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Artist Illustrates National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Reviews (77 New Pics)

A year ago, designer Amber Share made a submission to Bored Panda, giving us a taste of her so-called Subpar Parks.

It’s an illustration series based on US National Parks with a unique angle: Share enriches the pictures of these gorgeous places with the worst reviews they’ve received online. The results provide a surprising and entertaining take on a very human feeling disappointment and sometimes are so absurd, I’d even call them poetic.

On Tuesday, Subpar Parks has culminated into a book. Featuring more than 50 percent new material, the publication includes more depth and insight into the most popular parks, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, anecdotes and tips from rangers, and much more about the author’s personal love and connection to the outdoors.

To commemorate this occasion, here’s an update on the series!

More info: ambersharedesign.com | Instagram

#1 White Sands National Park

The review goes on to say that there aren’t even any playgrounds, unless you count sliding down the sand hills and my inner child was SCREAMING about how much more fun that would be than a normal slide.

Image credits: subparparks

#2 North Cascades National Park

They really ought to install a tropical beach if they want to keep @ncascadesnps interesting.⁠

Image credits: subparparks

Amber Share told Bored Panda she “travels and visits national parks (and other public lands) as often as I can; at least once or twice a year.”

The designer, however, doesn’t keep an exact count of how many she’s visited. “I think [I’ve been to] about a third of them. I’d love to see them all eventually!”

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the entire travel industry. But since Share doesn’t have to physically travel to the parks in order to create her satirical posters, it hasn’t really affected her work. “Luckily, I’ve been able to stay consistent with this project despite a limited ability to travel over the last year!” she added.

#3 Mount Rainier National Park

Nevermind that @mountrainiernps is the most topographically prominent mountain in the lower 48…. so prominent in fact that locals refer to it as THE mountain. I’ve seen bigger. One star.⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#4 Channel Islands National Park

Pretty sure this is the same person who stayed in the Airbnb I host and docked us a star because the birds outside woke him up.

Image credits: subparparks

Unlike the reviews in her illustrations, the book Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors has a 5-star rating on Amazon and has already become its number 1 best seller in the Landscape & Seascape Art category.

“My book is a collection of over 75 parks, including many never seen before on Instagram. Even some of the original parks I posted have additional illustrations and reviews in the book, and it’s chock full of other sketches and illustrations, park information, history, and tips and anecdotes from myself and park rangers,” she explained. “It’s really fun and informative, and beautiful to flip through (if I do say so myself).”

Working on Subpar Parks, reading all of these negative reviews, has taught Amber how to navigate these destinations. If you also want to have a positive national park experience, it’s a good idea to do the research. That includes talking to people who’ve been there as well as talking to people who are familiar with what you like to do and rangers. Then, just give yourself more time than you think you need and soak in the goods.

#5 Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Listen. I know what you’re thinking. “Amber, this review of @hawaiivolcanoesnps is definitely a joke.” I assumed it was too. But after a deep dive on this reviewer’s other reviews, I am convinced otherwise (but I am hoping they wanted to touch HARDENED lava).

Image credits: subparparks

#6 Big Bend National Park

Listen @bigbendnps, can’t you get control of your weather? One star. ⁠

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#7 Bryce Canyon National Park

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#8 Kaibab National Forest

1.6 million acres of plain jane forests (with a huge variety of vegetation & wildlife depending on which elevation you’re in), desert, lakes, meadows, views of the Grand Canyon, plentiful dispersed camping, and hikes galore.

A lot of people have asked me where we camped when we visited the Grand Canyon, and here’s your answer! Kaibab National Forest is a great option for dispersed camping near GCNP, but there’s also plenty to do in the forest itself! We camped and hiked in the northern district, which borders the north rim of GCNP (the forest has districts that border the south rim too), and if you’re lucky and get there early, you can even find campsites with views of the canyon. Plain Jane is the last phrase I’d use to describe our experience! P.S. The most recommended thing on our entire trip that we didn’t get to do was get cookies from Jacob Lake Inn So if you visit, grab some and let me live vicariously through you!

Image credits: subparparks

#9 Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

Just a canyon created over the course of 2 million years, exposing mind-blowing patterns of rock that’s over 2 billion years old. Nothing interesting here.⁠

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#10 Pinnacles National Park

I mean, all of Earth is a giant rock, so what’s interesting about a bunch of smaller rocks? One star.

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#11 Everglades National Park

I guess we’re calling the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi, home to panthers, crocodiles, manatees, and over 350 kinds of birds, “nothing” now.⁠

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#12 National Park Of American Samoa

Imagine spending the time and money to travel to a lush, beautiful, and remote Pacific island and feeling this underwhelmed with it.

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#13 Badlands National Park

You know when you’re SUPER angry about something and you come up with the best zinger later in the shower and just have to share it with people? That’s this review.⁠

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#14 Shenandoah National Park

If you have to get out of your car, is it even worth seeing?

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#15 Port Campbell National Park

Thanks for the laughs, UK parks, but it’s time to take a look at a few of the most disappointing places in Australia! ⁠ ⁠ Between The Twelve Apostles (sadly, only 8 of which remain), Loch Ard Gorge, London Arch, and the Grotto, I can TOOOOTALLY see how Port Campbell National Park is overhyped. Would absolutely hate to visit the Australian coast someday.

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#16 Peak District National Park

Guess that explains why Peak District is a popular climbing destination in the UK.

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#17 Hot Springs National Park

It appears @hotspringsnps’ only crime is honesty Saved the OLDEST for last! This park is the oldest area managed by the @nationalparkservice, first protected as Hot Springs Reservation in 1832!⁠

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#18 Jasper National Park

Given how magical Spirit Island/Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park looks, it seems like we must just have different definitions of the word “need.”

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#19 Kakadu National Park

Kakadu? More like KakaDON’T, am I right?!⁠

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#20 Biscayne National Park

I’d personally consider it a plus if I could explore coral reefs and shipwrecks and see dolphins, turtles, and tons of fish at @biscaynenps without interruption. Maybe the park’s trying to tell you something! ⁠

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#21 Coconino National Forest

That’s it. That’s the review.

(Really though. One star, one word. That’s all this person could muster for this incredible place. They apparently missed the many areas of this 1.8 million acre wonderland that are decidedly NOT desert, given that Coconino is one of the most diverse national forests in the country!)

Image credits: subparparks

#22 Haleakala National Park

Another day, another sunrise, on top of a volcano, 10,000 feet up. Meh. ⁠

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#23 Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park

An 1,100-foot natural sandstone monolith (the world’s largest!) that’s 500 million years old? Yawn – it’s got nothing on that 12-ft man-made hunk of metal that turned up in Utah.⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#24 The British Isles

Ok, not *technically* a national park (a National Scenic Area!), but you know I had to — plus, as the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis is pretty dang majestic. There were so many gems in 1-star reviews of this place, it was tough to choose what to actually put on the illustration Can’t wait to climb this baby myself and see what all the whining is about. ⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#25 Great Sand Dunes National Park And Preserve

It’s called… Great… Sand… Dunes… ? And it *just* has the tallest sand dunes in all of North America. Meh.

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#26 Congaree National Park

Blaming @congareenps for being hot/humid is right up there with blaming Glacier NP for being too cold  (The RealFeel in Raleigh is currently 112º so this gets no sympathy from me!)

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#27 Dry Tortugas National Park

Most of us usually call this exploring… (P.S. Bummer that this person seems to have missed all the non-walking water-based activities @drytortugasnps has to offer

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#28 Gateway Arch National Park

I mean, it IS a completely curved arch, so yeah – there are no points.

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#29 Kosciuszko National Park

Just the highest peak in Australia (not to mention glacial lakes, fields of wildflowers in the spring, and tons of snow sports in the winter). Nbd.

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#30 Gulf Islands National Seashore

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#31 Canyon De Chelly National Monument

Just stunning, sheer cliffs of red rock and a lush green canyon below, with opportunities to see ancient pit houses, petroglyphs, and pictographs, and learn about Ancient Puebloan, Hopi, and Navajo cultures. Meh! The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation work together to manage this stunning and sacred place, which is entirely within Navajo Nation, so yeah, if you’re not going to respect Navajo customs and laws it definitely IS better to skip it.

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#32 Rocky Mountain National Park

I mean, other than 300 miles of trails, ridiculous star gazing, Trail Ridge Road, an insanely beautiful wildflower season, and hundreds of species of wildlife…. There’s really nothing impressive about @rockynps

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#33 New River Gorge National Park

Seems like we could all use a chuckle and some light hearted news right now, so in case you didn’t hear… “The New” is going to be America’s NEWest National Park, after 30+ years as a National River (plenty of time to have already had some disgruntled visitors). The irony is that the not-so-New River Gorge is actually one of the continent’s oldest rivers, full of opportunities for whitewater rafting, peaceful floating, hiking, climbing, fishing, and more!

As a frequent visitor of the smokies, I’ve come to think of mist/fog as a part of the Appalachian viewing experience, but I guess this person would disagree with me.

Image credits: subparparks

#34 Mojave National Preserve

In 5th grade my bully asked me if I thought I was pretty and before I could answer she said “I do… pretty UGLY.” Maybe she’s reviewing national parks now and left this lovely sentiment about @mojavenp?

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#35 Mesa Verde National Park

I guess the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and the largest archaeological preserve in the United States doesn’t count as much these days.

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#36 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Putting the “bad” in Carlsbad since 1930. Couldn’t you at least hang some art and install a tasteful sconce or two?

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#37 Banff National Park

Agree to disagree, sir. (PS I love how this review isn’t even all that mad or critical. The least passionate one star review I’ve ever seen!)

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#38 Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

Personally, after what it takes to get to @lakeclarknps, I’d be happy to just sit and stare at this water for several… years. ⁠

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#39 Kenai Fjords National Park

Listen @kenaifjordsnps, can’t you corral these 30 ton creatures so I can gawk at them all day? It’s not like there’s anything else interesting to see here.⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#40 Gates Of The Arctic National Park And Preserve

Listen, it was a good effort, but the scale is just all wrong.

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#41 North Rim Of The Grand Canyon

When I’m asked about @grandcanyonnps (which is on several records as being my favorite national park), I often say that I can understand how someone who just walks up the rim and doesn’t spend a whole lot of time there might be unimpressed. But I actually have a really hard time putting myself in that mindset, because even just sitting on the rim looking out at the vast layers in front of us, you had to tear me and @mallorymusante away to go cook dinner and set up camp for the night. One person’s boring is another person’s stunning, I guess!

Most people head to the south rim, which certainly has more of the iconic viewpoints, but but don’t forget about the north rim! Only about 10% of visitors make it there, and if you do, you’ll be rewarded with relatively cooler temps, aspen trees (and a variety of other flora and fauna you won’t find on the south rim), and fewer people. You might even see some bison on the way in depending on the time of year, though we weren’t lucky enough for that (we did see some traces of them near our campsite, though )!

Image credits: subparparks

#42 Acadia National Park

Hey @acadianps, what’s the ETA on your Atlantic Ocean heat pump?⁠

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#43 Kings Canyon National Park

I’m gonna go ahead and let Mist Falls and Paradise Valley speak for themselves on this one.

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#44 Katmai National Park & Preserve

Maybe this person should have headed over to Wrangell-St. Elias instead. I hear there are TOO MANY bears over there! (There are lots of opinions about the appropriate number of bears in Alaska, apparently.)⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#45 Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The highest point in Texas, the largest exposed fossil reef in the world, not to mention a diverse landscape of desert, canyon, and alpine ecosystems. MEH. ⁠

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#46 Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Idk about y’all, but the possibility of seeing bison and wild horses, and the definite presence of badlands at @theodorerooseveltnps is more than enough attraction for me!⁠

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#47 Wind Cave National Park

Just one of the longest cave systems in the world, with so much crazy texture (hello, boxwork!) it’s basically impossible to capture in an illustration. And on top of that (literally), one of the few remaining mixed-grass prairie in the US. Same old, same old, @windcavenps.⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#48 Snowdonia National Park

As they say, one man’s rubbish is another man’s… ideal retreat into nature?⁠

I was going to be really disappointed if I got through the UK series without getting to use the word rubbish, so thanks @visitsnowdonia!⁠

Image credits: subparparks

#49 Mammoth Cave National Park

I know it’s the longest cave system in the world, but you’d think @mammothcavenps could get a few hundred dehumidifiers and space heaters up in here.⁠

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#50 Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Hold up – you’re telling me I have to drive a scenic road all the way to the top of the mountain to see the breathtaking views at the top of the mountain? Hard pass. ⁠

Apparently the Cabot Trail highway in Cape Breton Highlands National Park was just a bit too long a drive for this person.

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#51 Fire Island National Seashore

Maybe this person is confusing @fireislandnps with the Fyre Festival

Fun fact! No one knows exactly where the name Fire Island came from. It could be a misinterpretation of Five or Vier (Dutch for 4) on maps, as the number of inlet islands changed over the years (“ted party” Parks and Rec episode anyone?). Or it could refer to beach fires built on the island by pirates to lure ships to shore.

Either way, I really don’t get how you could be let down by a beach where you can sail, swim, fish, hike, camp, canoe, kayak…

Image credits: subparparks

#52 Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Raise your hand if you saw this review of @goldengatenps coming from a mile away (which is farther than you can see in this dang fog)The fog in San Francisco is so famous it has a name and an Instagram account (@karlthefog), and inspired an emoji, so I guess this person wasn’t aware they were in the presence of a celebrity

Image credits: subparparks

#53 Petrified Forest National Park

Never mind that those “dead trees” are the fossilized remains of ancient trees from 200+ million years ago, full of mind-blowing colors and patterns. Yawn!

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#54 Denali National Park And Preserve

Yep, pretty much nothing in @denalinps but 6 million acres of Alaskan wilderness full of spruce forests, grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou… not to mention the highest peak in North America. One star. ⁠

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#55 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Back on US soil today (figuratively speaking of course, since I’ve barely left my house in the last year, let alone the country) to start working my way through some other epic public lands! This person really has a point. When you google @picturedrocksnps, pretty much all that comes up are pictures of rocks never mind that they come in the form of incredible cliffs, arches, sea caves, blowholes, spires and other epic formations.

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#56 Little River Canyon National Preserve

Waterfalls, lush greenery, dramatic rock walls, and plenty of opportunities to hike, climb, kayak (everything from more gentle sections of river up to Class VI rapids Olympic kayakers have trained on!), bike, or drive your way through the scenery? That’s it? You’re gonna need to do a little more to impress me, Little River Canyon.

Image credits: subparparks

#57 Coconino National Forest

Photos and illustrations of Coconino National Forest really don’t do it justice, so I think it actually IS a must see ??‍♀️

There’s no way around it: much of Coconino is close to Sedona, and it’s a popular place. Combine that with areas of the national forest within city limits being (understandably) a no-go for dispersed camping, and you really need to manage your expectations and plan ahead to have an enjoyable trip here, particularly if you’re seeking a bit of solitude. Resources like @ioverlander, @freeroamhq and freecampsites.net will be your best friends for planning where to sleep if you’re not making reservations in campgrounds. Get to camping spots as early as you can, and if you want to do hikes you know are popular, get an early start! Sunrise hikes became our go-to plan for a lot of our trip, and gave us a lot of quiet space, even in popular spots like Bell Rock. If you’re going to do the popular thing at the popular time (like Cathedral Rock at sunset), accept the likely reality that you’ll be around a lot of people, especially during peak tourism months! You’ll be far less grumpy than if you were naively expecting to have it all to yourself (and pleasantly surprised if you somehow do!).

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#58 Blue Mountains National Park

Ohhhh, I get it… Wentworth Falls, as in I WENT there and it was totally not WORTH it. Blue Mountains National Park is going to have to do a bit better than a 300m waterfall to capture this guy’s attention.

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#59 Great Basin National Park

What good is a national park if it doesn’t have at least a cave, a mountain, a desert, a tundra, AND a jungle all in one?⁠

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#60 Kobuk Valley National Park

I didn’t travel to a nearly 2 million acre park in Alaska to be alone in a peaceful wilderness. ⁠

(In the spirit of full disclosure, this is actually the negative aspect of a 3-star review, but it was too good to pass up since none of the 1-star reviewers said anything )⁠

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#61 Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park

Sounds like a personal problem to me, because I don’t see how I’d ever get bored of views like this one from the top of Ben A’an.

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#62 Virgin Islands National Park

Nothing to see at @virginislandsnps but an overrated tropical paradise with unbelievably turquoise water.

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#63 Vermilion Cliffs National Monument

Pretty much every bad review for Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is about how remote it is, which made me laugh a little extra because it’s exactly why I love this park. Straddling the border of Utah / Arizona (as I affectionately call Arizutah), Vermilion Cliffs is full of colorful, swirling rock formations, the longest slot canyon in the world, and much more! A few important things to know if you want to plan a visit, because the reality of a trip here is not everyone’s cup of tea (it is, in fact, quite remote, and does not have much in the way of facilities within the park): 1. Many areas feature fragile, flaky sandstone fins that will crumble under your boot. They took millions of years to form, and can be destroyed in an instant. Stick to sandy washes or slickrock, and if you must step on a fin, choose larger ones, step carefully, and make sure your foot is far from the edge. 2. Some areas require a permit which are very limited to protect the fragile landscape. They’re available online 4 months in advance through a lottery (Coyote Buttes North, aka the Wave) or monthly calendar (Paria Canyon overnight and Coyote Buttes South), and for Coyote Buttes North / South, there’s also an in-person lottery a day in advance. Check BLM.gov and Recreation.gov for info and availability! 3. The roads are at best dirt or gravel, and at worst deep sand with rough, rocky patches! Signs are NOT lying when they say a road requires high clearance 4WD. Know your route and whether you/your vehicle can handle it, and if not, save yourself a pricey tow and a long wait for assistance, and book a local tour company! I personally have used @kanabtourcompany and Grand Staircase Discovery, but there are many others. If you love another company, feel free to give them a shout out! 4. This park is best known for the famous Wave, but it’s so much more than that (you might be surprised to learn that this is not even an illustration of the Wave ?). I’ve spent more days in this park than almost any other, and I’ve never been to the Wave! Do yourself a favor and look into other areas you can visit. I promise, they aren’t a consolation prize!

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#64 Canyonlands National Park

Karen isn’t mad. She’s just disappointed. ⁠

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#65 Redwoods National Park

I went to a coastal forest park and all I saw was coast and forest. ⁠

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#66 Voyageurs National Park

I know I for one can’t stand it when I have a majestic piece of nature all to myself (and yes, this was actually a complaint!).

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#67 Pacific Rim National Park

I’m not even much of a beach person, but I’m sold (PS the three regions of this park are Long Beach, the West Coast, and the Broken Group Islands, so I feel like Pacific Rim was pretty up front about there being a whoooole lotta beach, but there are also rainforests!).

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#68 Yoho National Park

I’m back, baby – and taking a hard look at some of Canada’s most stunning national treasures! Apparently even the mind blowing jade waters of Emerald Lake with epic views of Mount Burgess, Michael Peak, and Wapta Mountain was not very thrilling for this Yoho National Park visitor.

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#69 Lassen Volcanic National Park

Sounds like me whenever I go to a party, tbh.

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#70 Glacier Bay National Park And Preserve

If over 1,000 glaciers (several of which make the boat you can tour them on look like a toy boat), plus whales, sea lions, sea otters, and puffins don’t make @glacierbaynps great, I really don’t know what will!

Image credits: subparparks

#71 Crater Lake National Park

Just goes to show you that with the right mindset, even the deepest lake in the US, which is literally in a COLLAPSED VOLCANO, can be boring.

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#72 Lake District National Park

Yes, I can see how England’s largest National Park, which contains both England’s deepest AND longest lakes, plus mountains and woodlands, wouldn’t be all that interesting. Probably best to skip it.

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#73 Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Since I’m branching out from the 63 national parks and into other areas, I thought I’d give some love to one of my favorites that I can’t wait to get back to – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which isn’t managed by NPS but instead by BLM (@mypubliclands)! National Monuments can be a bit confusing because sometimes they’re managed by different groups or jointly. But either way, this place is still pretty darn special in my opinion (just be prepared if you’re going to venture down Hole-in-the-Rock Road )

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#74 Lake Mead National Recreation Area – National Park Service

Mead is actually an abbreviation for Mediocre, didn’t you know?

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the US, formed by the uber-famous Hoover Dam! If that’s not cool enough, the National Recreation area actually contains a second lake (Lake Mohave) and covers part of 3 different deserts! Sounds like a pretty dam good place to spend a day or two if you ask me.

Image credits: subparparks

#75 White Mountain National Forest

Funny, because I am COMPLETELY uninterested in what this person thinks about @whitemountainforest. Just the tallest mountain in the northeast, plus plenty of activities to keep you (somewhat) entertained year round, including spring wildflowers, mild summers perfect for hiking, fall foliage, and winter sports galore.

Image credits: subparparks

#76 Indiana Dunes National Park

Given how flat the state of Indiana is, I’m not really sure how high you could expect dunes on a beach there to be?

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#77 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

While this person mentioned bears not once, but TWICE in their one star review, let us all take a moment to appreciate the irony that one of the only other negative reviews of this park is that there isn’t ENOUGH wildlife. Life lesson: There will always be someone ready to complain, no matter what you do. Don’t take it personally. ⁠

Image credits: subparparks



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