National parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite seem like they’ve always been part of the American experience, but they were still a relatively new concept 100 years ago. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service, giving shape and oversight to a movement that began only a few decades earlier, with the official creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872.
Since then, the system has grown to encompass 59 national parks and more than 84 million acres of public land. Beyond designated national parks, the National Park Service also oversees monuments, battlefields, and other sites across all 50 states. It’s marking its 100th birthday with special events and free admission to all 412 areas under its purview between August 25 and August 28. Here, these breathtaking images capture a slice of the park system’s breadth, beauty, and history.
You can see more coverage of the National Park Service anniversary here and check out our national park guides here.