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The Best National Parks in All 50 States

Around 300 million people visit National Park Service locations annually, mostly the "biggies" like the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Yosemite. But among the more than 400 sites are many lesser-known gems that also showcase our country's incredible scenery and remarkable past. In honor of the NPS's 100th birthday, here are must-see National Parks in every state (plus the District of Columbia).

NHP = National Historical Park • NHS = National Historic Site • NL = National Lakeshore • NM = National Monument • NP = National Park

Alabama Follow the path of the civil rights movement by driving the ; stop at the interpretive centers midway and by the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Alaska Trek into (in and around Skagway, a cruise port) for fascinating tales of this rugged territory's fortune hunters.

Arizona Two and a half hours south of the Grand Canyon is one of the continent's best-preserved cliff dwellings.

Arkansas Stroll along Bathhouse Row, then have a soak at the hundred-plus-year-old .

California 's eruptive past reveals itself with boiling pools and mud pots; there are also seasonal stargazing programs.

Colorado Hike through ancestral Puebloan villages built between 1200 and 1300 A.D. at in the Four Corners region.

Connecticut Be creatively inspired by in Wilton, the only NP honoring American Impressionism. (It still hosts artists-in-residence.)

Delaware The first state to ratify the Constitution celebrates early America—from its founding to the Industrial Revolution—at the aptly named .

Florida , accessible by ferry from Key West, shelters coral reefs and the massive but unfinished Fort Jefferson, where a Lincoln assassination co-conspirator was once imprisoned.

Georgia In downtown Atlanta, the welcomes visitors into MLK's childhood home (15 people per tour). Self-guided options include Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the D.R.E.A.M. Gallery and "I Have a Dream" World Peace Rose Garden.

Hawaii Don't miss sunrise or sunset (just as stunning but less crowded) at's summit on Maui.

Idaho NASA astronauts studied 's volcanic landscape in preparation for their lunar missions.

Illinois Check out the Chicago-area company town George Pullman constructed for his railcar workers at the new .

Indiana Learn about Honest Abe's formative years at . Then travel back to the frontier at the Lincoln Living History Farm.

Iowa Native Americans built the 200-plus animal-shaped hillocks overlooking the Upper Mississippi River at .

Kansas Go on a hike to experience the once-flourishing grasslands of the Plains—where the bison roam free—at .

Kentucky Tour a cave and listen to stories of the early pioneers who headed over the Appalachians at .

Louisiana Swing by for a musical history lesson, performance or map of noteworthy jazz sites.

Maine The 's northern terminus is also this state's highest point, Mount Katahdin.

Maryland Assist in raising or lowering the 15-stars-and-stripes flag at Baltimore's , birthplace of our national anthem.

Massachusetts Old North Church, the Paul Revere House and Bunker Hill—follow in the footsteps of American revolutionaries at .

Michigan overlooks northern Lake Michigan, a pristine spot for paddling, bird-watching and completing the Dune Climb.

Minnesota Set in the North Woods bordering Canada, winds along the waterways and land routes plied by Native Americans and traders.

Mississippi Monuments, trenches, cannons and an ironclad gunboat—the USS Cairo—are some of 's Civil War artifacts.

Missouri Ride a tram up to the top of St. Louis' soaring Gateway Arch at .

Montana Midway between Glacier and Yellowstone NPs, is a working cattle ranch offering house tours, wagon rides and cowboy talks.

Nebraskacommemorates the pioneers who helped settle the West under the Homestead Act.

Nevada offers astronomy programs plus full-moon hikes under some of the darkest night skies around.

New Hampshire Visit the house, workshop and gardens of the illustrious American sculptor at .

New Jersey Enjoy a lightbulb moment at while exploring the prolific inventor's home, laboratory complex and recording studio.

New Mexico Native Americans and early Spanish settlers carved designs and symbols into volcanic rocks at , near Albuquerque.

New York Imagine life as an immigrant at Manhattan's .

North Carolina Share the excitement of the first successful flight and view replica aircraft at .

North Dakota Spot bison, elk and more at the land that inspired this fearless leader's conservation policies.

Ohio Why should presidents get all the glory? in Canton depicts the accomplishments of the White House's unelected commanders in chief.

Oklahoma Depression-era structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the turreted Lincoln Bridge, swimming holes and mineral springs are some of the attractions at .

Oregon Colorful hills, fauna and flora relics, and fantastic geologic features abound at .

Pennsylvania Honor the Civil War battlefield where many gave what Lincoln called their "last full measure of devotion" at .

Rhode Island Newport's beautiful , dating back to the Colonial era, embodies our country's religious freedom.

South Carolina The first shot of the Civil War was fired at in Charleston Harbor.

South Dakota Revisit the Cold War at , then head to nearby Badlands NP.

Tennessee The Atomic Age is the focus of the recently established in Oak Ridge.

Texas Once covered by tropical waters, has thousands of fossils plus rugged mountains and canyons and amazing wildlife.

Utah straddles two states, but the wall of bones—around 1,500—at the Quarry Exhibit Hall is in Utah.

Vermont 's gardens and mansion offer tours spring through fall. The grounds are open year-round, with trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Virginia boasts more than 100 different shows May through September; off-season there are backstage tours and two nature trails.

Washington Lovely Lake Chelan and hundreds of glacier-capped peaks are found in 's alpine wilderness.

West Virginia Brave the rugged whitewater of , and revel in the scenic canyons and awe-inspiring bridge.

Wisconsin Cruise to Lake Superior's for lighthouse tours, beachcombing and campfire programs.

Wyoming The sagebrush desert of is home to astonishingly well preserved (and renowned) animals and plants.

PLUS Washington, DC The —Ford's Theatre, the MLK Jr. Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Washington Monument are a few of its iconic treasures—majestically commemorates our nation's storied history.

Where to stay? Accommodations in the larger parks range from campsites (some with RV hookups) to rustic cabins to handsome lodges. At each park's website, click on "Plan Your Visit." Best advice? Book early.

Quick Getaway: Experience all the majestic beauty and breathtaking thrills of America's national parks with National Parks Adventure, a giant-screen documentary narrated by Robert Redford. For more information and theaters, go to nationalparksadventure.com.

Read All About It: 59 Illustrated National Parks by Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson • , eighth edition, by National Geographic (there's also a version by National Geographic Kids) • Life Lessons from the National Parks by Penny Musco • See America by Creative Action Network

A Present to You! In honor of the centennial, admission to NPS sites are free on these days in 2016:
April 16–24
August 25–28
September 24