With everything from vast deserts and gorgeous beaches to sprawling mountain ranges, America is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the world—and nowhere is that more evident than in the national parks.
The National Park Service oversees 401 areas throughout the U.S. and U.S. territories and has nearly 300 million visitors each year.
You don’t have to be a hiking fanatic to enjoy these places. You can swim, kayak, birdwatch, walk, bike, drive, camp, or just relax in the country’s national parks.
We found some spectacular pictures of national parks, monuments, seashores and heritage areas around the country that will make you appreciate how beautiful the U.S. really is.
The volcanic basin of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, formed nearly 8,000 years ago. At almost 2,000 feet deep, the lake is the deepest in the U.S.
Visitors come to hike the granite peaks, swim on the beaches, and even get married in Acadia National Park, Maine, the first national park east of the Mississippi River.
Nestled within the nearly 1.5 million acres of parkland at Everglades National Park, Florida, are endangered animals such as the manatee, American crocodile, and Florida panther.
Over 2,000 stone arches fill Arches National Park, Utah. They're not to be missed at sunset, when they take on a stunning glow.
Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and will feature living history camps and historic hikes.
More than five million visitors come to Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, each year. If you're looking for an area with less tourist activity, head to the more remote North Rim.
Two of the world's most active volcanoes sit within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. Lava flow activity constantly changes accessibility to sites, so be sure to check before visiting.
In addition to being a national landmark, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, New York, is an important site for hydroelectric power.
The snow-white dunes of gypsum sand stretch over 275 square miles of desert at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming) is America's first national park. Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the park.
Yosemite National Park, California, offers some of the best rock climbing in the world in areas like El Capitan, Half Dome, the Royal Arches, the Three Brothers and Cathedral Rocks.
Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, has been closed from damages caused by Hurricane Sandy, but is planned to re-open July 4, 2013.
Hoodoos, or pillars of weathered rock, fill Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. The area has some of the best air quality in the world, and on a clear day the visibility can exceed 100 miles.
Lake Superior surrounds Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, where moose and wolves roam and visitors can backpack, canoe, and even scuba dive.
Throughout the nearly million acres of Olympic National Park, Washington, are glacial mountains, cliff-lined beaches, and rainforests such as the Hall of Mosses.
Big Bend National Park, Texas, has more than 150 miles of hiking trails and is a gem amongst birdwatchers.
Each of the five regions of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California, has its own climate and features.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina, was the first national seashore. Visitors can go crabbing, collect shells, relax on the beach, or check out one of the three operating lighthouses.
The summit of Haleakala in Haleakala National Park, Hawaii, is one of the best places in the world to view the starry night sky.
At Glacier National Park, Montana, visitors can cruise the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which winds 50 miles through the parks interior, or hike along some of the 700 miles of trail.
Visitors to Virgin Islands National Park, U.S.V.I., can enjoy a range of activities, from snorkelling and sailing to hiking and birdwatching.
With over 800 miles of hiking trails, 700 miles of fishable streams, and more flowering plants than any other American national park, Great Smoky Mountain National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina) is also America's most visited national park.
North America's largest cacti can be found in Saguaro National Park, Arizona, which was established to protect the plant's habitat.
Many people forget that the two-mile stretch of the National Mall, in Washington, D.C., between the Capital and the Potomac River is national park land.
Six million acres of land are inhabited by a diverse group of wildlife in Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska from grizzly bears and caribou to chickadees and arctic ground squirrels.
Rock climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding are just a few of the many activities visitors to Zion National Park, Utah can partake in.
Noted for world-renowned trout fishing, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, offers miles of hiking trails, climbing routes, as well as scenic drives.
Death Valley National Park, in Nevada and California, is open year-round but with average temperatures at 100°F by May, most visitors wait until the winter months to check it out. In July, that average climbs to 116°F, but that also means no crowds.
Canyons, mesas, and deep river gorges are some of the remarkable geologic features of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
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