Photo Gallery: Celebrating the National Park Service Centennial

By Michael Lanza

When the National Park Service turns 100 on Aug. 25, it will mark not just the diamond anniversary of what writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called “the best idea we ever had”—it marks the evolution and growth of that idea from a handful of parks created in the early days to a system in many ways without parallel, that protects 52 million acres of mountain ranges, canyons, rivers, deserts, prairies, caves, islands, bays, fjords, badlands, natural arches, and seashores in 59 parks. Without that protection, these places that draw visitors from around the world would otherwise almost certainly have been exploited and destroyed.

After the designation of Yellowstone in 1872 (lead photo, above) as the world’s first national park, several more followed before the NPS was born in 1916, many of them now legendary names: Sequoia, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, Glacier, Haleakalā, Hawaii Volcanoes, Wind Cave, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain. During the same time period, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed 18 national monuments (a number exceeded by only one president, Barack Obama, who has designated 19 monuments), many of which later became national parks, including Grand Canyon and Olympic.

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Throughout 2016, The Big Outside is featuring numerous stories about national parks to celebrate the National Park Service centennial, including the photo gallery below of images from nearly all of the national parks I’ve visited (close to half of the 59, so I have more work to do), and some NPS-managed national monuments.

Read more about the Park Service’s history and how you can join its centennial celebration at Find a national park and more information about the NPS at

See the All National Parks Trips page for a menu of all stories about national parks adventures at The Big Outside, or click on the name of any park in the list below of some of my favorites for stories I’ve posted at this blog about that park.

Canyonlands National Park
Everglades National Park
Glacier National Park
Glacier Bay National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Sequoia National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park
Zion National Park

Click directly to these stories for ideas for your next trip:

Photo Gallery: 10 Amazing National Park Adventures (and How to Pull Them Off)
5 Classic (Age-Appropriate) National Park Adventures For Families
Photo Gallery: 11 National Parks, One Year
10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

Read about my National Outdoor Book Award-winning book, Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks, which chronicles the year my family spent taking wilderness adventures in 11 parks threatened by climate change.

Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by a USA Today Readers Choice poll and others. Subscribe for updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story or in the left sidebar, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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