Category Archives: List

Top 10 Patriotic NPS Sites

The National Park Service (NPS) system preserves some of the most important locations in American history.  Visiting many of these sites has left us feeling very patriotic and proud to be citizens of the United States of America.  Here is a list of our favorite patriotic NPS sites (click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists).

10. Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah)

On May 10, 1869 Americans (mostly immigrants) completed the monumental task to lay 1,776 miles of railroad track linking west to east

9. Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

“The shot heard ’round the world” happened here, but the events really started in nearby Boston National Historical Park

8. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland)

A huge American flag flies over the site that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem in 1814

7. Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

We found the story of freezing and starving American troops more patriotic than nearby Independence National Historical Park where aristocrats signed a piece of paper

6. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

“Double Victory” was the goal of these civil rights pioneers, who never would have flown if not for…

5. Wright Brothers National Memorial (North Carolina)

…the momentous 12-second flight that occurred here on December 17, 1903

4. Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (California)

America was successful during World War II because every citizen made sacrifices for the greater good

3. National Mall (District of Columbia)

The nation’s front lawn is home to the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and numerous other American monuments

2. Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York-New Jersey)

Lady Liberty is beautifully symbolic, but Ellis Island represents the gritty truth of the American dream

…and finally the #1 patriotic NPS site:

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Inspiring during the day, but for the full effect do not miss the Evening Lighting Ceremony offered May through September

Honorable Mentions

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (Oregon-Washington)

There are numerous good museums celebrating the Corps of Discovery along the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail that ends here on the Pacific Coast

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)

A 352-foot tall memorial tower celebrates less the naval victory of 1813 and more so the world’s longest undefended international border

Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)

Victory at Yorktown ended the Revolutionary War in 1781 near Jamestown, site of the first successful British colony in America

Top 10 National Seashores

There are exactly 10 National Seashores in the National Park Service (NPS) system, so choosing which ones to put in the Top 10 was not difficult.  However, they are all similar, so ranking them was tricky.  Also, without anything to put in the Honorable Mentions category, we decided to rank the three remaining National Lakeshores (after Indiana Dunes became a National Park in 2019).  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

There was a ton of plastic debris washed up on the beach, though the sea turtles did not seem to mind

9. Canaveral National Seashore (Florida)

Apollo Beach was too steep to lie down on, but we did see our first manatee in Mosquito Lagoon

8. Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts)

Great white sharks might keep swimmers out of the water, but there are some nice hiking trails

7. Fire Island National Seashore (New York)

This roadless area is most easily accessed by ferry from Long Island

Tiff with the lighthouse

6. Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)

Known for its lighthouses, beachside campgrounds, and good swimming conditions

5. Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland-Virginia)

Wild ponies are its most famous residents, but also home to seahorses and other marine animals

4. Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

Watch for gray whales and elephant seals in the winter along the foggy Pacific coast

3. Cape Lookout National Seashore (North Carolina)

You will need a boat to access these barrier islands, a great place to camp and collect shells

2. Cumberland Island National Seashore (Georgia)           

Take the ferry for a daytrip or an overnight camping experience, and hunt for fossilized shark teeth

…and finally the #1 National Seashore:

1. Gulf Islands National Seashore (Florida-Mississippi)

Beautiful white sand beaches and interesting historic forts make this our favorite spot

Top 3 National Lakeshores

3. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan)

Most of the sand dunes are covered by forest at this spot known for its fishing and canoeing

2. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

We will never forget kayaking through the Petit Portal along the cliffs of Lake Superior

1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

Sea caves carved by Lake Superior’s waves and island campsites are the biggest draw

Top 10 NPS Sites for Hiking

Some of the best places to hike in the entire United States of America lie within our National Park Service (NPS) system.  We already ranked the best places to hike within the 63 National Parks, so in this Top 10 list we focus on the best of the rest.  We decided to leave off the 2,185-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail that runs from Maine to Georgia (one of three long trails managed by the NPS).  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Kentucky-Tennessee-Virginia)

85 miles of trails lead to Tri-State Peak, Wilderness Road, Hensley Settlement, and Gap Cave

9. Mojave National Preserve (California)

Rings Loop Trail requires metal handholds to navigate a narrow canyon, plus climb Kelso Dunes

8. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania)

Short hikes lead to Raymondskill and Dingmans Falls, or summit Mt. Minsi on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail

7. Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah)

A nine-mile loop hike connects all three natural bridges, also accessible individually by shorter trails

6. Navajo National Monument (Arizona)

Canyon hiking (or backpacking) is required to access the Ancestral Puebloan ruins protected here

5. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)

There is no shade in this stark yet beautiful landscape, except inside the lava tubes

4. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (Oregon)

After a cave tour continue on the Cliff Nature Trail and hike the Big Tree Trail up to the largest diameter Douglas-fir tree in Oregon

3. Colorado National Monument (Colorado)

Many colorful canyon hikes, plus the Serpents Trail once known as the “Crookedest Road in the World”

2. Lake Chelan National Recreation Area (Washington)

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is just one scenic option through here and adjoining North Cascades National Park

…and finally the #1 NPS site for hiking:

1. Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)

We recommend an all-day loop hike through Echo Canyon to the Heart of Rocks Loop

Honorable Mentions

Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

The volcanic plug looks different from every angle on the Joyner Ridge, Red Beds, and Tower Trails

Muir Woods National Monument (California)

Only six miles of trails through towering coast redwoods, but they connect with Mount Tamalpais State Park

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Not just for canoeing, trails access Hideout Hollow, Hawksbill Crag, and Hemmed-In-Hollow

Top 10 of the 63 National Parks for Hiking

Some of the best places to hike in the entire United States of America lie within our 63 National Parks.  When we wrote our guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon), we had a hard time choosing only two favorite trails for each park.  So in this Top 10 list we are simply going to list all of the hikes we like in each of the selected National Parks (with roundtrip mileage in parentheses).  We also ranked the best places to hike within the other National Park Service sites (click here to see all our Top 10 Lists).

10. Shenandoah (Virginia)

Old Rag (7.1 miles) Dark Hollow Falls (1.4) Little Stony Man Cliffs (0.9) Jones Run Falls (3.4) Cedar Run-Whiteoak Circuit (8.2) Appalachian National Scenic Trail

9. Pinnacles (California)

Bear Gulch (2.2) High Peaks Trail (5.3) Balconies Cave (2.4) North Chalone Peak (9.0) North Wilderness (9.3)

8. Glacier (Montana)

Avalanche Lake (4.0) Hidden Lake Overlook (3.0) Iceberg Lake (9.6) Grinnell Lake (6.8) Two Medicine Loop (21.0) Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

7. Isle Royale (Michigan)

Stoll (5.0) Suzy’s Cave (7.4) Mt. Franklin (4.0) Greenstone Ridge (42.2) Minong Ridge (9.4)

6. Zion (Utah)

Observation Point (8.0) Angels Landing (5.4) The Narrows (4.0+) Canyon Overlook (1.0) Kolob Arch (14.0)

5. Yosemite (California)

Mariposa Grove (6.9) Upper Yosemite Falls (7.2) Nevada Falls (5.0) Tuolumne Grove (2.5) Wapama Falls (5.0) Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

4. Big Bend (Texas)

Mariscal Canyon Rim (6.6) Santa Elena Canyon (1.7) Window (4.0) Hot Springs (1.0) Grapevine Hills (2.2)

3. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

Adams Falls (0.6) Mt. Ida (10.0) Dream Lake (2.2) Sky Pond (9.8) Ouzel Falls (5.4) Spectacle Lakes (11.0) Lost Lake (15.6) Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

2. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Ramsey Cascades (8.0) Look Rock (1.8) Laurel Falls (2.6) Clingman’s Dome (0.5) Hen Wallow Falls (4.4) Alum Cave (4.4) Chimney Tops (10.0) Appalachian National Scenic Trail

…and finally the #1 National Park for hiking:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Upper Geyser Basin (2.0+) Brink of Lower Falls (0.8) Mt. Washburn (6.2) Lone Star Geyser (4.8) Fairy Falls (7.0) Sky Rim (16.0) Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Honorable Mentions

Acadia (Maine)

Precipice (2.5) Beehive (1.6) Jordan Pond (3.2) Ocean Path (4.4) Beech Mountain (1.1) Schoodic Head (2.5)

Arches (Utah)

Delicate Arch (3.0) Double Arch (0.5) Devils Garden (7.2) Broken Arch (1.3) Tower Arch (3.4)

Lassen Volcanic (California)

Bumpass Hell (3.0) Lassen Peak (5.0) Devils Kitchen (4.2) Cinder Cone (4.0) Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Top 10 Natural Bridges/Arches at NPS Sites

Although they look similar and are often listed together, arches are primarily wind formed, while natural bridges are carved by flowing water (though few still have water running beneath them).  The burnt-orange sandstone of southern Utah is famous for its numerous holes in the rock, as evidenced by the list below.  However, there are some other notable instances of these geologic features located throughout the National Park Service (NPS) system.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Channel Islands National Park (California)

A ferry ride out to Anacapa Island will swing by Arch Rock rising out of the Pacific Ocean

9. Zion National Park (Utah)

310-foot Kolob Arch is tucked against a cliff, so it is hard to see and harder to photograph

8. Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah)

You can drive right up to the natural limestone Chinese Arch

7. Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

Brimhall Natural Bridge is not easy to get to (it may require a swim), but it is incredible

6. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

It is a challenging eight miles roundtrip to kayak through Petit Portal on Lake Superior

5. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Seeing Druid Arch and Angel Arch requires two long day hikes, but both are worth the effort

4. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (Tennessee-Kentucky)

It is an easy two-mile hike to see the massive Twin Arches (which are actually natural bridges)

3. Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah)

Three impressive natural bridges, including the 268-foot span of 220-foot tall Sipapu Bridge, which is second only to…

2. Rainbow Bridge National Monument (Utah)

290-foot tall Rainbow Bridge (the largest natural bridge in the world) is surrounded by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

…and finally the #1 NPS site for natural bridges or arches:

1. Arches National Park (Utah)

This park contains 2,500 wind-carved holes ranging in size from a minimum of three feet to 290-foot wide Landscape Arch (the fifth longest span in the world)

Honorable Mentions

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

No surprise that you can also find these impressive geologic features in the fifth National Park in southern Utah

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Balanced Rock does not technically count as either an arch or a natural bridge, but it is neat

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

Holei Sea Arch still exists but its access trail was destroyed by lava flows

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

The sea caves were formed by wave action on Lake Superior