Have you ever wondered how many national parks there are in the U.S.? You’ve likely heard various numbers thrown out there regarding the number of U.S. national parks. It can get somewhat confusing for people when discerning the difference between the number of National Park Service “units” and true national “parks.” Let’s look at the difference between them.
According to the naming designation by the U.S. Congress and the National Park Service, there are currently 63 U.S. National Parks. However, there are 424 national park units within the parks service. Differentiating between these two categories is essential. National park “units” include the 63 actual U.S. national parks and different park naming designations as well. For example, some of these involve naming titles such as national monuments, lakeshores, battlefields, riverways, historic sites, etc.
Until recently, though, there previously were only 62 U.S. National Parks. A new national park was added to the park system in 2020, New River Gorge National Park.
We will discuss the following topics:
- An overview of the 63 true national parks in the U.S.
- A discussion of the 424 National Park Service units
- A brief run-through of America’s newest, 63rd national park
America’s 63 National Parks
A total of 63 actual U.S. national parks exist in the U.S. National parks are typically the crown jewel of all the park service’s naming designations. They contain vast, varied, and stunning landscapes found nowhere else in the world. These national parks protect the unique landscapes and the wildlife that inhabit them. They are typically heavily visited and are enormously popular with travelers and tourists.
These lands must meet specific requirements to be considered a national park. To be an eligible candidate for becoming a U.S. national park, a park or piece of land must meet the following standards:
- Have outstanding natural, cultural, or recreational resources on a national level
- Be an appropriate and realistic addition to the National Park System
- Be fully managed by the NPS rather than preserved by a different government agency or private sector
Essentially, only the best of the best make it to the coveted status of a national park. Below is a list of all 63 national parks in the USA:
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- American Samoa National Park, American Samoa
- Arches National Park, Utah
- Badlands National Park, South Dakota
- Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Biscayne National Park, Florida
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
- Channel Islands National Park, California
- Congaree National Park, South Carolina
- Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
- Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
- Denali National Park, Alaska
- Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
- Everglades National Park, Florida
- Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
- Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri and Illinois
- Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
- Great Basin National Park, Nevada
- Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
- Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
- Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
- Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
- Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
- Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Katmai National Park, Alaska
- Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
- Kings Canyon National Park, California
- Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
- Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
- Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
- Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
- Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
- New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia
- North Cascades National Park, Washington
- Olympic National Park, Washington
- Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
- Pinnacles National Park, California
- Redwood National Park, California
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
- Saguaro National Park, Arizona
- Sequoia National Park, California
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
- Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands
- Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
- White Sands National Park, New Mexico
- Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
- Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming
- Yosemite National Park, California
- Zion National Park, Utah
Overview of the 424 National Park Service Units
Oftentimes, people think that there are 424 total national parks. This, however, is a common misconception. As previously mentioned, there are only 63 true U.S. National Parks within the National Park System.
In addition to the national parks category, there are 18 other naming designations within the NPS for a total of 19. Below is a list of all 19 NPS naming designations.
- National Battlefields (11)
- National Battlefield Parks (4)
- National Battlefield Sites (1)
- National Military Parks (9)
- National Historical Parks (62)
- National Historic Sites (74)
- International Historic Sites (1)
- National Lakeshores (3)
- National Memorials (31)
- National Monuments (84)
- National Parks (63)
- National Parkways (4)
- National Preserve (19)
- National Reserves (2)
- National Recreation Areas (18)
- National Rivers (4)
- National Wild and Scenic Rivers and Riverways (10)
- National Scenic Trails (3)
- National Seashores (10)
- Other Designations (11)
America’s 63rd National Park
Before 2020, there were 62 U.S. National Parks. That number, however, changed to 63 with the recent addition of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. The park was established in 2020 and is located in West Virginia.
The park’s main attraction, the “New River,” is an incredibly ancient, flowing whitewater river that travels through the gorge’s deep canyons. Whitewater rafting and hiking are popular activities in the park.
To sum it all up, there is a total of 63 true national parks in the NPS. The 63 actual U.S. national parks should be distinguished from the 424 NPS units. These 424 units stretch over a wide variety of naming categories.
To be specific, there are 19 naming designations within the NPS. Two years ago, America welcomed its 63rd national park, New River Gorge, to the list of official national parks.
It’s easy to see why people need clarification when determining the actual number of national parks. Hopefully, this article cleared up this sometimes complex topic! Have you visited any of the nation’s 63 national parks?
Want a complete list and recap of all our US National Parks as well as free downloadable maps and other great resources? Check out our US National Parks List and Map guide!