Largest and Smallest National Parks in America

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23. Canyonlands
>Total land area: 337,598 acres
> Location: Utah
> Privately owned land: 0 acres
> Recreation visits in 2020: 493,914 — or 0.7% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -22.2%

Canyonlands National Park offers a plethora of activities, including biking, boating, horseback riding and, when the sun goes down, stargazing. People have lived and roamed through this area for more than 10,000 years. A newer addition, Horseshoe Canyon, was introduced to the park in 1971 and is known to have some of the most impressive rock art in all of North America.

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22. Sequoia
>Total land area: 404,063 acres
> Location: California
> Privately owned land: 154 acres — or 0.04% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 796,086 — or 1.2% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -27.5%

This park has grown to great heights. Besides being the home of the 2,200-year-old General Sherman Tree, the tallest tree in the world at 275 feet, Sequoia National Park also shares a border with Mount Whitney — the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. Viewing these wonders was made easier for visitors e because of Captain Charles Young and his Buffalo soldiers, who built roads and trails in the early years of this national park.

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21. Kings Canyon
>Total land area: 461,901 acres
> Location: California
> Privately owned land: 55 acres — or 0.01% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 415,077 — or 0.6% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -11.3%

Kings Canyon National Park, which adjoins Sequoia National Park, gained fame when conservationist John Muir visited the canyon in the late 19th century. Kings Canyon was formed by glacier activity.

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20. North Cascades
>Total land area: 504,781 acres
> Location: Washington
> Privately owned land: 127 acres — or 0.03% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 30,885 — or 0.05% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: 49.4%

North Cascades National Park is rich in history. Currently, 260 prehistoric sites have been identified, some of them dating back more than 8,500 years. The park and prehistoric sites are free to visitors. As you wander through the park, you may notice the red pictographs on the cliffs around Lake Chelan left by the Chelan people many years ago.

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19. Great Smoky Mountains
>Total land area: 522,427 acres
> Location: North Carolina, Tennessee
> Privately owned land: 350 acres — or 0.1% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 12,095,720 — or 17.8% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: 12.9%

America’s most visited national park year after year, more than 12 million people came to explore the Great Smoky Mountains in 2020. It’s not hard to see why, with more than 100 prominent cascades and waterfalls flowing throughout the forests and mountains.

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18. Isle Royale
>Total land area: 571,790 acres
> Location: Michigan
> Privately owned land: 0 acres
> Recreation visits in 2020: 6,493 — or 0.01% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -65.2%

An interactive mapping project at Isle Royale National Park, located on an island in Lake Superior, allows visitors to zoom into various historic features around the island. Visitors can explore lighthouses, fisheries, mining sites and Native American heritage.

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17. Kenai Fjords
>Total land area: 669,650 acres
> Location: Alaska
> Privately owned land: 47,218 acres — or 7.1% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 115,882 — or 0.2% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -60.9%

This Alaska park gives tourists an opportunity to see something they can’t in warmer parts of the U.S. — glaciers. The Exit Glacier area shows how glaciers shape the landscape. Visitors can even hear the creaks and groans of a glacier sculpting the terrain.

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16. Yosemite
>Total land area: 761,748 acres
> Location: California
> Privately owned land: 225 acres — or 0.03% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,268,313 — or 3.3% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -45.3%

What makes Yosemite National Park unique is not that it is covered by wilderness for over 95% of its territory, but that its landscape is dominated by granite. A popular destination for rock climbing, hiking and camping, adventure seekers may not know that “Yosemite” is a Miwok word for “those who kill” — a description of the feared tribes near the area.

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15. Joshua Tree
>Total land area: 795,156 acres
> Location: California
> Privately owned land: 10,674 acres — or 1.3% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,399,542 — or 3.5% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: 18.5%

Joshua Tree National Park protects more than 700 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, 19 cultural landscapes, and houses 230,300 items in its museum collection. Joshua Tree owes its existence to the efforts of Minerva Hoyt, a Pasadena resident who fought to preserve the natural beauty of the region that was being ravaged by cacti poachers.

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14. Big Bend
>Total land area: 801,163 acres
> Location: Texas
> Privately owned land: 23,283 acres — or 2.9% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 393,907 — or 0.6% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: 3.2%

The region where Big Bend National Park is may have been home to indigenous peoples for centuries, however, the area remained obscure to American settlers until the 1890s. Robert T. Hill led a six-man expedition to explore the Rio Grande, which runs through the Big Bend Region. Two years after his month-long trek, he published a book about the area, which may have helped the region become more popular.

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