Largest and Smallest National Parks in America

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13. Olympic
>Total land area: 922,649 acres
> Location: Washington
> Privately owned land: 326 acres — or 0.04% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,499,177 — or 3.7% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -23.4%

The Olympic National Park is divided into four separate ecosystems: the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, a rainforest on the west, and forests on the east side. Because of the various regions available to visit, this national park became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1981.

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12. Glacier
>Total land area: 1,013,126 acres
> Location: Montana
> Privately owned land: 226 acres — or 0.02% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 1,698,864 — or 2.5% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -28.2%

Glacier National Park, also called the “Crown of the Continent,” is the headwaters for streams that flow into the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay. There are 26 glaciers in the park, all of which are shrinking. In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, combined with Glacier National Park to form the world’s first International Peace Park, which is situated on the border of the two countries and is a UNESCO site.

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11. Grand Canyon
>Total land area: 1,201,647 acres
> Location: Arizona
> Privately owned land: 9,136 acres — or 0.8% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 2,897,098 — or 4.3% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -47.5%

Of all the national parks in the country, the Grand Canyon may be the most famous. The Grand Canyon was first granted federal protection in 1893, but was not designated a national park until 1919. In that year 44,173 people visited the park. Nearly 5 million people travel to the Grand Canyon each year.

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10. Everglades
>Total land area: 1,400,539 acres
> Location: Florida
> Privately owned land: 286 acres — or 0.02% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 702,319 — or 1.0% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -34.8%

The Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. The park is home to rare and endangered species, such as the manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida panther. In recent years, the Burmese python, one of the largest snake species on earth, has invaded the Everglades and disrupted its ecosystem by preying on birds and smaller animals.

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9. Kobuk Valley
>Total land area: 1,750,716 acres
> Location: Alaska
> Privately owned land: 35,332 acres — or 2.0% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 11,185 — or 0.02% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: N/A

Tourists looking for sand dunes don’t need to leave the U.S. In fact, the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes are one of the biggest attractions of Kobuk Valley National Park. Hikers can also observe the caribou during their spring and fall migration.

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8. Yellowstone
>Total land area: 2,219,791 acres
> Location: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
> Privately owned land: 2 acres — or 0.0001% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 3,806,306 — or 5.6% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -7.1%

As legend has it, a group of explorers passed through the region in 1870 and claimed this “land of fire and ice and wild animals needed to be preserved.” It was at this point that the idea of a national park was born. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into 1872, making Yellowstone the world’s first national park. Yellowstone is the home of the famous geyser Old Faithful.

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7. Lake Clark
>Total land area: 2,619,816 acres
> Location: Alaska
> Privately owned land: 100,950 acres — or 3.9% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 4,948 — or 0.007% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -72.2%

Lake Clark National Park is one of seven national parks in Alaska to rank among the 10 largest in America. It covers over 2.6 million acres of pristine wilderness surrounding the lake from which it gets its name. The most visited place in the park is actually a different lake — Crescent Lake. A popular fishing destination, Crescent Lake has no developed trails or roads, so visitors can only access by traveling in a plane that can land in the water.

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6. Glacier Bay
>Total land area: 3,223,383 acres
> Location: Alaska
> Privately owned land: 949 acres — or 0.03% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 5,748 — or 0.008% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -99.0%

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve covers more than 3.2 million acres of mountains, glaciers, temperate rainforest, coastlines and fjords. The park is part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site that is visited by thousands of tourists on cruise ships and Glacier Bay is one of the world’s largest international protected areas.

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5. Death Valley
>Total land area: 3,408,396 acres
> Location: California, Nevada
> Privately owned land: 8,953 acres — or 0.3% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 820,023 — or 1.2% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: -29.0%

The largest national park in the continental U.S. is also one of the lowest points on earth. Despite its gloomy name, given by pioneers who were lost in the valley during the California Gold Rush, an indigenous population has lived in what is now the park for around 7,000 years.

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4. Katmai
>Total land area: 3,674,529 acres
> Location: Alaska
> Privately owned land: 12,793 acres — or 0.3% of total park
> Recreation visits in 2020: 51,511 — or 0.1% of all NP visits
> 5-year change in visits: 36.2%

Katmai National Park encompasses 3.6 million acres surrounding Novarupta, a volcano in southern Alaska. The area is a crucial habitat for salmon and the brown bears that eat them. The park has become a viral sensation for its annual “Fat Bear Week,” in which online voters decide which brown bear did the best job chunking up ahead of their hibernation. A beefy bear by the name of Otis took home his fourth Fat Bear Week win in 2021.

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