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.