The National Parks: Ranked!

Which government system protects some of our most prized land, offers affordable recreation and is great for the economy? You guessed it—it's the National Park System.

Some have called it, "the best idea we ever had." Others, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, have said there is nothing more American—and who are we to say otherwise? [slideshow:990]

The parks system has preserved little bits of pre-industrial North America, protected animals and plant species from extinction, and educated the population on everything from glacial geology to water pollution.

We can't stress enough how beneficial National Parks are for the country. But if you need one more reason to love them as much as we do, look no further than their positive effect on the economy.

Related: The Economic Value of America's National Parks

At a time when it seems that we squander our most important natural resources, we should appreciate our national parks more than ever. The system is one of the few assurances we have that there will always be wilderness land available to the public.

See Also: 11 National Parks Threatened by Climate Change

These wilderness havens are among America's best assets, they represent the nation's heritage and appreciation for the outdoors. Each of the 59 parks has qualities worthy of official government preservation (and a visit), but we thought it would be interesting to determine which is the best of the best.

We enlisted the help of three new National Park experts this year to lend their expertise and experience to our rankings.

Mike Oswald is the author of Your Guide to the National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 58 National Parks. He spent two years exploring and photographing each of the parks, almost exclusively from the luxury of his tent and has hiked, paddled and pedaled thousands of miles across America's parks.

QT Luong is a photographer who has captured all of the National Parks with a large format camera. He was also featured in the PBS film The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

John D. Giorgis is the President Emeritus of the National Park Travelers Club, an organization that works to provide networking opportunities for visitors of the National Parks and to expand knowledge and appreciation of the parks.

To compute our rankings, we added their views to the rankings of our existing panelists. We also factored in a couple of crunchy metrics: the biodiversity and range of activities available at each park.

If you think your favorite park should have landed higher on our list—or if you think the ranking is spot on—let us know. Either comment below or tweet at us.

See: The Absolute Best National Parks

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Secrets of the National Parks: An Insider's Guide
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