US Parks

There are many thousands of parks scattered across the United States of America. They range from tiny little neighborhood playgrounds and individual buildings of historical significance to immense tracts of wilderness and natural beauty larger than some nations. The US parks can be loosely categorized into National Parks, State Parks, Local Parks and Private Parks.

Map of National Parks in US

North Cascades
Crater Lake
Channel Islands
Carlsbad Caverns
Kobuk Valley
Gates of the Arctic
Wrangell-St. Elias
Glacier Bay
Hawaii Volcanoes

Arches - UT
Big Bend - TX
Bryce Canyon - UT
Death Valley - CA
Dry Tortugas - FL
Everglades - FL
Grand Canyon - AZ

Grand Teton - WY
Great Smokey Mountains - TN
Joshua Tree - CA
Kings Canyon and Sequoia - CA
Mammoth Cave - KY
Mesa Verde - CO
Mt. Rainier - WA

Monument Valley - UT
Olympic - WA
Rocky Mountain - CO
Shenandoah - VA
Yellowstone - WY
Yosemite - CA
Zion - UT

National Park Service

In 1872, the US government created the first National Park when it set aside a vast tract of territory for preservation under the Yellowstone Act. In 1916, it created the National Park Service under the Federal Department of the Interior. Since then, the National Park Service (NPS) has established governance over 284 sites containing 83.6 million acres (34 million hectares).

Utah © Mike Leco /
National parks in Utah are known for their red sandstone arches, deep river canyons and mountaintop vistas overlooking grand landscapes of unique and monumental rock formations.

Some of the areas under the NPS are called National Parks, some are called National Monuments or National Historical Sites. They range in size from tiny areas that include a single historical building to the immense 13.2 million acre Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska.

Nearly every National Park includes a visitor information center staffed by friendly courteous park rangers eager to help guests enjoy their visit. Most of them also include an array of facilities such as: roads, trails, parking lots, restrooms, snackbars, restaurants, hotels, camping sites, guided tours, horse or mule rides, and educational lectures. The quantity and quality of the visitor facilities vary from park to park. The most popular parks contain the widest assortment of facilities, but they often suffer from overuse. Some of the less popular parks offer only minimal facilities.

The National Park Service maintains a large web site that provides a lot of great information about each of the parks under their control: The accommodations, camping, restaurants and other tourist facilities in each park are usually managed by an outside contractor, but reservation for most can be made on the Internet via links from the NPS web pages.

National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

Annual Pass - Cost $80
This pass is good for one year from date of sale. At parks with a per-vehicle fee, it covers the pass holder and accompanying passengers in a private vehicle. At parks with a per-person fee, it covers the pass holder plus three passengers (children under 16 years of age are admitted free).

The National Park Annual Pass can be purchased at a national park, by calling 1-888-ASK-USGS (Ext. 1) and online through the US Geological Survey at

Senior Pass - Cost $10
US citizens or permanent residents age 62 or older can obtain this lifetime pass only at a national park. Like the Annual Pass, the Senior Pass covers the pass holder and accompanying passengers in a private vehicle at parks that charge a per-vehicle fee, and at parks with a per-person fee, it covers the pass holder plus three passengers (children under 16 years of age are admitted free). Senior Pass holders also receive a 50 percent discount on extra services such as camping, swimming and interpretive services.

For more information about National Park Passes, visit the National Park Service of the US Department of the Interior at

State Parks

Each of the 50 states supports a number of parks. Some of them are small recreational facilities or historic sites, while others encompass vast areas of wilderness or scenic beauty. All together, there are thousands of State Parks scattered across the USA. Some of them contain recreational facilities such as swimming, boating, hiking, tennis, camping etc. Others provide no facilities but simply preserve wilderness areas for hunting, fishing or hiking.  For listings of state parks, check with the individual state tourist offices on our Tourist Information page.

Niagara Falls - NY

Valley of Fire - NV

Local Parks

Thousands of parks are provided all across the USA by local governments. These are called City Parks, Municipal Parks or County Parks. They offer a variety of recreational facilities for the pleasure of local residents or visitors. Some of them include small tracts of wilderness.

Central Park - NY

National Mall - DC

Smithsonian - DC

Private, Amusement and Theme Parks

Amusement parks and privately owned entertainment facilities are scattered throughout the country. They usually provide specific types of amusement or entertainment. They are sometimes called Theme Parks.

Antelope Canyon - AZ
Coney Island - NY

Silver Springs - FL
Universal Studios - FL
Walt Disney World - FL

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco /
Photo Description: Red sandstone arch at Arches National Park in Utah