America's Most Patriotic National Parks

U.S. flag flying in front of Mount Rushmore
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America's National Park Service oversees an array of parks, forests and conservation areas, plus a number of historic sites. Travelers who want to inject a little history into their summertime adventures will find plenty of options in national parks. These sites are all connected to America's past and stand as important relics of the nation's history.

In many national and historic parks, visitors will find physical representations of the narrative of the United States. These range from sites that contain remnants of pre-Colombian societies to the battlefields of Revolutionary War, and from the early days of North American exploration to the birth of the modern conservation movement. Nature lovers, history buffs and even those with just a passing curiosity, will find themselves enthralled with these historic places.

Want to come face to face with the history of the United States? Here's where to look.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a popular park for outdoor enthusiasts. (Photo: RRuntsch/Shutterstock)

When it comes to the U.S. conservation movement, few people have been as instrumental as Theodore Roosevelt. The former president set aside many lands as national parks and monuments and also made it easier for future presidents to establish national parks and conservation areas. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is located in western North Dakota, is named to commemorate the conservationist's efforts to preserve the nation's natural landscapes. Roosevelt first visited the area that is now the national park during his youth, and he returned to hunt and ranch in the region in his pre-presidential years. The park's badlands landscapes and abundant wildlife — including bison, deer, wild horses, prairie dogs, turkeys and eagles — draw a number of outdoor enthusiasts.

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Ellis Island

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The Statue of Liberty captures most tourists' imaginations, but the nearby Ellis Island National Monument, which houses the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, is of equal significance. The museum tells the story of the millions of immigrants who passed through the immigration offices on the island on their way to the United States, and the three-floor exhibit space is available for both self-guided and ranger-led tours. Aside from its historical significance (many current U.S. citizens had ancestors who were first processed for immigration on the island), Ellis is also a great place to see New York Harbor and the skyline of the Big Apple.

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Mount Rushmore

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Mount Rushmore is one of the country's most famous monuments. Officially dubbed the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the sculpture is an astounding sight because of its size, its detail and its surroundings. Each year, around 2 million visitors come to take snapshots of the likenesses of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Yes, this mammoth sculpture is impressive, but equally impressive from a nature-lover's perspective, is the landscape of the surrounding area. The Black Hills of South Dakota contain forests and unusual rock formation, and the region is also home to the Badlands, the famously stark land that sits adjacent to the Black Hills.

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Minute Man National Historical Park

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Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts celebrates the people who were instrumental in beginning the American Revolution. Lexington and Concord, the sites of the first two skirmishes of the war, are included in the park. Sitting about 22 miles outside of Boston, Minute Man is easy to reach and is a great place to enjoy the rural side of this historic state. Ranger-guided tours and programs are available from May through October, and historic re-enactments take place regularly. The 5-mile Battle Road Trail connects two battle sites and gives hikers and bikers a taste of the forest landscapes.

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San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

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San Antonio Missions National Historical Park sits in the city of San Antonio, Texas, but the park doesn't include the famous Alamo. The four missions — churches built by early Spanish settlers — that are part of the park were built in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Originally constructed as part of Spain's colonial expansion in the Southwest, they retain the distinct architecture of their era and have been well preserved over the years. Not only is this a historically significant park, it is also a great place to hike and bike. A paved 8-mile trail passes through the countryside, and people can follow the trail to each mission.

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Fort McHenry

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The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is located in Baltimore, Maryland. Perhaps not as easily recognized as Mount Rushmore or the Grand Canyon, McHenry is nonetheless one of the more interesting sites run by the National Park Service. The fort is best known as the site of the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812. It was during this battle that poet Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner," which later became the national anthem. Today, the NPS opens the fort daily for self-guided tours, and living-history actors come to McHenry on weekends to enhance the experience. Many special activities take place in the outdoor sections of the fort, while the Sea Wall Trail allows visitors to experience the natural aspects of this seaside location.

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Yellowstone National Park

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It's hard to create any type of national park list without including Yellowstone. One of the most popular destinations on the NPS menu, the park is known for its wildlife and amazing natural attractions like the Old Faithful geyser. Yellowstone was the forefather of America's other national parks, and some people consider it to be the first true national park in the world. It draws large crowds during the summer, with roads to some of the geysers and scenic sites getting quite traffic-heavy. However, as with other national parks, step even a few feet off the beaten path and you'll feel like you have Yellowstone all to yourself.

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Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon offers plenty of snapshot-worthy views. (Photo: Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock)

If asked to choose an iconic U.S. natural site, many people would opt for the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park allows visitors to see this massive geographic feature up close, and between 4 and 5 million people come to experience the mile-deep gorge annually. Trails, scenic overlooks and canyon-side paths offer plenty of snapshot-worthy views, and the Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, is a popular rafting destination. The canyon's more-remote North Rim, which is little more difficult to access than the popular South Rim, offers ambitious tourists a chance to appreciate the canyon without having to fight their way through the camcorder-toting masses.