After a rousing Sweet Sixteen round, in which we saw a few upsets, it's time for the Elite Eight, Final Four and ultimately, the championship to see which of the US National Parks our expert photographers voted as the top park! For a recap of the first round, click here. #1 Yosemite Stays Dominant Against #4 Joshua Tree I always tell people Yosemite is one of the ultimate National Parks. I try to make it a point not to repeat travel destinations because there is so much of this world to explore - but I make an exception for Yosemite. I've traveled there three times and will continue going back. Seeing the Valley for the first time, and all subsequent times. It's hard to imagine nature created features like El Capitan and Half Dome, but they're there, they are real and they are ready to explore! - Matt Andrew You'd think with species like the teddy bear cholla cactus and the Joshua Tree, named by Mormons who thought the yucca species appeared to be praying, Joshua Tree would have more of a chance. However, the always epic and impressive Yosemite defeats the boulder-filled-wonderland. #3 Glacier is Cooler than #7 Grand Teton Glacier...It's easy to avoid crowds (once you are off going-to-the-sun road). However, it's impossible to miss the grandeur and beauty. That awaits you around ever bend in the trail. - Brian W. Downs By virtue of this brilliant cinematography, Glacier advances! #5 Acadia is the Cinderella of the Bracket, Beating #1 Denali You can be the first person to see the sun rise on the East Coast of the United States from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Or, the LAST person to see it rise in Denali. A 20,000 foot high mountain just seems like you're showing off. And midnight sun? What are you compensating for, Denali? No offense, but no thanks! #2 Hawai'i Volcanoes Burns #6 Canyonlands Volcanoes is not just my favorite national park, it’s my favorite place in the world! The other-worldly landscapes, rugged terrain, unforgiving hikes, and amazing views are all completely unique to this park. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and there’s something about being able to see the power of the landscape that really puts you in your place; it makes you feel small. - Joshua Rainey Absolutely Canyonlands National Park in Utah! It has some of the most stunning and unique scenery on the planet. Sweeping vistas and every shape of rock you can image. To top it off, you can explore it all on dirt roads with almost nobody else around. - Dan Ballard FINAL FOUR: #1 Yosemite Ekes out Victory Against #3 Glacier No question, its got to be Glacier NP. While I live close to Yosemite and love it, Glacier offers so much more for photographers. Not only does it offer amazing landscapes like Yosemite, but it also offers a true wildlife experience as well. You can photograph Grizzly Bears, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Goats.... and landscapes all on the same hike. Once you get away from the road it is as close to true wilderness as you can find in the lower 48. Its like Alaska without the flight. - Josh Miller Unfortunately, Glacier couldn't compete with Ansel Adams' favorite national park, where everything seems to be epic, from giant sequoias to waterfalls to Half Dome. #5 Acadia Tops #2 Hawai'i Volcanoes My favorite national park is Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park because it's one of the few places on earth that creates a new world every day! - Matt Gragg New-world-creation is indeed exciting, and everyone knows that lava beats both paper and rock. However, bears beats lava (and Battlestar Galactica). With a varied ecosystem boasting many bears, whales and moose, it's a no-brainer! We get the feeling Hawai'i Volcanoes will revamp and be back, stronger than ever next year.
It call comes down to this...#1 bracket behemoth Yosemite vs #5 seeded Acadia! Sure, Yosemite was the 5th most visited national park in 2017, the Dawn Wall climb in 2015 went on to inspire many and bring climbing more into the mainstream, and many black bears reside in the park. However, the 2018 best US National Park goes to Acadia....because, favoritism. And no, we're not the least bit abashed. #Maine4Life.