33 stunning pictures of US national parks
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 US National Park Service oversees 401 areas throughout the US and US territories and has nearly 300 million visitors each year.
In honor of National Park Week, which runs through April 26th, we found some spectacular pictures of national parks, monuments, seashores and heritage areas around the country that will make you appreciate how beautiful the US really is.
Anmargaret Warner contributed to an earlier version of this post.
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.
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.
At the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Virginia, wild horses roam freely along the white sand beaches.
Though it's been called "America's Favorite Drive," Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina and Virginia) also features overlooks, trails, picnic areas, and camping spots.
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.
Noted for world-renowned trout fishing, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, offers miles of hiking trails, climbing routes, as well as scenic drives.
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.
At Glacier National Park, Montana, visitors can cruise the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which winds 50 miles through the park's interior, or hike along some of the 700 miles of trail.
Canyons, mesas, and deep river gorges are some of the remarkable geologic features of Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
Throughout the nearly million acres of Olympic National Park, Washington, are glacial mountains, cliff-lined beaches, and rainforests such as the Hall of Mosses.
Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park (spanning Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) is America's first national park. Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the park.
The snow-white dunes of gypsum sand stretch over 275 square miles of desert at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.
In addition to being a national landmark, Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, New York, is an important site for hydroelectric power.
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.
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.
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 in Pennsylvania is one of the most important historic sites in the US. It marked a turning point in the Civil War that led to the Union Victory.
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.
Each of the five regions of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California, has its own climate and features. The park is famous for its giant sequoia trees.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, in 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.
One of the world's riches fossil beds can be found at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
Visitors to Virgin Islands National Park, U.S.V.I., can enjoy a range of activities, from snorkeling and sailing to hiking and birdwatching.
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 US.
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.
Lake Superior surrounds Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, where moose and wolves roam and visitors can backpack, canoe, and even scuba dive.
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.
Big Bend National Park, Texas, has more than 150 miles of hiking trails and is a gem amongst birdwatchers.
Rock climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding are just a few of the many activities visitors to Zion National Park, Utah, can partake in.
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.
Carlsbad Caverns is a giant network of underground limestone caves in New Mexico.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is a protected region along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Florida, where visitors can camp and enjoy the sandy white beaches.
Now see some more great American attractions.