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The Ultimate Resource to America's National Parks

The United States national parks offer visitors 84 million acres of mountains, volcanoes, wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams, and waterfalls to explore. The parks protect over 400 endangered or threatened species and multiple ecosystems, such as wetlands, coral reefs, and mangroves. The parks also give visitors access to historical landmarks, such as major battlefields. The first national park, Yellowstone, was established on March 1, 1872 and the National Parks Service was created on August 25, 1916. The National Parks System includes 58 national parks and 334 additional protected areas, such as national historic sites and recreation areas, in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. Over 25 million people visit national parks each year to enjoy their many recreational and educational opportunities. Learn more about what the national parks have to offer with the following resources.

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

The Grand Canyon National Park, located in the northwest corner of Arizona, near the border with Utah and Nevada. The Grand Canyon itself is a stunning one-mile-deep, 277-mile long gorge of the Colorado River that separates the national park into two main areas, the North and South Rims. Most visitors view the canyon from the South Rim, accessible from Route 64 from Interstate 40. The South Rim is open year-round. The North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October and is accessible from highway 67. Visitors must drive 215 miles through the park to travel between the two rims. The entrance fee is $25 per vehicle and $12 per pedestrian or cyclist. Park entrances are open 24 hours a day, allowing visitors to enjoy breathtaking sunrises and sunsets at the canyon. From June to August, the weather at the canyon rim is sunny and warm during the day and chilly at night with frequent thunderstorms, while the lower canyon is very hot. During the spring and fall (April to May and September to October on the rims), the weather is variable and windy. This is the best season for hiking in the canyon. During the winter, the North Rim is closed for snow but the South Rim is open. Visitors can view the canyon from scenic stops along a road accessible by automobile, by bicycle on trails and roads not open to cars, or by hiking both short and longer trails. Overnight camping is available on the rim and the canyon floor. Lodging in cabins and dormitory-style lodges is available in the park and at the canyon floor; reservations should be made well in advance. Rafting trips on the Colorado River are also available and some choose to view the canyon by helicopter.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee) 

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park comprises over a half million acres of land in North Carolina and Tennessee. The park offers beautiful vistas for all seasons, including abundant wildflowers in spring and colorful leaves in fall. Sixteenth mountains in the park are over 6,000 feet in elevation at the summit, and hiking and camping are two of the park’s main attractions. Visitors can enjoy campfire programs and ranger-guided hikes and history talks from June through October. Horses are available for rent and hayrides and carriage rides are available in the spring, summer, and fall months. Visitors can also fish trout and bass in the park’s 2,115 miles of streams. There are ten campgrounds in the park and one lodge, which is accessible by trail only and must be reserved one year in advance. There are also five horse camps and numerous trails for riding. There is no entrance fee for the park, but campgrounds charge nightly fees.

Weather is variable from March through May, with sudden rainstorms and snow flurries, mild temperatures during the day and cool to near freezing temperatures at night. June through August is hot and humid and afternoon thunderstorms are common. September through mid-November brings warm days and cool nights, with few showers. Winter, from mid-November through February means temperate days and cool to freezing nights, with temperatures dipping to freezing or below in higher altitudes. The park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, although some campgrounds and other facilities may close seasonally.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Yellowstone National Park’s 3,468 square miles extend from northwest Wyoming to Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone, the first national park created in the world, is famous for the Old Faithful Geyser and the Yellowstone Caldera volcano, as well as the natural beauty of its many lakes, canyons, mountains, and rivers. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone includes two spectacular waterfalls that can be viewed from numerous trails. Geysers, hot springs, and mudpots are exciting sights throughout the park. Fishing and boating are available on Yellowstone Lake, North America’s largest high-altitude lake. Visitors can enjoy a self-guided walking trail around Fort Yellowstone and visit historic areas such as Obsidian Cliff and the Old Faithful Inn. Camping permits are available for backcountry, drive-in, and RV camp sites. Lodging, from cabins to luxury accommodations, is available in the park.

Entrance fees are $25 for a private vehicle, $20 for a snowmobile or motorcycle, and $12 for each visitor entering by other means, such as by bicycle, on foot, or by ski. The entrance fee provides a 7-day pass for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The park is open all year, although most entrances other than the North and North East entrances close in November and late March. Visitors should check with the park for the opening and closing dates of particular entrances, roads, and park areas. May and June have cool to moderate days and nighttime temperatures that drop below freezing and June is often cool and rainy. July and August are warm with cool nights and occasional afternoon thunderstorms. September through mid-November are cool during the day and cold, usually well below freezing, at night. Daytime temperatures in winter can range from lows of near zero to slightly above freezing and night temperatures drop to well below zero, with heavy snowfall.

Yosemite National Park (California)

Yosemite National Park comprises 76,268 acres in east-central California. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the majestic waterfalls, cliffs, and valleys of Yosemite Valley and the impressive vistas of Glacier Point and Badger Pass are favorite spots for many visitors to the park. Visitors can enjoy day hikes and overnight wilderness camping, horseback riding, picnicking, rock climbing, biking, bird watching, fishing, and rafting on the Merced River. Popular bus tours include ranger-led tram or bus tour of the Yosemite Valley floor, tram tours of the Giant Sequoias, tours of Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows, and an all-day tour that includes all of the above. There are also nature and history walks and self-guided tours.

Yosemite is open 24 hours a day year-round, although operating areas for entrance stations and other facilities may vary by season and with the weather. Entrance fees are $20 per automobile, which allows visitors unlimited entries for seven days, and $10 per person entering on foot, horseback, or by bicycle or motorcycle. Lodging is available in the park and includes camping in tents or cabins and more luxurious accommodations. Reservations are required at most locations, although some campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Spring in the park is sunny and warm, with lows above freezing. Summer in the park is hot with afternoon rain showers. Fall weather is variable, from hot and dry to cold and rainy. Winter is cold, snowy, and sunny, with lows reaching below freezing.

Olympic National Park (Washington)

Olympic National Park includes 922,561 acres on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The park includes sandy and rocky beaches along the coast, from which visitors can embark on day hikes toward the interior of the park. The interior mountain ridges are covered with glaciers. The active volcano of Mount Olympus, with a peak of 7,965 feet, has several glaciers. The western section of the park includes a temperate rain forest. Visitors enjoy hiking into the interior of the park, backpacking on the beach, and skiing during the winter. The park’s moderate coastal climate of wet, mild winters and temperate and drier summers, allow enjoyment of the park year-round.

Entrance fees are $15 per vehicle, good for seven consecutive days, and $5 per person arriving on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle. The park is open 24 hours a day, year round, although some facilities close seasonally. Lodging is available in the park, including camping, RV camping areas, and lodges with cabins and motel-type rooms. There is also a lodge with cabins and hot spring pools. Reservations are required.

Redwood National Park (California)

Redwood National and State Parks are located on the northern California coast. The parks’ 133,000 acres comprise Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast, Jebediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. These parks include 45 percent of extant coastal redwood old-growth forests. Visitors can enjoy these majestic trees on scenic drives, hikes, and short walks. Walks along the beach and drives to Klamath River Overlook allow visitors views of migrating whales.

Redwood National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round, though visitor centers and campgrounds have seasonal hours of operation. Along the coast, temperate remain moderate year-round. Summers are warmer inland and winters colder and wetter. There is no lodging available in the park except for camping.

Denali National Park (Alaska) 

Denali National Park and Preserve, located in south-central Alaska, comprises 6,075,107 acres of untouched forest, tundra, and the breathtaking Alaska Mountain Range, including Mt. McKinley. Seventeen percent of the park’s land is covered by glaciers, which are visible on both the north and south sides of the Alaska Range. Adventurous visitors can climb Mt. McKinley or obtain permit s for backcountry hiking and camping to see the less-traveled sections of the park. Visitors can hike, bike, and fish in the summer and snowshoe, snowmobile, hike, cross-country ski, and dogsled in the winter. During the summer, visitors can take a bus tour over the 92-mile-long Denali Park Road, which runs parallel to the Alaska Range. Visitors can also see the park from the air by taking a flightseeing tour in a small aircraft and can even land and camp on a glacier. Ranger-led programs include walks, hikes, and sled dog demonstrations.

Entrance fees are $20 per vehicle or $10 per person, which provides a 7 day entrance permit. Campgrounds and some activities require additional fees, and climbers wishing to climb Mt. McKinley or Mt. Foraker are required to pay a $200 mountaineering fee. Lodging in the park is limited to camping and some privately owned wilderness lodges and cabins. Roads into the park are cleared of snow in the spring and passenger vehicle access usually resumes by mid-April. Peak season for visitors is from mid-June to mid-September, when vehicle access to the park is easiest and most services are available. Summer offers the most daylight—over 20 hours at the Summer Solstice in June—and moderate temperatures in the 50s and 60s during the day but fall to near freezing at night. Fall color begins in mid-August and by September; a winter snow blanket begins to form. Temperatures reach the low 50s during the day and drop to below freezing at night. Winter offers few hours of daylight—less than five at the Winter Solstice in December—and sub-zero temperatures. The average snowfall in Denali is 80 inches per year.

The Everglades (Florida)

The Everglades National Park in south-central Florida comprises 1,508,571 acres of sensitive subtropical wetlands, marsh, mangroves, and forest. The park is home to 36 threatened or protected species, such as the American crocodile and the Florida panther. Wildlife viewing is a popular activity, and visitors can take tram tours, boat tours, and kayak and canoe tours to view wildlife. Ecotours, including bird watching tours and boat trips, as well as guided fishing expeditions are available from private operators. Visitors may also tour the Nike Missile Base that was active during the Cold War. Visitors can enjoy hiking, boating, camping, and fishing in the park.

The Everglades National Park is open year-round, although some entrances are closed seasonally due to flooding. Entrance fees for a 7 consecutive day pass are $10 per vehicle and $5 per pedestrian or cyclist. Lodging in the park is limited to camping. December through April is the dry season in the park, with moderate temperatures, little rainfall, and decreased insect activity. May through November is the park’s wet season, and visitors will experience extremely hot and humid conditions with heavy rainfall, frequent thunderstorms, and increased mosquito and biting fly activity. Many park amenities, such as ranger-led programs, are unavailable or curtailed during the wet season.

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Glacier National Park in northwest Montana has 1,013,322 acres of magnificent mountains, pristine lakes, and 25 active glaciers. The park offers 700 miles of hiking trails through forests and mountains. Visitors can penetrate the wild interior of the park on an overnight backcountry camping trip; take a narrated boat cruise, or a guided horseback riding trip. Boat rentals are available, and visitors may fish, cycle, or cross-country ski as the weather allows. Bus trips are available along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The park is open year-round, although many facilities close during the winter and roads may be inaccessible due to snow. Entrance fees for a seven-day pass are $25 per vehicle from May 1 to November 30 and $15 from December 1 to April 30. Single-entry permits are $12 per vehicle in the summer and $10 in the winter. In addition to campgrounds, lodges, inns, and backcountry chalets are available in the park and reservations are encouraged, particularly during the summer. Summer temperatures range between 40°at night and 70° during the day, with cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Winter brings significant snowfall and sub-zero temperatures at night.

Shenandoah (Virginia)

The Shenandoah National Park includes 1,076,150 acres of mountains and valleys along the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Virginia. Brilliant fall foliage draws thousands of visitors. Skyline Drive runs 105 miles through the park along the mountain ridge and offers many scenic overlooks and spectacular views of fall color in October. Hiking and camping are the most popular visitor activities in the park: the park contains over 500 miles of hiking trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Hikers can spend an afternoon visiting hidden waterfalls, hike into a backcountry campground, or spend an extended trip exploring the park. Fishing, cycling, horseback riding, and camping are popular outdoor activities in the park.

The park is open year-round, although parts of Skyline Drive are closed during the winter for snow and during deer hunting season. Campgrounds and cabins are available in the park, as are lodges at Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, and Skyland. Spring in the park is wet and mild and summer is hot with frequent short thunderstorms. Fall brings crisp air, cool days and cold nights. Winter temperatures fall to near freezing and below and higher elevations see significant snowfall.

The following is a list of the other 48 national parks of the United States:

  1. Acadia National Park
  2. American Samoa National Park       
  3. Arches National Park           
  4. Badlands National Park      
  5. Big Bend National Park
  6. Biscayne National Park
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  8. Bryce Canyon National Park
  9. Canyonlands National Park               
  10. Capitol Reef National Park
  11. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  12. Channel Islands National Park
  13. Congaree National Park
  14. Crater Lake National Park
  15. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  16. Death Valley National Park
  17. Dry Tortugas National Park
  18. Gates of the Arctic National Park    
  19. Glacier Bay National Park
  20. Grand Teton National Park
  21. Great Basin National Park  
  22. Great Sand Dunes National Park     
  23. Guadalupe Mountains National Park            
  24. Haleakala National Park                      
  25. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park      
  26. Hot Springs National Park
  27. Isle Royale National Park   
  28. Joshua Tree National Park 
  29. Katmai National Park            
  30. Kenai Fjords National Park 
  31. Kings Canyon National Park                              
  32. Kobuk Valley National Park                               
  33. Lake Clark National Park  
  34. Lassen Volcanic National Park          
  35. Mammoth Cave National Park         
  36. Mesa Verde National Park 
  37. Mount Rainier National Park            
  38. North Cascades National Park          
  39. Petrified Forest National Park                         
  40. Rocky Mountain National Park       
  41. Saguaro National Park         
  42. Sequoia National Park         
  43. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  44. Virgin Islands National Park                              
  45. Voyageurs National Park                    
  46. Wind Cave National Park                    
  47. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park      
  48. Zion National Park        

For more information, please visit: http://www.nps.gov/index.htm

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