17 Wonders of America's National Parks - Atlas Obscura Lists

17 Wonders of America's National Parks

From Arctic sand dunes and precariously balanced rocks to homes carved into trees and cliffs.

When the National Park Service was formally established in 1916, it was charged with the management of 35 sites—both parks and monuments. Now, more than a century later, it oversees 63 national parks and hundreds of other sites, from forests, rivers, and seashores, to battlefields, statues, and historic buildings. Along with opportunities for hiking and scenic views, the parks offer safe havens for both endangered species and cultural diversity. As writer and historian Wallace Stegner put it, “national parks are the best idea we ever had.”

In 2020, more than 237 million people visited the national parks to see wondrous sights, from the multicolored waters of the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone to the vertigo-inducing cliffs of The Narrows in Zion. And with so much land to cover, hidden gems abound. From geological marvels to mysterious human-made structures, these are a few of our favorite places in the National Park System. 

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.