10 Oldest National Parks In The US

The US has been creating national parks since way back in 1872, and now we know 63 of them. Each park’s story of how and why it became a national park shows how important it is for nature and culture.

Let’s talk about some of the oldest national parks in the US. Yellowstone was the first, and it’s famous for its hot springs, caves, and other natural wonders. Then there’s Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which has two of the world’s most active volcanoes. These parks have been around for a long time and hold a lot of history and natural beauty. (All Images- Unsplash)

1. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i

Founded in 1916

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is special because it has two of the world’s busiest volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. People can do unique things there, like hiking on old lava. Mauna Loa is the biggest volcano globally, and Kīlauea is the youngest but most active in Hawaii and worldwide. This park, the tenth-oldest in the US, was made to keep the volcanoes and the land safe, and to honor Native Hawaiian culture.

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Size: 520 square miles
Cost of Entry: $15/person or $30/vehicle
Top Attractions: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes
Popular Hiking Trail: Kīlauea Iki and Crater Rim Trail

2. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Founded in 1915

Rocky Mountain National Park has beautiful mountains and lakes. It goes from low to really high, up to 14,259 feet above sea level. One of the best things there is Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in the US. It goes through the middle of the park and gives amazing views of the scenery and animals. Like other national parks, Rocky Mountain became a national park to protect the land’s beauty.

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park, Montana

Founded in 1910

Glacier National Park is linked with Canada’s Waterton Lakes, making them the first international peace park. The park was created more than a hundred years ago to keep safe the habitats of rare animals like lynx and grizzly bears. Surprisingly, it’s not easy to see glaciers up close there because as of 2015, there were only 26 glaciers left in the park.

4. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Founded in 1906

Mesa Verde National Park has lots of hiking trails, about 30 miles long. But what really stands out about this park, which is also a World Heritage Site, is its more than 4,700 archaeological sites. These sites include cliff dwellings made by the Ancestral Pueblo people. The park is in Southwestern Colorado and was made a national park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to protect these ancient human-made structures. Keep in mind that many of the cultural sites in the park require a ticket for guided tours with rangers.

5. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Founded in 1903

Wind Cave National Park is mostly prairie on the surface, but below ground, it has the seventh-longest cave globally with 150 miles of explored passages. What’s special about Wind Cave is its well-formed boxwork formations, which look like honeycombs and are quite mysterious. People found this cave in 1881, and it became a national park in 1903. While you can enter the park for free, guided tours of the caves cost between $7 and $45.

6. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Founded in 1902

Crater Lake National Park is famous for its huge, deep blue lake formed by volcanic eruptions long ago. The lake is up to 6 miles wide and 1,943 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the US and one of the deepest globally. Many people think it’s the most beautiful national park in the country. It was officially acknowledged in 1902 because of William Gladstone Steel’s efforts. He loved the lake and worked to map it in the 1880s.

7. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Founded in 1899

Mount Rainier National Park is well-known for its volcano, Mount Rainier. This mountain is more than 14,400 feet tall, has 28 glaciers, and is where five major rivers start. You can even see it from Seattle nearby. But this park in Washington has a lot more to offer besides the mountain. You can enjoy activities like visiting Myrtle Falls for beautiful views or relaxing at Reflection Lakes. President McKinley made it a national park in 1899 because people wanted it for fun things to do, scientific study, and other reasons.

8. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park, California

Founded in 1890

Yosemite National Park is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the third-oldest national park in the US. It was created just one month after Sequoia National Park, which is next to it and is the second-oldest park. Yosemite is famous for its tough hiking trails and beautiful sights like Half Dome and El Capitan. The park became a national park to protect its natural beauty and important landmarks.

9. Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California
Sequoia National Park, California

Founded in 1890

Sequoia National Park is often linked with Kings Canyon National Park, although they have different landscapes. Kings Canyon, founded in 1940, is known for its canyons and waterfalls, while Sequoia, the second-oldest national park, is famous for having over 8,000 giant sequoia trees.

These massive trees, standing between 250 and 300 feet tall, include some that are over 3,000 years old. These trees are the main reason Sequoia became a national park. President Benjamin Harrison made it a park in 1890 to protect the sequoias from being cut down because they are beautiful and live for a very long time.

10. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Founded in 1872

Yellowstone National Park is the oldest and one of the biggest parks in the US. It’s famous for having lots of wildlife like bears, bison, and elk. The park is also known for its thermal features, like the Old Faithful geyser and Crested Pool hot springs. People can do lots of things there, like hiking on over 900 miles of trails, fishing, boating, biking, and camping. In 1971, Congress made Yellowstone the first national park after explorers returned from the Hayden Expedition.

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