North America is graced with some of the most incredible natural phenomena in the world, and the best of that is captured in the 106 national parks in the U.S. and Canada. From the ancient geysers of Yellowstone to the mist-filled forests of the Great Smoky Mountains to the awe-inspiring vastness of the Grand Canyon, the national parks exemplify the North American wilderness in its rawest, most awesome form.
The national parks in Canada and the U.S. attract nearly 900,000 visitors a day, but how many of those visitors get the full experience? With Road Scholar, you'll have the benefit of expert instructors who can lead you off-the-beaten path to hidden groves and secret viewpoints. With decades of experience, they can teach you little-known facts and show you the national parks as they're meant to be experienced - as part of your life's journey.
To learn more about travel to North America's national parks, to discover the best national parks in the U.S. and Canada and to hear the history of the U.S. National Park Service, you've come to the right place.
“This program gave me a new lease on life – sharing vigorous activity with people of my age sharing the pleasures and challenges of growing older.”
— Margaret from Wheaton, IL | Class of 2016 —
“We all know why travelers flock to the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Zion. But what about those lesser-known gems? Have you ever gazed at the stars in an International Dark Sky Park, explored underwater trails or visited the tiniest national park in America?”
“Venture off-the-beaten path with our top picks for national parks you’ve never heard of.”Read our blog
“This program provides a sampling of some of the most extraordinary and beautiful landscapes our country has to offer. It was natural beauty on steroids!”
— Marilyn from Columbus, OH | Class of 2016 —
Signed on June 8th, the Antiquities Act authorizes the President to designate national monuments. On September 24th of that same year, Roosevelt declares Devils Tower as the first National Monument, and by December, three more National Monuments were created (El Morro in New Mexico and Montezuma Castle and the Petrified Forest, both in Arizona).
Congress passes the Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service and placing all existing parks under its management.
Executive orders bring parks and monuments from the War Department, the Forest Service and those in the nation's capital under management of the National Park Service during a massive reorganization project.
The Preservation Historic Sites Act is signed, making historic preservation a priority for the U.S. and the parks department. It declared for the first time "that it is a national policy to preserve for public use historic sites, buildings, and objects of national significance."
Mission 66 was a ten-year project initiated by the National Parks Department to build and upgrade visitor facilities, roadways and resources for the national parks in preparation for its 50th anniversary. Sites such as Clingman's Dome observation tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were constructed with the intent to increase visitor traffic to the parks.
The Wilderness Act created the legal definition of "wilderness" in the United States, and protected 9.1 million acres of federal land. Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System encompasses 109.5 million acres of federally owned land in 44 states and Puerto Rico (5% of land mass in the U.S.).
The National Historic Preservation Act requires all historical parks to be entered into the National Register of Historic Places. It created the National Register of Historic Places, the list of National Historic Landmarks, and the State Historic Preservation Offices.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act adds sections of rivers to the National Park System, and the National Trails System Act now protects recreational trails like the Appalachian Trail.
The Volunteers in the Parks Act establishes a program in which volunteers can aid with park service and functions.
The Endangered Species Act protects the habitats of endangered or threatened species and bolsters the role of science in park management.
The Alaska National Lands Conservation Act doubles the size of the National Park System by adding 47 million acres in Alaska.