We didn’t start out with a goal of visiting every National Park Unit. We just visited them because we enjoyed them. I am sure you can empathize… you hear so much about places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Smokey Mountains, Death Valley… it is just natural to include them in your vacation plans!
But over time, we began to seek out places to visit. In fact, there is a great app – Passport to Your National Parks – where you can look at the state you are going to and see all of the National Park Units in that state.
What is a National Park Unit?
We all know that presently there are 59 National Parks, but did you know that there are:
- 87 National Monuments
- 78 National Historic Sites
- 51 National Historic Parks
- 30 National Memorials
- 19 National Preserves
- 18 National Recreation Areas
- 15 National Rivers
- 11 National Battlefields
- 10 National Seashores
- 9 National Military Parks
- 4 National Battlefield Parks
- 4 National Parkways
- 4 National Lakeshores
- 3 National Trails
- 2 National Reserves
- 1 National Battlefield Site
- 1 International Historic Site
- 11 “Other”
The National Park Service has a great description of what each of these names mean in their article “What’s in a Name?” Basically they look at the value of the area from a geological, historical and natural point of view, and then determine how to best protect the area while making it accessible to the public.
There is at least one National Park Unit in every state, as well as American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, plus Washington D.C.
Visiting all 417 National Park Units
A few years ago we realized how many National Park Units we had already visited so we set a personal goal to visit them all. To date, we have been to 313 – that’s 75% of the units! Since the passport stamps came long after we started our journey, we went with a map – a giant one – on our wall that shows all the National Park Units.
Half the fun is putting pins on to the map and revisiting the park brochures after we return from an adventure!
There is no self-imposed deadline – instead we dedicate ourselves to taking the time to experience each park for the value it offers, including some of the special things that many visitors overlook. Some are educational, some are historical, others pure nature. All have something unique to offer.
If you love America’s National Park system, then we hope you will join us on our journey. Check back in frequently – we’ll be posting lots of stories and tips about the National Park Units we have visited.