‘A giant litter box’: Our favorite 1-star reviews for national parks

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A Yelp reviewer from Woodland Hills, Calif., has nothing nice to say about Yosemite. Unlike landscape photographer Ansel Adams and free solo climber Alex Honnold, Kevin K. was not inspired by the California national park when he visited in 2015. As he wrote in his one-star review, he found it “disappointingly pointless” and “heartbreakingly awful.” His advice to the National Park Service: Shut it down, and fire the “owners.”

Most visitors hold high praise for national parks. On Tripadvisor, only 88 people out of more than 23,480 commenters were critical of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. On Yelp, roughly 1 percent of reviewers were disenchanted by the Arizona landmark that Ken B. of Tucson described on Yelp as “A hole. A very, very large hole.” After countless “wow” and “stunning” reviews, however, the negative critiques are an entertaining and illuminating detour to the land of disillusionment.

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“I think they’re so funny because people had really high expectations, and nature doesn’t always cooperate,” said Amber Share, a Raleigh-based author and artist who illustrated one-star reviews for her Subpar Parks project. “Sometimes you can make the choice to embrace what it actually is, and other times it’s just going to really make you mad.”

In 2019, Share started mining Yelp, Tripadvisor and Google Reviews for material. She tried to suss out the genuine comments from the jokes and focused on reviews that panned natural attractions. She posted her artwork on her Instagram account, which has amassed 415,000 followers, and compiled her creations in a book and postcard collection. She said several national park visitors centers now carry her book, which was published in 2021. As an example of life imitating art imitating life, her publication has received a number of one-star reviews.

“Some people wished there were fewer words,” she said.

We recently conducted our own deep dive into poor reviews and unearthed some golden nuggets as priceless as the parks themselves. Here’s our roundup of one-star reviews, which we lightly edited for clarity and length.

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Yosemite: ‘A real dud’

A real dud. … A real Wally World as we had to turn around.

- Rona B., Lake Forest, Calif., August 2020, on Yelp

If I were you, stay at the awanee [Ahwahnee] and then get out of Dodge. We didn’t even see any bears on our visit - how lame is that.

- David H., Redwood, Calif., October 2015, on Yelp

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Yellowstone: Smells like rotten eggs

Everywhere you go, there’s this lingering smell of rotten eggs. You’d think for the $35 entrance fee the park people could install some airwicks Air Wicks or something.

- C. S., Flagstaff, Ariz., September 2020, on Yelp

Very scenic, however, you can see the same all around this area. ID, MT, WY all great, and they don’t cost $30 to get into.

- Brian K., London, Ohio, August 2018, on Yelp

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Grand Canyon: Too big

No plants, no life. It’s like a picture of death.

- Sara L., Mars, Pa., August 2016, on Yelp

It’s to[o] big. … Also my wife decided to divorce me while we were there.

- Landon W., Innisfail, Alberta, Canada, April 4, 2019, on Yelp

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Grand Teton: Mountains obscure the views

Could be better. Mountains were blocking the sunset.

- Evan Josiah, two years ago on Google Reviews

The mountains look nice, but Yellowstone is way better, and it’s right next to it.

- Nathan W., North Hollywood, July 2018, on Yelp

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Death Valley: ‘A giant litter box’

Not a fan of finding nothing in the middle of nowhere. It’s like visiting a giant litter box.

- Andy Hobbs, five years ago on Google Reviews

Such a long, lonely drive, and when you get there, it looks as dead as the surface of the moon. But, hey, you come all that way to say you stood under sea level. Whoo hoo.

- Asher Allen, five years ago on Google Reviews

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Big Bend: Unfriendly lizards

Was indeed Big but also HOT. They should call it Big HOT Bend. 1 star.

- Kait Nicole, a month ago on Google Reviews

The lizards were not friendly.

- Natalia Peck, four years ago on Google Reviews

Too many rocks.

- Angel Bueno, four years ago on Google Reviews

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Badlands: Full of old, brown mud

Badlands is basically washed-out hills of 50,000-year-old mud. You have vast grasslands on one side and old mud on the other. And the mud wasn’t even differently colored layers or have any other redeeming qualities. It was brown.

- Henry H., Las Vegas, September 2010, on Yelp

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Everglades: All the same

Once you’ve seen a few trees and lots of grass, it’s all very samey, albeit in different mini ecosystems.

- Fraser’s Travels & Craft Beer, Chelmsford, England, November 2018, on Tripadvisor

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Saguaro: A waste of time

Can’t believe we wasted time going on this loop. We literally are still on it and there’s nothing interesting, so we are on our phones.

- Jamie and Brianna V., Colman, S.D., January 2024, on Yelp

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Indiana Dunes: An insult to other national parks

I can’t beat around the bush with this one: To call this a National Park is an atrocity, an absolute insult to all of the others. My wife and I have been to much better county parks! However, if you like run-down boardwalks that take you to overlooks showing nothing, great views of steel mills, railroad lines and a nuclear power plant combined with a run-down urban feel, this may just be the place of your dreams.

- Bill H., Brighton, Mich., August 2019, on Yelp

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Joshua Tree: ‘Just a pile of rocks’

Just a pile of rocks scattered around the dirt with random scraggly cactuses in the way of the scenery. … Joshua Tree could really use help to restore the rocks with steel beams and poured foundations so the park attendees don’t have to be reminded of the sad state of breakdown all around us.

- Blair B., Encinitas, Calif., April 2022, on Yelp

Desert, some flowers, some cactuses, some palm trees, but boring.

- Genaro G., West Linn, Ore., March 2019, on Yelp

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Petrified Forest: A ‘huge nothingburger’

Zero noteworthy trails. Barely any significant discovery to be had. It’s not even open past sunset. … Reminded me of a poorly executed state park. One huge nothingburger.

- Jordan Halvorsen, a year ago on Google Reviews

Basically it’s a knockoff of the Badlands. They should pay you to enter the park.

- Rob Sims, five years ago on Google Reviews

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White Sands: Too much sand

It was too sandy, and they gave me a ticket for going 30 in a 10 mph zone, pathetic. … This is a -10/10. Never going back. They should’ve made a water park out of this.

- Josie, October 2021, on Tripadvisor

Literally miles of … white sand? No playgrounds or anything really for the kids unless they wanna slide down the sand hills, which was not that great to be honest. Very few shaded areas as well.

- Fatwood, Alamogordo, N.M., August 2017, on Tripadvisor

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Rocky Mountain: Elk rubbernecking

Super unimpressed with this park. It’s just boring! It’s like any forest in CO that you could drive through for free in Genesee or Evergreen. … The people who stop to stare at elk and cause an hour backup that no one can go around, you just have to wait, sucks.

- Christy K., Denver, October 2017, on Yelp

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Hawaii Volcanoes: ‘Empty Walmart parking lot’

Went on the hike through the old volcano. It was like walking through an empty Walmart parking lot.

- Andy B., Duncanville, Tex., March 2020, on Yelp

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Kenai Fjords: Not very exciting whales

We had never been to Alaska, never seen whales or glaciers. We actually did see whales, but at the time I really didn’t think it was so exciting.

- Susan K., July 2017, on Tripadvisor

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