Did you know that New York has zero National Parks? Sure, we have National Monuments, National Memorials, National Recreation Area, National Historic Park, National Historic Sites, National Scenic Trails, and a Scenic and Recreational River - all managed by the National Park Service, but not one true National Park.

With all the natural beauty and history that New York has to offer, it’s odd to think we’ve never had any land be preserved under the unique distinction and honor. It’s odder when you think our nation’s most fervent naturalist President was so closely tied to New York. So why doesn’t New York have a National Park?

What Does It Take To Become A National Park?

National Park Service Logo
National Park Service

According to the National Park Service, to be a National Park an area must:

  1. Possess national significant natural, cultural, or recreational resources
  2. Be a suitable and feasible addition to the National Park System
  3. Require direct NPS management instead of protection by some other government agency or by the private sector

If it meets the requirements, it must finally be submitted to and voted on by Congress to become a National Park. Historically, the man to do it should have been Teddy Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt
Getty Images

Since Roosevelt was a New York native and former Governor, you’d think that “The Conservationist President” would have protected lots of our land. You’d also be mistaken. As President, Roosevelt started 150 National Forests, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 5 National Parks, 4 National Game Preserves – none of which were in his home state. We may never know why the Empire State went overlooked.

So What Would Be New York’s National Park?

The Adirondacks and the Hudson River in fall.

The most obvious choice feels like the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Park is a staggering six million acres - more land than Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.

Remember the criteria to become a National Park. Of all the land in the Adirondack Park, only 2.6 million acres are owned by New York State. With more than half of the land privately owned (105 towns and villages exist in the Park), it could likely never live up to rule #3 under the National Park Service.

It may almost be for the best for New Yorkers that the land stays outside the NPS; most National Parks are pay-to-enter. But for those hoping to put a National Park on New York’s map, new National Parks are regularly added, with West Virginia’s New River Gorge becoming America’s 63rd during 2020. Maybe a portion of the Adirondacks or another one of our state’s beautiful landmarks will be added to the list one day.

The 11 National Parks Closest To Upstate New York

With New York's lack of National Parks, you may fancy driving to one nearby. Here are the 11 closest National Parks to Upstate, using Albany as a reference. Data compiled by Stacker and photos courtesy the National Park Service.

Gallery Credit: Cameron Coats

RANKED: Here are the most popular national parks

To determine the most popular national parks in the United States, Stacker compiled data from the National Park Service on the number of recreational visits each site had in 2020. Keep reading to discover the 50 most popular national parks in the United States, in reverse order from #50 to #1. And be sure to check with individuals parks before you visit to find out about ongoing, pandemic-related safety precautions at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Gallery Credit: Hannah Lang

LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.

Gallery Credit: Alexander Raeburn

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