Haleakala National Park, Hawaii // (c) 2013 Jason Carpenter / Flickr.com
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii // (c) 2013 Jason Carpenter / Flickr.com

America’s national parks are home to a who’s who of superlatives, playing sanctuary to the wettest, driest, hottest, coldest, most-remote and most-visited places in America.

While most parks typically enjoy riotous wildflower displays in spring, it is there that the similarities end. As varied as America itself, some parks showcase vast desert environments while others protect America’s tallest forests, both along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. While some parks are guarded by steep, unforgiving vertical cliffs, others are best explored by diving deep below the ocean’s surface.

America’s National Parks Photo Tour

Enjoy our 60-second photo tour of the U.S. national parks system, which showcases the unparalleled beauty and staggering diversity of America’s parks.

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(To create this slideshow, TravelGlitter editors scoured Flickr.com looking for the most-representative images; click on any image above to be re-directed back to the original on Flickr.com.)

The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series

Planning to visit more than one park this year?

The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. The $60 annual fee includes admission to all national parks and national wildlife refuges, as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

The pass includes entrance fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas, or admits up to four adults at sites that charge per person. Seniors may purchase a lifetime pass for $10, and passes are free for active-duty members of the military.

America’s National Parks By State

Not familiar with all 59 of America’s national parks? Below find a complete list of national parks by state, including a brief overview of each park.

Alaska

Denali National Park & Preserve
Roughly 400,000 travelers visit Denali National Park and Preserve every year, primarily in search of wildlife or to snap photos of of 20,320-foot tall Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest mountain peak.

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve
With no roads or trails, Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, known for its wild rivers, glacier-carved valleys, migrating caribou and stunning northern lights display, is an ideal setting for adventure travelers.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
At Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, trace the last vestiges of the ice age and witness how a river of ice can carve mountains into powdery dirt. Join a guided boat excursion to watch the glaciers calve or plan ahead to enjoy some solitary time hiking through the park’s interior.

Katmai National Park & Preserve
Established in 1918 to protect the volcano-ravaged territory surrounding Mount Katmai and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Katmai National Park and Preserve remains a seismically active area, while providing a habitat for salmon and thousands of brown bears.

Kenai Fjords National Park
Nearly 40 glaciers stem out from the Harding Icefield, the most-popular draw at Kenai Fjords National Park. Exit Glacier, the only part of the park accessible by road, provides trails and an up-close look at an active glacier.

Kobuk Valley National Park
Encompassing 1,795,280 acres of remote backcountry, Kobuk Valley National Park is home to sand dunes, the Kobuk River and nearly a half million migrating caribou.

Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
Enjoy the solitude at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, which encompasses more than four million acres of tundra, lakes, glaciers and mountains. Here, Silver Salmon Creek is a popular rest area for Alaska’s brown bears.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
At 13.2 million acres–larger than the country of Switzerland–Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is America’s largest national park, home to glacier trails and abundant wildlife.

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park
One of America’s most-visited national parks, Grand Canyon National Park welcomes more than five million visitors annually, who flock to see the famed mile-deep canyon bisected by a 277-mile river.

Petrified Forest National Park
A park where scientists gather to view Late Triassic fossils, Petrified Forest National Park is the only national park unit to protect a section of Historic Route 66.

Saguaro National Park
At Saguaro National Park, the giant saguaro cactus, the universal symbol of the American west, makes its home against in the stunning Sonoran Desert.

Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park
Water, obviously, is the draw at Hot Springs National Park. The park, and the adjacent city of Hot Springs, were once know as the “American Spa,” and still offer the traditional bath, an experience dating back more than 100 years. More contemporary, communal-style soaks are also available.

California

Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park, located about an hour boat ride away from the shores of Southern California, includes five of California’s eight Channel Islands. The islands’ relative isolation for thousands of years have provided a sheltered home for a diversity of plant and animal life, many of which are found nowhere else on  earth.

Death Valley National Park
Located in a below-sea-level basin, Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest and lowest place on earth. It is a park of diversity, however, where snowy mountain peaks are not uncommon and flash rainfall can lead to blankets of brightly colored wildflowers.

Joshua Tree National Park
The distinctive Joshua Tree, which explorer John C. Fremont called “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom,” makes its home in Joshua Tree National Park. Here, two deserts–the Sonora and the Mojave–come together to create dramatic landscapes shaped by strong winds and unpredictable torrents of rain.

Kings Canyon National Park
Situated side by side in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park house some of the world’s largest trees, which are set alongside a backdrop that includes scenic mountains, grassy foothills, deep canyons and secret caverns.

Lassen Volcanic National Park
At Lassen Volcanic National Park, smoking fumaroles and boiling pools rise up through fractures in the earth’s crust, reminding visitors of the area’s eruptive past. Amidst this hydrothermal activity, visitors will also find unrivaled scenery made up of blankets of wildflowers, deep-blue lakes and jagged mountains.

Pinnacles National Park
Once a massive volcanic field, Pinnacles National Park is located east of central California’s Salinas Valley in the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains, Here, massive monoliths and sheer-walled canyons tell the story of millions of years of tectonic plate movement.

Redwood National Park
The Redwood forests at Redwood National Park are home to some of the tallest trees in the world, all set alongside California’s dramatic Pacific coastline. Park visitors can enjoy a beach walk, explore a tidepool, watch gray whiles migrate, hike through a river bottom, or just take in the solitude of the dense forest.

Sequoia National Park
Situated side by side in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park house some of the world’s largest trees, which are set alongside a backdrop that includes scenic mountains, grassy foothills, deep canyons and secret caverns.

Yosemite National Park
First established in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its dramatic waterfalls and for the famed rock formations, El Capitan and Half Dome, but at 1,200 square miles, the park provides a vast wilderness area. The park’s Tioga Road, which soars up to 9,945 feet in elevation, is California’s highest trans-sierra route.

Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
With a history spanning more than two million years, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is home to some of the steepest cliffs and oldest rocks in North America. The narrow canyon walls, which soar to almost 2,000 feet, drop vertically into the Gunnison River.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
What better place to learn how to use sandboards and sand sleds than Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, home to the tallest dunes in North America?

Mesa Verde National Park
The Ancestral Pueblo people made Mesa Verde National Park their home for more than 700 years. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 excellently preserved cliff dwellings.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Get your Rocky Mountain high at nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, as you drive along Trail Ridge Road, a nationally designated All American Road. The 300 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park offer views of wildflowers, wildlife, and unspoiled nighttime vistas.

Florida

Biscayne National Park
Ready to ditch the car, bypass the scenic drive and get your feet wet? Biscayne National Park is home to sunken pirate ships, vivid coral reefs, a symphony of colorful fish and deep blue waters. Here, you can snorkel, dive, camp, or just kick back and enjoy the Florida sunshine.

Dry Tortugas National Park
Some 70 miles off the shores of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is the home of historic Fort Jefferson, but people also come for the coral reefs, marine life and varied bird species that make their home here. In total the park is made up of seven small islands, which can only be reached by boat or seaplane.

Everglades National Park
It might be America’s largest subtropical wilderness, but people visit Everglades National Park to try to spot such endangered species as the manatee, the American crocodile, and the Florida panther. This national park also has the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty.

Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Watch Mother Nature at her most elemental. In her fury, she tears open the ground, spitting fiery fountains up through its crust. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, the biggest mountain on Earth with a summit located 56,000 feet above the sea floor.

Haleakala National Park
Ancient Hawaiian culture lives on at Haleakala National Park, where lush vegetation meets the rocky shoreline. The summit, undisturbed by light pollution, is one of the best places in the world for stargazing.

Idaho

Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park might be best known for its famed Old Faithful geyser, but Yellowstone National Park is home to the world’s largest collection of geysers. Here, outdoor adventures are plentiful, and along the way, you might spot grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk.

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park
The world’s longest-known cave system, Mammoth Caves National Park has more than 400 miles of explored caves. In addition to cave tours, visitors can enjoy hiking, canoeing on the Green River, picnicking, horseback riding, bicycling and camping.

Maine

Acadia National Park
Maine’s rugged coastline, home to the tallest mountains on the Atlantic coast, can be found in Acadia National Park, America’s first eastern national park. Visitors can hike, bike along historic carriage roads, take a guided boat tour, or enjoy a narrated trolley ride through the park.

Michigan

Isle Royale National Park
Enjoy a rugged solitude at Isle Royale National Park, the least-visited national park in the continental United States. Here, the road-less back country of the Lake Superior shoreline provides an excellent retreat for hikers, kayakers, canoeists and scuba divers.

Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park
Explore Minnesota’s vast waterways, just as the voyageurs did more than 200 years ago, in guided trips on board a 26-foot North Canoe. At Voyageurs National Park, where southern boreal forests meet northern hardwood forests, the land was shaped by ancient earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers as well as fire, wind, logging, encroachment of non-native species and climate change. Upon occasion, explorers can even see the northern lights flare after dark.

Montana

Glacier National Park
Home to more than 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park, with its historic chalets, alpine meadows and vast mountain peaks, is a seemingly endless treasure box for hikers. Among the highlights, the Going-to-the-Sun Road navigates 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, providing some of the best views in northwest Montana.

Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park might be best known for its famed Old Faithful geyser, but Yellowstone National Park is actually home to the world’s largest collection of geysers. Here, outdoor adventures are plentiful, and along the way, you might spot grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk.

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
More than 119 caverns are located deep beneath the ground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Here, the limestone rock contains fossilized plants and animals that date back to a time when southeastern New Mexico was made up of a shoreline similar to the Florida Keys. Above-ground, there are rocky slopes, canyons, cacti and thorny shrub, and the park museum is home to nearly 1 million artifacts.

Nevada

Death Valley National Park
Located in a below-sea-level basin, Death Valley National Park is located in the hottest, driest and lowest place on earth. It is a park of diversity however, where snowy mountain peaks are not uncommon, and flash rainfall can lead to blankets of brightly colored wildflowers.

Great Basin National Park
A vast desert land, Great Basin National Park is home to 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees, and a series of ancient caves. Enjoy a 12-mile drive to 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak or explore the Island Forest Trail on foot, before taking a ranger-led tour of the Lehman Caves Tour.

North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Seemingly endless forested mountains connect North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. America’s most-visited national park, this UNESCO World Heritage Site not only protects a diversity of plant and animal life, it also preserves remnants of the Southern Appalachian mountain culture.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The wide-open prairies of North Dakota once proved to be too great a lure for Theodore Roosevelt, who came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883. His adventures in this remote land, where overgrazing, disease and excessive hunting led to a near-decimation of the bison, would shape a number of conservation policies. Theodore Roosevelt National Park honors his legacy, which includes establishing the U.S. Forest Service, as well as five national parks, and protecting nearly 230,000,000 acres of public land.

Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The winding Cuyahoga River, which gives life to the area’s forests, hills and farmlands, flows through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a park beloved for its scenic waterfalls. Here, Towpath Trail follows the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal, an important artery that helped shape trade between the eastern seaboard and the more isolated cities in America’s interior.

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park
With an intensely turbulent volcanic history, Crater Lake National Park offers a singular natural beauty, unlike any other place in the world. The pure-blue lake is surrounded by nearly vertical cliffs, with two islands residing inside the lake’s waters. Rim Drive, only open n late spring and summer, provides an excellent vantage of the lake, with plenty of stops for photography buffs.

South Carolina

Congaree National Park
Home to some of the tallest trees in the Eastern United States, Congaree National Park protects the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. A 2 1/2 -mile boardwalk, 25 miles of hiking trails and a marked canoe trail provide excellent ways to explore this forested wonderland.

South Dakota

Badlands National Park
In ancient times, mammals like the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once made their home in this area, providing Badlands National Park with one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Today the mixed-grass prairie is home to bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets. At night, join a ranger-led astronomy session to enjoy unblemished views of the evening sky.

Wind Cave National Park
One of the nation’s few remaining intact prairies, Wind Cave National Park also is home to one of the world’s longest caves. Cave tours are offered daily, but visitors can also explore the area’s prairie ecosystem along 30 miles of hiking trails.

Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Seemingly endless forested mountains connect North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. America’s most-visited national park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site not only protects a diversity of plant and animal life, it also preserves remnants of the Southern Appalachian mountain culture.

Texas

Big Bend National Park
Once a remote land, only connected to the larger world by dirt roads, Big Bend National Park is now one of the top visitor sites in Texas. Although it occupies an arid setting, the park is bordered by the Rio Grande, so rafting, canoeing and kayaking are popular activities. Additionally, the park is home to 150 miles of dirt roads and about 200 miles of hiking trails for visitors who simply want to “get away from it all.”

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
A rugged and ancient limestone reef, the Guadalupe Mountains rise more than 5,000 feet above the desert floor. Inside Guadalupe Mountains National Park, visitors can enjoy some of the finest examples of Permian Era fossils and geology. The park is home to more than 80 miles of trails, perfect for hiking or horseback riding.

Utah

Arches National Park
A red rock wonderland, Arches National Park features some of the most distinctive landforms in the world. More than 2,000 natural stone arches are located within its boundaries, in addition to hundreds of pinnacles, fins and giant balanced rocks.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Explore the great outdoors like never before at Bryce Canyon National Park. Home to stone forests and hoodoos (odd-shaped rock pillars), visitors can enjoy a variety of ranger-guided outdoor activities, including geology talks, a rim walk, snowshoe walks and full moon hikes.

Capitol Reef National Park
Never did the term a wrinkle in time more aptly describe a location than Capitol Reef National Park. Located in in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, the park’s Waterpocket Fold is a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) that extends almost 100 miles. Ancient petroglyphs were inscribed throughout the park, but the most accessible panel is located about a mile east of the visitor center along Utah State Highway 24.

Zion National Park
Not for the faint-hearted, Zion National Park is an in-your-face, adrenaline-packed adventure land. Its narrow slot canyons make it one of the top places in the country for canyoneering, an outdoor activity that combines route finding, rappelling, swimming and hiking, while its rivers are only to be navigated by experienced paddlers. A more mellow experience, however, can be enjoy from the park’s Zion Canyon Shuttle, which stops at nine locations in the park.

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park
Less than two hours from the nation’s high-octane capital, Shenandoah National Park offers 200,000 acres of quiet solitude. The Skyline Drive runs for 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and has 75 overlooks where motorists can stop to take in the serene views of the Shenandoah Valley.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts
The country’s only national park dedicated to presenting the performing arts, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is home to multiple amphitheaters, which present performances from May through September. In winter, Wolf Trap’s meadow is a popular sledding location.

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park
At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A. Six major rivers are located within Mount Rainier National Park, which is also home to scenic subalpine wildflower meadows and an ancient forest.

North Cascades National Park
Hike among the dense evergreen forests located within North Cascades National Park, an alpine landscape located less than three hours from Seattle. With more than 300 glaciers located within the park’s boundaries, visitors can enjoy soaring mountain peaks, and pristine waterfalls, while learning about the lasting effects of Earth’s changing climate.

Olympic National Park
Visiting Olympic National Park, with its three major ecosystems, is almost like visiting three parks in one. With vast mountain vistas, meadows of wildflowers, ancient forests and colorful ocean tidepools, the park offer nearly endless opportunities for exploring the natural world.

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park, home to the illustrious Teton Range, is a scenic playground. The park, with 200 miles of trails, offers clear-blue lakes, alpine terrain and distinctive fauna, including the Trumpeter Swan, the largest bird in North America.

Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park might be best known for its famed Old Faithful geyser, but Yellowstone National Park is actually home to the world’s largest collection of geysers. Here, outdoor adventures are plentiful, and along the way, you might spot grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk.

U.S. Territories

National Park of American Samoa
The only U.S. territory south of the Equator, National Park of American Samoa comprises 76 square miles and is set on 10 rugged, volcanic islands and two coral atolls. With its remote location, the park takes some planning to visit, but provides an excellent insight to local island culture. Here where visitors can discover secluded villages, study tropical forest plants and wildlife, snorkel coral reefs or just sunbathe alongside island and sea vistas.

Virgin Islands National Park
Nearly half of the island of St. John is set aside for Virgin Islands National Park, which investigates the complicated history of the civilizations that have made up the U.S. Virgin Islands. The park’s underwater snorkel trail, located at Trunk Bay, features plaques that provide information about the coral reefs and the various fish species that live there.