Love Hiking? Here are the Top 10 Best National Parks to Visit
See how all 63 national parks rank for hiking.
National parks are a national treasure—and Americans know it.
In fact, the National Park Service saw 312 million recreation visits in 2022 (that’s up 15 million visitors from the previous year!), and almost half of Americans (48%) say visiting the national parks is on their bucket list.
National parks help preserve and protect many of our nation’s stunning natural landscapes, so we can behold the beauty for years to come—often through one of thousands of breathtaking hikes.
With summer coming up and kicking off (unofficially) with Memorial Day weekend in May, we wanted to dig into data and find the top 10 best national parks for hiking to help Americans discover their next adventure.
Which National Parks are the Best for Hiking?
With so many show-stopping trails in the U.S. National Park System (over 44,000 combined miles of them!), we knew we needed to narrow it down.
To find our top national parks for hiking, we looked at several metrics: high number of trails, miles of trails, and a high average trail rating score. We also found the crowd density in each park by comparing the average number of daily visitors with the acreage of the park.
Here’s what we found!
The Top-10 Best National Parks for Hiking
Yosemite National Park takes our #1 slot with 278 trails, 4,729 miles of trail, and a 4.56 average trail rating. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite is known for its iconic and striking Half Dome, tall waterfalls, and giant Sequoia trees.
Let’s dig into a more detailed breakdown of parks ranked by number of trails, miles of trails, and annual visitors!
Which National Parks Have the Most Trails?
The national park system offers a tremendous total of 4,155 trails. Even if you ambitiously decided to hike one each day with no days off, you’d need a whopping 11 years to do it!
But if you’re looking for hiking options for the whole family, choosing a park with a high number of trails is a smart way to ensure there’s something for everyone.
Which National Parks Have the Most Miles of Trails?
When mileage matters most (or you’re just hoping to get your steps in!) choosing a park with plenty of miles of trails might be your best bet.
With an impressive 44,370 combined miles of trails within national parks, you certainly won’t be short of options. The longest trail in the National Park System is the North Country Trail—spanning 4,600 miles across eight states!
Which National Parks Get the Most Visitors?
Great Smoky Mountains National Park topped our list as the most visited, receiving almost 3 times as many visitors as the second most-visited national park, Grand Canyon National Park!
As you plan your next national park adventure, you may or may not want a lot of people around for the party. Here are the parks with the most visitors in 2022.
Every National Park Ranked for Hiking
Here are our rankings of all 63 national parks based on our metrics. Total mileage was rounded up to the nearest whole mile for the purposes of the table.
As a note, our rankings are based on specific metrics, but everyone’s priorities are unique! So when it comes time for your national parks trip, feel free to reference this list while ultimately choosing the parks that most inspire you. We feel every national park is worth a visit!
Final Thoughts & Tips for Hiking in the National Parks
Now that you’ve discovered more info about some of our nation’s top national parks, here are a few tips on how to prepare for a visit to your bucket-list destination!
- Do your research. Before you leave, we recommend planning your trip in advance by researching weather, trails you want to prioritize, trail difficulty, length, bathroom stops, and finding any needed lodging.
- Wear supportive footwear. Bring a pair or two of comfortable, supportive shoes with plenty of traction, as you could walk many miles per day as you explore.
- Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water to get you through long days. It’s smart for each person to wear a hydration pack along with additional bottles of water if needed.
- Use sun protection. When in the sun, apply sunscreen every two hours, wear a hat and sunglasses, and wear moisture-wicking clothing with as much coverage as possible.
- Bring a first-aid kit. On the trail, you might not have immediate access to medical care, so bring a kit with you that includes the basics (think disinfectant, bandaids, ace bandage, etc.) until you can get more help.
Whichever park you decide on, we hope you have a spectacular visit!
Methodology and Sources
We used Alltrails to find all of the available trails in each of the 63 National Parks, and analyzed them based on the following metrics:
- Number of Trails (Total)
- Total Distance of Trails (in Miles)
- Average Trail Rating (1-5 Scale)
- Number of Annual Visitors (2021)
- Acreage of the National Park (Public Areas Only)
These variables were weighted as follows to achieve our final scores and subsequent rankings:
- (40%) Number of Trails
- (35%) Miles of Trail
- (20%) Average Trail Rating
- (5%) Park Crowd Levels
Each metric was normalized on a 0-1 scale with 1 corresponding to the measurement that would most positively affect the final score. These adjusted measurements were then added together with the weights mentioned above to get a score of 100.
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