INTRODUCTION

You’ll find every imaginable landscape awaiting exploration in the national parks of the United States. Icy monoliths looming in Alaska’s Denali, rugged and romantic coastline sweeping through Maine’s Acadia, craggy volcanic peaks piercing the sky in California’s Pinnacles, lush tropics abuzz with wildlife in Florida’s Everglades—and this is just scratching the surface.

In USA National Parks: Lands of Wonder, we celebrate the past, present, and future of the great American wilderness. We begin with The Story, exploring the history of the national parks, starting with the land’s American Indian heritage, the migration of the Pioneers, the trailblazers previously written out of history, and the birth of the National Park Service (NPS) in the early 20th century. This federal agency was established in response to a renewed respect for nature, and a desire to protect it for future generations. This mission is more crucial than ever. Our planet is experiencing difficult times—the effects of climate change, a war on plastic, and much more besides. In The Story, we delve into how the NPS and its rangers are responding to our changing environment and the unprecedented popularity of the parks, while simultaneously welcoming visitors of all backgrounds and safeguarding the parks for the future. And who wouldn’t want to explore and savor these vast open spaces? They are beautiful, and we know they are essential to our health and wellness. In The Parks, we showcase the 62 stars of the show, each extraordinary and unique in its own right. Within this chapter you’ll find all sorts of inspiration for your next outdoor adventure—from backcountry hikes and cycling routes, to stargazing, caving, and wildlife watching. Plus, we’ve gathered gorgeous photography and thought-provoking tidbits to spark your curiosity and give a flavor of the breathtaking diversity that awaits you.

These national parks belong to everyone—nature doesn’t care about your age, race, mobility, or education. So, leaf through this book and don your hiking boots, grab your binoculars, forget about your cell phone, and immerse yourself in these true lands of wonder.

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