20 Reasons the National Parks Remain America's Best Idea

Back in 1983, writer Wallace Stegner famously said "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst." Many people were quick to agree with him, and since then the parks have often been referred to as America's Best Idea. In 2016, the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary, and to celebrate, here are 20 reasons why these amazing places continue to hold such an indelible lure with outdoor enthusiasts and adventurous travelers.

1. Yellowstone was established on March 1, 1872, making it the first national park in the entire world.
2. Since then, there have been 409 areas that have fallen under the National Park Service's jurisdiction, 
59 of which are national parks. 

3. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska is the largest park in the system, covering 13.2 million acres. 

That's larger than some states. 

4. The smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, which covers just .02 acres. 
5. The National Parks are a real bargain for travelers with a pass costing just $80 per year.

6. The parks are some of the best places to go camping in the entire world. 

7. The Park Service's Junior Ranger Program is a great way to get kids interested in the parks, and the outdoors in general. 

8. Acadia National Park has been declared a dark sky zone and holds an annual stargazing festival to celebrate. 
9. The Great Smoky Mountains are the most visited national park, seeing 10 million travelers each year. 

10. The state of California has the post national parks, with 9 sites.
Alaska and Arizona are tied for second with 8 each. 

11. Yosemite is home to some of the absolute best rock climbing routes in the entire world, with a climbing culture that is just as legendary

12. The sum total of land dedicated to America's national parks is roughly 84 million acres. That's larger than all but the four biggest states - Alaska, Texas, California, and Montana.

13. The Grand Canyon is the second most visited national park in the U.S., and has been declared one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World
14. The National Park Service employees more than 22,000 people on a permanent, temporary and seasonal basis. It also has over 220,000 volunteers working in parks across the U.S.

15. The Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is one of the most scenic highways in the entire U.S., stretching for 50 miles across beautiful northern Montana. 

16. The tropical island of St. John, located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is actually home to a national park that is 7000 acres in size. 

17. The largest tree in the world by volume can be found inside Sequoia National Park in California. It is named General Sherman, and it stands roughly 275 feet in height, and has an estimated volume of 52,500 cubic feet. 

18. South Dakota's Mt. Rushmore is famous for paying tribute to four of America's greatest presidents. The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt are carved in the stone there. 
19. Denali National Park in Alaska is home to the tallest mountain in North America, which is also called Denali in mountaineering circles, but is also referred to as Mt. McKinley. It stands 20,320 feet in height. 

20. Conversely, the lowest point in North America is also found within a national park. Death Valley reaches a depth of 282 feet below sea level.


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Travel Magazine: 20 Reasons the National Parks Remain America's Best Idea
20 Reasons the National Parks Remain America's Best Idea
Travel Magazine
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