Most Stunning National Parks in the United States (40+ Pictures)

The United States has 59 National Parks, which are scattered out in 29 states and territories.  Odds are that you live within driving distance of one or more parks.  We present information and pictures on some of the Most Stunning National Parks in the United States.

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Barn in front of Grant Teton National Park

The National Park system of United States is truly a national treasure. It contains some of the most outstanding scenery to be found anywhere on earth.  You probably have visited a national park or two in your life, but may not know the extent and the vastness of the network of parks in United States.

The first national park, Yellowstone,  was created by a law signed by Pres. Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. In 1916, the National Park Service was established to oversee and protect the national parks.

Among the criteria for selecting national parks is that they must include significant natural beauty, have unique geological features, have unusual ecosystems and present recreational opportunities for the public. Not all of these criteria are met with every park, but most national parks have one thing in common. They have unbelievable natural beauty.

The national parks are incredibly diverse. They range from above tree line views to coral reefs and underground caverns.  The largest of the parks is Wrangell- St. Elias in Alaska with over 8,000,000 acres and the smallest park is Hot Springs in Arkansas with less than 6,000 acres.  All total the National Park Service oversees approximately 51.9 million acres.

The most visited national park is the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee with over 10 million visitors in 2014 followed  by Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park with 4.7 million visitors. In contrast, only about 12,000 people visit the remote Gates of the Arctic Park in Alaska.

All of these parks present stunning and unforgettable sights and sounds.  Take a look at our list of the 10 of the Most Stunning National Parks in the United States in no particular order.

1.  Zion National Park

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Sandstone formations in Zion national Park

Zion National Park is located in Utah and it’s most prominent feature is the Zion Canyon. The canyon is 15 miles long and almost a half mile (800 meters) deep. It cuts through the red and tan sandstone of the area creating incredible views and unique geological formations.

Being a fairly easy drive from Las Vegas it receives more than 3 1/2 million visitors every year.  It also is one of the most photographed national parks because of the stunning red sandstone and the unique desert environment.

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Water is responsible for cutting most of the canyons in Zion National Park

 

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The red sandstone of the area is spectacular when lit by the setting sun

 

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2.  Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

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Giant Sequoia trees are always prominant in Sequoia National Park

The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in Northern California. Though technically two separate national parks, they are administered together since they are adjacent to one another.

The parks are famous for their giant sequoia trees including the Gen. Sherman Tree which is the largest living thing on earth. The parks also contain the highest point in the continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,494 feet above sea level.

With nearly 1,000,000 acres between the two parks and an incredibly varied ecosystem, the Parks provide nearly unparalleled beauty and stunning scenery.  Numerous trail systems crisscross the parks including the Pacific Crest Trail.

General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park

General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park

 

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Mount Whitney at sunrise

 

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Rocky summits of the Sierra Nevada mountain range

 

3.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Lava flowing from the Kilauea Volcano

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916 and obviously, is located in Hawaii. It contains two active volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa, which is the worlds most massive sub aerial volcano.

The park consists of over 300,000 acres with elevations ranging from sea level to the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.  It is safe to say that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers some of the most unusual and deadly scenery in the world.

Hiking trails, visitor centers and other amenities provide a great getaway from the crowded beaches of Hawaii’s coast.

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Underground lava tubes are created when the outer portion of the lava cools and harden while the inner lava continues to flow leaving an empty chamber

 

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Kilauea’s Iki Crater

 

Steam rises from the center of a crater in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park

 

4.  Grand Teton National Park

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Grand Teton National Park is located in Wyoming only 10 miles south of the more famous Yellowstone National Park. It has roughly 300,000 acres and includes the 40 mile long Teton Range as well as a good portion of the Jackson Hole Valley.

It is considered one of the most pristine of the national park ecosystems with a wide variety of flora and fauna. The Grand Teton Range provides for stunning backdrops for photographers. The park is a popular destination for mountaineers, hikers and fishermen. The area is noted for its renowned trout fishing.

The park got its name from the early 19th century French trappers in the area that referred to the mountain range as “les trois tetons” which translates as the three teats.

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This lake reflects the fall colors in front of Grand Teton

 

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Elk are a common sight in the meadows at the foot of the Grand Teton’s

 

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A walkway crosses a river at the foot of the Grand Teton Range

 

5. Dry Tortugas National Park

 

aerial view of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Aerial view of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

National parks aren’t always about mountain ranges and wilderness.  Dry Tortugas National Park is located about 68 miles west of Key West, Florida out in the Gulf of Mexico. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and seven Dry Tortugas Islands. The coral reefs of the area are the least disturbed of all of the Florida Keys reefs.

The park has abundant sea life, tropical birds, coral reefs and is full of legends of sunken treasure and pirates.  Fort Jefferson was built in the early 1800s in an attempt to create a base from which the United States could begin to suppress the rampant piracy of the area. Fort Jefferson is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere and is composed of over 16 million bricks.

The total land area of the park is only 104 acres while the park contains over 64,000 acres of ocean.  The park is only accessible by boat and averages a little over 60,000 visitors each year.

Distance view of a Dry Tortugas Light on sunset

Distance view of a Dry Tortugas Light at sunset

 

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