In 1872 the establishment of the first National Park in the U.S. was created by Ulysses S. Grant, the United States President at the time. Can you guess which park it was? If you answered the Yellowstone National Park – you’re correct! This nearly 3,500-sq.-mile sanctuary located in the western United States is the first national park of the country, and it’s worldwide known for its rich biodiversity. The Park is home to canyons, alpine rivers, forests, hot springs, and hundreds of animal species, such as bears, wolves, and antelopes.
Today, the National Park System features 422 national park sites in the United States, and these parks span across more than 84 million acres in each state. Not by chance, the U.S. became a true paradise for adrenaline seekers and adventurous travelers who want to escape to the great outdoors and spend some time in the wilderness.
National Parks are real symbols of pride and are celebrated annually in April during National Park Week, which honors the history and culture surrounding these stunning outdoor locations.
The National Park Service (NPS) recorded that in 2019 over 327 million people visited the USA’s national parks. While some parks are still temporarily closed, you can still gather some ideas to plan your next outdoor vacation in the U.S. A great place to start? With a list of the 10 oldest national parks in the United States. Check them out below:
Note: Make sure to double-check COVID 19 precautions, protocols, and operating hours before you visit any of these sites.
The Oldest U.S. National Parks:
1. Yellowstone National Park| March 1, 1872
Located between three states —Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana— the Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the U.S. Thanks to its diverse fauna and flora, Yellowstone welcomes about 4.2 million visitors a park. The park is home to over 1,700 species of trees, and almost 60 species of mammals, including the Rocky Mountain wolf, coyote, the Canadian lynx, and black and grizzly bears.
Placed at the northeastern end of the Snake River Plain, a geological feature located in Idaho, the park has a stunning volcanic landscape, and it harbors the famous Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest volcanic system in North America, and in the world.
Other attractions in the park are the geysers, such as the “Old Faithful”, located in Upper Geyser Basin, and the Steamboar Geyser, which is the largest active geyser in the world.
2. Sequoia National Park| September 25, 1890
Known for being home to the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world by volume, the Sequoia National Park is the second oldest national park in the U.S. The park is located in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California, and it’s south of and contiguous with Kings Canyon Park.
Aside from gigantic Sequoia trees, which can grow between 250 to 275 feet tall, the Sequoia National Park is covered by four different types of vegetation zones: foothill woodlands, montane forests, subalpine forests, and alpine forests. The park is also inhabited by coyotes, black bears, sheep, eleven species of woodpecker, various species of turtle, three species of owl, and more animals.
Both the Sequoia Park and Kings Canyon are filled with outdoor activities all year round. Visitors can hit the hiking trails, backpack in the parks, wildlife watch, go picnicking and even ski during the winter.
3. Yosemite National Park | October 1, 1890
Yellowstone is the official first national park in the U.S., but the idea to create the park originally came from President Abraham Lincoln when he signed the Yosemite Land Grant, back in 1864.
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in central California, Yosemite covers an area of 748,436 acres that spans over four counties: Tuolumne, Mariposa, Mono, and Madera County. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is home to grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, sparkling lakes, mountains, and granite cliffs, among other marvels of nature. The park also features one of the biggest waterfalls on Earth, the 188 meters high Bridalveil Fall, aside from harboring over 400 species of animals, including the super-rare red fox.
4. Mount Rainier National Park | March 2, 1899
Located in a Washington state reserve, southeast of Seattle, the Mount Rainier National Park is home to the Mount Rainier, a 14,411-foot stratovolcano. A true gem of the Washington State, the park is home to valleys, waterfalls, meadows, and forests, aside from having more than 25 glaciers.
A popular hiking spot in the U.S., the Mount Rainier National Park is inhabited by several animal species, such as beavers, black bears, raccoons, porcupines, marmots, and mountain goats, aside from plenty of birds, including owls and eagles.
5. Crater Lake National Park | May 22, 1902
Crater Lake National Park is located in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon. Famous for its crystal blue water lakes, the park hugs the caldera of the 1,949 feet Crater Lake, a remnant o Mount Mazama and the deepest lake in the United States. The park features old-growth forests covering around 50,000 acres, the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a long-distance hiking trail that stretches from the Mexican to Canadian borders, an extinct volcano, and several species of mammals.
Some of the best things to do in the Crater Lake National Park include hiking and exploring the local forests and lakes, and driving the historic 33-mile Rim Drive, which circles Crater Lake and offers stunning views of the surrounding areas.
6. Wind Cave National Park | January 9, 1903
Wind Cave is the first cave system in the U.S. to be designated as a national park, thanks to its massive concentration of rare boxwork formations. The park also encompasses 33,970 acres of forest and prairie that plays host to a remarkable variety of wildlife.
Located 10 miles (16 km) north of the town of Hot Springs in western South Dakota, the Wind Cave National Park was established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The cave is regarded as the densest cave system in the world, and also as one of the longest caves on Earth, with 149.01 miles of explored cave passageways.
Aside from this majestic cave, the park also features 30 miles of hiking trails through prairies and ponderosa pine forests.
7. Mesa Verde National Park | June 29, 1906
Placed in Montezuma County, in southwest Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park is the largest archeological preserve with over 600 cliff dwellings. The Mesa Verde National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it protects some of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites in the country. The parks’ name translates into “green table”, and it’s a reflection of the vast greenery that covers thousands of acres.
8. Glacier National Park | May 11, 1910
Featuring over 700 miles of trails, the Glacier National Park is a real North American gem for those who love some outdoor hiking. Located in the northwest corner of Montana, the Glacier National Park spans over one million acres.
In total, the park has 75 named mountains, 762 lakes, 25 named glaciers, and close to 750 miles of hiking trails alone. The Glacier National Park also features a breathtaking panorama of pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes.
But the Glacier National Park is much more than a hiking paradise. The park also offers the perfect conditions for other fun outdoor activities, such as boating, fishing, biking, backcountry camping, and even count-country skiing.
9. Rocky Mountain National Park | January 26, 1915
The ninth oldest U.S. national park is the iconic Rocky Mountain, which happens to be one of the most visited national parks in the country. While the park was founded in 1915, the mountain range where it’s located is actually over 76 million years old. The high peaks and rugged landscape make the perfect backdrop for the city of Denver, which is just a short drive away.
With more than 100 peaks rising above 11,000 feet in altitude, the park is located in north-central Colorado, between the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake. This family-friendly destination features a jaw-dropping nature setting, as it’s filled with mountains, waterfall hikes, alpine lakes, and a wide variety of wildlife everywhere you look.
10. Haleakala National Park |August 1, 1916
Haleakala National Park is located on the Hawaiian Island, Maui. While the park itself is over 33,000 acres, the park’s main feature is its massive 7-mile wide volcanic crater, the dormant Haleakalā Volcano, which last erupted between 1480 and 1600 AD. Visitors usually go to the Haleakala National Park to go to the summit of the volcano and watch the sunset or sunrise from up high.
You can also enjoy these national parks from afar by taking virtual tours and experiences at home.
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CuddlyNest provides all accommodations to all travelers at an unbeatable price. This blog post is the sixth post in a series by the CuddlyNest team, on the Coronavirus Outbreak. To see more information about our policies please visit our response page.
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