National Parks

A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks, Revised and Updated


By Erin McHugh

Illustrated by Neal Aspinall

With Doug Leen

With Brian Maebius

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  1. Hardcover $19.99 $24.99 CAD
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Calling all Junior Rangers! This fun-filled guide explores the wonders and weirdness of more than 75 U.S. parks, monuments, and landmarks, from Acadia to Zion.

From Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty, from Gettysburg National Battlefield to Mount Rushmore, National Parks is the only kid-friendly, family-oriented book that covers all of the 60 U.S. national parks, plus other famous monuments and landmarks. With a lively text and hundreds of color illustrations and photographs throughout, this updated edition offers fascinating, memorable information on every aspect of the parks, such as the history, geography, natural wonders, native wildlife and birds, and unique features that make each park special.

Organized alphabetically by state, National Parks takes readers on a whirlwind trip to 75 locations, including Denali National Park, Hot Springs National Park, Everglades National Park, Fort McHenry, White Mountain National Forest, Ellis Island, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Zion National Park, Block Island National Wildlife Refuge, Mt. Hood National Forest, and many more.


Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, Yosemite, 1906

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and bird and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm and avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.


John Muir was one of the first people to propose the idea of preserving wilderness in the United States. In 1868, he moved into a small cabin on the Yosemite Creek and fell in love with the area. His enthusiasm and vivid descriptions of its beauty helped make it a national park in 1890. He often served as a guide.

One person who joined Muir at Yosemite was President Theodore Roosevelt. Always an eager student of nature, Roosevelt spent years as a cowboy on his ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota. While president, he camped with Muir in Yosemite for three days in 1903. Roosevelt went on to add five national parks during his presidency, including Crater Lake and Mesa Verde.

These are just two of the dedicated people who helped create 60 national parks, 129 national monuments, and more than 2,500 national historic landmarks in the United States. The United States was the first country in the entire world to establish a national park system, and this book profiles more than 75 of these parks alphabetically by state, from the rocky shores of Maine’s Acadia National Park to the ancient redwood groves of northern California. Along the way you’ll learn about the wonders to be found there, such as the General Sherman Giant Sequoia in California that is 2,700 years old and the bison at Yellowstone that can run up to 30 miles per hour!

But not all of our parks are sprawling wilderness, and you’ll also learn about some of America’s surprising and important historic spots, too: parks that honor the early days of the cotton mills, forts, airfields, artists’ colonies, World War II Pacific Ocean war sites, famous battlegrounds, beautiful highways, and so much more—even a prison.

A famous author named Wallace Stegner once called our national parks “America’s best idea.” After you read this book, we think you’ll agree!




This tiny park tells a huge story in America’s history. Until the latter half of the twentieth century, soldiers were traditionally segregated by race when they served their country. One notable exception took place right here in Tuskegee, Alabama.

The government believed that African Americans weren’t qualified for the rigors of piloting a fighter jet until the Army Air Corps gave them a chance. By the late 1930s, suspecting that World War II was at hand and that many more pilots would be needed, the Tuskegee Experiment was born. The perfect place to set up this program was at the Tuskegee Institute, a small black college with an aeronautical engineering program started by the famous educator Booker T. Washington. The institute already had instructors and facilities, and the warm weather was perfect for year-round training. They taught not only airmen but mechanics, navigators, and support staff. The Tuskegee Airmen subsequently became some of the most respected fighter pilots of World War II.

Now here, at Moton Field, on the same spot where they all trained, is the Hangar One Museum with an array of World War II–era planes. You can also listen to recorded oral history in the airmen’s own voices.




Think big—really big. The entire Denali National Park and Preserve is bigger than the state of Massachusetts! It includes the Alaska Range, with the famous Mount McKinley, named after William McKinley, the twenty-fifth president of the United States.

Alaskans prefer to call the mountain Denali, meaning the “High One,” which makes sense since it is the highest peak in North America. Believe it or not, the youngest person to climb to the summit was only eleven years old!

The animal life may be the most exciting thing about Denali. It is the only national park patrolled by sled dogs. The park has more than three dozen species of mammals—from grizzly and black bears, caribou, moose, gray wolves, and wolverines, to foxes, lynx, and Dall sheep—but no reptiles due to the cold temperatures. This also slows down the metabolism of the fish, so they’re smaller than you’d find in other places.

Plant life is unusual, too. Because of its subarctic landscape, there are lots of fungi, algae, mosses, and lichen growing in the colder and shadier places. But you’ll also see beautiful plants that flower in the short summer months, like lupine, bluebell, goldenrod, and fireweed.



When we think of fjords, they seem as foreign as they sound—faraway and somewhat Scandinavian. But fjords are actually inlets with very steep sides, and seawater flowing through the valley between them. As they are formed by longtime glacial activity, it’s not surprising to find them in a national park in Alaska.

Hand in hand with fjords, of course, are the glaciers that created them. At Kenai Fjords, you can get close to the incredible Exit Glacier. It is a valley glacier, which is a moving river of ice. The Exit Glacier flows about ten inches a day from the Harding Icefield. Beyond glaciers there is a rain forest, alpine tundra, and the coast.

But the wildlife is as big a draw here as the landscape: You can take a boat tour with a ranger and spot sea lions, puffins, sea otters, porpoises, seals, and the most spectacular sighting of all, humpback and orca whales. Look toward land and you might even see some mountain goats! There is kayaking here for the very experienced, and some stalwart adventurers will tackle the backcountry, camping, kayaking, and trekking across hundreds of thousands of pristine acres.



There are so many unusual things about this park, not the least of which is that it’s the only U.S. national park south of the equator.

American Samoa is in the South Pacific, about 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. It consists of several beautiful islands that are filled with rain forests and surrounded by coral reefs. This means lots of hiking, scuba diving, and fantastic snorkeling. And if you’re interested in unusual animals, there are humpback whales, colorful tropical fish, geckos, and even the flying fox, which is actually a fruit bat with a wingspan of three feet. As for the plants, about 30 percent of the plant life, which is almost five hundred plants and ferns, are only found on these islands.

You can hike a trail to the top of a mountain, see some World War II gun battlements, and swim with the turtles—all in the same day!




This is one of the most famous of our national parks, and no wonder. When you get to the rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time, the size and beauty make your jaw drop. And yet, even though it was given federal protection by our government way back in 1893, it didn’t become part of the park system until 1919. That year, 44,173 people came and visited: That’s a lot, considering there were no planes and very few cars or highways to bring them here.

But the years since its establishment as a national park are a blink of the eye when you think of how long it took to create this canyon. The Grand Canyon began forming about seventeen million years ago through erosion caused by the Colorado River. That river, which is about six thousand feet below the South Rim, etched its way through the rocks to create a canyon that is 277 miles long and as wide as 18 miles. In the deepest part of the Canyon, the Colorado River flows past rocks that are 1.8 billion years old.

There are many great ways to see the canyon: People fly over in planes and helicopters, hike to the bottom, or even ride a donkey down the trails. But white-water rafting is one of the most spectacular. Today there are guides and sophisticated rafts to take you. It was not so easy in 1869, on the expedition led by geologist John Wesley Powell: His was the first passage through the canyon by European Americans. Even though Powell had lost one arm in the Civil War, he was a very brave explorer. Some of the nine other men and four boats in his party did not return from the expedition with Powell, but their trip gave us invaluable information about both the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.

Plant and animal life changes dramatically in the canyon, depending on the depth from the rim. Bats, rodents, fungi, and lichen are abundant here; mammals range from porcupines to black bears, and, of course, lots of snakes! But the most dangerous are surprisingly the rock squirrels, which send more tourists to the emergency room with bites than any other animal.




The park’s original name, Saguaro National Monument, is a rather weird choice for a name, because there is no actual monument here. On the other hand, the saguaro cactus, after which it was named, is something of a monument among cactuses. In fact, the world’s largest cactus, called the “Grand One”—a saguaro, of course—was burned in a fire a few years ago. It was forty-six feet tall, and nearly two hundred years old! And a cool thing about the saguaro blossom—which is Arizona’s state flower, by the way—it opens at night, in the dark, and blooms for less than twenty-four hours before it dies.

The park is unusual in other ways: It covers nearly 100,000 acres of almost complete wilderness, and is divided into two parts in the Sonoran Desert—on two sides of the city of Tucson.

Animals that live in the desert heat don’t have an easy life, so only the most adaptable ones survive. There are lots of bats, which like to come out at night when it’s cool; hummingbirds and bees, which actually make their home inside the holes of the saguaro, like birdhouses; and, maybe cleverest of all, vultures: They actually urinate on themselves to cool off!


  • "This sharply designed, fascinating guide to America's landmarks, parks, and other pristine areas should inspire many a road trip."—Publisher's Weekly
  • "From the ages of natural wonders and facts about the national park system's evolution to sidebars of illustrated facts and trivia, this is designed as a leisure-reading reference perfect for both browsing and reports."—The Midwest Book Review
  • "It's a Junior Ranger's dream!"—Time for Kids Magazine

On Sale
Apr 2, 2019
Page Count
128 pages

Erin McHugh

About the Author

Erin McHugh is a former publishing executive and the award-winning author of more than 20 books of trivia, history, and children’s titles, including 50 States: A State-by-State Tour of the USA. She lives in New England.

Learn more about this author

Neal Aspinall

About the Illustrator

Erin McHugh is a former publishing executive and the award-winning author of more than 20 books of trivia, history, and children’s titles, including 50 States: A State-by-State Tour of the USA

Learn more about this illustrator