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HOUSTON (KIAH) Approximately 237 million people visited American national parks in 2020, representing a 28% year-over-year decrease attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. Many parks were forced to close to combat the spread of the virus, but that’s not the whole story—when the parks were open, many of them saw record crowds as throngs of people desperate to safely enjoy nature descended onto parks when they reopened.

President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 signed the act creating the National Park Service to leave natural and historic phenomenons “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Since then, our national parks have welcomed visitors from around the world to experience some of the best the country has to offer and showcase the country’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Today, the country’s 63 national parks contain at least 247 species of endangered or threatened plants and animals, more than 75,000 archaeological sites, and 18,000 miles of trails.

Stacker compiled a list of the closest national parks to Houston. National parks are ranked by closest straight line distance, measured from representative points in Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area and each national park. Estimated driving times are from Here and are only available within the lower 48 states. All featured distances and driving times are estimated using representative locations from the center of each metro and national park—for some places within the metro area, the actual distance may be slightly shorter or longer to reach the closest entryway to a park.

Be sure to check with individual parks before you visit to find out about ongoing, pandemic-related safety precautions at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

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#1. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)

– Distance: 355 miles
– Driving time: 6.5 hours
– Date founded: March 4, 1921
– 2020 visitors: 1,348,215 (#16 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 5,554.15 acres

#2. Big Bend National Park (Texas)

– Distance: 477 miles
– Driving time: 10.4 hours
– Date founded: June 12, 1944
– 2020 visitors: 393,907 (#37 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 801,163.21 acres

#3. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

– Distance: 564 miles
– Driving time: 9.8 hours
– Date founded: May 14, 1930
– 2020 visitors: 183,835 (#45 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 46,766.45 acres

#4. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

– Distance: 585 miles
– Driving time: 11.1 hours
– Date founded: October 15, 1966
– 2020 visitors: 151,256 (#49 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 86,367.10 acres

#5. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

– Distance: 673 miles
– Driving time: 11.7 hours
– Date founded: December 20, 2019[111]
– 2020 visitors: 415,383 (#34 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 146,344.31 acres

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#6. Gateway Arch National Park (Missouri)

– Distance: 679 miles
– Driving time: 12.1 hours
– Date founded: February 22, 2018[47]
– 2020 visitors: 486,021 (#31 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 192.83 acres

#7. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

– Distance: 739 miles
– Driving time: 13.2 hours
– Date founded: July 1, 1941
– 2020 visitors: 290,392 (#41 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 54,011.91 acres

#8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina, Tennessee)

– Distance: 800 miles
– Driving time: 14.8 hours
– Date founded: June 15, 1934
– 2020 visitors: 12,095,720 (#1 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 522,426.88 acres

#9. Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 802 miles
– Driving time: 14.3 hours
– Date founded: September 24, 2004
– 2020 visitors: 461,532 (#32 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 107,341.87 acres

#10. Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)

– Distance: 845 miles
– Driving time: 21.0 hours
– Date founded: October 26, 1992
– 2020 visitors: 48,543 (#55 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 64,701.22 acres

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#11. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

– Distance: 901 miles
– Driving time: 15.6 hours
– Date founded: November 10, 2003
– 2020 visitors: 119,306 (#51 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 26,476.47 acres

#12. Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 914 miles
– Driving time: 17.4 hours
– Date founded: June 29, 1906
– 2020 visitors: 287,477 (#42 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 52,485.17 acres

#13. Saguaro National Park (Arizona)

– Distance: 914 miles
– Driving time: 15.1 hours
– Date founded: October 14, 1994
– 2020 visitors: 762,226 (#24 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 92,867.42 acres

#14. Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)

– Distance: 918 miles
– Driving time: 15.7 hours
– Date founded: December 9, 1962
– 2020 visitors: 384,483 (#38 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 221,390.21 acres

#15. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 932 miles
– Driving time: 18.1 hours
– Date founded: October 21, 1999
– 2020 visitors: 341,620 (#39 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 30,779.83 acres

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#16. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

– Distance: 934 miles
– Driving time: 17.1 hours
– Date founded: January 26, 1915
– 2020 visitors: 3,305,199 (#4 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 265,807.25 acres

#17. Everglades National Park (Florida)

– Distance: 936 miles
– Driving time: 19.1 hours
– Date founded: May 30, 1934
– 2020 visitors: 702,319 (#25 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 1,508,938.57 acres

#18. Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

– Distance: 943 miles
– Driving time: 16.7 hours
– Date founded: February 15, 2019
– 2020 visitors: 2,293,106 (#11 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 15,349.08 acres

#19. Biscayne National Park (Florida)

– Distance: 977 miles
– Driving time: 18.0 hours
– Date founded: June 28, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 402,770 (#36 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 172,971.11 acres

#20. New River Gorge National Park (West Virginia)

– Distance: 999 miles
– Driving time: 17.8 hours
– Date founded: December 27, 2020
– 2020 visitors: 1,054,374 (#19 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 7,021 acres

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#21. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 1,018 miles
– Driving time: 24.0 hours
– Date founded: September 12, 1964
– 2020 visitors: 493,914 (#30 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 337,597.83 acres

#22. Arches National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 1,018 miles
– Driving time: 19.3 hours
– Date founded: November 12, 1971
– 2020 visitors: 1,238,083 (#17 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 76,678.98 acres

#23. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

– Distance: 1,043 miles
– Driving time: 18.9 hours
– Date founded: November 10, 1978
– 2020 visitors: 916,932 (#21 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 242,755.94 acres

#24. Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)

– Distance: 1,053 miles
– Driving time: 19.4 hours
– Date founded: January 9, 1903
– 2020 visitors: 448,405 (#33 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 33,970.84 acres

#25. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

– Distance: 1,066 miles
– Driving time: 18.7 hours
– Date founded: February 26, 1919
– 2020 visitors: 2,897,098 (#6 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 1,201,647.03 acres

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#26. Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 1,077 miles
– Driving time: 21.4 hours
– Date founded: December 18, 1971
– 2020 visitors: 981,038 (#20 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 241,904.50 acres

#27. Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 1,107 miles
– Driving time: 22.7 hours
– Date founded: February 25, 1928
– 2020 visitors: 1,464,655 (#15 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 35,835.08 acres

#28. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

– Distance: 1,108 miles
– Driving time: 19.7 hours
– Date founded: October 11, 2000
– 2020 visitors: 2,755,628 (#7 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 32,571.88 acres

#29. Zion National Park (Utah)

– Distance: 1,144 miles
– Driving time: 22.8 hours
– Date founded: November 19, 1919
– 2020 visitors: 3,591,254 (#3 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 147,242.66 acres

#30. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

– Distance: 1,144 miles
– Driving time: 20.1 hours
– Date founded: December 26, 1935
– 2020 visitors: 1,666,265 (#14 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 199,223.77 acres

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#31. Joshua Tree National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,239 miles
– Driving time: 20.2 hours
– Date founded: October 31, 1994
– 2020 visitors: 2,399,542 (#10 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 795,155.85 acres

#32. Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

– Distance: 1,252 miles
– Driving time: 24.4 hours
– Date founded: October 27, 1986
– 2020 visitors: 120,248 (#50 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 77,180.00 acres

#33. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

– Distance: 1,265 miles
– Driving time: 23.6 hours
– Date founded: November 10, 1978
– 2020 visitors: 551,303 (#28 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 70,446.89 acres

#34. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

– Distance: 1,286 miles
– Driving time: 23.6 hours
– Date founded: February 26, 1929
– 2020 visitors: 3,289,638 (#5 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 310,044.36 acres

#35. Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

– Distance: 1,300 miles
– Driving time: 22.0 hours
– Date founded: April 8, 1975
– 2020 visitors: 263,091 (#44 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 218,222.35 acres

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#36. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

– Distance: 1,317 miles
– Driving time: 24.6 hours
– Date founded: April 3, 1940
– 2020 visitors: 6,493 (#59 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 571,790.30 acres

#37. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

– Distance: 1,317 miles
– Driving time: 24.6 hours
– Date founded: March 1, 1872
– 2020 visitors: 3,806,306 (#2 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 2,219,790.71 acres

#38. Death Valley National Park (California, Nevada)

– Distance: 1,321 miles
– Driving time: 23.7 hours
– Date founded: October 31, 1994
– 2020 visitors: 820,023 (#22 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 3,408,406.73 acres

#39. Kings Canyon National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,424 miles
– Driving time: 29.4 hours
– Date founded: March 4, 1940
– 2020 visitors: 415,077 (#35 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 461,901.20 acres

#40. Sequoia National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,425 miles
– Driving time: 28.4 hours
– Date founded: September 25, 1890
– 2020 visitors: 796,086 (#23 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 404,062.63 acres

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#41. Channel Islands National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,441 miles
– Date founded: March 5, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 167,290 (#47 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 249,561.00 acres

#42. Yosemite National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,491 miles
– Driving time: 28.4 hours
– Date founded: October 1, 1890
– 2020 visitors: 2,268,313 (#12 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 761,747.50 acres

#43. Pinnacles National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,561 miles
– Driving time: 26.7 hours
– Date founded: January 10, 2013
– 2020 visitors: 165,740 (#48 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 26,685.73 acres

#44. Glacier National Park (Montana)

– Distance: 1,642 miles
– Date founded: May 11, 1910
– 2020 visitors: 1,698,864 (#13 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 1,013,125.99 acres

#45. Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,648 miles
– Driving time: 30.8 hours
– Date founded: August 9, 1916
– 2020 visitors: 542,274 (#29 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 106,589.02 acres

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#46. Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

– Distance: 1,736 miles
– Driving time: 34.2 hours
– Date founded: May 22, 1902
– 2020 visitors: 670,500 (#26 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 183,224.05 acres

#47. Redwood National Park (California)

– Distance: 1,789 miles
– Driving time: 35.8 hours
– Date founded: October 2, 1968
– 2020 visitors: 265,177 (#43 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 138,999.37 acres

#48. Acadia National Park (Maine)

– Distance: 1,793 miles
– Driving time: 32.9 hours
– Date founded: February 26, 1919
– 2020 visitors: 2,669,034 (#8 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 49,076.63 acres

#49. Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

– Distance: 1,842 miles
– Driving time: 34.2 hours
– Date founded: March 2, 1899
– 2020 visitors: 1,160,754 (#18 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 236,381.64 acres

#50. North Cascades National Park (Washington)

– Distance: 1,888 miles
– Driving time: 36.6 hours
– Date founded: October 2, 1968
– 2020 visitors: 30,885 (#56 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 504,780.94 acres

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#51. Olympic National Park (Washington)

– Distance: 1,951 miles
– Driving time: 37.3 hours
– Date founded: June 29, 1938
– 2020 visitors: 2,499,177 (#9 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 922,649.41 acres

#52. Virgin Islands National Park (U.S. Virgin Islands)

– Distance: 2,081 miles
– Date founded: August 2, 1956
– 2020 visitors: 167,540 (#46 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 15,052.53 acres

#53. Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 2,791 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 5,748 (#60 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 3,223,383.43 acres

#54. Wrangell–St. Elias National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,023 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 16,655 (#57 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 8,323,146.48 acres

#55. Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,244 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 115,882 (#52 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 669,650.05 acres

#56. Denali National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,337 miles
– Date founded: February 26, 1917
– 2020 visitors: 54,850 (#53 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 4,740,911.16 acres

#57. Lake Clark National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,387 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 4,948 (#61 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 2,619,816.49 acres

#58. Katmai National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,410 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 51,511 (#54 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 3,674,529.33 acres

#59. Gates of the Arctic National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,506 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 2,872 (#63 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 7,523,897.45 acres

#60. Kobuk Valley National Park (Alaska)

– Distance: 3,655 miles
– Date founded: December 2, 1980
– 2020 visitors: 11,185 (#58 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 1,750,716.16 acres

#61. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

– Distance: 3,794 miles
– Date founded: August 1, 1916
– 2020 visitors: 589,775 (#27 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 325,605.28 acres

#62. Haleakalā National Park (Hawaii)

– Distance: 3,816 miles
– Date founded: July 1, 1961
– 2020 visitors: 319,147 (#40 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 33,264.62 acres

#63. National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)

– Distance: 5,855 miles
– Date founded: October 31, 1988
– 2020 visitors: 4,819 (#62 highest among all national parks)
– Park area: 8,256.67 acres