The biggest national parks of the United States

Big Bend

Named for the Bend of the Rio Grande along the US–Mexico border, this park includes a part of the Chihuahuan Desert. A wide variety of Cretaceous and Tertiary fossils as well as cultural artifacts of Native Americans exist within its borders.

Death Valley

Death Valley is the hottest, lowest, and driest place in the United States. Daytime temperatures have topped 130°F (54°C) and it is home to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. There are canyons, colorful badlands, sand dunes, mountains, and over 1000 species of plants in this graben on a fault line. Further geologic points of interest are salt flats, springs, and buttes.

Denali

Centered around the Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, Denali is serviced by a single road leading to Wonder Lake. McKinley and other peaks of the Alaska Range are covered with long glaciers and boreal forest. Wildlife includes grizzly bears, Dall sheep, caribou, and gray wolves.

Everglades

The Everglades are the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. This mangrove ecosystem and marine estuary is home to 36 protected species, including the Florida panther, American crocodile, and West Indian manatee. Some areas have been drained and developed; restoration projects aim to restore the ecology.

Gates of the Arctic

This northernmost park protects part of the Brooks Range and has no park facilities. The land is home to Alaska natives, who have relied on the land and caribou for 11,000 years.

Glacier

Part of Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, this park has 26 remaining glaciers and 130 named lakes under the tall Rocky Mountain peaks. There are historic hotels and a landmark road in this region of rapidly receding glaciers. These mountains, formed by an overthrust, have the world's best sedimentary fossils from the Proterozoic era.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay has numerous tidewater glaciers, mountains, and fjords. The temperate rainforest and the bay are home to grizzly bears, mountain goats, whales, seals, and eagles. When discovered in 1794 by George Vancouver, the entire bay was covered by ice, but the glaciers have receded over 65 miles (105 km).

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, carved out by the Colorado River, is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 1 mile (1.6 km) deep, and up to 15 miles (24 km) wide. Millions of years of exposure has formed colorful layers of the Colorado Plateau in mesas and canyon walls.

Joshua Tree

Covering parts of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and the Little San Bernardino Mountains, this is the home of the Joshua tree. Across great elevation changes are sand dunes, dry lakes, rugged mountains, and granite monoliths.

Katmai

This park on the Alaska Peninsula protects the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an ash flow formed by the 1912 eruption of Novarupta, as well as Mount Katmai. Over 2,000 brown bears come here to catch spawning salmon.

Kobuk Valley

Kobuk Valley has 61 miles (98 km) of the Kobuk River and three regions of sand dunes. Created by glaciers, the Great Kobuk, the Little Kobuk, and the Hunt River Sand Dunes can reach 100 feet (30 m) high and 100 °F (38 °C), and they are the largest dunes in the arctic. Twice a year, half a million caribou migrate through the dunes and across river bluffs that contain ice age fossils.

Lake Clark

The region around Lake Clark has four active volcanoes, including Mount Redoubt, rivers, glaciers, and waterfalls. There are temperate rainforests, a tundra plateau, and three mountain ranges.

Olympic

Situated on the Olympic Peninsula, this park ranges from Pacific shoreline with tide pools to temperate rainforests to Mount Olympus. The glaciated Olympic Mountains overlook the Hoh Rain Forest and Quinault Rain Forest, the wettest area of the continental United States.

Wrangell – St. Elias

This mountainous land has the convergence of the Alaska, Chugach, and Wrangell-Saint Elias Ranges, which have many of the continent's tallest mountains over 16,000 feet (4,900 m), including Mount Saint Elias. More than 25% of this park of volcanic peaks is covered with glaciers, including the tidewater Hubbard Glacier, piedmont Malaspina Glacier, and valley Nabesna Glacier.

Yellowstone

Situated on the Yellowstone Caldera, the first national park in the world has vast geothermal areas such as hot springs and geysers, the best-known being Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring. The yellow-hued Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River has numerous waterfalls, and four mountain ranges run through the park. There are almost 60 mammal species, including the gray wolf, grizzly bear, lynx, bison, and elk.

Yosemite

Yosemite has towering cliffs, waterfalls, and sequoias in a diverse area of geology and hydrology. Half Dome and El Capitan rise from the central glacier-formed Yosemite Valley, as does Yosemite Falls, North America's tallest waterfall. Three Giant Sequoia groves and vast wilderness are home to diverse wildlife.