The National Park system has 425 units managed across the entire system. Of those, 63 are designated as National Parks. These are the crown jewels of the systems with the highest prestige and protection of sites within the federal system.
National Parks though protect such a wide range of places and shockingly come in all sizes! The largest is the size of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the smallest closer in size to Vatican City.
It’s pretty incredible when you explore the sizes and visitors and all the information. Some of the parks don’t have roads and some are mostly water. It’s pretty incredible to explore all of the parks in the system.
List of National Parks by Size
Listed from Largest Park to Smallest Park.
For those with a National Park & Preserve, the name will be appended with NP & Preserve.
|Rank||Name||State||Acres||Sq. Miles||Comparable To|
|1||Wrangell-St Elias NP & Preserve||Alaska||13,175,791||20,587||Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|2||Gates of the Arctic NP & Preserve||Alaska||8,472,506||13,238||Moldova|
|4||Gates of the Arctic||Alaska||7,523,897||11,756||Maryland|
|5||Denali NP & Preserve||Alaska||6,045,153||9,446||North Macedonia|
|7||Katmai NP & Preserve||Alaska||4,093,077||6,395||Eswatini|
|8||Lake Clark NP & Preserve||Alaska||4,030,015||6,297||Eswatini|
|10||Death Valley||California Nevada||3,373,063||5,270||Montenegro|
|11||Glacier Bay NP & Preserve||Alaska||3,223,384||5,039||Montenegro|
|14||Yellowstone||Wyoming Idaho Montana||2,219,791||3,468||Cyprus|
|20||Big Bend||Texas||801,163||1,252||Northern Cyprus|
|21||Joshua Tree||California||792,623||1,238||Mansel Island (Nunavut)|
|24||Isle Royale||Michigan||571790||893||Groote Eylandt (Australia)|
|25||Great Smoky Mountains||North Carolina Tennessee||522,427||816||Alor Island (Indonesia)|
|27||Kings Canyon||California||461,901||722||US Virgin Islands|
|29||Canyonlands||Utah||337,570||527||Faroe Islands (Denmark)|
|30||Hawaiʻi Volcanoes||Hawaii||323,431||505||Los Angeles|
|31||Grand Teton||Wyoming||310,000||485||Mill Island (Antarctica)|
|32||Rocky Mountain||Colorado||265,807||415||Tahiti (French Polynesia)|
|33||Channel Islands||California||249,561||390||Margarita Island (Venezuela)|
|34||Badlands||South Dakota||244,000||381||Mornington Island (Australia)|
|35||Capitol Reef||Utah||241,904||378||São Tomé and Príncipe|
|36||Mount Rainier||Washington||236,381||369||São Tomé and Príncipe|
|37||Petrified Forest||Arizona||221,390||346||Turks and Caicos Islands|
|38||Voyageurs||Minnesota||218,055||341||Turks and Caicos Islands|
|43||White Sands||New Mexico||146,344||229||Saint Lucia|
|44||Great Sand Dunes NP & Preserve||Colorado||145,736||227||Saint Lucia|
|45||Redwood National & State Park||California||138999.37||217||Isle of Man|
|47||Great Sand Dunes||Colorado||104,050||163||Barbados|
|48||Saguaro||Arizona||91,312||143||Jan Mayen (Norway)|
|52||New River Gorge NP & Preserve||West Virginia||72,391||113||Bonaire|
|53||Theodore Roosevelt||North Dakota||70,447||110||Bonaire|
|54||Dry Tortugas||Florida||64,701||101||Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|55||Mammoth Cave||Kentucky||52,830||82.5||American Samoa|
|56||Mesa Verde||Colorado||52,485||82.0||American Samoa|
|58||Carlsbad Caverns||New Mexico||46,766||73.1||Washington DC|
|59||Bryce Canyon||Utah||35,835||56.0||Wallis and Futuna (France)|
|60||Wind Cave||South Dakota||33,971||53.1||Christmas Island (Australia)|
|61||Cuyahoga Valley||Ohio||32,572||50.9||Christmas Island (Australia)|
|62||Black Canyon of the Gunnison||Colorado||30,780||48.1||Jersey (UK)|
|64||Congaree||South Carolina||26,693||41.7||Montserrat (UK)|
|66||Indiana Dunes||Indiana||15,349||24.0||San Marino|
|67||American Samoa||American Samoa||13,500||21.1||Bermuda (UK)|
|68||Virgin Islands||US Virgin Islands||7,259||11.3||Macao (China)|
|69||New River Gorge||West Virginia||7,021||11.0||Tuvalu|
|71||Gateway Arch||Missouri||91||0.15||Vatican City|
How are the Sizes Calculated
The one thing I was surprised about when researching this is how difficult it is to get an accurate representation of sizes. You may discover the sizes I recorded may not always match those of other sites.
There is discrepancy between sites in what is the accurate size. I did my best to research as much as I could and look for primary National Park Service references as possible. That included downloading public documents, reading info sheets, adding up various numbers.
Overall, it’s not easy. Even the way the NPS measures sites. Some record based on NPS fee areas, some take into account private land and other public land. It’s a bit of a confusing mess of numbers. I did my best to align the numbers I found with other public sources as well.
National Parks and National Preserves
The list of 63 includes some parks that are listed as National Park and Preserve. There are 21 National Preserves within the National Park site. Many of these are administered and counted with National Parks. Examples include Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and Katmai National Park and Preserve.
The sites with National Parks and Preserves are administered together. You likely won’t know when you are in the preserve and in the park.
I tried my best to include both! I found that to be the easiest way and also helpful if you are curious for the size of each. Also other sources you may find may use them interchangeably in some measurements so it’s nice to see both if they are available.
- Isle Royale National Park’s size includes water. Land only it is 132,018 acres (206 sq. miles)
- Redwood National Park is both a National & State Park. The federal land 77,715 acres (121 sq. miles)
- New River Gorge National Park is only about 10% of the total size. The remainder is a National Preserve to allow for prior activities (hunting, etc.) to continue
- White Sands is the best estimate I could find. Difficulty is that so much of the land is actually set aside for military that it’s hard to get an exact number
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Largest National Park
The Largest National Park is Wrangell-Elias National Park & Preserve. This whopping 13,175,791 million acre park is larger than the countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Slovakia, Denmark among many others. It would be the 125th largest country if it was a country!
The park is a combination of two units that are administered together. Wrangell-Elias Park at 8,323,146 acres (about the size of Moldova) and Wrangell-Elias Preserve at 4,852,645 acres (about the size of Slovenia). Pretty crazy!
What is the Smallest National Park
The smallest National Park is Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis Missouri which at 91 acres is about the size of the Vatican City. The whole park is roughly about 60 city blocks in size.
The smallest National Park unit however is the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Philadelphia at 0.2 acres! The boundaries of the National Park is the house in Philadelphia where he lived. It became a National Memorial in 1972