Among the most gorgeous settings in the United States are national parks. There are countless adventures to be had in an American national park, from towering glacier-covered mountains to deep caves and vast deserts.
But, it can be difficult to keep track of all of the protected areas in the United States whether you’re a die-hard fan of the National Park Service or you’re interested in visiting your first park.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of US national parks to assist you. We’ll go into great detail about the wonderful world of 63 national parks, so you can start planning your next vacation, soon.
The Complete List of National Parks
There are 63 official national parks in the United States National Park System as of now. To help you find your next adventure destination, here is the complete national park checklist in alphabetical order:
1. Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park, the easternmost park in the contiguous United States, is number one on our list. The Schoodic Peninsula, Isle au Haut, and Mount Desert Island are all part of Acadia, which is situated along the central Maine coast.
Cadillac Mountain, the first location in the contiguous United States to see dawn each morning, is one of Acadia’s most popular attractions. In the eastern United States, the park also includes some of the most isolated and difficult beaches.
You may also go on a whale watching boat in the hopes of seeing humpback whales while you’re at Acadia. In addition, you could go to Acadia between December and March to look for an elusive snowy owl if you are brave enough to face the frigid Maine winter.
2. American Samoa National Park
American Samoa National Park, which covers approximately 8,200 acres (3,300 ha) of land on the islands of Ta’ū, Ofu, and Tutila in American Samoa, is the only national park in the United States located south of the equator.
While it is somewhat difficult to get to, American Samoa National Park is really far away from the rest of the country, which makes it difficult. The Tutuila section of the park is readily accessible by car once you reach American Samoa, and a flight or boat to the other two islands is also available
From tropical rainforests to coral reefs, the park has a variety of landscapes that are uncommon in other parts of the country. Simply put, a visit to the national park is a must if you find yourself in American Samoa during your travels.
With this short film presentation of the US Samoa National Park, you can feel the island breeze.
3. Arches National Park
The natural sandstone arches in Arches National Park in eastern Utah number over 2,000, making it a truly magical location. Outside of Moab, near the city of Moab, the park encompasses a section of the Colorado Plateau’s high desert, with a beautiful view of the snowy La Sal Mountains in the distance.
One of the Arches’ numerous easily accessible arches, such as Double Arch, or its other beautiful sandstone formations like Balanced Rock, is available to visitors for hiking. Delicate Arch, which is featured on Utah’s state license plate, is one of the most well-known natural arches in the world.
Yet, Arches National Park isn’t just home to arches. A ranger-led visit through the maze-filled ravines of the Fiery Furnace to one of the Colorado Plateau’s most unusual locations is also available.
4. Badlands National Park
While the name of Badlands National Park might make you a bit uneasy, there is nothing to be scared of when visiting its amazing landscapes. The park was established to safeguard some of the country’s most considerable remaining mixed grass prairie and badland ecosystems, situated in southwestern South Dakota.
Since much of the park is classified as a wilderness area, it makes a wonderful destination for those who want some peace. In the Badlands, there are many hiking routes that will allow you to experience the area’s iconic rock formations and cultural sites.
You may also go along the Badlands Loop Road while in the Badlands and take in some of the park’s greatest roadside views. Or, if you want to experience the Badlands’ starry night skies, consider camping late one evening in the park.
5. Big Bend National Park
In the center of the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park is situated along the Texas-Mexico border. The Big Bend, which defines the park’s southern edge and is its primary attraction, is a significant curve in the Río Grande.
Big Bend is situated in western Texas, despite being located in the contiguous United States. Despite this, visitors are rare. Although there are just a few maintained trails in the area, many people go to the park to explore its well-preserved Chihuahuan Desert ecosystems.
So long as they have the correct authorization, paddlers are also authorized to float the Río Grande through the park. You may also visit the town of Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico’s state of Coahuila for a quick visit via the park’s border crossing, which allows you to cross the Río Grande.
6. Biscayne National Park
Head to Biscayne National Park if you want to get away from the noise and bustle of Miami life. Biscayne is a collection of islands and barrier reefs located just offshore of Biscayne Bay to the south of Miami, accessible only by boat.
The park encompasses the northernmost tip of the Florida Keys, as well as some well-preserved parts of the Florida Reef, in technical terms. Sand beaches and shoreline mangrove swamps, which are important habitats for the endangered manatee and several marine turtle species, may also be seen in Biscayne.
The park is a very popular tourist destination, despite the fact that it is only accessible by boat. You may go to the park on your own boat if you have one. Or, you can choose from a variety of tour firms in Biscayne to take a guided tour.
7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The Gunnison River’s deepest gorge is home to the appropriately named Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Since the canyon walls are so steep, only a half an hour of sunlight falls on some parts of the valley floor each day, hence the park’s name.
From massive cliffs to raging rivers and dense forests, Black Canyon is a truly amazing natural area. Great horned owls, black bears, pronghorns, mountain lions, and bobcats are among the animals that live in the park’s diverse ecosystems.
The park has hundreds of hiking routes, the majority of which allow visitors to view the canyon from different perspectives. Rafting and climbing in the canyon are incredibly difficult, so they’re normally for expert climbers. The park is also a popular rock climbing and rafting destination.
8. Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is a remarkable destination in its own right, despite being frequently overlooked in favor of nearby Zion. Just west of the massive Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the park is situated in southwestern Utah.
Bryce Canyon is a rare example of a high-elevation desert area with the best protection in the country. Snow is common in Bryce Canyon throughout the winter months since the average elevation at the rim is around 8,000 feet (2,400 m).
Bryce Canyon has incredible hoodoo rock formations, which make it worth visiting despite the fact that it doesn’t get as many visitors as Zion. At the park, there are a number of fantastic hiking routes to explore. Instead, go camping in Bryce Canyon and witness its world-class stargazing opportunities for yourself.
9. Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is Utah’s biggest national park, and it spans a large portion of the state’s rugged canyons in the east-central region. Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the Colorado and Green rivers are among the four districts that make up Canyonlands. Each district offers its own unique set of adventures.
The Island in the Sky, which is readily accessible from Moab, is where the majority of visitors to the park visit. Because there are no maintained trails or camping sites in the Maze, it is the park’s most isolated section.
Rafting and kayaking are also popular activities among experienced paddlers, despite the fact that most visitors go to Canyonlands on foot. In reality, the park is home to the Green and Colorado Rivers’ confluence. Above the confluence, the water is fairly still, but some of the most severe whitewater rapids in the southwestern US can be found downstream from the confluence.
10. Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is a magnificent desert area in the center of Utah, named for the massive sandstone dome formations that resemble the Capitol building in Washington, DC.
The Waterpocket Fold, a geologic structure thought to be about 65 million years old, is Capitol Reef’s primary attraction. Navajo sandstone outcroppings, which resemble rock arches, cliffs, domes, and towers throughout the park, are massive.
A number of significant cultural and historical monuments, as well as a few petroglyphs, are also located in the park. In Capitol Reef, there are dozens of hiking routes for visitors to explore, although trekking through the area during the hot summer months requires caution.
11. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
One of the few significant cave systems in a national park that you may explore on your own without the need for a guided tour is found at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Just to the north of Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the park is situated in southeastern New Mexico.
The park was formed in 1930 to preserve the exquisite constructions inside Carlsbad Cavern, which are made of limestone. The park is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and most of it is preserved as wilderness.
The Big Room, which is the largest known cave chamber on the continent, is the main attraction within Carlsbad Cavern. You may walk at your own pace or on a ranger-led tour down a succession of maintained paths through Carlsbad Cavern.
12. Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands is the only California park that isn’t accessible by road, and it boasts five of the eight islands in the archipelago’s spectacular namesake. These little islands, which are situated close to the coasts of Ventura and Los Angeles, offer some of the state’s greatest camping and hiking opportunities.
Unique ecosystems and a few indigenous flora and fauna species may be found on California’s Channel Islands. The Channel Islands deer mouse, the Channel Islands spotted skunk, and the island fence lizard are just a few of the species that can be found nowhere else on Earth.
Only ferry or private boat travel to the Channel Islands. While the majority of overnight guests stay on private diving boats and other boats just off the coast of the islands, visitors are permitted to camp at one of the few campgrounds in the park.
13. Congaree National Park
The largest remaining tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States is protected by Congaree National Park, which is a small park. It can be found near Columbia, South Carolina, in the center of the state.
Congaree is a true marvel to explore, despite the fact that it isn’t as popular as some of the eastern US’s other national parks. The park is home to some of the region’s largest trees, and it is an internationally recognized Ramsar Wetland.
Just a few designated trails (including one or two particularly cool boardwalk paths through a marsh) and just one campground in the park. Kayaking and canoeing, on the other hand, are great ways to explore the park’s diverse features since they allow you to experience it in a unique way.
14. Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is Oregon’s sole national park, and it lies in the state’s southwest corner. It is a spectacular hiking and outdoor recreation destination. The Cascade Range includes Crater Lake, which is situated near Klamath Falls.
Crater Lake is one of the world’s deepest lakes, having a maximum depth of roughly 1,949 feet (594 m). Mount Mazama, a volcano that erupted some 7,700 years ago, produced the lake in the caldera of which it is part.
Crater Lake is the world’s deepest lake, with a maximum depth of over 1,949 feet (594 meters). Mount Mazama, a volcano that erupted some 7,700 years ago, collapsed and formed the lake.
Year-round treaatment at Crater Lake is fantastic. Summertime brings a lot of people who like scenic Rim Drive excursions and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through-hikers to the park. The park transforms into a winter wonderland, ideal for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, during the winter.
The year-round recreational destination of Crater Lake is fantastic. The park is usually packed with people throughout the summer, especially during scenic Rim Drive drives and through-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The park becomes a snowy delightland in the winter, perfect for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.
15. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The woodlands surrounding the Cuyahoga River are protected in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Cuyahoga National Park is situated near the communities of Akron and Cleveland, although visitors often feel like they’re hundreds of miles distant from the bustle of the big city.
In the 1970s, Cuyhaoga was recognized as a national leisure area, but in 2000, it was elevated to status as a national park. Dense deciduous woodlands, towering waterfalls, and a plethora of historic sites may be found within the park’s boundaries.
The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath is one of Cuyahoga’s most popular attractions. Visitors may enjoy 21 miles (34 kilometers) of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding on this route that goes through the park.
Cuyahoga National Park has five gorgeous hiking routes that you can choose from.
16. Death Valley National Park
Outside of Alaska, Death Valley is the country’s biggest national park. Death Valley is home to the hottest temperatures and lowest elevations in North America, in addition to being one of the largest protected areas in the Lower 47.
Badwater Basin, which is situated 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level, is the major attraction at Death Valley. The park is also a great place to visit if you’re looking for some peace and quiet in the outdoors since it contains over 90% of the land is designated wilderness.
Snow-capped mountains, sand dunes, salt flats, and badlands are all part of Death Valley’s landscape. Joshua trees and other succulents characteristic of the Mojave and Colorado deserts may also be seen in large clusters here.
17. Denali National Park
Denali, which is found in the namesake park in central Alaska, is the highest peak in the United States. There are several higher peaks, but none as high as Denali. Denali National Park encompasses a vast territory that is larger than the state of New Hampshire, with much of it being located in harsh, mountainous, and glaciated terrain.
Denali National Park is one of Alaska’s most heavily visited national parks, despite its relative remoteness. That is because it has accessible road access, which is one of the few such parks in the state.
Despite the fact that the park’s highest mountain is called after it, most visitors seldom get close to it. Rather, many visitors to Denali choose excursions in the boreal forest, which covers most of the park’s lower altitudes, such as brief day walks or extended backpacking journeys.
18. Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is a hidden gem in the southwesternmost reaches of Florida, combining tropical outdoor beauty with historic attractions. The Dry Tortugas Islands, which are the most distant in the Florida Keys, are part of the park’s seven islands.
The park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, so getting to Dry Tortugas can be a challenge. Hiking through the old Fort Jefferson, which was erected in the early nineteenth century to deal with piracy in the nearby Caribbean, is also available at the park.
In addition, some think the coral reefs in Dry Tortugas are the least disturbed in the Florida Keys. Most visitors to Dry Tortugas spend their time snorkeling and paddlesports since the park is primarily water.
19. Everglades National Park
The southernmost part of the original Everglades wetlands may be found in the Everglades, Florida’s third National Park. The Everglades are one of the state’s major undeveloped regions and is regarded as the biggest tropical wilderness region in the US.
Everglades was founded in 1934 to safeguard the area’s sensitive wetlands, which were fast disappearing due to human activity. The American crocodile, West Indian manatee, and Florida panther are among the species currently protected or threatened in the park.
During the summer, when the mosquitoes are most active, visitors to the park should have a good sense of adventure. Although the park has a few constructed hiking routes, most people choose to go via the Everglades in low-powered boats instead.
In the Everglades National Park, you may see several different animal species.
20. Gates of the Arctic National Park
The northernmost and least visited national parks in the United States are Gates of the Arctic National Park. It’s completely north of the Arctic Circle and is located in northern Alaska. Over 13,000 square miles (34,000 square kilometers) make up the park. The Brooks Range is around a million square kilometers in size, making it somewhat bigger than Belgium.
Gates of the Arctic, like many other Alaskan parks, is closed to traffic. In reality, since there is so little developed infrastructure in the park, visitors must be self-sufficient while visiting.
The Brooks Range’s rugged mountains and boreal forests dominate the majority of the park, although true Arctic tundra can be found in its northernmost regions. The park is mostly wilderness, and it is the country’s biggest single expanse of wilderness when combined with the neighboring Noatak Wilderness.
Learn about the animals that call America’s unspoiled wilderness home.
21. Gateway Arch National Park
Gateway Arch is situated in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, and is the country’s smallest national park. Along the Missouri River’s banks, Louis, Missouri is located. It is one of only two parks in the city’s urban limits, and it is the only one centered on a contemporary piece of contemporary architecture.
Gateway Arch was built to honor a wide range of events, including the Louisiana Purchase, and is named after its inspiration monument. It was built near the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s starting point.
Gateway Arch provides a variety of attractions for visitors, despite being the country’s smallest national park. You may climb a few dozen stairs to get to the top of the arch by taking a tram (be sure to take a few steps around the Missouri River’s well-kept gardens).
At the US-Canada border in northern Montana, Glacier National Park is a vast protected area. Glacier National Park in Canada and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska are two different places, however.
Surprisingly, there are relatively few glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana. Rather, recent glaciation is evident throughout the park, with everything from glacially carved lakes to enormous U-shaped valleys providing evidence of this.
In the park, hiking and mountaineering are popular pastimes. Moreover, all visitors should drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier’s main thoroughfare.
23. Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay’s spectacular views and abundant wildlife viewing opportunities are two of the park’s most notable features. Several species of whales and seals are among the most frequently seen creatures since visitors travel by sea.
Glacier Bay National Park in southern Alaska is a must-see attraction for adventure lovers of all kinds, since it is packed full with glacier and ice fjords. Since 1979, the park has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protects over 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) of ice, land, and water in the northern part of Alaska’s Panhandle.
Because there are no roads into Glacier Bay itself, the majority of visitors arrive on cruise ships from Sitka and Juneau. There are also tourist boats that leave from Gustavus, a neighboring town, and bring you to the park’s various fjords for visitors who want a tiny group adventure.
24. Grand Canyon National Park
The crown jewel of the US National Park System, Yosemite, is sometimes referred to as Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is encompassed in this vast park, which is situated in Arizona’s northern region.
The Grand Canyon is a gorge that stretches 227 miles (446 km) long and 18 miles (29 km broad) and is often referred to as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. One of the most coveted whitewater rafting excursions is to float the Colorado River through the park, which flows through the canyon.
The majority of visitors to the Grand Canyon prefer to hike on its various routes. Be cautious of the park’s desert environment, which frequently has high temperatures during the summer months. There are various paths that lead you down to the canyon floor itself.
25. Grand Teton National Park
The magnificent mountain views and namesake peaks of Grand Teton National Park, located in northwestern Wyoming, are well-known. Despite the fact that it does not include Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range, the park contains some of Wyoming’s most famous views.
The park is situated near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which is well-known in the area. In addition, Grand Teton is the only national park with a commercial airport that is inside its boundaries.
Within the park, there are many hiking routes that will take you from the Tetons to various alpine lakes dotting the landscape. Since it’s located adjacent to the National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton is also a fantastic location to see elk.
26. Great Basin National Park
Great Basin is a seldom-visited attraction that is well worth a visit. It is the only national park entirely situated inside the state of Nevada. The Great Basin encompasses a large portion of the Basin and Range Province, which is located in the east-central part of the state near the Utah boundary.
Wheeler Peak, Nevada’s second highest peak, is one of the park’s most prominent features. The Wheeler Peak Glacier, one of the state’s few glaciers, is also located near Wheeler Peak.
However, the Great Basin is far more than just mountains. One of the world’s oldest groves of ancient bristlecone pines may also be found in the park. The Lehman Caves, one of the world’s major cave systems, are also worth a visit for tourists to Great Basin.
27. Great Sand Dunes National Park
In south-central Colorado, you’ll find Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was first designated as a national monument in 1932, but in 2004, it was reclassified as a national park.
The park features incredible sand dunes, including some that are up to 750 feet (230 meters) high, as the name suggests. These dunes, which are said to be the continent’s tallest, are located on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley.
One of the visitor’s centers offers sandboarding and sandsledding activities for anyone who wishes to try this unique activity. The park, on the other hand, is quite distant and requires a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle to explore its various off-trail excursions.
For a possibility to experience this particular sport, anybody visiting the park can hire sandboarding and sandsledding at one of the visitor centers. The park is, however, quite distant and requires a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle to enjoy its various off-trail adventures beyond the main visitor center.
28. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains, a hilly park situated along the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina, is the most visited park in the whole country. The Great Smoky Mountains, which are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, are encompassed by this peak.
The park receives a total of around 12 million visitors each year, making it one of the country’s most popular outdoor tourist attractions. The park’s popularity is attributed to its proximity to key Eastern Seaboard cities and its magnificent views.
Any visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains should venture out for a hike, particularly during peak foliage season. The path to Clingmans Dome and the Appalachian Route are two of the greatest excursions to take.
29. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, located in the western part of Texas near the state’s border with New Mexico, is one of the most hilly areas in Texas. Surprisingly, the park is situated in the same mountain range as Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico’s own protected area, which is located to the north.
The Guadalupe Mountains’ principal attraction is the mountains themselves, which include Texas’ highest peak, Guadalupe Peak. In addition, the park contains a variety of salt flats and has an outstanding example of Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.
Hiking and bird watching are two of the park’s most popular activities. In the Guadalupe Mountains, there are dozens of kilometres of well-maintained paths, many of which offer spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
30. Haleakalā National Park
Haleakalā National Park was established in 1961 as a distinct entity to conserve the delicate ecosystems around the Haleakalā volcano, and it was formerly part of the now-defunct Hawaii National Park.
Haleakalā is one of the highest summits on Hawaii’s biggest island, at a height of m. Haleakalat, which means “house of the sun,” is a Hawaiian word. The region surrounding the summit has a volcanic environment unlike any other, even though the volcano is currently dormant.
The volcano’s summit crater, which contains an observatory, is accessible by foot or vehicle. The native Hawaiian population, on the other hand, regards the volcano as holy, and the ecosystems around it are both unusual and vulnerable. As a consequence, visitors are urged to respect the park’s environment and be cautious while undertaking any activities.
31. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes is situated on the big island and was built to safeguard two important volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. It is the second of the state’s two national parks.
Due to its high activity, Kīlauea is one of the greatest places to witness both pāhoehoe and ʻaʻā lava flows. Despite this, if the park’s scientists detect increased signs of volcanic activity, sections of the park may be closed with little notice.
32. Hot Springs National Park
In a national park for some family-friendly fun? What you may want is a soak in Hot Springs.
Hot Springs National Park is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, inside the city limits. It was established to safeguard the natural hot springs in the area and is one of the few urban national parks in the country.
Hot Springs was the country’s smallest park until Gateway Arch National Park was established. The park’s various hiking trails, camping sites, and hot spring bath houses make it an excellent option for a short trip to one of Arkansas’ most historic areas.
33. Indiana Dunes National Park
Did you believe sand dunes could only be found in the desert? Take another look at it! Some of the biggest sand dunes in the eastern US may be seen at Indiana Dunes National Park, located near northwestern Indiana. For generations, the park has been one of the most popular family fun spots in the state, located along Lake Michigan’s shores.
In 1966, Indiana Dunes was designated as a national lakeshore, but in 2019, it was renamed a national park. It’s a 20-mile (32-kilometer) linear park along the beaches of Lake Michigan outside of Chestertown and Portage that stretches for about 20 miles (32 kilometers).
34. Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale, which lies across the northern part of Lake Superior, Michigan, just over the border from Canada, is the only national park in the United States that closes during winter. The park’s namesake Isle Royale, which is roughly 45 miles (72 km) long and 9 miles (14 km) wide, is the park’s principal feature, despite its size of more than 400 islands.
Isle Royale, the biggest island in the Great Lakes, is actually one of the biggest islands in the contiguous United States. The island, on the other hand, is well-known for its moose and timber wolf populations rather than its size.
Visitors are only permitted during the non-winter months, and the park can only be reached by boat or float plane. But it’s difficult to find a more worthy destination than Isle Royale if you’re looking for a truly unique hiking adventure in the upper Midwest.
35. Joshua Tree National Park
The park’s namesake Joshua trees are clearly the start of the show in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. The park contains a land area that is somewhat bigger than Rhode Island, with roughly all of it being prime Joshua tree habitat (which, by the way, are actual succulents rather than trees).
The park is also noted for its astonishing rock formations, the majority of which are popular rock climbing sites throughout the autumn, spring, and winter. A few natural California palm oases can also be found in the park, which are among the only places where these palms grow wild.
The park is one of the most popular hiking areas in southern California, despite the fact that it is difficult to get to Joshua Tree throughout much of the year. The park contains miles of maintained and undeveloped trails, many of which offer magnificent views of the surrounding Mojave Desert.
36. Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park is a huge protected area in southwestern Alaska on the Alaskan Peninsula, famed for its large brown bear population. The park spans almost 4 million acres (1.6 million ha), making it approximately the same size as New Jersey’s state.
The camp at Brooks Falls is where the majority of visitors to Katmai arrive, and you may see thousands of brown bears fishing for salmon there. The park, however, receives roughly 40,000 visitors each year because it is only accessible by bus plane from King Salmon.
A journey to Katmai also gives you the chance to visit the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes if you’re up for it. In an American national park, the valley is a remote, trailless expanse of wilderness near the volcano Novarupta that is one of the most out-of-this-world places you’ll find.
37. Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords is a wonderful place for hikers and animal enthusiasts alike, and it is our own favorite park (shh… don’t tell the others!). On the Kenai Peninsula in south-central Alaska, the park is situated on the eastern side. Although it covers over 1,000 square miles (2,700 square kilometers) and has just one road and visitors center, it is located just outside the town of Seward. A total of (2.6) kilometers of land is covered.
The Harding Icefield, one of the biggest ice fields in the United States, is protected by Kenai Fjords. Just two maintained trails exist in the region, both of which lead you to Exit Glacier, and the majority of the park is covered in ice or water.
38. Kings Canyon National Park
The Sierra Nevada in east-central California has a wonderful blend of all the finest characteristics that Kings Canyon National Park has to offer. Kings Canyon, the park’s namesake, is a vast glacially sculpted valley that spans more than a mile (1.6 km) and is over 1 mile (1.6 km) deep.
In addition, Kings Canyon contains some of the country’s coolest huge sequoia forests, as well as Sequoia National Park to its neighbor. Grant Grove, which includes the General Grant Tree, is one of the park’s most spectacular sights.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Kings Canyon might also be used by visitors to explore the park’s depths. The Rae Lakes Loop is one of the park’s most popular trails, taking you to a series of beautiful alpine lakes.
39. Kobuk Valley National Park
In northern Alaska, the little-visited national park of Kobuk Valley is located high above the Arctic Circle. While it is only a short drive from Nome and Kotzebue, plane travel to the park is costly and difficult since there is no road access.
The wetlands surrounding the Kobuk River, which feeds much of the southern section of the Brooks Range, are protected by the Kobuk Valley. The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, one of the world’s biggest polar sand dune fields, are also protected in the park.
Although the park is mostly a barren tundra, In reality, it is one of Alaska’s greatest spots to see Arctic wildlife. As they travel to and from their breeding and calving grounds, over 400,000 caribou migrate through the park twice each year. From Arctic foxes and snowshoe hares to wolverines and gray wolves, visitors to the park can see a wide range of animals.
40. Lake Clark National Park
Lake Clark National Park is a beautiful, albeit challenging, protected area that few people ever get to visit. It is home to active volcanoes, enormous glaciers, and some of the most remote landscape in south-central Alaska.
Although the park is little more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) distant from Anchorage, it sees fewer than 20,000 visitors every year due to its lack of road access. Despite this, for those who are prepared to go, the park provides some of the greatest salmon fishing possibilities in the state.
41. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic is arguably the most underappreciated of all California’s national parks. Lassen Volcanic, the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range and the world’s biggest plug dome volcano, is located in the state’s northeastern region, far removed from the bustle of San Francisco.
Many active volcanic features, such as fumaroles, mud pots, and hot springs, may still be seen in the park. In reality, Lassen Peak has not erupted since 1915, when it released volcanic ash up to 322 km (200 miles) away.
The Painted Dunes, Bumpass Hell, and Mount Harkness are just a few of the park’s lesser-known pleasures that visitors may admire today. The park is also crossed by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which has magnificent vistas of Lassen Peak.
42. Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is a vast subterranean protected area in central Kentucky with the world’s longest mapped cave system. UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve are two labels that have been applied to the park.
Mammoth Cave has been known to Indigneous peoples in what is now Kentucky, according to archeological evidence. In 1797, while bear hunting, the first Europeans of European descent discovered an entrance to the cave.
Stephen Bishop, a Black man who was enslaved by one of the cave’s owners, was one of the first people to create extensive maps of the cave. Bishop was the sole person responsible for creating several of the maps of Mammoth Cave that we have today in the 1850s.
Guided cave tours are currently the park’s most popular attraction. There are various cave excursions to pick from, however booking your reservation early is critical.
43. Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park, in the southwestern corner of Colorado near the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, is a highly valuable protected cultural and natural area. President Theodore Roosevelt declared it a national park in 1906, and UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1978.
The park’s Cliff Palace, which is home to nearly 600 cliff dwellings, is the park’s most prominent feature. The Ancestral Puebloans lived in these cliff houses, which date from about 1190 AD.
Hiking is allowed in the park, and some of the region’s best-preserved cliff dwellings, such as Balcony House and Long House, are accessible to visitors. But, since you can only visit a cliff home on a ranger-led tour, make sure to book yours far in advance.
44. Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is a well-known national park in west-central Washington state, just a short drive from Seattle. It is home to the most famous mountain in the contiguous United States. It was founded in 1899, making it one of the country’s oldest national parks.
Mount Rainier, a 14,000-foot (4,300-meter) glaciated stratovolcano, is the focal point of the park. Thousands of climbers visit Rainier each year, making it one of the most popular climbing destinations in the United States.
The park is noted for its alpine meadows and old-growth forests, in addition to its glaciated peaks. The Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile (150-km) circular route around the foot of Mount Rainier, is one of the park’s most well-known treks.
45. New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge National Park, which is scheduled to open in 2022, is situated along the massive gorge of the New River in southern West Virginia. It was originally designated as a national river in 1978, but in 2021, it was re-classified as a national park.
The major gorge of New River is the longest and deepest in the Appalachian Mountains, and it is well-known for this. Many climbers believe that the gorge’s new national park status will only increase its popularity in the coming years, making it a worldwide-renowned rock climbing designation.
The namesake gorge of New River Gorge is the longest and deepest river valley in the Appalachian Mountains, and it is well-known for that. Because of its new national park status, several climbers believe the gorge will only grow more famous in the years ahead, and it is a world-renowned rock climbing classification.
In addition, because of its abundance of historical monuments, New River Gorge is a fantastic hiking destination for anyone interested in learning more about the history of coal mining in the Appalachians. BASE jumpers may leap off the famed New River Gorge Bridge for one day each year, making the park even more popular.
46. North Cascades National Park
The northern limits of Washington state are home to North Cascades National Park, which is extremely mountainous. It’s part of the North Cascades National Park Complex, which also includes the Lake Chelan and Ross Lake National Recreation Areas. It’s part of a much larger protected area known as the North Cascades National Park Complex.
The park’s dramatic glacial mountains, alpine lakes, and meadows are all popular attractions. Since most of the park is wilderness, it makes a fantastic destination to explore if you’re seeking some alone time in the highlands.
Hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing are all popular activities in the North Cascades. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep, as well as grizzly bears, gray wolves, and wolverines, may all be seen in the park’s wildlife viewing areas.
47. Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is one of the wettest places in the entire United States, located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State’s northwestern tip. It was a one-stop shop for outdoor adventure because it protected a large area of temperate rainforest, rugged coastline, and towering glaciated peaks.
The numerous glacial summits in Olympic National Park, such as Mount Olympus, which is the highest peak in the Olympic Mountain range, are among the park’s attractions. In addition, on the western side of the park, visitors may see the Hoh Rainforest, which includes thick old-growth temperate woods.
You may instead head over to the Olympic Peninsula’s wild coast, which is alternatively perfect for a day at the beach. Being a great spot for a truly isolated backpacking expedition, the park contains one of the longest unbroken stretches of wilderness beach in the Lower 48.
48. Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park, located in northern Arizona, is another frequently overlooked park. It was designated as a park in 1962, after being designated a national monument in 1906.
A huge petrified forest may be found in Petrified Forest. It includes the fossils of numerous fallen trees from the Late Triassic period, some 225 million years ago.
Some of the park’s most popular monuments are these fossilized trees. The Painted Desert and the vast badlands that dominate the region are two more notable locations in the park worth visiting.
49. Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles is a tiny park in the west-central region of California, about to the southeast of the Bay Area, that is California’s newest national park.
The park’s numerous pinnacles are the eroded remnants of an ancient (and now extinct) volcano, and the name comes from there. Despite its proximity to the coast, it is an arid park that experiences the high temperatures of the Central Valley.
Pinnacle’s is best recognized for its birds, not its rocks. Because they were re-released as part of the condor breeding program, few places in California are easier to see California condors.
50. Redwood National Park
Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) is a collection of protected areas in northern California that includes Redwood National Park. These parks, which are also used for outdoor leisure and protected forests, are managed by the National Parks Service as well as the California Department of Recreation.
Some huge portions of old-growth redwood forest are located in the park, which includes some of the world’s tallest and largest trees. It was formed after decades of logging in the northern part of the state saw a push from locals to protect the less than 10% of the original redwood forest.
Furthermore, the park protects Chinook salmon spawning grounds and beaches where Steller’s sea lions may be found, as well as other major rivers. Nonetheless, despite the fact that Redwood is one of the lesser-visited national parks in the Lower 48, there are few visitor centers or maintained facilities in this wild area.
51. Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain Park, one of northern Colorado’s most popular hiking and rock climbing destinations, was established in 1915. In 1976, the park was designated as one of the planet’s first few UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves, making it a unique place on the planet.
The Front Range mountains are most well-known in Rocky Mountain, but there are a few notable peaks. The major thoroughfare into the park’s more distant areas is the signature Trail Ridge Road scenic byway, which is situated just outside of Estes Park, Colorado’s mountain town.
The Diamond on Longs Peak is a highlight for climbers in the park. There are hundreds of miles of trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding national forests for us who prefer to keep our feet on the ground.
52. Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, located in southern Arizona, is one of the National Park System’s lesser-known treasures.
The park’s greatest asset is its vast number of gigantic saguaro cacti, which may reach up to 40 feet (12 meters) in height. There are several of these magnificent succulents to be found in Saguaro, which is one of the few places in the US.
The park includes vast washes and classic Sonoran Desert ecosystems in addition to its cacti. Summers are not recommended because of its harsh environment, but Saguaro should be on your must-visit list when the weather cools in the fall and spring.
53. Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is a true marvel of the southern Sierra Nevada, with enormous sequoias and towering mountains. Sequoia and Kings Canyon, its sister park, are situated in east-central California.
Sequoia’s huge trees are by far the most popular features of the park. General Sherman, the world’s biggest known living single-stem tree, is one of numerous giant sequoia forests in the area.
Part of Mount Whitney’s summit, the highest peak in the Lower 48, is also located inside Sequoia National Park. There are still dozens of fantastic paths in the park for you to explore, even if mountaineering isn’t your thing.
54. Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Mid-Atlantic, with its northernmost peak in the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains. The park is only a short drive from Washington, DC, in northern Virginia.
Skyline Drive, the park’s gorgeous highway that runs the length of the park, is possibly Shenandoah’s most recognized feature. The park features a wonderful variety of trails, campgrounds, and visitor centers for visitors to enjoy in addition to scenic drives.
The park is beautiful all year, but it is especially gorgeous in the autumn when the region’s autumn foliage is at its best.
55. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a collection of discontiguous areas of badlands in western North Dakota that is named after the only national park named for a US president.
Despite the fact that the park wasn’t established until 1978, it was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite hunting spots in the late nineteenth century.
Hunting is not permitted in the park today, but you may go on a nature walk in the park’s beautiful badlands. As compared to the surrounding grassland, the park’s landscape is surprisingly mountainous. If hiking isn’t your thing, there are many beautiful drives in the park that will give you a glimpse of the park’s plentiful historic monuments as well as its herd of wild horses.
56. Virgin Islands National Park
Do you want to go on a tropical vacation? What you’re looking for is a trip to Virgin Islands National Park. Around 60 percent of the island of Saint John in the US Virgin Islands, as well as a considerable portion of the surrounding ocean, are protected by the park.
The beaches and the surrounding region of Virgin Islands National Park, unlike many of the archipelago’s well-developed tourism regions, are virtually untouched. As a result, the park contains some of the last beaches and woodland in the Caribbean, such as Trunk Bay, that do not show obvious signs of human activity.
Although there are many hiking routes to choose from in the park, many visitors prefer to take a boat tour of its picturesque coves. Some significant historic monuments in the Virgin Islands’ difficult history of colonization and slavery are also located in the park.
57. Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is a magnificent natural area that’s also one of the greatest canoeing destinations in the United States, situated in the northern reaches of Minnesota along the US-Canadian border.
The park’s main visitor center and a few boat ramps are accessible by car, however the majority of the park is only accessible by foot, boat, or snowmobile. The well-known Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness borders the park, making it as isolated as it gets in Minnesota.
Canoeing, fishing, and other water sports are among the park’s most popular activities. The park also contains hundreds of campsites that are only accessible by boat, kayak, or houseboat.
58. White Sands National Park
White Sands, one of the United States’ newest national parks, was designated in 2019. In 1933, the park was designated as a national monument, but it wasn’t until recently that it achieved full park status.
White Sands is, after all, home to a lot of white sand. It’s appropriately named. A enormous sand dune field made up almost entirely of white gypsum crystals is well-known at the park. As a result, it is one of the planet’s biggest gypsum dune fields.
White Sands has long been a famous vacation spot. A campground, multiple picnic grounds, and a visitors center are all located within the park. Sledding down the dunes and driving through the lovely Dunes Road are two of White Sands’ most popular pastimes.
59. Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave is a tiny protected area that was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 as one of two national parks in the Mount Rushmore State.
Wind Cave’s cave system is named after its location, as the name suggests. Wind Cave is thought to have one of the world’s longest and most heavily packed cave systems. Caves may be visited on a guided tour for the first-hand experience of their exceptional qualities by visitors to the park.
While it is primarily about what lies underground, Wind Cave National Park is much more. One of the country’s largest surviving natural mixed-grass prairie areas can also be found in the park. It’s one of just three free-roaming bison herds in the United States, and it’s located in Wyoming.
60. Wrangell–St. Elias National Park
Alaska’s Wrangell–St. Elias National Park is the largest park in the United States, covering over 8.3 million acres (3.3 million ha). By far the biggest national park in the United States is Elias National Park.
It is part of the international Kluane/Wrangell–St. Elias system, which covers a huge swathe of southeastern Alaska. UNESCO World Heritage Site: Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek
Wrangell-Saint. The Wrangells and the Saint Elias Mountains are two of Elias’ well-known mountain ranges. The second highest peak in the United States is Mount Saint Elias (Yasʼéitʼaa Shaa), which lies in the park near the Alaska/Yukon border.
The park features large glaciers, active volcanoes, and a magnificent display of flora in addition to massive mountains. Despite this, the park is quite distant and has few managed facilities or maintained trails. As a result, any journey to Wrangell–St. Elias Park requires a strong sense of adventure. Elias is the name of the protagonist.
61. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park was the first national park established in the United States, being established in 1872. In reality, Yellowstone is over 40 years older than the National Park Service!
While it encompasses portions of Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone is centered in Northwestern Wyoming. Because of its spectacular mountains and geothermal features, such as the Old Faithful geyser, it is now one of the most heavily visited parks in the country.
Wyoming is home to a diverse array of flora and animals, in addition to its mountains and geysers. One of the few remaining free-ranging bison herds in the United States may be found in this park. Grizzly bears and gray wolves live there, making it a true wildlife lover’s paradise.
62. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a truly magnificent protected area in east-central California, and is often regarded as one of the United States’ crown jewels. Yosemite is completely encircled by national forests and covers a large area of harsh terrain in the Sierra Nevada.
Yosemite is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site that is known for its massive granite formations. El Capitan and Half Dome, two of the world’s most coveted big wall rock climbing destinations, are located inside the park.
US National Parks Superlatives
Do you want to impress your pals by showing off your national park expertise? Any outdoor adventurer should be acquainted with the following facts and statistics about US National Parks:
- Oldest National Park – Yellowstone (Designated in 1872)
- Newest National Park – New River Gorge (Designated in 2020)
- Largest National Park – Wrangell–St. Elias (8.3 million acres/3.3 million ha)
- Largest National Park (Lower 48) – Death Valley (3.4 million acres/1.4 million ha)
- Smallest National Park – Gateway Arch (192.8 acres/78 ha)
- Most Visited National Park – Great Smoky Mountains (12.1 million visitors in 2020)
- Least Visited National Park – Gates of the Arctic (2,800 visitors in 2020)
- Deadliest National Park – Grand Canyon (134 deaths between 2010 and 2020)
- Highest National Park – Denali (20,310 ft/6,190 m at the summit of Denali)
- Lowest National Park – Death Valley (282 ft/86 m below sea level at Badwater Basin)
- State with the Most National Parks – California (9 parks as of 2022)
United States National Parks FAQs
To some of the most frequently asked questions about national parks in the United States, here are our answers:
How many national parks are there?
As of 2022, the United States will have 63 national parks. The United States National Park Service, on the other hand, oversees over 400 national parks, monuments, and historic locations.
What is the only state without a national park?
New York, Louisiana, and Vermont are among the approximately 20 US states that do not have a national park. Except for Delaware, however, nearly every state has a National Park Service unit, such as a national monument or historic site.
What is the least visited national park?
According to 2020 US National Park Service data, Gates of the Arctic is the least visited national park. Yet, like in the case of Gates of the Arctic, other faraway Alaskan parks, such as Kobuk Valley, struggle against it for the title of least visited national park.