Tag Archives: Top 10

Top 20 National Parks for Photography

The 63 National Parks in the United States are among the most photogenic places on the planet, so this was our hardest Top 10 List to choose.  Instead, for the first time we ranked the top 20!  We still had to leave off some all-time favorites, which says something about the natural beauty of this country.  We previously released a ranking of the top 20 photography destinations among the other National Park Service sites.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Arches (Utah)

There are too many fantastic sandstone wonders to count in this park

9. Channel Islands (California)

Giant coreopsis provide nests for western sea gulls atop rocky cliffs rising from the ocean

8. Katmai (Alaska)

Alpine scenery and Brooks Falls, the world-famous salmon fishing grounds of grizzly/brown bears

7. Great Basin (Nevada)

Cave formations, snow-covered peaks, and photogenic bristlecone pine trees

6. Haleakalā (Hawai‘i)

People come from around the globe to watch the sunrise and hike rainbow-hued Sliding Sands Trail

5. Badlands (South Dakota)

Awesome geologic features and a surprising diversity of large mammals

4. Dry Tortugas (Florida)

Fish teem in the turquoise ocean water surrounding a picturesque brick fort

3. Bryce Canyon (Utah)

Bright orange hoodoos fill this giant natural amphitheater that lights up at sunrise and sunset

2. Death Valley (California)

With little vegetation, the earth is laid bare here in all its raw and colorful glory

…and finally the #1 National Park for Photography:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Unbelievably colorful geothermal features and numerous charismatic wild animals

The Next 10

11. Grand Canyon (Arizona)

12. Yosemite (California)

13. Denali (Alaska)

14. Mesa Verde (Colorado)

15. Grand Teton (Wyoming)

16. Great Sand Dunes (Colorado)

17. Mount Rainier (Washington)

18. Glacier Bay (Alaska)

19. Glacier (Montana)

20. Virgin Islands (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Top 10 Most Depressing National Park Service Sites

Depression is not usually celebrated, but sometimes it is important to remember the terrible events that happened in the past.  You can either choose to avoid these National Park Service (NPS) sites or learn from them.  Southwest Pennsylvania is somewhat famous in the NPS for having three sites with an unpleasant history.  Click here to see all of our other Top 10 Lists, which are much more uplifting!

10. Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Following a devastating 1847 measles epidemic , 13 missionaries were killed by grieving Cayuse families

9. River Raisin National Battlefield Park (Michigan)

American prisoners were slaughtered here during the War of 1812

8. Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers was assassinated for his civil rights work

7. Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

The place where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth

6. Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

More than 2,200 people died when a dam broke on May 31, 1889

5. Freedom Riders National Monument (Alabama)

Site of a 1961 public beating and bus burning where, fortunately, nobody was killed

4. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (Colorado)

A senseless massacre by the U.S. military took place here and at Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma

3. Manzanar National Historic Site (California)

A Japanese internment camp during WWII, as are Tule Lake National Monument and Minidoka National Historic Site

2. Andersonville National Historic Site (Georgia)

This infamous Civil War prison is now site of the National Prisoner of War Museum

…and finally our #1 most depressing NPS site:

1. Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

The freshest wound of any of these historic sites, it is an emotional place to visit

Honorable Mentions

Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Representative of the tragic life that all slaves led throughout the United States

Antietam National Battlefield (Maryland)

All Civil War battles were horrifying, but this one had an especially high casualty rate

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Rounding out the three southwest Pennsylvania sites is this ignominious George Washington defeat

Top 20 National Park Service sites for Photography

The National Park Service (NPS) manages some of the most photogenic places on the planet, so this was our hardest Top 10 List to choose.  Instead, for the first time we ranked the top 20!  We will be separately ranking the top 20 of the 63 National Parks for photography, since we had a difficult time even paring that list down.  Imagine how hard it was to choose from the other 360 NPS sites. Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Canyon de Chelly National Monument (Arizona)

Spider Rock alone would make it worth the trip, but ruins and petroglyphs add to its splendor

9. Christiansted National Historic Site (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Yellow paint makes the architecture pop at this Caribbean seaside fort

8. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

Sea caves and numerous lighthouses are found on the shores of Lake Superior

7. Devils Postpile National Monument (California)

The hexagonal posts are neat and Rainbow Falls is stunning

6. Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona)

Fantastic rock formations abound, including one in the shape of a rubber duck

5. Cedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)

A mini-Bryce Canyon National Park with gnarly Great Basin bristlecone pine trees

4. Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Nevada-Arizona)

The Hoover Dam, Redstone Trail, Emerald Cove, Sauna Cave, and Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge!

3. Buck Island National Monument (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Incredibly clear water and a healthy coral reef make this the best place for an underwater camera

2. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (Oregon)

The Painted Hills’ surreal colors are Instagram-worthy, but so is the blue soil at Blue Basin

…and finally the #1 NPS site for Photography:

1. Chaco National Historical Park (New Mexico)

High walls of these Ancestral Puebloan ruins are still standing, plus watch for elk, lizards, and ravens

The Next 10

11. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

12. City of Rocks National Reserve (Idaho)

13. Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

14. Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

15. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado)

16. National Mall (District of Columbia)

17. Fort Davis National Historic Site (Texas)

18. Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

19. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (Oregon)

20. (tie) Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores (North Carolina)

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

Top 10 Movies Filmed in National Parks

Many classic movies have been filmed within the boundaries of America’s National Parks due to their iconic landmarks and natural beauty.  Our ranking is partially based on the quality of the movie and partially on the prominence of the setting to the story.  We hope this list brings back some fond cinematic memories.  Click here to check out all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

Rocky IV (1985), Shane (1953)

The jagged Teton Range makes for one of the most impressive backdrops in the country.

9. Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Into the Wild (2007)

Chris McCandless was not technically within the park, but several scenes were shot there.

8. Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine)

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

The movie is not as good as the book, but the scenery and soundtrack are both excellent.

7. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Arizona-Utah)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

This spartan, but beautiful landscape makes for an otherworldly setting for (spoiler alert) planet Earth.

6. Death Valley National Park (California)

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

The sand dunes and canyons here filled in for Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine.

5. National Mall (District of Columbia)

Forrest Gump (1994)

A great scene in a great film takes place on the nation’s front lawn in Washington, D.C.

4. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

North by Northwest (1959)

Cary Grant hanging from the giant carvings was actually a set piece, but most was filmed on site.

3. Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Who hasn’t sculpted this volcanic monolith out of mashed potatoes after watching this movie?

2. Zion National Park (Utah)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

This off-the-wall classic film featured the natural wonders of southern Utah.

…and finally, our #1 National Park setting for films!

1. Redwood National and State Parks (California)

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Outbreak (1995)

We kept expecting Ewoks to pop out from behind the massive coast redwood trees.

Honorable Mentions

Glacier National Park (Montana)

The Shining (1980)

The Going-to-the-Sun Road was featured as the family drives up to the isolated winter lodge (filmed elsewhere).

Arches National Park (Utah)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), City Slickers II (1993), Thelma and Louise (1990)

Utah’s red rocks are prominent in portions of these three movies.