Why We Can’t Pick a Favorite National Park

Being an openly avowed, self-proclaimed National Park Junkie, I open myself up to that ubiquitous question, “What’s your favorite park?” It happens often. Very often. Which is okay because I truly do love talking about our national parks. The problem is, it’s very difficult to answer. So, I hedge. I say things like, “The last one I visited.” “The next one I visit.” “I’ll just pick my first one because that’s where the love affair started.” However, sometimes the inquirers get frustrated with those answers because they are seeking, I surmise, information. They are probably really asking, “If I could only visit one national park, which one should it be?” Ahh, that’s just way too much pressure. If I can’t answer for me, I certainly cannot answer for you.

Instead, here’s a way to tackle that question.

When I travel to our national parks, I usually engage my fellow vacationers in a little game on the way home. It’s a “Name your Favorite….” game, and it attempts to categorize our favorite parts of the trip by asking a series of questions:
• Name your favorite day on the trip.
• Name your favorite hike.
• Name your favorite site.
• Name your favorite waterfall.
• Name your favorite meal.
• …etc.
You get the idea. The point is to break the trip down and reflect on it through categories. As the game nears exhaustion, the questions become more general to all of the parks, not just the one we departed.
• Name your favorite national park for hiking.
• Name your favorite national park for wildlife.
• Name your favorite national park for waterfalls.
• …etc.
Again, this runs until exhaustion, but it always evades that ONE overarching question, “Name your favorite national park.” We just know that can’t be answered, at least unconditionally.

We know we love them all, and we love them for many different reasons.

So now, I will try my best to answer the Name your Favorite Park question in a variety of random categories. If you are looking to visit a national park, perhaps the categories would be beneficial to you. If you’ve already visited many parks, perhaps it will be fun for you to play!
PLEASE NOTE: I have not visited all 59 U.S. National Parks. I’ve been to 27 parks, some of them multiple times. My answers are limited to the parks I’ve visited.
Here you go….in no particular order.

Favorite park for pure hiking: Glacier
Favorite visitor’s center in a park: The Trail Ridge Road Visitor Center, Rocky Mountain
Favorite park for wildlife viewing: Yellowstone; Glacier
Favorite park for exotic wildlife viewing: Everglades
Favorite park for waterfalls: Yosemite
Favorite park for seeing bears: Glacier (planning a trip to Katmai, though!)
Favorite park for seeing whales: Kenai Fjords; Acadia
Favorite park for seeing moose: Glacier
Favorite park for lake hikes: Glacier; Rocky Mountain
Favorite mountain views in a park: Denali; Grand Teton; Rocky Mountain
Favorite activity in a park: ATVing/Rocky Mountain; Rafting/Yellowstone; train ride/Denali
Favorite gateway town to a park: Springdale, UT (Zion); Estes Park, CO (Rocky Mountain)
Favorite park lodge: Grand Canyon; Zion
Favorite park for glaciers: Glacier Bay
Favorite local beer to have in a park: Alaskan Summer Ale/Denali; HooDoo Kolsch/Bryce
Favorite park shuttle system: Zion
Favorite park for forest hiking: Great Smoky Mountains; Sequoia
Favorite high-point viewing in a park: Glacier Point, Yosemite
Favorite star gazing: Yellowstone; Bryce Canyon
Favorite park to take photos: All the Utah parks due to the red rocks and brilliant blue skies
Favorite park for seeing the sun rise: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands; Bryce Canyon
Favorite park for seeing the sun set: Beaver Marsh, Cuyahoga Valley; Zion
Favorite dessert near a park: Park Café (homemade pie), Glacier
Favorite pizza near a park: Pizza Noodle (Springdale, UT), Zion
Best brewery near a park: Moab Brewery, Canyonlands/Arches; Zion Brew Pub
Favorite landscape: Badlands; King’s Canyon; Arches; Yosemite
Favorite variety in ecosystems: Olympic (rainforest, mountains, ocean beaches)
Most crowded trails: Great Smoky Mountains; Yosemite; Zion
Most remote trails: Glacier
Favorite drive through a park: King’s Canyon; Denali; Glacier; Arches (so many!)
Favorite moment of awe and surprise: Of course there are several. In order of how I visited them: Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton; Grand Canyon; Badlands; Bryce Canyon; Mount Rainier; Delicate Arch, Arches; Mt. Denali, Denali; Glacier Point, Yosemite

Go ahead and answer your own based on national parks you’ve visited. It’s nearly impossible to just pick an overall favorite, and even this method was difficult. I suppose if you ask me the same questions in a week, my answers may just change! The truth is you can’t go wrong visiting any of the parks. You will simply be awed by all of them. I can say that unconditionally!