1Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-sq.-mile wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot. Mostly in Wyoming, the park spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho too. Visit Yellowstone and experience the world’s first national park. Marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mudpots, and geysers. Explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold. Discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”Yellowstone’s geologic story provides examples of how geologic processes work on a planetary scale. The foundation to understanding this story begins with the structure of the Earth and how this structure shapes the planet’s surface.The Earth is frequently depicted as a ball with a central core surrounded by concentric layers that culminate in the crust or surface layer. The distance from the Earth’s surface to its center or core is approximately 4,000 miles. The core of the earth is divided into two parts. The mostly iron and nickel inner core (about 750 miles in diameter) is extremely hot but solid due to immense pressure. The iron and nickel outer core (1,400 miles thick) is hot and molten. The mantle (1,800 miles thick) is dense, hot, semisolid layer of rock. Above this layer is the relatively thin crust, three to forty-eight miles thick, forming the continents and ocean floors.

2Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Its landscape is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Among the wildlife are moose, bear, whales and seabirds.During high visitation, you may experience delays entering the park, and increased travel times and congestion on scenic drives. Our best advice is to have back-up plans for your day. Between 10 am and 4 pm, and particularly on Cadillac Mountain for sunrise or sunset, destinations throughout Acadia can exceed capacity, and rangers may restrict access temporarily in the interest of public safety. Acadia contains a variety of natural habitats that provide homes for many different animal species. Our location on the coast and the diversity of habitats explains this species richness. The size of these habitats and their separation from other habitats or larger natural habitats, however, limits the types of animals that are found here. Small animals adapted to smaller habitats are therefore more common, unlike the large mammals such as black bears and moose that require large areas and are rarely observed.The quieter and more patient you are, the greater your chances of finding and observing any animal, regardless of size. If you have any unusual wildlife sightings while you are exploring the park, please fill out a wildlife observation card at the visitor center, nature center, campgrounds, or park headquarters.

3Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park is a United States National Park established in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The park covers an area of 669,984 acres on the Kenai Peninsula in southcentral Alaska, near the town of Seward.At the edge of the Kenai Peninsula lies a land where the ice age lingers. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords’ crowning feature. Wildlife thrives in icy waters and lush forests around this vast expanse of ice. Sugpiaq people relied on these resources to nurture a life entwined with the sea. Today, shrinking glaciers bear witness to the effects of our changing climate.The array and adaptability of Kenai Fjord’s creatures is astounding. A sheer mountain cliff is a trail to a 2 week old kid goat. Birds here are notably better at swimming with their wings than using them in the air. Glacial ice is home sweet home to an ice worm. Whales take flying lessons and black bears enjoy sledding without equipment down steep snow chutes. It seems nearly magic but it is just nature at its most resourceful, adapting to the local extremes.The maritime climate and abrupt, glacially carved peaks of the Kenai Fjords are home to a diverse array of plants. From the largest Sitka spruces, ancient and immense, to the smallest shoots of sprouting fireweed and the soft and verdant blankets of moss covering the forest floor, the plants of Kenai Fjords thrive in a harsh land of ice, rock, snow and rain. The sheer cliffs, jagged peaks and steep valleys of the ice-carved landscape create huge variations in habitat and plant communities over short distances. Lush and highly productive temperate rainforests can be found less than a mile or two from nearly desolate mountain ridges which support only a thin layer of alpine vegetation.

4Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park comprises 5 ecologically rich islands off the Southern California coast. Anacapa Island has trails to a 1932 lighthouse and clifftop Inspiration Point. Santa Cruz Island’s many sea caves include the vast Painted Cave. Santa Rosa Island features rare Torrey pines. Channel Islands National Park provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities and a delightful break from the congestion and clamor of urban life. However, since the park encompasses five islands and their surrounding one mile of the ocean, the decision of where to go, what to do, and how to do it can be challenging.A variety of organisms can be found on and around the Channel Islands, from top predators like bald eagles and sharks, to intertidal residents such as seastars and barnaces, to the tiniest parasites living on other animals and plants. For this page we have organized the information into birds, marine animals, terrestrial animals, and paleo animals, although many animals utilize resources from both the ocean and the land.Because of their isolation and remote nature, the Channel Islands support fewer native animal species than similar habitats on the mainland. Species that reached the islands were aerial, such as birds and bats, or rafted across the water on debris and other material. Over time some vertebrate species evolved into distinct subspecies on the islands. For example, the deer mouse and island fox are recognized as distinct subspecies on each of the islands they occur. A total of 23 endemic terrestrial animals have been identified in the park, including 11 land birds, that are Channel Island subspecies or races.

5Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s famed for its giant, ancient sequoia trees, and for Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. In Yosemite Village are shops, restaurants, lodging, the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery, with prints of the photographer’s renowned black-and-white landscapes of the area.Famous for its plunging waterfalls and massive granite faces, this unparalleled parkland, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, attracts 4 million visitors each year—with good reason. Nearly the size of Rhode Island and covering more than 1,100 square miles/284,899 hectares, it features unforgettable natural beauty, from the sheer walls of Yosemite Valley to the alpine beauty of Tuolumne Meadows.Yosemite National Park supports more than 400 species of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The high diversity of species is the result of diverse habitats in Yosemite that are largely intact. The park’s rich habitats range from thick foothill chaparral to conifer forests to expanses of alpine rock. Animals feel at home in each location.

6Hawaii Volcanoes National

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). At its heart are the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes. The Crater Rim Drive passes steam vents and the Jaggar Museum, which features volcanology exhibits and a viewpoint overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater. Thick ferns mark the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku). The Chain of Craters Road weaves over lava. Trails crisscross the park.Volcanoes are monuments to Earth’s origin, evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.The Hawaiian Islands are renowned in the scientific world for evolving the most spectacular land bird assemblage on a remote oceanic archipelago. Of the 23 surviving endemic Hawaiian songbird species, those living within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park include six Hawaiian honeycreepers; ‘apapane, ‘amakihi, ‘i‘iwi, and three federally listed as endangered; ‘akepa, ‘akiapola‘au, and the Hawai‘i creeper. There are also a native thrush (‘oma‘o) and a native monarch (‘elepaio). Another three species of endemic Hawaiian birds found within the Park are also endangered; the nēnē, or Hawaiian goose, ‘Ua’u or Hawaiian petrel, and ‘io or Hawaiian hawk.

7Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona, is home to much of the immense Grand Canyon, with its layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history. Viewpoints include Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station and architect Mary Colter’s Lookout Studio and her Desert View Watchtower.Grand Canyon National Park encompasses canyons, river tributaries, and surrounding grounds. The Grand Canyon is situated in Arizona’s northwestern quadrant. With millions of visitors making the trip to the canyon each year, this park is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. In addition, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.The Grand Canyon had a long and arduous road to becoming a national park, beginning in the 1880s with several failed congressional bills. After making multiple visits to the area, Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument in 1908. The bill to grant national park status to the area was passed in 1919 and signed by then-President Woodrow Wilson.There are two public areas of Grand Canyon National Park, the North and South Rims. At 7,000 feet above sea level, the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most accessible section of the national park, with numerous places where visitors can pull over to admire the views. The Grand Canyon North Rim, 1,000 feet higher than its southern sibling, isn’t as popular because it is harder to get to, especially when harsh winter weather closes access roads. By car, the trip from one rim to the other is 220 miles. However, if traveling by foot, the distance across the canyon is 21 miles via the Kaibab Trails.

8Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park, a 369-sq.-mile Washington state reserve southeast of Seattle, surrounds glacier-capped, 14,410-ft. Mount Rainier. Atop 6,400-ft.-high Sunrise, the highest point in the park reachable by car, visitors can admire Rainier and other nearby volcanoes, including Mount Adams. The park’s 5,400-ft.-high Paradise overlook offers mountain views, summertime wildflower meadows and hiking trailheads.About Mt. Rainier: Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 standing 14,410 feet above sea level. Despite its name, it is not a mountain, but an active volcano. Those who’ve grown up in western Washington have long been cautioned that Rainier could erupt and devastate the Emerald City in its entirety at any given time… to locals, it is a guardian and a foe looming larger than life over the city. To explore it, you can go soft and head off into the extensive trail networks in the lowland forests; go big and hike the 93-mile Wonderland Trail that circumnavigates the sub-alpine and high mountain; or go really big and summit Rainier the way national park hero and conservationist John Muir did more than 100 years ago… or, you can simply admire its beauty from the forest floor. The majority of visitors come in late spring and summer (May–Sep), when there are mild, clear days that are good for hiking and the wildflowers are in bloom. Wildflower season varies from year to year, but the park’s meadows are typically at their most colorful in early Aug. Winter and early spring (Nov–Apr) are cool to cold, with heavy snow.