That is a great question and can be subject to much debate. Never ask this question in a National Park Facebook group. It’s like watching a bunch of kids argue over which candy is best. I wish I was joking but I’m not. The answer to “How many National Parks are there in the US” is it depends on what you count as a National Park. Depending on how you answer that question, the answer is either 62 National Parks or 421 national parks.

I’m going to breakdown why there are two answers to the question “How many National Parks are there in the United States” and explain the difference between the answers and the common arguements for that answer.

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Wondering how many national parks are there in the US?  Click HERE to learn the answer and find out why some people say there are 62 and others 419.

How Many National Parks are there in the US?

The United States National Parks are managed by an organization known as the National Park Service (NPS). NPS is responsible for managing about 85 million acres of land. Those 85 million acres are divided up into 421 different units.

National Park Service considers each of the 421 units as a national park. However, there are only 62 units that bare the name, National Park. So there are both 62 National Parks in the United States and 421 national parks.

These 421 national parks have a range of titles like National Monuments, National Historical Parks, National Memorials, National Battlefields, and about a half dozen other titles. While the 62 National Parks all have the title, National Park.

You may have noticed that I capitalize the words National Park when I am talking about the 62 parks that have the title National Park and I don’t capitalize the words when talking about the 421 units. This is a capitalization difference is deliberate on my part and its how I keep track of it in my head. I do consider there to be both 62 National Parks and 421 national parks.

Most of the National Parks are amazing natural wonders whereas the national parks range from small monuments to historical sites to unique natural sites. I feel like most of the 62 Parks deserve just a little bit more recognition. It’s kind of like professional baseball. There are the major league teams such as the New York Yankees and then the minor league teams such as Louisville Bats. All the Bats and Yankees players are professional baseball players but Yankee players are usually held in higher regard and generally get a much larger paycheck.

What is the difference between a National Park and national park?

The short answer is nothing other than a name and how it was created. NPS states that all the units are treated equally and management decisions are based on the needs of that park not the title the park holds.

The long answer is it depend on how it is created.

If the United States President is looking to protect a parcel of federal land, they are authorized under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create National Monuments. The Antiquities Act was created to give the president enormous powers for “… the protection of objects of historic and scientific interest.” Presidents have used this act over 161 times.

While most National Monuments are managed by the National Park Service, some are managed by a mix of other federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service.

All other designations must be created via an Act of Congress. Hence why we get sites with naming designations that make no sense like Gateway Arch National Park, but Gateway Arch is one of the more unique situations.

Most of the time, a group of locals come together and start pushing for the protection/redesignation of a local site. They usually find support in one of their local Congresspeople. Said Congressperson then writes a bill and starts advocating for this site to be added to NPS as XXXX designation.

Recent Changes to the National Park System

Changes under President Donald J. Trump (2017 -XXX)

  • 3 New Units Created
    • 2 New National Monuments
    • 1 Memorial
  • 12 Redesignations
    • 2 sites elevated to National Park
    • 2 sites elevated to National Monument
    • 6 sites elevated to National Historical Park
    • 1 site elevated to National Historic Site
    • 1 site elevated to National Memorial
DateParkAuthorization Legislation Type
September 22, 2020Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument, KentuckyP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActNew Unit
September 18, 2020Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, District of ColumbiaP.L. 109-220 – Joint resolution approving the location of the commemorative work in the District of Columbia honoring former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.New Unit
December 20, 2019White Sands National Park, New MexicoP.L. 116-92 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020Redesignated from White Sands National Monument
March 12, 2019Honouliuli National Historic Site, HawaiiP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from Honouliuli National Monument
March 12, 2019Pearl Harbor National Memorial, HawaiiP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
March 12, 2019Tule Lake National Monument, CaliforniaP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
March 12, 2019Golden Spike National Historical Park, UtahP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from Golden Spike National Historic Site
March 12, 2019Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, South CarolinaP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from Reconstruction Era National Monument
March 12, 2019Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, South CarolinaP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from Fort Sumter National Monument
March 12, 2019Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, New HampshireP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
March 12, 2019Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, GeorgiaP.L. 116-9 – John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation ActRedesignated from Ocmulgee National Monument
February 15, 2019Indiana Dunes National Park, IndianaP.L. 116-6 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019Redesignated from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
October 26, 2018Camp Nelson National Monument, KentuckyProclamation 9811 – Establishment of the Camp Nelson National MonumentNew Unit
February 22, 2018Gateway Arch National Park, MissouriS. 1438 – Gateway Arch National Park Designation ActRedesignated from Jefferson Expansion Memorial
January 8, 2018Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, GeorgiaP.L. 115-108 – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act of 2017Redesignated from Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Changes under President Barack Obama (2009-2017)

  • 26 New Units Created
    • 16 National Monuments
    • 4 National Historical Parks
    • 3 National Memorials
    • 1 National Preserve
    • 1 National Historic Site
    • 1 National Battlefield Park
  • 7 Redesignations
    • 1 site elevated to National Park
    • 5 sites elevated to National Historical Parks
    • 1 site elevated to National Monument and Preserve
  • 1 Name Change
DateParkAuthorization Legislation Type
January 12, 2017Reconstruction Era National Monument, South CarolinaProclamation 9567New Unit
January 12, 2017Freedom Riders National Monument, AlabamaProclamation 9566New Unit
January 12, 2017Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, AlabamaProclamation 9565New Unit
January 10, 2017Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, New YorkP.L. 113-291New Unit
August 24, 2016Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, MaineProclamation 9476New Unit
June 24, 2016Stonewall National Monument, New YorkProclamation 9465New Unit
April 12, 2016Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, District of ColumbiaProclamation 9423New Unit
February 12, 2016
Castle Mountains National Monument
, California
Proclamation 9394New Unit
November 11, 2015Manhattan Project National Historical Park, New Mexico, Tennessee, & WashingtonP.L. 113-291New Unit
July 10, 2015Waco Mammoth National Monument, TexasProclamation 9299New Unit
February 24, 2015Honouliuli National Monument, HawaiiProclamation 9234New Unit
February 19, 2015Pullman National Monument, IllinoisProclamation 9233New Unit
February 19, 2014Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, Massachusetts & Rhode IslandP.L. 113-291New Unit
February 19, 2014Valles Caldera National Preserve, New MexicoP.L. 113-291New Unit
February 19, 2014World War I Memorial, District of ColumbiaP.L. 113-291New Unit
February 19, 2014Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, NevadaP.L. 113-291New Unit
December 19, 2014First State National Historical Park, DelawareP.L. 113-291Redesignated from First State National Monument
December 19, 2014Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, MarylandP.L. 113-291Redesignated from Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument
December 19, 2014Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve, OregonP.L. 113-291Redesignated from Oregon Caves National Monument
March 25, 2013Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, OhioProclamation 8945New Unit
March 25, 2013First State National Monument, DelawareProclamation 8944New Unit
March 25, 2013Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, MarylandProclamation 8943New Unit
January 10, 2013Pinnacles National Park, CaliforniaP.L. 112-245Redesignated from Pinnacles National Monument
October 8, 2013César E. Chávez National Monument, CaliforniaProclamation 8894New Unit
November 7, 2011Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, New JerseyP.L. 111-11New Unit
November 1, 2011Fort Monroe National Monument, VirginiaProclamation 8750New Unit
August 28, 2011Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, District of ColumbiaP.L. 104-333New Unit
December 22, 2010Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, MassachusettsP.L. 111-333Redesignated from Longfellow National Historic Site
December 14, 2010President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site, ArkansasP.L. 111-11New Unit
October 22, 2010River Raisin National Battlefield Park, MichiganP.L. 111-11New Unit
October 28, 2009Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, CaliforniaP.L. 111-84New Unit
March 30, 2009Thomas Edison National Historical Park, New JerseyP.L. 111-11Redesignated from Edison National Historic Site
March 30, 2009Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, TexasP.L. 111-11Redesignated from a National Historic Site
March 30, 2009Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, KentuckyP.L. 111-11Redesignated from a National Historic Site

Click here for more official changes to the National Park System.

Final Thoughts on How Many National Parks are there in the US

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what a title a NPS unit holds, they are all worth a visit in their own way. If you want to visit all the national parks? Pick the list you would like to work off and start marking units off. Personally, I have been working off the 62 National Park list since 2009. While I have been focused on those parks, I have also made it a point to visit the other NPS units when they are nearby other travels.

It’s the journey that matters not the destination.

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Wondering how many national parks are there in the US?  Click HERE to learn the answer and find out why some people say there are 62 and others 419.
Jennifer is a long time national park blogger and the founder of National Park Obsessed. She is a dedicated National Park lover who is working on visiting all 62 US National Parks. She has currently been to 53 of the National Parks. She is dedicated to sharing her knowledge of the Parks with others and helping them learn to love the parks as much as she does.

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