Top 10 National Recreation Areas

Mostly centered around reservoirs, the National Recreation Areas are best known for their water-based activities.  However, the hiking trails, historic sites, and scenery are also unparalleled.  Only 20 of the 43 National Recreation Areas in the United States are managed by the National Park Service (NPS), so we will have to make a separate list someday for those administered by the U.S. Forest Service.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity (California)

Four scenic waterfalls are accessible by hiking a total of 11 miles around Whiskeytown Lake

9. Gateway (New York-New Jersey)

Fort Wadsworth, Sandy Hook Lighthouse, Floyd Bennett Field, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and beaches

8. Boston Harbor Islands (Massachusetts)

Every island offers a different experience, including some that allow camping

7. Amistad (Texas)

Fossils and 4,000-year-old pictographs await onshore of this lake shared with Mexico

6. Delaware Water Gap (Pennsylvania)

Raymondskill Falls and Dingmans Falls are located at the end of short hikes in the Poconos

5. Glen Canyon (Arizona-Utah)

Explore slot canyons and Rainbow Bridge National Monument by boat on Lake Powell

4. Big South Fork (Tennessee-Kentucky)

Yahoo Falls and Twin Arches are two interesting destinations located along its 400 miles of trails

3. Bighorn Canyon (Wyoming-Montana)

In addition to the narrow lake surrounded by soaring walls, nice trails explore above the cliffs

2. Lake Chelan (Washington)

The Cascade Mountains are named for their waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls in scenic Stehekin

…and finally the #1 National Recreation Area:

1. Lake Mead (Nevada-Arizona)

More than just the Hoover Dam; hot springs and canyons invite exploration

Honorable Mentions

Golden Gate (California)

Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and the Presidio are just three parts of this most-visited of all NPS sites

Ross Lake (Washington)

Stunning mountain scenery abounds in this area neighboring North Cascades National Park and Canada

Chickasaw (Oklahoma)

A bison herd and several beautiful natural springs, like Buffalo Springs

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