Pick Your Park – National Park Reviews & Rankings

National Park Service Unit Ratings Overview

This National Park review and rating system was adapted and expanded from Laurent Martres fabulous guide book Photographing The Southwest Vol 3. It uses a rating of 0 (-) to 5 (*****) ranking the following categories: scenic views, photographic opportunities, road conditions and trail hiking level. 


Scenic Views – Wow Factor! 

– No particular interest 

* Stop if time permits 

** Worthy of a visit 

*** Very interesting, original location 

**** Unique location, a must see 

***** The best, world class

Photographic Opportunities

– No particular interest 

* Quick photo

** Good photo opportunity  

*** Good potential and scenic subjects  

**** Very scenic with original subjects 

***** A photographer’s dream, world class 

Road Conditions

–  Off road, recommend going on a tour or in a 4 WD vehicle 

* Dirt road accessible by most vehicles do not recommend for RV 

** Dirt road accessible by vehicles and RVs 

*** Vehicles and RVs under 21 feet

**** Vehicles and RVs under 30 feet

***** Paved road, accessible by all RVs and vehicles  

Trail Hiking Level

– None to very little walking required

* Short walk (<=1 hour r/t) everyone 

** Moderate (1 to 3 hours r/t) with no major difficulties or short hike with some minor difficulties 

*** Moderate to strenuous ( 3 to 6 hour r/t) and/or some difficulties (elevation gain, difficult terrain, obstacles, some risks) 

**** Strenuous (>6 hour r/t) and/or all round difficult (elevation gain, difficult terrain, obstacles, some risks) 

***** Backpacking required, extremely fit day hikers


HK = Hiking & Backpacking, HB = Horseback rides, C = Climbing, W = Water Activities (Rafting, Kayaking, Paddling), WS = Winter Sports, B = Biking, BD = Birding,  CV = Caving

– No offerings

* Limited offerings

** Ok/Average

*** Good

**** Excellent 

***** Best of the parks 


– No viewing opportunities 

* Limited viewing 

** Small animals and birds 

***  Small to medium animals

**** Diversity of species – small to large animals 

***** Best of the parks – animals & predators Big 5 (moose, wolves, bears, caribou, sheep)

Pick Your Park! National Park Reviews & Ratings

National Park StopStateScenic ViewsPhoto OppsRoad ConditionsTrail Hiking LevelAdventuresAdventures Wildlife
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National MonumentNM*************BD, HK****
Gila Cliff Dwellings National MonumentNM************HK/BP, BD****
Salinas Pueblo Missions Abo National Monument NM*********--*
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife RefugeNM*************HK, BD*********
Pecos National Historical ParkNM***********HK**
Fort Union National MonumentNM*********HK**
Capulin Volcano National MonumentNM***********HK***
Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument NM************HK, W, BD****
Aztec Ruins National MonumentNM***********HK**
Chaco Canyon Cultural National Historic ParkNM************HK**
El Malpais National MonumentNM*************HK**
El Morro National Monument NM************HK**
Petroglyphs National MonumentNM***********HK**
Valles Caldera National MonumentNM***********HK, WS***
Bandelier National Monument NM**********HK***
White Sands National MonumentNM***************HK**
Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National MonumentNM***********HK**
Prehistoric Trackways National Monument NM******HK**
Carlsbad Caverns National ParkNM****************HK, CV****