The Ultimate Guide to America's National Parks - Atlas Obscura Lists

The Ultimate Guide to America's National Parks

Big or small, urban or remote, the parks are full of nature, history, and surprises.

In June 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that declared the Yosemite Valley in California a protected wilderness area. A few years later, in 1872, it became the first official national park in the United States—and the first in the world. Since those early days, the parks system has grown and expanded, and now encompasses more than 84 million acres. But its core mission has remained the same: “To preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”

With that kind of mission and scope, it’s no wonder that Atlas Obscura has amassed quite a collection of places in the national park system over the years. In this list, we’ve gathered some of our favorite spots in and around the parks. From a shipwreck in Yellowstone to 5,000-year-old trees, each represents a unique natural wonder or chapter of the American story. 

Be sure to visit each park’s website and social media accounts to get the latest information on openings, closures, and how to support them. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask. 

Supai, Arizona

Havasupai Falls

This secluded aqua waterfall in the Grand Canyon is the perfect swimming hole, and the Havasupai tribe's fiercely protected natural wonder.
Sponsored by Lincoln
Springdale, Utah

The Narrows

The hike through a narrow river flanked by the 2,000-foot-tall walls of Zion Canyon is one of the best in the world.
Sponsored by Lincoln
Moab, Utah

Landscape Arch

The fifth-longest natural arch in the world, and the longest outside China.
Sponsored by Lincoln
Baker, Nevada

Lehman Caves

A gothic palace of endless stalagmites and pseudoscorpions waits within one of the world's most beautiful caves.
Sponsored by Lincoln
Alamogordo, New Mexico

White Sands National Park

Explore the largest pure gypsum deposit in the world, and go dune sledding while you're at it.
Sponsored by Lincoln
Forks, Washington

Hall of Mosses

Stroll through a wonderland of stupendous moss-covered trees.
Sponsored by Lincoln
Key West, Florida

Dry Tortugas

These remote Florida islands have a history of sea turtles and sunken treasures, and one of the world's largest coastal brick fortresses.
Sponsored by Lincoln