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Kristi Parsons | 03.20.2019

Every park in the National Park Service has a unique set of characteristics worthy of protection. There are parks that are home to awe-inspiring features of the natural world, like the great granite cathedrals of Yosemite and the geologic wonder of the Grand Canyon. Others were established as a memorial to difficult eras in our history, and they exist to both pay homage to those who suffered and to remind us to avoid the mistakes of those who came before us. When exploring these diverse national treasures within the United States, you will find places that leave you inspired, heartbroken and better informed. That was the driving force behind the creation of the National Park System: an idea that a landscape deserved a special designation for its extraordinary value.

Within the national park system, there is much to celebrate. Beyond the mountains, waterfalls, deserts, and canyons are moments that are altogether human: paddling beneath 3,000-foot sandstone walls with family; sharing a hearty meal above tree line on an active volcano; sharing a light and a lens with friends in a dark-sky desert; honoring the fallen soldiers from times past at a memorial to their memory.

The national parks and monuments are more than a landscape. They are a part of who we are. They are a part of our story. This month, we're celebrating the national parks, and so is the National Park Service. National Park Week begins on April 20 with a fee-free day in the park. We hope you'll join us in celebrating these amazing places.

National Parks to Celebrate

  • The Great Smoky Mountains National Park: America's most visited national park and a place of deep-rooted history and beautiful mystery.
  • Devils Tower National Monument: The first national monument, a sacred and stunning geological formation.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: A land of never-ending outdoor activities within a unique and gorgeous landscape.
  • White Sands National Monument: Created from gypsum, White Sands is a don't-miss gem tucked away in New Mexico.
  • Big Bend National Park: Views, mountains, river adventures, hot springs, and limitless adventures. When in Texas, go to Big Bend or go home.
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: Go snorkeling, walk along a Civil War-era moat, and explore remnants of the past amid a sparkling blue sea at a national park like no other in the Florida Keys.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway: 469 miles of scenery, hiking trails, waterfalls, history, and human-built marvels in the Appalachians.
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area: A West Coast playground for wanderers and history buffs.
  • Pilgrim Monument: Stand where the Pilgrims first stood after their journey across the Atlantic.
  • Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge: A tropical paradise in the Pacific on the surface with an indescribable spirit below.
  • Arlington National Cemetery: 400,000 reasons to visit are buried at Arlington, each with a family and a story.
  • Pearl Harbor Historic Sites: Standing at the USS Arizona Memorial on Oahu and seeing flowers with an apology note left from a family in Japan was one of the most moving moments of my life. The past can't change, but the future can.
  • Yosemite National Park: John Muir and Ansel Adams connected not only to the surface of Yosemite, but to its incredible spirit, a connection that changed their lives and countless others. It's a spirit that will change your life as well. Go.

These are by no means the only national parks worth celebrating. Here is a list of other national parks and monuments we have covered in-depth on Outdoor Project that are well worth a celebration of their own.

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