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The best national parks, as rated by people who visited them

Many of the highest-rated national parks are not exactly well-known or highly visited.

New River Gorge National Park vista
A child stands at an overlook at West Virginia's New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, which received the highest rating among all 57 national parks by the people who visited and filled-out questionnaires.
Contributed / National Park Service

DULUTH — You know those questionnaires you often get while traveling, asking you to rate your visit? Now someone has taken a deep dive into the answers people gave when they visited U.S. national parks.

As millions of Americans make plans to visit national parks this summer, many have a bucket list of parks they want to see. Yellowstone is probably on many, along with Glacier and Yosemite and maybe Grand Canyon.

water falls at New River Gorge National Park
A waterfall at New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia.
Contributed / National Park Service

And while there are scores of lists of the “best” and most beautiful parks, and lists of parks that other travelers feel everyone must see, this new list comes from the people who actually visited these places and is based on the experience they had while there.

You might be surprised by which of the 57 parks were rated highest by their visitors, and you might see some parks on this list that you have never heard of. In fact, it may well be because some of these parks are a little less visited that people rated them so high.

The study, commissioned by online gambling service CasinoBonusCA, analyzed publicly available data obtained from the National Parks Service and then ranked them based on how many people rated their park experience "very good" — the highest possible rating — based on the overall quality of facilities, services and recreational opportunities.


top rated national parks
Several of the top-10 national parks, as rated by people who visited them, are not among the most famous in the U.S.
Contributed / CasinoBonusCA

Here are the top 10 highest-rated national parks in the country:

  1. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia came in on top. Known for its variety of available activities and stunning views, this park received an 87.76% “very good” rating, the highest of any park in the country in overall quality. (The park was upgraded for a National River to a National Park in 2021.)
  2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico came in at No. 2 with 86.4% visitors ranking it "very good." One of the best-preserved cave complexes in the world, the park features a network of over 119 caves.
  3. Close behind in third place is Lewis and Clark National Historic Park in Oregon with a 86.1 rating. The Pacific Coast park combines stunning vistas, abundant recreational opportunities, the rich cultural heritage of the native coastal people, and the dramatic story of America's most famous explorers, featuring 12 sites along 40 miles of coastline.
  4. Acadia National Park in Maine ranks fourth on the list with a "very good" response rate of 82.02. (Acadia is the busiest park high on the list with 4 million visitors annually.)
  5. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska with a 85.95 rating.
  6. Congaree National Park in South Carolina with a 85.05 rating.
  7. Arches National Park in Utah with a 84.38 rating.
  8. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska with a 83.86 rating.
  9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, with a 83.09 rating. (Another very busy park.) 
  10. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with a 83.36 rating.
National Parks ranked.jpg
Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Yellowstone came in way down at 39th and Glacier at 42nd.

Closer to home, Voyageurs National Park on the Minnesota/Ontario border ranked 16th out of 57 with a rating of 78.3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota ranked 30th with a rating of 73.97 and Isle Royale National park on Lake Superior ranked 35th with a 72.87 rating.

more by john myers
Baker, 20, may be the youngest of about two-dozen charter fishing captains that operate out of Duluth each summer.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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