Chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best
10thLassen Volcanic National Park
A dormant plug dome volcano stands guard over Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northeastern California. Today, the peak is quiet, but as recently as 1921, it was spewing a steady stream of ash, steam and lava, peaking in 1915 with six-mile-high mushroom clouds. Visiting the park is a study in the inner workings of the planet, as the landscape is dotted with mud pits, hot springs, sulfur vents and the barren expanse of the Devastated Area.
Photo courtesy of Lassen Volcanic National Park
9thZion National Park
Utah's first national park is also one of its greatest. More than 100 miles of trails take visitors through an array of natural wonders, from the 16 miles of slot canyons known as The Narrows to the head-spinning heights of majestic Angel's Landing. Giant sandstone canyons, striated in a rainbow of color, rise 2,000 feet above river valleys - a testament to the power of natural forces at work on our planet.
Photo courtesy of Name_Thats_Not_Taken/iStock
8thBlue Ridge Parkway
Under the purview of the National Park Service, the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway winds for 469 miles through the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Appalachian Highlands, connecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina with Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. While at its prettiest when painted with fall color, this iconic American drive is a destination in its own right - and one of the most visited places in the national park system.
Photo courtesy of Dave Allen Photography/iStock
7thEverglades National Park
Florida's Everglades National Park protects what Harry Truman once called "an irreplaceable primitive area" - the largest subtropical wilderness in the USA. For wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers, this place is a gold mine, home to several endangered species, including manatees, Florida panthers and American crocodiles. With 1.5 million acres, there's a lot to see, and luckily, lots of ways to see it, including on foot or by bike or canoe.
Photo courtesy of L.Coldiron/Everglades National Park
6thGrand Teton National Park
Towering over Jackson, in the Snake River Valley of Wyoming, the peaks of Grand Teton National Park seem all the more dramatic due to the lack of any foothills to ease the transition. Twelve summits rise above 12,000 feet, and with extensive hiking trails and sparser crowds than nearby Yellowstone, it's easy to get off the beaten path, where bald eagle, elk, bear and moose spottings are possible.
Photo courtesy of kwiktor/iStock
5thBig Bend National Park
In the far west of Texas lies Big Bend National Park, protecting a 801,16-acre swathe of the Chihuahuan Desert along the Rio Grande. With landscapes ranging from the Chisos Mountains rising 8,000 feet in the air to flat, sun-baked deserts replete with a diversity of species uniquely adapted to the arid climate, Big Bend enjoys some of the most dramatic geological diversity of any National Park.
Photo courtesy of nickrlake/iStock
4thYosemite National Park
In few other places on the planet can you stand in one spot and see so many natural wonders. Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, the Merced River, Sentinel Dome, Bridalveil Falls ... the list goes on and on. Despite the 4 million visitors who come each year to the nation's third oldest national park, it remains a bucket list-worthy American experience.
Photo courtesy of bryndin/iStock
3rdYellowstone National Park
America's first national park is also one of its most iconic. Home to the world's largest collection of geysers, including the famous Old Faithful, Yellowstone attracts some 3 million visitors a year to its bizarre geological formations and teeming wildlife, including bison, bear, bighorn sheep, trumpeter swans, moose, elk and river otter.
Photo courtesy of CdeBruijn/iStock
2ndGlacier National Park
Covering more than 1 million acres, Glacier National Park in Montana has something for everyone. Hikers come to explore the 700-mile network of trails. Road trippers and motorcyclists come to ride the curves of Going-to-the-Sun Road, and engineers come to marvel at it. The massive, snowy peaks of the Continental Divide hide azure alpine lakes, colorful patches of wildflowers and the occasional cascading waterfall.
Photo courtesy of Bkamprath/iStock
1stAcadia National Park
Highlighting the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia National Park spans 49,600 acres and diverse habitats - granite mountains, sandy beaches, lakes, ponds and woodlands - much of it on Mount Desert Island. Some 125 miles of scenic trails wind throughout the park, with an additional 57 miles of carriage roads for biking. The 20-mile Park Loop Road winds toward the summit of Cadillac Mountain, so visitors need not leave the car to enjoy the views. Jordan Pond is a favorite for lunch.
Photo courtesy of lightphoto/iStock
Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Big Bend round out top five
Our readers were passionate in their voting for Best National Park. This contest, which coincided with high season for park visits, saw a lot of campaigning on social media by fans of the nominees. In the end, Maine's stunning Acadia National Park takes the prize as #1.
Located east of Bangor, Acadia takes up much of Mount Desert Island, the easternmost point in the continental USA. Over 27 years, industrial philanthropist John D. Rockefeller built 45 miles of rustic carriage roads and bridges throughout the park, an infrastructure which transformed a beautiful setting in a way that maximized its scenic vistas and gave access to its prominent natural features. Those roads remain an integral part of how the park is enjoyed today.
The other winners span the country, literally from coast to coast. East of the Mississippi, #1 Acadia is joined by #7 Everglades National Park and #8, the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Park Service unit which our expert panel said must be included on the nominee list. The remaining seven winners were all in the western USA, the portion of the country where most canyons, unique rock formations and volcanoes are found.
The winners in the 'Best National Park' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice are as follows:
Thanks to our expert panel, authors David and Kay Scott, who have been traveling to and writing about national parks for four decades. And a congratulations to our winning parks and the National Park Service for doing such an amazing job in maintaining them.
To learn more about our national parks, visit Experience America.
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