The best national park in the country that invented national parks is not Yellowstone, with its famous geysers, or the red-walled Grand Canyon or the steaming Everglades.
According to Consumer Reports magazine, it is Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska.
In its June edition, the national magazine ranked Glacier Bay, with its fjords and marine life and tidewater glaciers, at the top of its list of 35 parks.
The rating by 40,000 of the magazine’s 4.5 million readers placed Arches National Park in Utah second, New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns third, Utah’s Canyonlands fourth and Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park fifth.
From the Northwest, Washington’s Olympic National Park finished eighth, and Glacier National Park in Montana took 11th place. Mount Rainier National Park was 16th, and Oregon’s Crater Lake finished 18th.
Looking down the list, it’s insightful to see that Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Ariz., ranked 19th, a few notches above the Grand Canyon at 22nd.
The Canyon received low marks for having serious problems with huge crowds, traffic and parking - things you won’t encounter at Tucson’s more modest park. For several years, Grand Canyon officials have been considering banning cars and using a bus shuttle service.
Backcountry enthusiasts may not want to put too much stock in the ratings. The scores reflect cleanliness, maintenance of buildings and roads along with crowd levels, traffic and parking at the various parks.
More than 90 percent said the national parks met their expectations, mainly to “see scenic beauty or wildlife.”
And we dare say, anyone who gets off on foot or boat can get away from the crowds in most of these parks.
It’s unlikely there will ever be a parking problem at Glacier Bay National Park; there are no roads leading there. Most of the park’s 300,000 annual visitors see it from powerboats or sea kayaks. About 90 percent of the visitors come aboard 200 cruise ships.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo