The Size of the Largest National Parks Will Blow Your Mind

National parks capture the imagination in countless ways – some subtle, others not so much – but one of the many incredible aspects of the National Park System is the sheer size of our largest national parks. Our most massive parks span millions of acres, and protect everything from towering mountains and deep canyons to vast deserts and enormous glaciers. Even if the undeniable richness of these landscapes weren’t a factor, the sheer vastness of these parks would still be staggering.

Biggest of them all

The uncontested heavyweight champion of the National Park System is Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. At 13.2 million acres, it's larger than Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined. The park is also one of the wildest places in North America, with vast areas of untouched wilderness, an incredible abundance of wildlife, and hardly a man-made structure to be found.

Wrangell-St. Elias spans the convergence of four mountain ranges and encompasses some of the highest peaks in the U.S., including the 18,008-foot Mount Saint Elias. It's also a place of wild extremes. More than a quarter of the park is covered in glaciers, yet it's also a hotbed of volcanic activity, with thousands of lava flows converging in the 2,000-acre Wrangell Volcanic Field.

Look to Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve may be the largest national park in the U.S., but some of its neighbors aren't too far behind. In fact, seven of the 10 biggest national parks can be found in Alaska. Each of these giants has something special to offer.

View of mountains and lake at Denali National Park & Preserve
Jim Williams, Share the Experience

Biggest in the Lower 48

Rippling golden sand dunes at Death Valley National Park
Sarah Chah, Share the Experience

Alaska may have its share of huge national parks, but the contiguous United States is also home to giants that feature some of America's most iconic landscapes. Be sure to check out these massive parks in the lower 48 states.

  • Death Valley National Park (3.4 million acres) is the hottest, driest, and lowest place in the U.S., harboring a stunning diversity of plants and animals. 
  • Yellowstone National Park (2.2 million acres) encompasses a vast area of geothermal features, from the iconic Old Faithful geyser to the Grand Prismatic Spring. It's also home to wolves, bison, and more than 50 other mammal species.
  • Everglades National Park (1.5 million acres) protects southern Florida's vital wetlands, the largest tropical wilderness in the country.
  • Grand Canyon National Park (1.2 million acres) includes one of America's most stunning natural features, the vast Grand Canyon, which stretches up to 15 miles wide and a mile deep at some points. 

Size isn't everything, but when you're looking for a place to escape from everyday life, it's hard to argue with millions of acres of untouched wilderness. If the job of the National Park Service is to protect America's most essential landscapes, then our largest national parks make a strong case for what an important job that is.

Comments

National Parks and National Preserves are two separate categories, and, in Alaska, are separate park system units. Their acreages should not be combined when speaking only of parks. Wrangell-St. Elias NP is 8.3 million acres, not 13.2 million. When I first read the title of this story, I was confident Wood Buffalo National Park would be listed, and probably on top. After all, it's 11.1 million acres straddling the Alberta-Northwest Territories border makes it one of America's--and the world's--largest. Other vast parks like Quttinirpaaq on Ellesmere Island (at 9.3 million acres), Sirmilik and Nahanni make the grade, too, not to mention Northeast Greenland. Then I realized that the story was only concerned with the United States, and its use of the term "America" was restricted to only the US portion thereof. When it comes to exploring the largest parks, however, you miss the boat if you fail to see what's right next door.
Arturo
Adamo
Another great Alaska national park! A beauty to see!
Carol
Lott
Having moved to Florida in 2014, I am excited and hopeful that I can visit Everglades this Christmas in my little classic RV!
Krissy
Anderson
Our country should create a large national park in Missouri. Buy back some of the prairie land and restore it to it's original landscape, then create a large national park here in the Midwest. Too much has been cleared and now too few can enjoy the lands natural beauty.
Donnie
Shelton
Y’all really be forgetting about the Adirondack Park in New York
Ian
Campbell
Yeah, yeah they did!
Dee
Mela
The adirondack park isnt a national park tho it should be
Joe
Evershire

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