount Rainier National Park was the country’s fifth national park, created in 1899, 17 years before the National Park Service was founded. Over 25 named glaciers cover the slopes of Mount Rainier, making it the most glaciated mountain peak in the lower 48 states. While the park has many approachable trails, many climbers come to summit Mount Rainier every year. “Spectacular views all around the park,” observed a recent visitor. “This park offers great waterfalls and amazing views of a huge mountain. Overall I find this park as super accessible as with very minimal hikes you can view almost all the famous points. Must visit on a bright sunny day. Around 2.5 hours from Seattle. Better to reach the park early in the morning to avoid traffic.”

  1. Acadia National Park, ME

4.9 stars, 12,397 reviews

Located on the coast of Maine, Acadia was the first national park to be created east of the Mississippi River and is the only national park in the Northeast. Acadia also is home to the highest mountain peak in the northeast, Cadillac Mountain, that rises to 1,530 feet. “One of my favourite places in the world. It’s gorgeous,” exclaimed one reviewer. “There is hiking, swimming, sailing, kayaking, bike riding, mountains, lakes, ocean, and trees – lots and lots of all kinds of trees oh and there’s even marshes – and lobster any way you want it. Don’t miss the lobster stew and popovers at Jordan Pond house.”

  1. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

4.9 stars, 16,424 reviews

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to thousands of sandstone spires known as hoodoos that create the unique landscape that Bryce is known for. Despite the name, Bryce Canyon National Park is actually not a canyon, but rather a series of amphitheaters that frame natural depressions from millions of years of erosion. “ I went here with this sort of [false] impression that I was to fill time at Bryce until I got to Zion, the clearly better park right? Wrong, a lot wrong…” posited one visitor. “I was totally blown away at this variety of plant life and vistas and turns and caves and everything else under the Utah sun. What a beautiful park and you’d be sorely disappointed to miss it.”

  1. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

4.9 stars, 18,048 reviews

With the lowest elevation resting at 7,860 feet and the highest point rising to 14,259 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park sits as the highest elevation of all the national parks in the country. The Trail Ridge Road running through the park has a high point of over 12,000 feet making it the highest paved roadway in the country. “Because of COVID, there is a reservation system in place to time when and how many people are in the park,” observed a recent reviewer. “This park is the cleanest, best maintained park I have ever been to. The staff is courteous and professional. I felt completely safe visiting there.”

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

4.9 stars, 38,354 reviews

With the highest star rating and second-highest number of reviews of all national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National park is the favorite national park from reviewers. It also happens to be the most visited park in the national park system with over 10 million visitors every year. The Smoky Mountains hold over 800 miles of trails through some of the most ancient mountains, dating back 200-300 million years, in the world. “Always a great and fun place to go,” recalled a recent visitor. “Always something new to see or do, and the surrounding nature and scenery seriously cannot compare to anything else in this world. The only downside to the park is it is always hard to find a place to park. Other than that, 10/10.”

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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