The Best National Parks Aren't the Most Popular Ones, New Data Shows

A new ranking of national parks is missing some well-known names.

Man in red jacket exploring a forest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park | Sam Spicer/Moment/Getty Images
Shenandoah National Park | Sam Spicer/Moment/Getty Images

When it comes to our national parks, there's definitely something of a hierarchy not too unlike Hollywood. On the A-list, of course, it's hard to compete with stars like Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Zion, and Yosemite. These parks are stunning for a reason, but their icon status means they are also very popular among visitors, which can make the experience of going there a crowded, less-than-ideal experience.

The crowds at some of these popular parks is a big reason why a new ranking of the nation's top national parks is missing some familiar names among the top 10. In honor of National Parks Week, travel guide website Travel Lemming has just ranked all 63 national parks across six factors including affordability, accessibility, biodiversity, reviews, weather, and—most devastatingly for the likes of Yellowstone—crowds.

The result of this exercise was a top 10 dominated by mostly lesser-known parks, including Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, which won high scores for its affordability, accessibility, and biodiversity. 

Here are the top 10, according to the data:

1. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
2. North Cascades National Park (Washington)
3. Biscayne National Park (Florida)
4 (tie). Kings Canyon National Park (California)
4 (tie). Sequoia National Park (California)
6. Everglades National Park (Florida)
7. Big Bend National Park (Texas)
8. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
9. Death Valley National Park (California/Nevada)
10. Channel Islands National Park (California)

As you can see, California also fared well overall in the ranking, landing four parks among the top 10, though Joshua Tree was not among them (coming in 25th overall due to lower ratings for its affordability, biodiversity, and crowds). Other popular parks named above (Yellowstone, Zion, and Yosemite) came in 23rd, 26th, and 34th, respectively.

To check out the full ranking of national parks, head to this website.

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Joe Erbentraut is the Editorial Director of News at Thrillist. Follow Joe on Twitter.