It’s been a goal now for the last couple years to visit five new national parks a year. So far, it’s gone well! And in total, I’ve been to 19 out of 59. Not too shabby. I’ve also been a lot more into learning about the parks. The Switchback Kids podcast is one of my new favorite things and I always want to listen to them on our way to the parks. I also get excited listening to the ones about the parks I’ve been to.
Now I want to share some of the fun things I’ve learned with you. This post has been in the works for a while. It’s taken a lot of research, but it’s been super fun working on it and learning tons of stuff about them. There’s actually quite a few duplicates on here, but I’ve tried to include fun things about some other parks, too. I’ll keep things to the top five so this isn’t like, 30 miles long.
Wrangell St. Elias – 8,323,146.48 acres
Gates of the Arctic – 7,523,897.45 acres
Katmai – 3,674,529.33 acres
Death Valley – 3,373,063.14 acres
Hot Springs – 5,549.10 acres
American Samoa – 8,256.67 acres
Virgin Islands – 14,948.46 acres
Congaree – 26,275.82 acres
Pinnacles – 26,685.73 acres
Most visited parks (2016)
Great Smoky Mountains – 11,312,786
Grand Canyon – 5,969,811
Yosemite – 5,028,868
Rocky Mountain – 4,517,585
Zion – 4,295,127
Least visited parks (2016)
Gates of the Arctic – 10,047
Kobuk Valley – 15,500
Lake Clark – 21,102
Isle Royale – 24,966
North Cascades – 28,646
Most remote parks
This was hard to find good information on, but what I did find tended to lean towards the same few so I just included them all.
Gates of the Arctic
These are the parks that used to be. They were national parks at one point and were demoted for one reason or another.
General Grant National Park 1890 – 1940 – This park was absorbed into Kings Canyon.
Platt National Park 1906 – 1976 – This park became the Chicksaw National Recreation Area
Sullys Hill National Park 1904 – 1931 – This park became Sullys Hill National Game Preserve and is no longer part of National Park Service.
Hawaii National Park 1916 – 1960 – This park was split into two and became Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanos National Parks.
Mackinac National Park 1895 – 1975 – This was turned into a state park where vehicles are prohibited.
Fort Mchenry National Park 1925 – 1939 – This was a national park that actually got a bit of a promotion. It was redesignated to a national monument and historic shrine making it the only site that is both in the park service.
Parks with no entrance fees
Great Smoky Mountains
Wrangell St. Elias
Acadia – They have 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads that are all dog-friendly.
Shenandoah – Only 20 of 500 miles of trails are off limits to your furry friends here.
Cuyahoga Valley – Dogs are permitted throughout the park, including the 20-mile Towpath Trail.
Mammoth Cave – They may not be allowed in the cave, but they are permitted on the above-ground hiking trails.
Yosemite – Dogs are only permitted in the Wawona Meadow Loop, but they are welcome on roads, sidewalks, bike paths, and most campgrounds. The park also has a kennel from Memorial Day to Labor Day
In all of these parks, dogs must be on leashes, usually around six feet. Definitely, check the park website before going.
Yellowstone – March 1, 1872
Sequoia – September 25, 1890
Yosemite – October 1, 1890
Mount Rainier – March 2, 1899
Crater Lake – May 22, 1902
Pinnacles – January 10, 2013
Great Sand Dunes – September 13, 2004
Congaree – November 10, 2003
Cuyahoga Valley – October 11, 2000
Black Canyon of the Gunnison – October 21, 1999
States with the most parks
California and Alaska tie for the most with eight parks each.
- Wrangell St. Elias
- Kobuk Valley
- Gates of the Arctic
- Glacier Bay
- Lake Clark
- Kenai Fjords
- Death Valley
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon
- Channel Islands
- Joshua Tree
- Lassen Volcanic
Utah is third with five.
Colorado is fourth with four parks.
Washington comes in at fifth with three parks.
- Mount Rainier
- North Cascade
Utah’s Mighty 5
I’ve grown a little attached to the Utah parks since I’ve lived there the last two summers and have gotten to visit all of them multiple times. I just wanted to share some fun things about all of them here. I wanted to share this for some since 59 is too many and I figured I’ve been to all of these, so why not? All of these stats can be found on here.
Visitors in the first year: 1929 – 500
Visitors in 2016: 1,585,718
Fun fact: There are over 2000 arches in the park and to qualify as an arch, their opening must be at least three feet wide.
Visitors in the first year: 1965 – 19,400
Visitors in 2016: 776,281
Fun fact: This is where Aaron Ralston was hiking and had to amputate his own forearm after getting it stuck under a boulder in Blue John Canyon. He was there for 5 days. The movie 127 hours is based on this.
Visitors in the first year: 1938 – 1500
Visitors in 2016: 1,064,904
Fun fact: There were no visitors between 1942 and 1947. I found out there were actually somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 those years. Here’s another fun fact: the waterpocket fold in the park is a 65 million-year-old warp in the Earth’s crust.
Visitors in the first year: 1929 – 21,997
Visitors in 2016: 2,365,110
Fun fact: Bryce Canyon is actually a natural amphitheater, not a canyon. And on clear days you can see Navajo Mountain in Arizona 90 miles away.
Visitors in the first year: 1919 – 1,814
Visitors in 2016: 4,295, 127
Fun fact: In 1941 the park had 192,805 visitors, then in 1944 it went back down to 42,243, and in 1946 it went back up to 212,280 and continually went up from there with only a few years lower than the year before.
Other fun stuff
- Trail Ridge Road in RMNP is one of the highest paved roads.
- Congaree floods about ten times a year.
- Gates of the Arctic has no hiking trails, roads, or facilities.
- Kobuk Valley also has no roads or trails.
- Great Smoky Mountains has 900 miles of hiking trails.
- There are alligators and crocodiles in the Everglades.
- Mesa Verde has 5000 archeological sites and 600 cliff dwellings.
- Mammoth Cave has over 400 miles of cave mapped underground making it the longest cave system in the world.
- While Mammoth may be the longest cave system, Carlsbad Caverns is the deepest at 1,593 feet deep.
- Hot Springs is the only national park in an urban area.
- Channel Islands have 145 species of plants and animals unique to the park. It is known as the Galapagos Islands of North America.
- Great Basin has 5000-year-old bristlecone trees and are among the oldest living organisms on Earth.
- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country at almost 2000 feet.
- You can drive to Voyageurs in the winter via two ice roads. In the summer you can only go by water.
- Katmai is home to 2000 grizzly bears.
- Acadia, Zion, Olympic, Canyonlands, and Saguaro all have multiple sections separated by non-NPS land.
- Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic are both above the arctic circle.
- American Samoa is the only park in the Southern Hemisphere.
And that’s all folks! If you have anything you think I should add to this, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning these things as much as I have.