top three national parks

Travel Publication Names Top Three National Parks, and No. 2 May Surprise You

In a recent study, online travel publication Travel Lens announced its top three national parks. Of course, the United States is home to many national parks—over 400—so the options are seemingly endless, and each one has its perks. But Travel Lens only looked at 62 of the parks in its study. To determine the top dogs, the publication looked at entrance fees, the number of visitors, their proximity to nearby cities, and reviews from TripAdvisor.

The top slot went to Tennessee and North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, scoring 8.45 out of 10. Travel Lens said, "Great Smoky Mountains National park, which sits on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, ranked highly across all our sections, recording the most recreational visitors out of all of our national parks, with over 14 million visitors. The Great Smoky Mountains also had the second-highest percentage of reviews that mention the word 'beautiful.'"

The No. 2 slot was bestowed upon Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, ranking 8.16 out of 10. "Despite being one of the smaller national parks on our list, with an area of just 131.8km², there are still plenty of things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park," Travel Lens said. "The Ohio-based national park also boasts a free entrance fee, meaning anyone can go and enjoy it, as well as a short distance to its closest city. Just three miles separate Cuyahoga Valley and Peninsula."

Rounding out the top three is Washington state's Olympic, with a 7.75. According to Travel Lens, "The Washington-based national park is just 1.8 miles away from Port Angeles, its closest city. Olympic National Park also has 45 percent of its reviews mentioning the word 'beautiful,' making it a great place to enjoy some scenery. However, it does come at a cost, with a $15 entrance fee."

Other parks that made it to the top 10 were Biscayne, Hot Springs, Glacier, Zion, New River Gorge, Grand Teton and Indiana Dunes. Surprisingly, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Yellowstone, and Yosemite were much farther down the list. However, Yosemite did rank No. 1 for best hiking. Other parks topping out the best activities slots were Olympic for camping, New River Gorge for fishing, Joshua Tree for climbing, Everglades for birdwatching, Glacier for canoeing and kayaking, Grand Teton for skiing and snowshoeing, Yellowstone for seeing wildlife, and Acadia for biking.