What is the most hikeable national park in the USA?

Posted by
Heather Balogh Rochfort
May 29, 2024

In the post-Covid era, attendance at our national parks continues to rise with more than 325.5 million visitors recorded in 2023. This is a whopping 13 million more visitors than the previous year, indicating our interest in national parks isn’t slowing.

But once we get there, what are we doing at the parks? Taking a hike.

More than 61 million people went hiking last year so based on the data, it’s safe to assume that a large portion of those enthusiasts trekked right into a national park. And it’s easy to see why since there are more than 44,000 combined miles of hiking trails in our park system. 

But if you’ve ever found yourself planning your next trip and not sure which national park to visit for your hiking adventures, a new study has you covered. 

Yosemite is the Best National Park for Hiking

According to hiking footwear brand Kuru, Yosemite National Park takes the top spot as the most hiking-friendly park in the country.

Per the data, Yosemite boasts a whopping 278 trails and 4,729 miles of trails — that’s a lot. Kuru also took a look at the hiking trails average rating over on AllTrails, and Yosemite hikes log an average score of 4.56  on a scale of 1-5. 

While Yosemite took the top spot in their poll, there are some solid contenders rounding out the top 10, including:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park at #2
  • Yellowstone National Park at #3
  • Olympic National Park at #4
  • Shenandoah National Park at #5
  • Glacier National Park at #6
  • Rocky Mountain National Park at #7
  • Sequoia National Park at #8
  • Grand Canyon National Park at #9
  • Kings Canyon National Park at #10
Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo: Heather Balogh Rochfort

Origin Story: The Data

Before you take this data and use it to plan your next family trip, let’s take a look at where these determinations came from.

Kuru’s methodology is simple. The looked at five data points: the total number of trails in the park, the total miles of trails in the park, the average trail rating on AllTrails, the average number of visitors in 2023, and the total acreage of the park. They used the last two criteria to help determine crowd sizes on the trail.

However, here’s the rub: each of these data points were weighed differently. The total number of trails accounted for 40% of the final score while total hiking trail mileage accounted for 35%. The average trail rating makes up 20% of the final score. 

Based on the math, that leaves a small 5% left over for the park crowd levels.

Final Thoughts

Is Yosemite a wonderful national park for hiking? Absolutely. Do we agree that it’s the best hiking park in the country? We’re not so sure.

Yosemite is one of the busiest parks in the summer time and now requires reservations to get inside. Great Smoky Mountains National Park took the second spot and it saw over 13 million visitors in 2023, claiming the title as the busiest national park in the country. This is a big jump ahead of the second busiest park — Grand Canyon  and it’s 4.7 million visitors in 2023.

My point: I’m not saying these national parks aren’t worth visiting, but I do feel that this weighted scale was done incorrectly. Most of us don’t go hiking so that we can wander along the dirt ribbon with 600 of our closest friends.

We go hiking for the solitude. The peace. The time to connect with nature. The number of trails is a key factor, but we’ll take peace and quiet any day of the week.

If you want to read the entire study, you can find it here.



Seen in: Hikes, National Parks, News

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