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National Geographic Rates the Best Parks

Horses at Theodore Rooselevel National Park; NPS Photo

Wild horses are among the wildlife that can be seen at Theodore Roosevelet National Park; NPS Photo

Who can resist a 'Best Of' list? They are as much fun to read as they are to debate. The most recent edition of National Geographic Adventure Magazine has a feature they are calling the 'Best Parks of 2007'. They have subdivided the parks into 'best' categories, hiking, paddling, wildlife viewing, trekking, driving, climbing and lodges. Each subdivided category has more detail about the park, and why it qualifies as 'best of'. Have a look at the list. What do you think, did they get it right?

I've scanned the list a couple of times, and I'd say the list is pretty well done. I was initially surprised to see Olympic National Park lead the 'best climbing' category, but after reading the explanation, I had a quick shrug and thought, 'yeah, I guess that makes sense'. I guess I would have expected to see Yosemite with its famed El Capitan in that same category, but no go. The editors of the list were probably looking to highlight a lot of different parks around the country, and to give exposure to some lesser known parks along the way. For instance, I was glad to see Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota listed as among the best for wildlife viewing, a park that doesn't typically make these type of 'best of' list, but one that is worthy of a little attention as an out of the way destination.

Before you leave the 'Adventure Mag' website, have a look at the 'Weird and Wild' quiz about parks they put together. I would have scored higher if I had realized at the beginning some of the parks were in Canada. Other than that, I actually scored pretty well.


I have to agree with Teddy Roosevelt NP in North Dakota. Found some cougar footprints at the North unit, and while riding my mountain bike quietly around the South Unit scenic loop road, I surprised tons of large mammals as I rounded every corner - bison, pronghorn, mule and white-tail deer, an elk too. After all those ungulates I expected a moose was gonna be next! And that was on the paved road. I imagine hiking on the trail would have been even more amazing. Bison bumble their way through the campgrounds at night, coyotes howl, snakes slither, prairie dogs watch your every move... highly recommended... i can't tell you the feeling of rounding the canyon corner on a bicycle only to see a monstrous bison standing in center of the road. I climbed up on a rock and just watched as he took his sweet time moving on to something more interesting than me.

-- Jon Merryman

Over the years I've developed a distaste for these sort of stories, particularly since the magazines try to do them year after year and so are forced to come at them from different angles and so you begin to wonder how valid they are.

What's the definition for "Best Driving"? Is it the most scenic? The most extensive? I'm not sure any park can match the Grand Loop in Yellowstone for driving. It leads you through geyser basins, along the brink of an incredible canyon, and through rolling countryside cut by rivers and studded with elk, bison, pronghorn and the occasion wolf.

As for Best Climbing, why did they leave out Yosemite, Grand Teton, even Zion? And what's the difference between "Best Trekking" and "Best Hiking"?

All parks have their own incredible attributes. I guess the only good thing I can say about NG Adventure's piece is that it gets people thinking about all the possibilities out there.

I'm with Kurt. One of my least favorite questions (aside from "Is it worth seeing?") at the VC was: "What's the best hike here?" "Best" is subjective and requires a value judgment. Guess it's human nature to rank stuff.

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