10 Worst National Parks And Where To Go Instead

Wondering which is the worst national park? When you think of national parks, do you envision grand vistas? Nature activities? Scenic drives? An exciting vacation destination?

A few national parks just don’t seem to fit the national park title. Find out which worst national parks to skip and where to go instead! 


Key Takeaways:


  • A few of the newly designated national parks, such as Gateway Arch National Park, just don’t live up to the title
  • Skip Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Hot Springs National Park if you desire the stunning nature national parks are known for.
  • The alternative parks highlighted offer unique landscapes and more immersive outdoor experiences. 

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Worst national parks Ugly parks

Can you believe that even as travel lovers, we were 37 and 38 years old before we ever visited a national park?

Growing up and living in the middle of the Midwest, we didn’t have a lot of options of close parks to visit.

In fact, our desire to visit national parks was one of the many reasons our family decided to try RV living. Camper life would give us the time and ability to see this beautiful country.

Our entire goal when we began full-time RV living was to see as many national parks as possible.

I didn’t want our daughter to grow up without experiencing the best nature our country has to offer.

We now all love the national parks!!! I still get butterflies when I drive up to visit a new one. After 7 years of full-time RVing, it is still our goal to visit every one of them.

Worst National Parks!

Table of Contents

Why Is This Worst US National Parks List Different?

Tired of looking at national parks ranked lists or best and worst national parks lists when it’s obvious that the author has never been there?

You know the many best to worst national parks lists with stock photos and often shallow information?

Although ranking national parks best to worst is very subjective, call me crazy but I think it really helps when the author has actually visited the parks.

While our family hasn’t visited all of the national parks yet, we have been to 38 of the main national parks so far and countless national monuments or other national sites.

We have a pretty good idea of what makes an incredible national park and which parks probably shouldn’t have been given that designation at all.

Regardless of how you feel about those general ranking lists, we have been to each of the worst national parks in America included in this article.

We didn’t want only to include the worst national parks in the US, so we have listed an alternative to each park that could offer a more traditional and exciting national park experience.

There are so many best US national parks to choose from that you aren’t missing out if you decide to skip these overrated national parks.

Read on to see if you agree with the parks we picked!

Why Do We Consider These The Worst National Parks?

As much as we love the parks, a few of the parks just don’t seem to fit the title of a national park.

It’s not that the places are bad parks to visit, it’s just that they aren’t the exciting nature-filled vacation destinations that are true for the majority of parks in the system.

We are all for protecting nature and creating outdoor recreation for people to enjoy. But there is something very special and sacred about the national park title.

The parks on this list just seem more like state parks, national monuments, or national historic parks, than national parks.

These worst national parks in USA are great to see if you are already in a nearby area. We are glad we visited each one of them! They just aren’t destination parks in our opinion.

Row Of Historic Hotels Hot Springs National Park Worst National Parks

Our List Of 10 Worst National Park Rankings

1) Cuyahoga Valley National Park Is One Of The Most Overrated National Parks

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located on the Cuyahoga River in Northeast Ohio. It was originally a National Recreation Area until it was changed into a National Park in 2000.

It was originally protected to create an urban recreation area and to clean up the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River.

The park itself is a small area of the river surrounded by subdivisions and urban development of Cleaveland and Akron, OH.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Train Worst National Parks

Pros Of Cuyahoga Valley National Park

There are 3 main draws to Cuyahoga; the train, the bike path, and Brandywine Falls.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

We love train rides and this was the reason we wanted to check out this national park. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is actually operated by the national park system. It is the only NPS-operated train in the Continental US.

We enjoyed riding the train for the sake of riding a train. It definitely wasn’t scenic in our opinion. It did follow the river for a bit with a few pretty areas.

Most of the ride though was by roads, buildings, and houses. The best part of the train ride was that you could ride it one way and bike back the other way. So it served as a bike shuttle as well as a train ride.

The Towpath Bike Trail

The biggest draw of this park is the bike trail that we saw many locals to the area enjoying. The trail connects to many urban trails in Cleaveland and winds along the river in the national park portion.

Bradywine Falls

The best scenery of the park is by far Bradywine Falls. A short boardwalk trail from the parking area leads to the waterfall viewing area. 

Bradywine Falls 6 Worst National Parks And 6 Best National Parks To Visit Instead

Why Cuyahoga Valley Is One Of The Worst National Parks

Cuyahoga is not a destination park. There are a few nice things to enjoy in the park if you are in the area, but it isn’t a place to build a trip around.

Limited Nature, Wildlife, and Scenery

Since the park is small and urban, there isn’t room for camping or much wildlife to enjoy.

We enjoyed the train ride and the waterfall the most. Trains are always fun, and everyone loves a good waterfall.

Other than these two things, this was just a nice urban park.

There are a lack of national parks in the Midwest which makes you wonder if this park was an addition to help balance this out.

Compared to other parts of the country, the Midwest region are the worst states for outdoor activities. There really aren’t any best Midwest national parks.

Of course there are some gems in the Midwest, but as a whole, it doesn’t compare to other parts of the country. (We were both born and raised in the Midwest.)

No Wow Factor

It doesn’t seem to fit into the wow factor of the national park title. It probably was more fitting to leave it as a national recreation area or possibly a state park.

We are glad that we checked it out. It is always nice to see a protected natural area for people to escape the city and enjoy.

Cuyahoga National Park Boardwalk Trail To Waterfall Worst National Park

Instead Visit One Of The Must See National Parks – Badlands

If you are looking for a great national park in the Midwest, you just can’t top Badlands National Park.

Badlands is chocked full of amazing scenery and rock formations and is one of those hidden gems national parks in Midwest.

In fact, the Badlands is one of the most underrated best national parks in USA.

There are amazing hiking trails and tons of wildlife. We saw lots of prairie dogs and bighorn sheep.

Badlands National Park is also close to Rapid City, SD where you can enjoy other great parks to really create an amazing vacation.

Check out Wind Cave, Jewel Cave, Mount Rushmore, and the incredible Custer State Park. You will never be disappointed with this incredible area!

Adventure Tip: An offbeat history lesson can be found at nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

Tour Idea: Check out this Badlands National Park Adventure Tour.

Where To Stay: 

Looking for RV camping in the Rapid City area? Black Hills Trailside RV Resort is a great base camp for your South Dakota adventures.

Rather stay in a rental? Check out these adorable private cabins close to the national park at Badlands Frontier Cabins.

For a larger vacation home rental in Rapid City, check out the Crooked Canyon Lodge 5-bedroom home with a hot tub.

Prefer a traditional hotel? Staying near Rapid City is your best bet for a nice place to stay that’s still central to the action.

Consider, the Holiday Inn And Suites Rapid City for its convenient location.

Rock Formations At Badlands National Park Worst National Parks

2) Gateway Arch National Park Is Another Overrated National Park

We grew up in Missouri so we visited The Arch off and on over the years. It is a fun little historical spot when you visit St. Louis.

The Arch was known as the Gateway Arch National Monument or Jefferson National Expansion Memorial since its completion in 1965.

It was changed to a national park in 2018. This man-made structure still seems to fit better as a national monument or national historical park. 

St. Louis Gateway Arch And Blue Sky Worst National Parks

Pros Of Gateway Arch National Park

The Arch structure itself is a feat of engineering. It was built to withstand both high winds and earthquakes.

It actually is designed to sway as much as 18 inches in the strongest winds. We have been at the top before on a windy day and felt the sway. It is a little creepy!

Tram Ride To The Top

The biggest draw of this national park is the lookout area at the top of the arch. At the top, you have a view of downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and Illinois (East St. Louis).

The ride itself is a little interesting. You step inside a little capsule-shaped elevator. It is pretty stale and hot inside.

The capsule slowly goes upward until you start hearing clicking noises. As the capsule heads into the curved part of the arch, the capsule starts to tilt.

The capsule begins to correct back to being level and you hear it click into place. It tilts and straightens again many times until you are at the top. If you are claustrophobic, this is not a ride you would enjoy.

The top is lined with windows on both sides so you can enjoy the view. It is fun to hang out at the top, but you know the ride down is waiting for you.

Museum Of Westward Expansion

The base of The Arch is a museum dedicated to the history of westward expansion. The Arch itself represents the gate to the west.

There is information about Lewis and Clark, wagon trails, building the arch, and a film. The museum was recently remodeled.

Riverboat Cruise

You can take a ride on the Mississippi River and explore the history of St. Louis. There is a dinner cruise option as well. 

Girl Looking Through Gateway Arch Window Worst National Parks

Why Gateway Arch Is One Of The Worst National Parks

Gateway Arch National Park is a fun place to visit if you are already visiting St. Louis. It is a one-time check-it-off-your-list kind of place with a nice view of the city.

Parking Is Limited

There is no dedicated parking for this national park. The Arch is located in downtown St. Louis so you need to use metered street parking or paid private lots and walk.

This lack of parking is a challenge for regular cars and a nightmare for RVs which makes this one of the hardest national parks to get to. The parking situation in our dually truck wasn’t fun.

Limited Nature, Wildlife, and Scenery

Since this is an urban park, there isn’t much scenery or nature in this park. There is a large greenspace surrounding The Arch as well as the Mississippi River.

The urban environment makes the Gateway Arch the ugliest national park and one of the most overrated national parks.

Many people ask us what is the worst national park on this list. The lack of nature makes the Gateway Arch the worst and lamest national park.

No hiking, camping, or kayaking

There is no nature or outdoor activities that you usually find in most national parks.

This park really is just a man-made monument which makes it one of the weirdest national parks.

It’s also on the list of small national parks since it is just the arch structure and the green field surrounding it. 

Ride To The Top

The creepy, hot, tilting egg capsule ride to the top really needs to be improved. The system is the same as when the arch was built.

At least an improved ventilation system and some new capsules would make a huge difference.

We are glad we visited the park and explored the history. We enjoyed the view from the top and the museum.

This park just doesn’t fit the title of a national park in our opinion.

St. Louis Skyline From Gateway Arch Worst National Parks

Instead, Visit One Of The Most Beautiful National Parks Dedicated To Man Made History

For an amazing national park experience with both man-made history and nature, visit Mesa Verde National Park. Mesa Verde offers many tours of historical cliff dwellings while also delivering beautiful canyon views. There is a scenic drive and many hiking opportunities. This park has lots of wildlife as well as a campground. We even saw wild horses on our drive into this park. This park is just beautiful, and you will be glad you checked it out! Adventure Tip: Book cliff-dwelling tours in advance as they quickly sell out. Where To Stay: Looking for RV camping near Mesa Verde? Check out The Views RV Park & Campground. This campground is in a great location to explore the 4 Corners region and was a Campspot Awards Winner in 2022. Rather have a private rental with room to stretch out? Check out the views from this 3-bedroom Scenic Mancos Hideaway just 3 miles from Mesa Verde. Rather have a traditional hotel? The Holiday Inn Express Mesa Verde is located 9 miles from the park.
Cliff Dwelings Mesa Verde National Park Worst National Parks

3) Congaree National Park

This national park is completely different from the other 2 so far on our list of worst national parks.

Congaree is on the list of least visited national parks and is consistently a worst rated national park.

One of the reasons Congaree is less visited, is its very rural location outside of Columbia, SC. Central South Carolina doesn’t have near as much tourist draw as the coastal areas and islands of the state.

Congaree was originally protected as Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976. It was upgraded to national park status in 2003.

Girl On Boardwalk Trail Congaree National Park Worst National Parks

Pros Of Congaree National Park

Congaree is a river with a flood plain that creates a swamp ecosystem. The swamp is an eerie kind of beauty that is hard to explain. 

Boardwalk Trail

The hiking in this park is limited. Most people enjoy the popular boardwalk trail. This trail is nice because you can stay dry while walking right through the swamp.


Another popular activity is canoeing the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. At times there are free Ranger canoe tours that you can sign up for.

Fireflies Festival

Every year for 2 weeks between mid-May and mid-June you can view synchronous fireflies. The only other park that has this is Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The benefit of this being a less visited national park, is that you have greater access to this event. It is extremely limited due to crowds in Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cypress Swamp At Congaree National Park Worst National Parks

Why Congaree Is One Of The Worst National Parks

Congaree received national park designation to protect the old growth bottomland hardwood forest.

It is neat to see the different types of trees and the swamp, but is it really up to national park status?

The Mosquito Meter

The bugs are so bad here that you are met at the entrance with the famous Congaree National Park mosquito meter at the door that tells you the level of bugs that day!

The meter ranges from all clear to severe, ruthless, and war zone.

The bugs are so bad here that you often see people wearing mosquito nets. The gift shop sells swag with “I Gave Blood At Congaree” on it. It is rough!

Limited Activities

There is nature and paddling available here, but once you hike the boardwalk trail and canoe the river, there isn’t much going on.

This could easily be considered the most boring national park. There is also not much to do in the surrounding areas of central South Carolina.


There is a limited area for tent camping. I can’t imagine camping here though with the number of bugs. Possibly consider winter camping when the bugs aren’t as bad.

I am glad a section of the swamp is preserved; however, I am not sure this park fits in as a national park. It probably fits the best as a national monument.

Congaree doesn’t feel like a destination park. It is a nice stop if you are traveling in the area.

This dare I say boring national park is so rural though, that people are rarely in this area. We are glad that we were able to check it out.

Mosquito Meter At Congaree National Park Worst National Parks

Instead, Visit One Of The Top National Parks In Florida

For a more exciting national park experience with a similar ecosystem, consider visiting Everglades National Park. While Everglades is technically not a swamp, it has many common features.

Everglades National Park is beautiful and full of wildlife, while also offering many unique activities. The Everglades are one of the best national parks on the east coast for spotting wildlife.

You can enjoy the park on a tram tour, a boardwalk hike, a bike ride, or an airboat ride.

Everglades National Park has multiple campgrounds for tents and RVs. It can be difficult to get camping reservations at this national park, so reserve as soon as possible.

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Airboat Ride In Everglades National Park Worst National Parks

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The Everglades are also close enough to Miami to add more activities and the beach to your trip! A trip to the Everglades is a great national park to visit in the winter when the heat and humidity are less. The weather is perfect for outdoor exploring. Adventure Tip: This area is your best shot at seeing a rare Florida Panther. People have seen them while camping at Midway Campground in Everglades National Park. Tour Idea: Our family’s favorite activity in the Everglades was by far, the airboat tour we went on. An airboat ride is a one-of-a-kind experience. Check out this Wild Florida Everglades Airboat Tour. Where To Stay:  Looking for RV campsites to explore the Everglades? The national park offers campgrounds with dry camping or electric-only campsites. If you need RV hookups, check out the Miami-Dade County campground Larry And Penny Thompson Memorial Park. Need a hotel for your Everglades adventures? Check out The Palms Inn & Suites Miami.

More Worst National Parks To Skip

These next parks aren’t near as far off of the national park title as the first 3 listed. We feel like there are better options to these parks though that you may want to explore instead.

4) Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs is another example of a national park that would fit better as a national historic park. The highlight of this park is the historic hotels built over the natural hot springs.

Why Hot Springs Is One Of The Worst National Parks

While it’s fun to check out the hotels and even swim in the hot springs, this isn’t a park with nature, wildlife, or many outdoor activities. We did enjoy the history and the architecture.

Historic Hotel Hot Springs National Park Worst National Parks

Instead, Check Out A Hot Spring In A Natural Setting

Instead of swimming in a hot spring inside of a hotel that resembles a swimming pool, consider visiting one in the woods that you can hike to and take a more private dip.

Although not national parks, there are tons of natural hot springs in the woods of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Utah also has some amazing scenic hot springs.

A hot spring we enjoyed in Oregon was Terwilliger Hot Springs in Willamette National Forest. This spring had rock pools nestled in the woods at the end of a short trail. It was gorgeous!

Adventure Tip: People love to swim naked in hot springs. Don’t be shocked if you hike to one and find people au naturel.

Lake And Trees In Williamette National Forest Worst National Parks

5) Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes was a national lakeshore until it was made a national park in 2019. This sand beach on Lake Michigan is popular for swimming and climbing the sand dunes.

This park offers hiking, paddling, and has a campground. The beach and dunes are beautiful.

Why Indiana Dunes Is One Of The Worst National Parks

We felt like this park was nice when we visited it as a national lakeshore. It has some nice scenery but is far from the wow of national parks.

We were turned off from swimming by the crowds and the power plant on the water near the park.

It is a nice place to explore but there are much more scenic sand dune areas in our country. 

Crowded Beach At Indiana Dunes National Park Worst National Parks

Instead, Check Out Larger Scale Sand Dunes

Indiana Dunes is a pretty place but you will really be blown away by the beauty of Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

The dunes in Indiana are 200 feet tall versus 750-foot dunes in Colorado.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is so beautiful because not only are the sand dunes on such a grand scale, but the surrounding mountains make an amazing backdrop to this park.

This area holds the largest sand dunes in North America.

Colorado also offers other amazing parks to round out your trip such as Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

As an urban park, Indiana Dunes just pales in comparison.

Adventure Tip: Check out the hot springs swimming pool at Sand Dunes Recreation.

Tour Ideas:

For a beyond epic way to see the Great Sand Dunes, consider flying over them on a Private 1-Hour Flight Tour.

Where To Stay:

Looking for an incredible place to camp near Great Sand Dunes? Ramble At Great Sand Dunes offers large over a quarter-of-an-acre campsite.

For a nearby hotel option to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park, consider the Hampton Inn Alamosa.

Sand Dunes At Great Sands National Park Worst National Parks

6) Isle Royale National Park

The extreme effort it takes to get to this park just doesn’t seem to pay off with a wow factor in the scenery. This is definitely one of the hardest national parks to get to.

The boat ride is either a long 3-6 hours one-way from Michigan (depending on where you depart from) or 1 1/2-2 hours from Grand Portage, Minnesota.

We visited the Windigo, MI, part of the island departing from Grand Portage, MN, on the Sea Hunter III. It could be that the other side of the island is more scenic.

It could also be that if we camped overnight, maybe we would have seen a moose or some wildlife. We only had 4 hours on the island for a quick hike on a very overgrown trail.

The island was mainly flat, so there weren’t many viewpoints. It was mostly walking through the woods with some views of the water around the island.

One positive thing that Isle Royale does have going for it is that it is the second least crowded national park. The effort and expense of reaching the island does keep crowds low. This is a great park for solitude.

So even though this park can be a destination park and has outdoor nature activities, it just lacked the wow factor for us.

Girl Looking At Water Isle Royale National Park Worst National Parks

Instead, Check Out One Of The Best National Parks With Islands

Channel Islands National Park blows Isle Royale away. The boat ride to get there is gorgeous and sometimes has dolphins that play in the surf of the boat.

This is a great national park to visit in late winter when you may get the chance to see whale sightings. We got to see both!

The unique hiking has beautiful cliffside overlooks with sea caves and island foxes only found here. This stunning gem of a park is one of the best national parks in the world that many people don’t even know about.

Definitely add Channel Islands National Park to your bucket list!

Adventure Tip: If you are looking to stay in the northern midwest, consider Voyageurs National Park or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We loved both of these parks.

If you are on the East Coast, check out Dry Tortugas National Park. This island getaway feels like you have headed to the Caribbean!

Tour Ideas:

For a one-of-a-kind way to experience the Channel Islands, check out the Painted Cave Island Cruise to watch dolphins, explore a sea cave, and snorkel/kayak off of Santa Cruz Island.

Where To Stay:

Looking for RV camping near the Channel Islands? Check out Sun Outdoors Santa Barbara. Tent camping is available in the national park.

Rather stay in a hotel near the national park boat launch? Check out this beach hotel in Ventura, Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach.

Ocean Cliff Channel Islands National Park Worst National Parks

Worst National Parks For Solitude

Some national parks have breathtaking scenery, loads of outdoor activities, and pretty much everything going for them to be a top national park. The problem?

The crowds can really ruin the experience. National parks have exploded in popularity, especially in the last few years.

For those outdoor explorers that love to find solitude in nature, if you can get off the beaten path, you can find peace and quiet in almost any national park.

7) Grand Canyon South Rim

There are a few exceptions where it is harder to get off of the beaten path to find peace. One of those parks is the Grand Canyon.

Unless you visit the Grand Canyon during the winter season, it can be a bit crowded along the rim.

Although it is possible to duck down one of the trails to get away from the people, the trails are all pretty strenuous.

Consider a visit during the off-season when the shuttle even stops running because crowds are so low. Be prepared for snow and changing weather conditions during a winter visit.

Alternatively, plan to visit the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, which is just as beautiful but much less crowded.

Note that the north rim is only open from May 15th to October 15th.

The limited space for people along the rim, combined with the park’s popularity, makes the south rim of the Grand Canyon one of the worst national parks for solitude. 

Is the Grand Canyon overrated? While it’s crowded along the rim, we found it beautiful and packed full of exciting nature activities to enjoy.

8) Yosemite Valley

Another tough park to find solitude is the Yosemite Valley in the summer season.

For the same reason as the limited space on the rim of the Grand Canyon, the Yosemite Valley can turn into a traffic bottleneck.

There is only one way in and out of the valley and limited parking. It’s one of the most crowded national parks, especially in the valley.

You can still ditch the Yosemite Valley crowds and find more peace if you head off on a trail.

The farther you can head away from the main area, the better to find solitude in Yosemite.

Honestly, Yosemite is so beautiful that it is worth the crowds and any required park reservations to see.

Is Yosemite overrated? The Yosemite Valley may not offer as much solitude as other parks, but it makes up for it with its spectacular scenery! 

A stunning alternative with beautiful granite domes and fewer crowds is Kings Canyon National Park.


Worst National Parks For Summer Road Trips

Everyone loves a classic road trip! Where better to enjoy a road trip than by visiting a national park? Or even better, multiple national parks.

The summer travel season can be very crowded but also extremely hot. When choosing a park for your summer trip, think about the weather.

9) Death Valley

The worst national park for a summer road trip is Death Valley. This hottest place in North America is completely brutal in the summer.

It’s so hot that it can be dangerous to enjoy outdoor activities, and vehicles often break down out in the desert.

It can get to 120 degrees or more during the summer.

Death Valley is a beautiful park and perfect to explore in the winter, but it is the worst summer road trip park. Check it out another time of year.

Alternatively, consider the cooler and stunning mountain scenery of another California park, Lassen National Park.

10) Congaree Mosquito Meter

We mentioned Congaree earlier on our list, but summer is the time of year to avoid Congaree National Park. The heat, humidity, and bugs make this park almost miserable.

The bugs are so bad there that the gift shop sells t-shirts and other products that say I Gave Blood At Congaree National Park. It is that bad.

Congaree already isn’t the most exciting national park, but if you would like to check it out, late fall and early spring is the best time to avoid the extreme biting insects.

Consider heading north to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for less bugs, heat, and humidity. 

Girl Walking In Death Valley Warmest National Parks To Visit In Winter

America’s National Parks Ranked Best To Worst

This article focused on the least popular national parks but what about our list of the best national parks? Here are our lists of best and worst parks in order.


Worst National Parks Ranked – Starting With The Most Overrated National Parks

  • Gateway Arch National Park
  • Congaree National Park
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Indiana Dunes National Park
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Hot Springs National Park
  • Mammoth Cave National Park
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Biscayne National Park

List Of Best National Parks Ranked – Starting With The Prettiest National Parks

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Acadia National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Lassen National Park
  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Redwood National Park
Infographic showing 5 worst national parks and why.

Having A Hard Time Getting National Park Campsite Reservations?

National park popularity has exploded in recent years, and this increase in crowds has made it feel almost impossible to get campground reservations.

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FAQs Worst National Parks

Is Congaree The Worst National Park?

No, Congaree isn’t the worst national park. There are limited things to do in Congaree, but it is a great national park for viewing the swamp ecosystem, paddling, and the annual rare synchronous fireflies.

What’s The Worst National Park?

The worst national park is the Gateway Arch National Park. There are virtually no nature activities or wildlife. The only scenery is a view of urban downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

Is Cuyahoga Valley The Worst National Park?

No, Cuyahoga Valley is not the worst national park. It isn’t the most spectacular scenery, but it does have a waterfall, many biking trails, and the only national park-operated train ride in the lower 48 states.

What Is The Ugliest National Park?

Gateway Arch is the ugliest national park. Other than the Mississippi river, there is no nature in this park. The view is of an urban area in downtown St. Louis. You can take a riverboat cruise, but that is the only outdoor activity to enjoy in this park.

Is Zion National Park Overrated?

No, Zion National Park is definitely not overrated. It is a gorgeous park and one of our top 5 favorites of the US national parks. The canyon views, Virgin River, and hiking opportunities are incredible in this Utah gem.

What Is The Most Overrated National Park?

Isle Royale is the most overrated national park. It takes an extremely long and expensive boat ride to reach this remote island national park. The island scenery just isn’t worth it for the effort, time, and cost to reach the island.

Is Acadia National Park Overrated?

No, Acadia National Park is not overrated. It is one of the top national parks for a reason. The gorgeous cliffside mountains, crashing waves, rocky beaches, and incredible hiking opportunities make Acadia a favorite park of outdoor lovers.

What Is The Most Boring National Park?

Gateway Arch is the most boring national park. There are no outdoor or nature activities other than a riverboat ride. The highlight of this small urban park is the ride to the top of the Arch, but most people only stay at the top for a few minutes.

Is Yellowstone National Park Boring?

Yellowstone National Park is far from boring. The wildlife is abundant, there are many hiking opportunities, and the highlight of the park is the hot springs and geysers. Is Yellowstone overrated? The scenery is one-of-a-kind and worth a visit.

Which National Parks Are Overrated?

Some of the newest national parks are overrated and should have never been given national park status. Indiana Dunes was previously a state park, and that was a fitting designation. Gateway Arch is an urban man-made park and makes more sense as a national historic site or monument.

What Is The Most Unpopular National Park?

The most unpopular national park in the lower 48 is North Cascades National Park. Its remote location in northern Washington near the Canadian border keeps crowds low. The scenery is worth the trip to check out this beautiful park.

Has A National Park Ever Lost Its Status?

Mackinac National Park lost its status as a national park in 1895. It was our country’s second national park but was given to the state of Michigan to become Michigan’s first state park. Platt National Park in Oklahoma became Chickasaw National Recreation Area in 1976. 

Have You Visited Any Of America’s Worst National Parks?

All of the parks on this list are still neat places to visit if you are already in an area. I want to be clear that there isn’t anything ‘wrong’ with any of them.

There is no need to avoid these top worst national parks in America. They just may not be as spectacular as the name suggests. We are still glad we checked them out.

The parks on this list just don’t meet the image of the grand original destination national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Sequoia. It is our travel goal to visit every national park. We feel very blessed to have the opportunity to visit as many parks as we have in our travels!

Check Out These Similar Posts:

3 Most Unusual National Park Hikes

3 Unique Things To Do In Acadia National Park

Secret Spots To Avoid Crowds In Acadia National Park

Exploring Congaree National Park: The Mosquito Meter Park

I am sure I will hear a little heat on this post, but I would love to hear about your experiences with these parks. Please leave me a comment!

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Enjoy your adventure detour!

Ugly Parks Worst National Parks
Scott and Van Russell
Scott and Van Russell

Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!

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We are so glad you found us. We are Scott, Van & Sissy. We turned our love of travel into a 7 year full-time RV living adventure.

Our goal is to guide you to unique US travel destinations, share RV travel tips, and help you navigate full-time RV living.

Something that makes us different is our unfiltered approach. We choose to share both the benefits and the challenges of traveling and the full-time RVing lifestyle.

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  1. Steven Jepson

    I can certainly see why you included these 6 on the list. I had no idea that the Gateway Arch was a National Park – it does seem a strange inclusion

    • Scott

      Thank you! The Arch is definitely an odd park to upgrade to a national park. It is fun to visit though if you are ever in the area! The ride to the top is weird and memorable.

  2. Dan

    Strong disagree on Isle Royale. I think it’s an awesome park. You need at least two days there to fully appreciate it. I came in on the Rock Harbor side by sea plane, which cuts the travel time to 45 mins, and saw a moose within the first few hours, heard the wolves, found abandoned copper mines. You can’t visit it for 4 hours and say it’s the worst park. Voyageurs National Park is one of the worst in my opinion. It’s a glorified lake.

    • Scott

      It would be amazing to see a moose! The copper mines also sound really interesting. For us, it wasn’t worth the effort and cost to get there, however spending more time there or seeing the other side of the island may have been a different experience. I can also see why you think that about Voyageurs National Park. We really enjoyed our time there though. That park was easier to access so we were able to skip the expensive concessionaire boat and rent our own. No park is really a bad park, some just aren’t up to the national park title. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective!

    • An annoyed reader

      Isle Royale is definitely not boring, I recently hiked the Greenstone Trail, which you can hike from either end of the island, I started on the Windigo end, and can agree that it is less scenic than the Rock Harbor end. The views are amazing! Clearly the author of this article never took the time to make his way over to Mt. Ojibway, from the fire tower on the top, you can see most of the island. My group chose to take a lag day at the beginning, so we came on one of the MI boats to Rock Harbor (we took the Voyageur II around to Windigo the next day), that night alone I saw three moose, I also saw one the next day. I saw multiple beavers through the week, as well as many loons. So in short, this article saying that the views and wildlife were subpar, is just straight up wrong, this is by far one of the best national parks I have ever visited

  3. P

    There are no nuclear power plants in Indiana.

    • Scott

      Interesting! There are two large concrete stacks to the south of the beach. They could be on the Illinois side but do resemble nuclear power stacks. I would have to do some research into what they are. Thank you for letting me know! Definitely not national park scenic though.

    • Kristen

      I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on these parks. It’s interesting because I think there are so many factors with the experience had at National Park sites. Time of year. Weather. Expectations. Mood. So it’s all really relative. For example. We loved Congaree but we must have visited at just the perfect moment in time. No biting insects and we found the eerie beauty and lack of crowds just lovely. But when visiting the Smokies which we thought we would love we were turned off by the absolute crazy chaos and crowds that we found there. But everything you talked about are really good points of view for people to consider when trip planning. And your thoughts on Isle Royale make me feel better about our decision not to go even though we were in Copper Harbor!

      • Scott

        Yes! This is so true. It’s all relative, and no parks are bad parks. I am always thankful to explore a national park any chance we get! I totally agree about the crowds. That one factor can ruin the experience at even the most spectacular parks.

  4. Milo

    Isle Royale has no business being on this list, and it’s especially unfair to judge it based on a four hour visit! As a backpacker, the island is breathtaking and I’ve seen many moose on my three visits! This NP is not meant for a day trip (obviously) based on its location and difficulty getting to the island. In addition to ferries, you can also take sea planes. I’ve only been to 35 national parks, but this is no where close to my bottom. Your 4 hour visit seems like it was just a check mark off your to do list to see every national park instead of truly experiencing the park’s splendor!

    • Scott and Van Russell

      Hi Milo!
      It sounds like you really have had some amazing experiences on the island! Seeing moose would be incredible. It’s quite a deal to get there as well as an expensive trip no matter how you arrive. The island itself just wasn’t very scenic in our opinion. For the effort and price, The Channel Islands would be our pick for a national park island excursion. Happy adventuring and take care!
      Scott and Van

  5. unhappy reader

    Isle Royale should not be on this list at all. The island is beautiful and you will see nature there that you won’t anywhere else. The species of the animals have evolved differently on this island than the mainland which is so cool. There is wildlife everywhere. It is not flat at all definitely has some mountains. If you want to see the best stars you have seen in your life that would be the place to go because of no light pollution. This would not be a place to go if you don’t like to put in effort to see real beauty.

    • Scott and Van Russell

      I hear you! We have gotten that comment a lot. Our visit we disappointing, but it could have been that we didn’t stay long enough on a day trip. For the cost and effort to reach Isle Royale NP, we would still recommend Channel Islands NP for an island NP experience. The scenery of that park is mind blowing and it justifies the cost and effort to reach the island many times over. Check it out if you are ever near that part of California!

  6. Trace Oortville

    Had me until the last one. I am fascinatingly shocked you chose Isle Royale to be on this list which is truly one of the most unique parks in the entire system, even on just a superficial glance. Part of the Canadian Shield, Isle Royal has ancient volcanic rocks over a billion years old, some of the oldest surface rocks in the world. Surrounded on all sides by one the greatest anomalies of all, the humbling giant that is Lake Superior, by far the largest freshwater sea in the world. You even explore the remnants of a lost to history copper age civilization, seeing their mines as they left them under circumstances not known. And the craziest part is that you list one of its greatest strengths as a weakness. It’s remote location and limited accessibility are part of what makes it such a transformative experience. It also limits how many visitors it gets, which in turn means the wildlife are abundant.

    • Scott and Van Russell

      Hi Trace!
      I can appreciate that opinion! The lake is beautiful and always worth seeing. For the cost and the amount of time required to reach the island, it was honestly a letdown for us. Especially for travelers launching on the Michigan side, spending 6 hours each way on a boat and hundreds of dollars for the transport, you expect a bit more. We hiked to the highest point of the island on a day trip and saw zero wildlife. We may have spotted wildlife if we stayed overnight, but the scenery we experienced was simply a wooded island with a flat lakeshore. For an epic national parks island experience, we always recommend Channel Islands National Park.
      Take care!


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