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Reader Participation Day: Which Park has the Most Scenic Picnic Area?


This CCC-era shelter is located at the Ez-Kim-in-Zin Picnic Area in Saguaro National Park's Tucson Mountain District. Another shelter in the same area is on level ground, and is handicapped accessible. Jim Burnett photos.

Picnicking is a popular activity in parks across the country, and there are plenty of great spots to enjoy a meal with a view. Which picnic area gets your vote for the most scenic in the National Park System?

I'll be the first to admit that "scenic" is mighty subjective, and it's also hard to compare sites in different kinds of terrain. The views in desert areas, for example, are obviously quite different from those in a mountains park, on a seashore or lakeshore, or an inland meadow. Since that's the case, feel free to suggest sites in different settings.

Finally, it's possible to have an impromptu picnic almost anywhere, so let's limit the suggestions to "official" picnic areas in a National Park Service site, which we'll define as a spot with a permanently installed picnic table.

You're welcome to include a photo if you have one, but try to keep them under 500kb in size.

I'll start the discussion with a candidate for a desert location from Saguaro National Park, the Ez-Kim-in-Zin Picnic Area. It's located in the park's Tucson Mountain District on the west side of Tucson, and reached via the unpaved Golden Gate Road. In addition to great views of the mountains and signature Saguaro and other desert fauna, the site has some classic stone picnic shelters from the CCC era.

So, what are your choices for the best BYOL ("Bring Your Own Lunch") alfresco dining spots in a park?


Riverbend Overlook in the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  The stone structure there was also built by CCC workers.

I am a little baised, but I love the picnic area at Capitol Reef. No fancy structures, but it has huge, towering cottonwoods, lush grass, and Sulphur Creek running through it.

My family and I loved the picnic area on the Little Pigeon River in GSMNP.  We stopped there every day mainly because my boys and I could go rock hopping up and down the river.  There were lots of tables, plenty of parking, and clean restrooms.  This was a large picnic area on the river and while it was not what I would call scenic, it was a lot of fun hopping those rocks.
But for scenic, our favorite was in Yellowstone at a place not on any NPS map.  There was a little off the beaten path picnic area on the Pelican Creek, right across from the point.  We had the place to ourselves.  We found it in a travel guide.

I like the picnic area just east of Norris Jct. on the Canyon-Norris road in Yellowstone. It is quiet, peaceful and not crowded.


From Traveler's Facebook page comes this photographic entry from Glacier National Park:

Well, my favorite is naturally close to home. 

I never visit The Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP without stopping at The Sunset View picnic area .  It has gorgeous vistas of the Canyon, as well as the wide valley that the Gunnison River flows out into.  And on a clear day, (which is most of them), you also get a great view of The Grand Mesa. 

Of course, it's called Sunset View for a reason.  The sunsets can't be beat, although the view is spectacular any time of day. Also, there is a great chance to see some awesome wildlife as well!

The picnic area at Hurricane Hill (at the end of the Hurricane Ridge Road) at Olympic National Park.  Sweeping grandeur, snow-capped mountains, fields of wildflowers -- and a chipmunk that ran up my shorts leg and scared the tar out of both of us [g].

There's a little park in eastern Oregon called John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. They have several incredibly scenic picnic areas, including one in the middle of a historic orchard at the base of 1,000 ft Sheep Rock, and another 9 miles north in the otherworldly Foree Area. By far one of my favorite picnic spots.

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