Looking for ways to spend the early weeks of fall? Why not visit our national parks? The United States boasts 59 national parks across 27 states and two territories. California leads with nine national parks, followed by Alaska (8), Utah (5), and Colorado (4).
America’s national park system began in 1872, when President Grant approved the first national park (Yellowstone). Since then, congress has nominated and authorized parks on the basis of their “natural beauty, unique geological features, unusual ecosystems, and recreational opportunities”. These parks range in size from under 6000 acres (Arkansas’ Hot Springs) to over 8 million acres (Alaska’s Wrangell-St.Elias park).
With such variety, selecting a national park to visit can be a challenge. To help, consider the following. The most visited national park is Tennessee and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains, followed by Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Fourteen US national parks are designated World Heritage Sites, including Florida’s Everglades and Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. And according to National Geographic, some of the top landmarks fall within California’s Yosemite Park (the Half Dome), Alaska’s Denali Park (Mount McKinley), and Wyoming’s Grand Teton Park (Grand Teton).
Wherever you decide to go, remember the mission of the National Park Service: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for…future generations”. Also, please donate to the Service, as sequestration budget cuts have resulted in layoffs, reduced garbage pick-up, and delayed maintenance at many national parks.
Click here for further information about the US National Parks or to find the right park for you. Please also consider your state parks! To learn more, sign up to benefit our partner, Friends of Moran State Park.