For National Parks Week, Travel Lemming released a data-backed ranking of all 63 US national parks. Indiana Dunes National Park made the #28 slot overall, largely driven down by data indicating that it’s the 2nd worst-reviewed and 4th most crowded national park in the USA.

Travel Lemming’s national parks ranking is based on an analysis of data scoring each park across seven factors: affordability, accessibility, biodiversity, crowds, reviews, jobs, and weather.

The report revealed the following National Park insights: 

  • Indiana Dunes ranks #28 overall and made the Top 20 for Biodiversity (#10), Accessibility (#6), Jobs (#19), and Visitor Spending (#7). However, its overall ranking was impacted by its low review scores and crowds. 
  • Indiana Dunes is the 7th most affordable national park in the USA, with an average visitor spend of $50.9781293.
  • Indiana Dunes received the 2nd worst review scores of any national park in the USA, ahead of only Kobuk Valley National Park in Alaska. 
  • With 1964 species present or probably present, Indiana Dunes National Park is the 10th most biodiverse national park.
  • Indiana Dunes is the fourth most crowded national park in the USA. In 2023, it had 2,765,892 recreation visits in its 15,349.08 of land, averaging 180.1992041 visitors per acre.
  • Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park ranks #1 overall for the second year in a row, with exceptional scores in biodiversity, affordability, weather, and accessibility. 
  • Surprisingly, the most renowned national parks did not perform well in the rankings, largely due to the crowds and affordability factors. Yellowstone ranks at slot #16, Zion National Park at #18, and Yosemite National Park at slot #22.
  • Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley is the most affordable park, Hawai’i’s Haleakalā National Park has the best weather, Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains is the most biodiverse, Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic the least crowded, and Missouri’s Gateway Arch the most accessible.

The top 10 US national parks in the USA according to the report are: 

RankingNational Park NameState
1Shenandoah National ParkVA
2Joshua Tree National ParkCA
3Olympic National ParkWA
4Great Smoky Mountains National ParkTN, NC
5North Cascades National ParkWA
6Grand Canyon National ParkAZ
7Channel Islands National ParkCA
8New River Gorge National ParkWV
9Everglades National ParkFL
10Redwood National and State ParksCA

Travel Lemming Writer Meg O’Connor commented: “As a data scientist and a huge fan of the outdoors, I love how much variety the United States has in its terrain, flora, and fauna. These data-driven rankings provide a numerical glimpse into how diverse our National Parks really are, and I feel like I could live several lifetimes and never get bored of visiting them.”

“Since we truly have some stunning hidden gems in our park system, I think these rankings will help draw attention to some of the lesser-known but absolutely awe-inspiring parks in this country.”


National Parks were ranked on seven factors, based on the following data: 

  • Crowds – Number of visits per acre of park land in 2023. (Sources: NPS 2023 Recreation Visit Data, Wikipedia Acreage Data)
  • Reviews – Average visitor review score out of 5. (Sources: Google Maps, Yelp, TripAdvisor)
  • Weather – A human comfort-based points system based on monthly temperature, seasonal humidity, amount of precipitation, and number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. (Sources: NOAA, Current Results, American Meteorological Society, Lightning Safety Council, CDC)
  • Affordability – Average spending per visitor per park in 2023 (Sources: NPS Visitor Spending Effects, NPS 2023 Recreation Visit Data)
  • Accessibility – Average driving distance to the park from the closest FAA Primary Airport and the closest hub airport. (Sources: FAA, Google Maps Driving Distance, Wikipedia Major US Airports) 
  • Jobs – The total number of jobs associated with each national park as defined by the 2022 NPS Visitor Spending Effects Report (Sources: NPS)
  • Biodiversity – Number of species deemed “present or probably present.” (Source: NPS Species List) 

Overall rankings were determined by each park’s average ranking across all factors. Further details are available in the report’s methodology section

About Travel Lemming 

Travel Lemming is a popular online travel guide with over 10 million annual readers. It is known for highlighting emerging and off-the-beaten-path destinations, and for the authentic guides produced by its team of dozens of local and expert travel creators.