National Parks in United States


The National Parks of the United States cover a total area of approximately 211,000 sq. km, with different sizes ranging from an average of 3,350 sq. km to a median of only 840 sq. km. There are 27 parks that exceed 1,000 sq. km, 10 of which are more than 5,000 sq. km, and 7 that are more than 10,000 sq. km.

Largest by protected area

The largest parks are all located in Alaska, including Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (33,682.6 sq. km), which is larger than each of the nine smallest states. They are followed by Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (30,448.1 sq. km) and Denali National Park (19,185.8 sq. km). Next is Katmai National Park and Preserve with an area of (16,564 sq. km) and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (16,308 sq. km).

Smallest by Protected Area

In the contiguous states of the United States, the largest park is the Death Valley National Park (13,518 sq. km), followed by Yellowstone National Park (8,980 sq. km). Only six parks have less than 100 sq. km, with the smallest being Gateway Arch National Park (3.68 sq. km), Hot Springs National Park (22.46 sq. km), the recent New River Gorge National Park (28.4 sq. km), American Samoa National Park (36 sq. km), and Virgin Islands National Park (59 sq. km).

Best in Visits and Interest

By interest and number of visits, we can also classify national parks in the USA, with the primary one being Yellowstone, which is perhaps the most well-known of all. Following it is Wind Cave National Park.

Another of the possible options with great interest for visitors and tourists coming to the United States is Glacier National Park, which undoubtedly leaves no one indifferent due to its vast ice formations amidst rugged mountains. And once again, Katmai is a park that, besides being one of the largest, offers one of the most interesting visits and tours with the sighting of Grizzly Bears.

In terms of landscape and geology, Yosemite National Park is one of the main attractions in California, with deep cliffs and rock formations. While it’s different from Grand Canyon National Park, both offer breathtaking and unique views that are awe-inspiring. Along with Zion National Park, they form a set of magnificent areas for geology enthusiasts.

In recent years, the national parks of the United States have experienced a significant increase in the number of visitors. In 2022, a record number of visits was established with over 312 million people, and this number is expected to slightly increase in 2023 and the following years, or at the very least, to remain at current levels. The most visited national park was Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located in North Carolina and Tennessee, with over 11.3 million visitors in 2017. It was followed by Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, with over 6.2 million visitors. On the other hand, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska received only 11,177 visitors in the same year. These figures demonstrate the diversity in popularity and accessibility of different national parks across the country. All these encompass recreational visits and visitors for scientific purposes.

List of United States National Parks

National Parks by U.S. State

How National Parks are Established

National parks in the United States are established through an act of Congress. The world’s first national park, Yellowstone, was created by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, followed by other parks such as Mackinac State Park in 1875 and Rock Creek Park. In 1890, the national parks of Sequoia and Yosemite were established. The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service, with the aim of conserving landscapes, natural and historic objects, and wildlife in a way that can be enjoyed by future generations.

National parks are designated for their natural beauty, unique geological features, diverse ecosystems, and recreational opportunities. On the other hand, national monuments are often chosen for their historical or archaeological significance. Some national parks have also been recognized as World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO. There are 30 states in the United States that have national parks, in addition to the territories of American Samoa and the United States Virgin Islands. California has the highest number of national parks, followed by Alaska, Utah, and Colorado. Several states have three or more national parks, while others have only one.

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