The 25 Best National Parks in the U.S.

These are the best national parks in the country, as voted by Travel + Leisure readers.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Photo: Sofia Jaramillo.

As far as classic American vacations go, it doesn't get much better than a visit to a national park. These parks, found in 30 states and stretching for millions of acres through arid deserts, lush forests, icy mountains, and the crystalline waters of the tropics, provide travelers with precisely what they need: inspiration. And in a time like now, it's no surprise that people are flocking to these outdoor bastions of hope. In 2021, total recreational visitors to the national parks system (including national forests, monuments, and scenic byways) hit nearly 300 million.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. U.S. national parks were rated on their natural attractions, activities, lodging, wildlife, accessibility, and cleanliness.

Travel + Leisure readers once again narrowed their focus to national parks in the American West, including Yosemite National Park in California, home to Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, and Katmai National Park in Alaska, which visitors raved over for its awe-inspiring views and ability to thrill. "Flying into this amazing park and walking along paths where grizzlies are also walking was one of the most amazing experiences of my life," one reader noted.

Though President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service on Aug. 25, 1916, the first U.S. National Park actually predates that. Yellowstone National Park — this year's No. 1 choice — was created by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Learn more about what makes this park so fantastic, and find out which other national parks made the cut, below.

1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

Yellowstone National Park
Sofia Jaramillo

March 1, 2022, marked the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Yellowstone National Park. It's a destination that seems to just get better — and more precious to protect — with time. It's a place where endangered animals and rare natural attractions abound, including more than 500 geysers. To help ensure this space remains the same for generations to come, the park set out "five major strategic priorities" in 2019, each meant to support the National Park Service's mission and each "critical to Yellowstone's success." The priorities include strengthening the Yellowstone ecosystem, delivering a world-class visitor experience through interactive exhibits, celebrating the Indigenous people who call the area home, and more. The park gained high praise from readers thanks to its wildlife, accessibility, and natural attractions, which are all well taken care of so this park can remain a reader's top choice for years to come.

Score: 91.69

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2. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grant Teton
Sofia Jaramillo

The mountaintops seem to graze the heavens at this gorgeous national park. Home to an array of wildlife, including its fair share of moose and more than 300 species of birds, Grand Teton is one that will take your breath away (and not just because of the altitude).

Score: 89.42

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3. Yosemite National Park, California

El Capitan in Yosemite National park, California
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Yosemite, a wilderness that covers 1,200 square miles, is worthy of endless exploration: wander through its plains, marvel at its waterfalls, and catch a glimpse of Half Dome at sunset.

Score: 88.67

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4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Beautiful view of meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park in autumn; mountains in background
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Attention, hikers: Rocky Mountain National Park is the park for you. Its 415 square miles include more than 300 miles of hiking trails that traverse diverse landscapes, from flower fields to craggy mountains.

Score: 88.17

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5. Glacier National Park, Montana

Logan Pass in Glacier National Park
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In 1910, when the park was first established, it was home to nearly 150 glaciers. Today, however, they are quickly melting into history, with just a few dozen remaining. Head there soon to catch a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse and spot a few fossils from the Cretaceous age.

Score: 88.14

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6. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park

Don Eim/Travel + Leisure

Let the majesty of Zion take your breath away. From its gorgeous sandstone cliffs to its narrow slot canyons, Zion is a place that leaves hearts pumping. "Wow, the views," one reader wrote. "The narrows were amazing. We hiked about 2.5 miles back with our three kids. They were begging to keep going. This will be a fond memory for all time."

Score: 86.44

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7. Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska

Bear at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska, United States Feeding on Salmon
Rebecca Harding/Getty Images

Katmai may be a gorgeous place, but it's not just all looks and no fun. The national park is home to thousands of brown bears, which are celebrated during the beloved Fat Bear Week each year, when a chunky new boy or girl is crowned the winner.

Score: 86.17

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8. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

The rugged coastline along the shores of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Daniel A. Leifheit/Getty Images

You don't need a special machine to time-travel; you just need to head to the Kenai Fjords. It's a space where the Ice Age still feels like the present reality and where visitors can trek across glaciers and spot moose, coyotes, and beavers along the way.

Score: 85.73

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9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
John A. Anderson/Getty Images

Sure, you may need to train a little to prepare to hike through the Great Smoky Mountains, but you may want to work out your "ooh" and "ahh" muscles as well, because this park is chock-full of astonishing vistas. "The Great Smoky Mountains is my favorite place to visit," one reader shared. "The scenery is awesome, the wildlife is plentiful and easy to spot, and there are so many attractions to visit. There is no place on Earth I would rather be."

Score: 85.51

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10. Olympic National Park, Washington

Black tailed deer meandering along Hurricane Ridge Trail in Olympic national park in Washington.
Nathaniel Gonzales/Getty Images

Social distancing has always been the name of the game at Olympic National Park. With nearly 1 million acres, it's a spot you can roam for days without another soul in sight.

Score: 85.21

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11. Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands

Virgin island lagoon and beach landscape in the tropics and mountains
Douglas Rissing/Getty Images

Not all national parks are made up of rugged mountains and pine trees. Just look to Virgin Islands National Park as the perfect example. This park is made up of sugar-sand beaches and bright-blue water. Go explore its coral reefs — just don't forget to bring some reef-safe sunscreen.

Score: 85.14

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12. Denali National Park, Alaska

Snowy mountain top view in Denali National Park
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The views in Denali National Park seem to go on for days — and that's because they do. With 6 million acres, the park is massive. Still, it's hard to miss its main attraction, Denali, which is North America's tallest peak at 20,310 feet.

Score: 84.91

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13. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Trees reflect in the water at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan
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Take a dip in one of the country's best national parks. Isle Royale offers water enthusiasts, including boaters, kayakers, and even scuba divers, something to rave about thanks to its Lake Superior access, which makes it the ideal spot to spend hot Michigan summers.

Score: 84.77

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14. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Person walking on edge of hiking path in Grand Canyon National Park
Kyle RM Johnson

Though it's not the oldest park, the Grand Canyon could be the poster child for all the others. Its dramatic views, incredible hiking trails, and rugged rivers make it a picture-perfect destination any time of year.

Score: 84.73

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15. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Glacier Bay cruise - Alaska nature landscape. Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, USA. Scenic view from cruise ship vacation Alaska travel showing mountain peaks and glaciers.
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Need more space to roam? Glacier Bay National Park covers 3.3 million acres and is part of a 25-million-square-mile World Heritage Site, which makes it one of the world's largest protected areas. You could return every day for a lifetime and never see enough.

Score: 84.62

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16. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Sunset of Kabetogama Lake in Voyageurs National Park
Kyle Kempf/Getty Images

Never heard of Voyageurs? That's what makes it so great. "Beautiful and off-the-beaten-path park in pristine wilderness, with few visitors," one reader said. "Most of the park is the lake, so a boat or kayak is a must. Wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, loons, and lots of fish are abundant. Unbeatable sunrise and sunset views. Lodging is limited, but it is an excellent camping destination."

Score: 84.39

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17. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier seen from Skyline Trail of Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park Washington
Alan Majchrowicz/Getty Images

If you love your national parks with a side of danger, Rainier is for you. At the center of it all is Mount Rainier, a still-active volcano. But don't let that fool you — this park also comes with plentiful wildflower meadows and colorful treetops to remind you of Mother Nature's softer side.

Score: 84.24

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18. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

General Sherman Tree in Kings Canyon National Park, California
Florian Schipflinger/Getty Images

Remind yourself how small you really are by paying a visit to Sequoia National Park. Home to towering giants, this park allows you to meander through the Sequoia groves and feel the wonderment of 3,000-year-old trees.

Score: 82.99

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19. Acadia National Park, Maine

Monument Beach on the coast of Acadia National Park
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Acadia has long been a T+L reader favorite for one main reason: It's absolutely stunning. "It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen so far," one reader said. "There is so much to do, and my whole family loved the adventure. We did hiking, trekking, went on the lobster boat, and dined in many amazing restaurants."

Score: 82.91

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20. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Road winds through the badland terrain of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Unit, in North Dakota
John Coletti/Getty Images

Walk one of the favorite paths of President Teddy Roosevelt. The park is the living embodiment of his conservation efforts and is a place where you can still see buffalo roam free.

Score: 82.00

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21. Redwood National Park, California

Northern California Redwood Forest Scenic Trail Path
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If the giant sequoias weren't enough, then it's time to make your way to Redwood National Forest, home to the tallest trees on the planet. See the trees, then take to the park's coastal edges for an equally alluring view.

Score: 81.83

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22. North Cascades National Park, Washington

A pair of Canada geese in flight over the North Cascades at sunrise, Washington State
Diana Robinson/Getty Images

North Cascades National Park is the spot to be if you need your parks packed with a variety of views and ecosystems. Find mountains, emerald-green lakes, meadows, and forests all in one spot.

Score: 81.21

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23. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

View from Blackrock Summit in Shenandoah National Park,VA
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Located close to the nation's capital, Shenandoah makes for an easy escape for city dwellers. "There's always something new to see or do," one reader said. "The fall colors are usually spectacular."

Score: 81.20

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24. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Point, canyon overlook covered in snow at sunrise
Gary Yeowell/Getty Images

Oh, you don't know what a "hoodoo" is? Head to Bryce Canyon to learn all about it. Hoodoos are irregular columns of rock, and you'll find Earth's largest concentration of them in this park.

Score: 81.09

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25. Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Sunset over Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Vijay Kannan/Getty Images

The saguaro cactus is a sight to behold. This towering behemoth can reach up to 16 feet tall and live for more than a century. In this park, you can pay your respects to many of them — just don't get too close, as they will leave you with thorny reminders of their presence.

Score: 80.23

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