Tag Archives: Top 10

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

Top 10 Blog Posts from Our Third 100

To celebrate reaching the milestone of our 300th blog post, we are linking to our top 10 posts from 201-300 based on number of likes.  Click here to see our Top 10 from the first 100 and 200 (or click here if you want to see all of our Top 10 Lists).  Thank you to our readers for continuing to inspire us to visit new National Park Service (NPS) units and share the wonders with you all. 

Our first hardcopy guidebook to the National Parks was released in November 2019.  We are currently working on a guidebook for the 155 U.S. National Forests.

10. George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

9. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (Texas)

8. Little River Canyon National Preserve (Alabama)

7. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

6. Joshua Tree National Park (California)

5. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (Georgia)

4. Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)

3. Saguaro National Park (Arizona)

2. Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)

…and finally the #1 most popular blog post from our third 100:

1. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Honorable Mention

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve (West Virginia, renamed December 27, 2020)

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Top 10 African American NPS Sites

Civil Rights leaders and African American pioneers are remembered at numerous sites in the National Park Service (NPS) system.  All February we have been adding posts about sites dedicated to famous Americans in honor of Black History Month.  Below is a ranking of our favorite places that we have visited.  Click here to check out all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

This Victorian townhouse served as headquarters for the National Council of Negro Women (1943-66)

9. African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)

A memorial to the African slaves and freedmen that lived in New York City in the 1700s

8. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia)

Tour the 28-room home of an African American philanthropist in Richmond

7. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Be sure to stop at Frederick’s original man cave “The Growlery” after your tour inside his home

6. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park (Maryland)

A museum opened here in 2017 to interpret this incredible woman’s life

5. Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Learn about the daily life of a slave in antebellum Virginia who grew up to found Tuskegee Institute

4. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (Kansas)

Thought-provoking exhibits fill the classrooms of an old school in Topeka

3. George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

The story of a Renaissance Man born a slave in southwestern Missouri

2. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Learn about school integration at the visitor center kitty-corner from this architectural beauty

…and finally our #1 African American NPS site:

1. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

Civil Rights pioneers in the military are celebrated at this site created in 1998

Honorable Mentions

There are seven new National Monuments created in the last decade dedicated to African American history that we look forward to visiting:

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument (Alabama)

Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument (Kentucky)

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Ohio)

Freedom Riders National Monument (Alabama)

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (New York)

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Reconstruction Era National Monument (South Carolina)