Fascinating Facts About All 63 National Parks
Perhaps now so more than ever, it’s important to take time to appreciate the beauty of our natural world. In the U.S., all you have to do is turn to the 63 national parks for inspiration.
Not only do these parks offer hiking, camping and wildlife-spotting galore, but they each have interesting stories to tell that make them truly unique from others designated by the National Park Service. Just check it out for yourself with these fun, fascinating facts about each national park.
Size: 65 square miles
Fact: Sprawling across Mount Desert Island, off the coast of eastern Maine, Acadia became the first national park east of the Mississippi River in 1929 and, today, is still the only national park in the northeast.
Location: South Pacific
Size: 21 square miles
Fact: Located outside of the continental U.S., the American Samoa territory is spread out across three islands and happens to be the country’s only national park in the southern hemisphere.
Size: 119 square miles
Fact: There are more than 2,000 natural rock arches in (the appropriately named) Arches National Park, which is the biggest concentration of formations in the country.
Location: South Dakota
Size: 379 square miles
Fact: At Badlands National Park, in the vast plains of South Dakota, visitors can witness a geological marvel: The rocks here are still eroding at a rate of 1 inch per year, which is a rapid rate for rocks, according to the National Park Service.
Size: 1,252 square miles
Fact: At remote Big Bend National Park, geological history runs deep: Hundreds of millions of years ago, two inland seas flowed through the region, and as a result, there are thick deposits of limestone and shale throughout the park.
Size: 270 square miles
Fact: Part of the world’s third-longest coral reef runs through Biscayne National Park, which is located between Miami and the Florida Keys.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Size: 47 square miles
Fact: Arguably the most jaw-droppingly spectacular canyon in the U.S., Black Canyon is so deep and narrow that some parts of the gorge and river receive just a few minutes of sunlight per day.
Size: 56 square miles
Fact: Bryce isn’t actually a canyon; it’s a natural amphitheater that’s carved into the Paunsaugunt Plateau. From this amphitheater, on a cloudless day, you can see for well over 100 miles.
Size: 527 square miles
Fact: Hollywood loves the natural grandeur of Canyonlands — the famous last scene of “Thelma and Louise” was filmed here, and “127 Hours” was filmed at the real location in the park where Aron Ralston was trapped for five days before cutting off his own arm.
Size: 378 square miles
Fact: The defining geographic feature of Capitol Reef National Park is called the Waterpocket Fold, a monocline (a fold in rock strata) that extends for nearly 100 miles, rising high above the desert.
Location: New Mexico
Size: 73 square miles
Fact: Seventeen species of bat call Carlsbad Caverns home, in addition to 54 species of reptiles and amphibians and 357 bird species.
Location: Off the coast of Southern California
Size: 390 square miles
Fact: The gorgeously rugged Channel Islands National Park has been dubbed the “Galapagos of North America,” because there are more than 150 species here that you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
Location: South Carolina
Size: 35 square miles
Fact: Congaree National Park has the biggest trees east of the Mississippi; in fact, there are 25 trees in the park that are the largest of their species in the U.S.
Size: 286 square miles
Fact: Bottoming out at a whopping 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country.
Size: 51 square miles
Fact: Humans have occupied the Cuyahoga Valley for more than 12,000 years.
Location: California-Nevada border
Size: 5,270 square miles
Fact: Contrary to the park’s name, there are more than 1,000 described species of plants in Death Valley, including 50 that are endemic to the region
Size: 9,492 square miles
Fact: The park’s namesake, the towering, majestic Denali (the tallest mountain in North America) is visible from 200 miles away.
Size: 100 square miles
Fact: Dry Tortugas has a long, tragic history of shipwrecks — nearly 200 ships sank in the waters here before and shortly after the Garden Key Lighthouse was constructed in 1825.
Size: 7,800 square miles
Fact: Everglades National Park is a giant tropical wetland, and the unique ecosystem here is the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators coexist.
Gates of the Arctic
Size: 13,238 square miles
Fact: It’s a challenge to even get to Gates of the Arctic (visitors must fly or hike in since there are no roads or trails into the park lands), and once you do, you’ll be on your own — there are no National Park facilities, campgrounds or visitor centers here.
Location: St. Louis
Size: 192 acres
Fact: St. Louis’ famous Arch is exactly as wide as it is tall — at 630-feet wide and 630-feet tall.
Size: 1,583 square miles
Fact: Pristinely beautiful Glacier National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, largely because the park has maintained almost its entire original wildlife species since Europeans first explored the area.
Size: 5,129 square miles
Fact: The National Park Service calls Glacier Bay a “living laboratory,” in a nod to the park’s dramatic glacial movement and unique animal and plant dynamics that are constantly being studied.
Size: 1,902 square miles
Fact: Geologically speaking, the Grand Canyon is said to reveal 40 percent of Earth’s history.
Size: 485 square miles
Fact: There are many marvels to be seen at Grand Teton National Park — including the fastest land mammal in the western hemisphere, the pronghorn. (They’re capable of reaching speeds up to 70 mph.)
Size: 120 square miles
Fact: Some of the oldest trees on the planet live in Great Basin National Park, including the rare Great Basin bristlecone pine.
Great Sand Dunes
Size: 233 square miles
Fact: Yes, the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park are incredible, but did you know that the night sky alone is worth coming here for? In 2019, Great Sand Dunes became a certified International Dark Park; the park’s (rare) combination of a high elevation, dry air and relative lack of light pollution make it the perfect spot for seeing galaxies.
Great Smoky Mountains
Location: Tennessee-North Carolina border
Size: 800 square miles
Fact: The Smokies are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world; it’s estimated that they’re between 200 and 300 million years old.
Size: 135 square miles
Fact: Although it may be one of the country’s least-visited national parks, Guadalupe boasts a bounty of natural riches and must-see sights—including the highest point in Texas, at 8,749 feet.
Location: Maui, Hawaii
Size: 52 square miles
Fact: There are more endangered species in Haleakala National Park than in any other park in the country.
Size: 505 square miles
Fact: The park’s Mauna Loa is the planet’s biggest volcano, exceeding Mount Everest in height.
Location: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Size: 8.7 square miles
Fact: Unlike the other parks on this list, Hot Springs National Park is located within a city as opposed to the natural world; the park is centered on 47 thermal springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Size: 24 square miles
Fact: Indiana Dunes is a treasure trove of landforms and natural areas; in addition to the dunes, you’ll find rivers, forests, swamps, bogs, marshes, oak savannas and prairies here.
Location: Lake Superior, Michigan
Size: 893 square miles
Fact: The most common mammals found in remote Isle Royale National Park are moose and gray wolves.
Joshua Tree National Park
Location: California (Mojave and Colorado Deserts)
Size: 1,235 square miles
Fact: Although it’s a desert, there are six different mountain ranges in Joshua Tree: the Cottonwood, Hexie, Pinto, Eagle, Coxcomb and Little San Bernardino Mountains.
Size: 6,395 square miles
Fact: Life is wild in Katmai: Not only are there more than 2,000 brown bears within the park’s borders (that’s the biggest population of protected brown bears in North America), but there are 15 volcanoes here as well.
Size: 1,047 square miles
Fact: The park contains one of the largest ice fields in the country, Harding Icefield, which serves as a source of at least 38 glaciers.
Size: 722 square miles
Fact: Kings Canyon boasts the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world.
Size: 2,736 square miles
Fact: Located in northern Alaska, the spectacular, remote Kobuk Valley National Park is home to the northernmost sand dune field in the Western Hemisphere.
Size: 4,094 square miles
Fact: Lake Clark is incredibly diverse — with tundra similar to Alaska’s North Slope and a coastal forest that’s similar to the southeast panhandle of the state, along with glaciers, volcanoes, rivers and a wealth of wildlife. What’s more, is no roads lead to the park, which means it can only be reached by boat or small plane.
Size: 166 square miles
Fact: According to National Geographic, until Mount St. Helens blew in 1980, Lassen Peak’s eruption was the most recent volcanic explosion in the lower 48 — it’s still considered an active volcano, even though its last eruption was in 1921.
Size: 83 square miles
Fact: Believe it or not, the world’s longest cave system is located squarely in Kentucky — and archeological evidence suggests that aboriginal peoples began exploring the caves more than 4,000 years ago.
Size: 81 square miles
Fact: Mesa Verde is the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S., and a majority of the archeological sites found here are associated with Ancestral Pueblo cultures. They date back to time periods that range from 580 to 1290 — whoa!
Size: 369 square miles
Fact: Standing more than 14,000-feet tall, Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in the state, and the fifth tallest in the lower 48 states.
New River Gorge
Location: West Virginia
Size: 109 square miles
Fact: Scientists estimate that the New River is between 10 million and 360 million years old. This makes it the oldest river in North America and one of the oldest in the world!
Size: 1,070 square miles
Fact: North Cascades has more recorded plant species within its perimeter than any other national park in the country.
Size: 1,442 square miles
Fact: The crazily verdant Hoh Rainforest gets nearly 12- to 14-feet of rain every year — which makes it the wettest area in the continental U.S. No wonder why the moss and ferns that carpet every square inch of the forest are so bright green.
Size: 230 square miles
Fact: Fascinatingly, according to the National Park Service, more than 10,000 years of human history can be found inside the Petrified Forest, including more than 800 archeological and historical sites.
Size: 42 square miles
Fact: There are 14 species of bats (out of the 23 species in California) that find refuge in the many caves, cliffs and trees in Pinnacles National Park.
Size: 172 square miles
Fact: The centerpiece of Redwood National Park is the improbably magical coastal redwood forest — a direct remnant from the same group of trees that has existed here for 160 million years.
Location: Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado
Size: 358 square miles
Fact: The 30-mile-long Continental Divide Trail runs directly through Rocky Mountain National Park, splitting the park up into its eastern and western sections.
Size: 143 square miles
Fact: The park’s famed giant saguaro cactuses only grow naturally here in the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert.
Size: 631 square miles
Fact: Five of the 10 biggest trees on the planet are located in Sequoia National Park inside the Giant Forest. That includes the General Sherman tree, the largest tree on Earth.
Size: 311 square miles
Fact: Shenandoah is incredibly mountainous — there are more than 60 peaks in the park with elevation over 3,000 feet.
Location: North Dakota
Size: 110 square miles
Fact: The only U.S. national park named after a person (the 26th president), Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to a wealth of wildlife: nearly 200 bird species, elk, pronghorns, wild horses, bighorn sheep, beavers, badgers, bison, porcupines and more.
Location: St. John
Size: 14,737 square miles
Fact: This park preserves about 60 percent of St. John’s land area, making it so that more than 800 subtropical plant species can grow freely in this lush paradise of a park. Those include towering century plants, prickly pears, turpentine trees and Turk’s Cap.
Size: 341 square miles
Fact: There’s almost no other national park in the country where you’ll have a better chance of seeing a bald eagle in its nest because the terrain in Voyageurs — giant old white pines lined along the shores of sprawling, deep lakes — is ideal for the bald eagle.
Location: New Mexico
Size: 228 square miles
Fact: The sparkly white sand that covers the vast, shifting dune field at White Sands National Park isn’t like most inland sand — rather, it’s made of (almost) pure gypsum, which dissolves in water. This means that when it rains, the gypsum layers actually start to dissolve. (This also happens to be the newest national park on this list, designated on Dec. 20, 2019.)
Location: South Dakota
Size: 28,000 acres
Fact: Inside the huge underground cave in Wind Cave National Park, there are a great number of “rooms,” many of which have surreal, strange-sounding names: Bagel Ballroom, Arm Pit, Pant Peeler and Nudist Colony, to name just a few.
Size: 20,000 square miles
Fact: No surprises here: The biggest national park in the country (by far) is also home to the largest single wilderness area in the country; it’s nearly 10 million acres of totally unspoiled land.
Size: 3,472 square miles
Fact: The very first national park in the U.S. (designated on March 1, 1872), Yellowstone preserves more than 10,000 hydrothermal features — geysers, hot springs and others — and believe it or not, this is half the world’s hydrothermal features.
Size: 1,169 square miles
Fact: Yosemite is iconic for several reasons, not least of all because it was the first piece of land that the government protected for its natural beauty — 26 years before it became a national park. President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant in 1864, which protected the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove.
Size: 229 square miles
Fact: Zion National Park is home to a serious feat of engineering. Back in 1909, because of limited railway systems and poor road conditions, the park was inaccessible — until the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel was built in 1930. This 1.1-mile-long tunnel cuts through the heart of sandstone cliffs and red rock canyons, which makes for a thrilling, pulse-racing ride.