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June 11, 2008

Top 10: Best (and Worst) National Parks for Peace and Quiet

STEP INTO SOLITUDE: Thunder Creek Bridge, North Cascades National Park (E. Cristofferson/courtesy, NPS)

The group's name, Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR), doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but this 650-member collective of former directors, superintendents, rangers, and other career-professionals boasts lifetimes of expertise and institutional knowledge when it comes to the country's national-park system. And that's why we paid attention when CNPSR recently announced its top picks for the noisiest and quietest national parks in the Lower 48, listed below. (National parks in Alaska were deliberately omitted, as many are inaccessible by road, so requiring noise-busting bushplane access, plus these parks are relatively lightly visited, and so, generally speaking, have quite pristine soundscapes.) Note that this is a subjective list and is not based on scientific data, although we hope it will inspire you to go out and seek the silence, nonetheless! Click here to read the CNPSR press release and the rationale behind each of its selections.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
North Cascades National Park, Washington
Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana
Muir Woods National Monument, California

Minute Man National Historical Park, Massachusetts
Mojave National Preserve, California
Mt. Rushmore National Park, South Dakota
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Everglades National Park, Florida
** Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park, parks with well-known noise pollution problems (flightseeing and snowmobiles, respectively), were omitted from the above list.

Have your own quiet pocket of serenity to share? Go on, don't be selfish, tell us in the comments section. To see photographs and to download audio clips of another pristine soundscape, Washington's Olympic National Park, take a tour with acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton on

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Related Topics: Top 10 Lists


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