Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called America’s National Parks system, “the best idea we’ve ever had.” And loads of people seem to agree: America’s 62 National Parks receive more than 300 million visitors a year. (To put that in perspective, the current population of the United States is 327 million.)
Those that go to these sacred natural spaces commemorate their visits with passport stamps, fabric patches, pins, magnets — and, of course, Instagram posts. Whether it’s a windy summit snap or an #outofoffice humble-brag, nothing brightens up your IG feed like a hit of natural beauty.
At Wanderu, we highly encourage these environmental expeditions. With cheap deals on bus and train tickets (the most eco-friendly way to get from A to B), places like Glacier National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon become accessible to influencers and average adventurers alike.
All that got us thinking: Which National Parks are the most Instagrammed? And which are the most Instagrammable?
It’s an important distinction: The most Instagrammed are those that’ve been posted the most total times, while the most Instagrammable have received the most love relative to their number of visitors. With that in mind, we pulled in data from the National Parks Service and tallied up the hashtags on Instagram itself (read our full methodology). The results are the rankings below.
The Most Instagrammed National Parks
|1.||Yosemite National Park||4,582,241|
|2.||Grand Canyon National Park||4,133,153|
|3.||Yellowstone National Park||2,390,658|
|4.||Joshua Tree National Park||2,171,196|
|5.||Great Smoky Mountains National Park||1,245,362|
|6.||Death Valley National Park||1,151,529|
|7.||Redwood National Park||1,131,495|
|8.||Zion National Park||1,106,775|
|9.||Everglades National Park||833,153|
|10.||Grand Teton National Park||774,445|
- Rankings are based on the gross number of hashtagged photos found for each park on Instagram.
|11.||Glacier National Park||743,402|
|12.||Acadia National Park||702,263|
|13.||Bryce Canyon National Park||678,585|
|14.||Sequoia National Park||577,551|
|15.||Rocky Mountains National Park||576,577|
|16.||Shenandoah National Park||541,916|
|17.||Arches National Park||451,557|
|18.||Crater Lake National Park||417,466|
|19.||Mount Rainier National Park||405,627|
|20.||Olympic National Park||382,269|
|21.||Haleakala National Park||363,763|
|22.||Big Bend National Park||357,430|
|23.||Canyonlands National Park||343,802|
|24.||Channel Islands National Park||338,432|
|25.||Saguaro National Park||307,015|
|26.||Kings Canyon National Park||230,170|
|27.||North Cascades National Park||229,075|
|28.||Virgin Islands National Park||221,217|
|29.||Pinnacles National Park||198,429|
|30.||Gateway Arch National Park||147,788|
|31.||Denali National Park||127,765|
|32.||Great Sand Dunes National Park||124,510|
|34.||Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park||115,584|
|35.||Capitol Reef National Park||111,014|
|36.||Mesa Verde National Park||109,446|
|37.||Hot Springs National Park||99,430|
|38.||Lassen Volcanic National Park||95,902|
|39.||White Sands National Park||95,165|
|40.||Cuyahoga Valley National Park||81,610|
|41.||Petrified Forest National Park||81,113|
|42.||Indiana Dunes National Park||80,559|
|43.||Dry Tortugas National Park||69,448|
|44.||Mammoth Cave National Park||67,169|
|45.||Carlsbad Caverns National Park||64,103|
|46.||Glacier Bay National Park||62,874|
|47.||Kenai Fjords National Park||50,645|
|48.||Great Basin National Park||48,108|
|49.||Katmai National Park||43,901|
|50.||Hawaii Volcanoes National Park||37,315|
|51.||Theodore Roosevelt National Park||36,809|
|52.||Wind Cave National Park||33,317|
|53.||Guadalupe National Park||27,703|
|54.||Isle Royale National Park||23,126|
|55.||Congaree National Park||22,210|
|56.||Wrangell–St. Elias National Park||21,117|
|57.||Lake Clark National Park||17,006|
|58.||Gates of the Arctic National Park||13,061|
|59.||Biscayne National Park||12,629|
|60.||Voyageurs National Park||8,020|
|61.||Kobuk Valley National Park||602|
|62.||National Park of the American Samoa||203|
Not a lot of surprises at the top here — except for Joshua Tree. This Southern California gem has an online presence on par with much more iconic parks. The others represent a veritable National Parks Bucket List (which we highly recommend having), comprising the superstars of the natural world. Here are some tips on how to enjoy (and photograph) the Top 5 in original ways, dodging the traffic jams while you’re at it.
1. Yosemite National Park
This California park and its soaring granite cliffs are part of the reason there’s a National Park System in the first place: both John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt were enamored of the place. While Yosemite continues to post record annual attendance, the majority of visitors spend their time in Yosemite Valley, posting pics of the iconic El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
To get away from the traffic, jump on a free shuttle to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias — home to more than 500 of the behemoth trees — and take a walk on the quiet side. Elsewhere, Hetch Hetchy rivals the Valley’s splendor with much fewer visitors, and Tuolumne Meadow, the highest meadow in the Sierra Nevada, offers a more serene and subtle experience at 8,600 hundred feet.
2. Grand Canyon National Park
This natural wonder may get crowded with visitors clicking selfies, but remember this: the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long. So if you’re looking for a more original shot than the typical South-Rim pose, you’ll definitely be able to find it.
To get an insider’s perspective of the park, consider signing up for one of the day hikes, overnight trips, or informative classes hosted by the Grand Canyon Conservancy. Your followers will appreciate your beautiful photography and your newfound natural and historic insight. If you’re OK with crowds, check out the Skywalk Glass Bridge, a glass-floored horseshoe-shaped bridge that extends 70 feet over the canyon below.
3. Yellowstone National Park
For a new perspective of one of America’s oldest parks — and for stunning photo opportunities — visit Yellowstone in the winter. Planning during the snowy season is trickier, but pays off in the form of fewer crowds and steamy pics (of geysers, obviously).
Because most roads in and around the park are closed during the winter, you’ll need to traverse Yellowstone on skis, snowshoes, snowcoaches or snowmobiles. You can find those last two via the park’s authorized tour companies, which take participants into the backcountry to see the snowy sights. During the cold months, two of the park’s lodges keep the home fires burning — Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
4. Joshua Tree National Park
If you took Instagram’s word for it, you’d think Joshua Tree was just a place to model your new athleisure and recharge your crystals. Oh! And post yet another picture of those gnarly trees. But trust us, there’s more to do in this park than getting your tarot cards read.
To start, visit skull rock, a boulder that resembles a… well, you know 💀 Then set off in search of the amazing creatures that make this inhospitable place their home. Mojave Desert Tortoises, kangaroo rats, pocket gophers and the handsome California tree frog are sure to add an “awe” and “aw” factor to your feed. However you choose to enjoy Joshua Tree, remember two things: bring water (it’s hot) and leave the pup at home (it’s hot).
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The East Coast’s lone representative on this list, the Great Smoky Mountains really are great, and here’s why — they’re super accessible. A relatively short drive from the major metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Charlotte and Knoxville, GSMNP is one of the easiest parks to get to.
And while this does ensure a healthy annual attendance, that doesn’t mean you have to endure the hordes of tourists. Trade four wheels for two feet and see if you can find one of the park’s many cemeteries. Or, do go chasing waterfalls, and set out to snap a photo of as many of the park’s 100 waterfalls as you can. (Pro tip — for solitude, avoid the waterfalls with a parking lot.)
Just outside the park, Gatlinburg is a kitschy (and affordable) can’t-miss.
The Most Instagrammable National Parks
|1. North Cascades National Park||30,085||229,075||7.61|
|2. Redwood National Park||482,536||1,131,495||2.34|
|3. Virgin Islands National Park||112,287||221,217||1.97|
|4. Everglades National Park||597,124||833,153||1.40|
|5. Gates of the Arctic National Park||9,591||13,061||1.36|
|6. Dry Tortugas National Park||56,810||69,448||1.22|
|7. Lake Clark National Park||14,479||17,006||1.17|
|8. Katmai National Park||37,818||43,901||1.16|
|9. Yosemite National Park||4,009,436||4,582,241||1.14|
|10. Channel Islands National Park||366,250||338,432||0.92|
|Name of national park|
|Number of annual visitors to the park|
|Number of hashtagged photos of the park on Instagram|
|11. Isle Royale National Park||25,798||23,126||0.90|
|12. Pinnacles National Park||222,152||198,429||0.89|
|13. Big Bend National Park||440,091||357,430||0.81|
|14. Joshua Tree National Park||2,942,382||2,171,196||0.74|
|15. Death Valley National Park||1,678,660||1,151,529||0.69|
|16. Grand Canyon National Park||6,380,495||4,133,153||0.65|
|17. Yellowstone National Park||4,115,000||2,390,658||0.580|
|18. Crater Lake National Park||720,659||417,466||0.579|
|19. Sequoia National Park||1,229,594||577,551||0.47|
|20. Canyonlands National Park||739,449||343,802||0.46|
|21. Shenandoah National Park||1,264,880||541,916||0.43|
|22. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park||308,962||115,584||0.37|
|23. Haleakala National Park||1,044,084||363,763||0.35|
|24. Kings Canyon National Park||699,023||230,170||0.33|
|25. Saguaro National Park||957,405||307,015||0.32|
|26. Great Basin National Park||153,094||48,108||0.31|
|27. Great Sand Dunes National Park||442,905||124,510||0.28|
|28. Arches National Park||1,663,557||451,557||0.271|
|29. Mount Rainier National Park||1,518,491||405,627||0.267|
|30. Wrangell–St. Elias National Park||79,450||21,117||0.266|
|31. Zion National Park||4,320,033||1,106,775||0.256|
|32. Bryce Canyon National Park||2,679,478||678,585||0.253|
|33. Glacier National Park||2,965,309||743,402||0.25|
|34. Grand Teton National Park||3,491,151||774,445||0.22|
|35. Denali National Park||594,660||127,765||0.21|
|36. Acadia National Park||3,537,575||702,263||0.198|
|37. Mesa Verde National Park||563,420||109,446||0.194|
|38. Lassen Volcanic National Park||499,435||95,902||0.192|
|39. Guadalupe Mountains National Park||172,347||27,703||0.16|
|40. White Sands National Park||603,008||95,165||0.1578|
|41. Kenai Fjords National Park||321,596||50,645||0.1574|
|42. Congaree National Park||145,929||22,210||0.15|
|43. Carlsbad Cavern National Park||465,912||64,103||0.13|
|44. Mammoth Cave National Park||533,206||67,169||0.1259|
|45. Petrified Forest National Park||644,922||81,113||0.1257|
|46. Rocky Mountain National Park||4,590,493||576,577||0.125|
|47. Olympic National Park||3,104,455||382,269||0.123|
|48. Great Smoky Mountains National Park||11,421,200||1,245,362||0.109|
|49. Glacier Bay National Park||597,915||62,874||0.105|
|50. Badlands National Park||1,008,942||101,255||0.10|
|51. Capitol Reef National Park||1,227,627||111,014||0.09|
|52. Gateway Arch National Park||2,016,180||147,788||0.07|
|53. Hot Springs National Park||1,506,887||99,430||0.06|
|54. Wind Cave National Park||656,397||33,317||0.05|
|55. Theodore Roosevelt National Park||749,389||36,809||0.049|
|56. Indiana Dunes National Park||1,756,079||80,559||0.045|
|57. Kobuk Valley National Park||14,937||602||0.04|
|58. Cuyahoga Valley National Park||2,096,053||81,610||0.038|
|59. Voyageurs National Park||239,656||8,020||0.03346|
|60. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park||1,116,891||37,315||0.03341|
|61. Biscayne National Park||469,253||12,629||0.02|
|62. National Park of the American Samoa||28,626||203||0.007|
These parks are so beautiful that almost everyone who visits posts about it online (judging by the hashtags, anyway). The rankings are based on the number of hashtagged photos found for each park on Instagram, divided by the number of annual visitors to the park. Here’s how to enjoy the exceptional Top 5 — and where you’ll find the perfect shot.
1. North Cascades National Park
Two words: grizzly bears. You want ‘em, North Cascades has ‘em. Located as far north as you can get in the Pacific Northwest, this park only saw 30,000 visitors last year (that’s an astounding 0.3 percent of the Great Smoky Mountains’ visitation).
This secluded, rugged landscape of glaciers and alpine lakes provides refuge for other animals you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the US: wolverines, wolves, lynx, moose — the list goes on. To get your eyes (and your lens) on this wildlife safely, check out the many authorized outfitters that will escort you into the backcountry using various modes of transport, including llamas (!).
2. Redwood National Park
This California classic is home to the tallest trees in the world, but there are lots of other reasons to visit. To catch a glimpse of nearly all of them, spend a day combining the James Irvine Trail and Fern Canyon Loop. You’ll see the park’s namesake, of course, but also verdant coastal spruce forests.
Perhaps more beautiful are the fern-covered walls of the appropriately named Fern Canyon — like all your house-plant dreams come to life. Turn around (or set up camp) at Gold Bluffs Beach, which offers a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean.
3. Virgin Islands National Park
After being slammed with back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes in September 2017, this national park has seen a major decline in visitation. All the more reason to knock this one off your National Parks bucket list. While other parks make you work for the payoff (long hikes, tough climbs, etc.) Virgin Islands National Park will wow you as soon as you step off the ferry.
To enjoy this paradise, choose from a diverse menu of ranger-led activities, including birdwatching, beach yoga and lionfish safaris. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars, do not leave this tropic wonder without scuba diving or snorkeling. Underwater adventures can be planned through the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park website.
4. Everglades National Park
If it’s wildlife pics you’re after, the Everglades are for you. Step 1: Rent a bicycle from the Shark Valley Visitors Center. Step 2: Point and shoot. Along this 15-mile route (which you can also enjoy in the comfort of an hourly tram), you’ll see anhingas, spoonbills and limpkins (those are birds) and plenty of alligators, iguanas and snakes. Your followers will think you’ve traipsed deep into the jungle for these wild shots, when really you were sipping lemonade from your Schwinn.
Or perhaps you actually do want to traipse into the jungle? Try it by paddle, and camp on one of the park’s chickees — an elevated platform over water that makes for a memorable snooze.
5. Gates of the Arctic National Park
On the other side of the climatic spectrum, this Alaskan park is virtually untouched — no roads or trails here. Instead, visitors have to arrive via prop plane or foot, blazing their own path (be sure to get permission before attempting the latter).
Once inside Gates of the Arctic, you’re free to roam where you will, but please do so carefully. According to the NPS: Dense vegetation, tussocks, boggy ground and frequent stream and river crossings are just a few of the challenges hikers and backpackers will encounter. The payoff? Sweeping mountain vistas, unique wildlife, (actually) endless summer days and sweet, sweet solitude.
Of course, no matter where you are, remember to be a good steward of these places. That means staying on the trail (yes, even when “over there” would make a great ‘gram), keeping the pup on a leash and taking your trash with you. You might even consider reading up on the debate over geo-tagging certain (overcrowded) locations. Whatever you do, remember that these public spaces are for everyone to enjoy. Our National Parks don’t just need our social media likes, they need our love, too.
And now that you’re well-informed, you can use the listings above to form your own National Parks Bucket List — and Wanderu will help you get there. (The idea for Wanderu was actually conceived when our co-founders were traveling to National Parks across the country, and realized there was no centralized bus-booking site to better coordinate their travel.) On Wanderu.com and the free Wanderu app, you can book bus, train or plane tickets to get close to (many) of these majestic sites.
Whether they’re the most Instagrammed or the most Instagrammable, every national park offers the incredible opportunity to explore the most beautiful landscapes our country has to offer. Enjoy — and post — responsibly!
To rank the most Instagrammed and most Instagrammable National Parks, we employed the following methodology.
For Most Instagrammed:
- We pulled a list of the 62 United States National Parks as designated by the National Parks Service, which are distinct from state parks, national memorials and other federally recognized sites.
- For each of the 62 United States National Parks, we plugged different variations of the park’s name into the hashtag-finding search engine at keywordtool.io.
- With a full list of associated hashtags in hand, we added together the totals for each one on Instagram to get a gross number for each individual National Park.
- Once we had an aggregate number of hashtags associated with each park, we then ranked all 62 parks from most to fewest, and this order revealed the Most Instagrammed National Parks.
For Most Instagrammable:
- For each of the 62 United States National Parks, we first pulled a report from the National Parks Service that listed the total number of recreational visits to each park in 2018.
- After that, we then plugged different variations of each National Park’s name into the hashtag-finding search engine at keywordtool.io.
- With a full list of associated hashtags in hand, we added together the totals for each one on Instagram to get a gross number for each individual National Park.
- To get the number of hashtags per visitor, we then divided the gross hashtags for each park by the park’s number of annual visitors.
- Finally, we then ranked all 62 parks from most hashtags per visitor to fewest, and this order revealed the Most Instagrammable National Parks.
You are welcome to use the information on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page, so that wanderers around the globe can check out all the available data and find out how we came up with these rankings.