Browse & Download 1,198 Free High Resolution Maps of U.S. National Parks


I can­not, and do not wish to, imag­ine the U.S. with­out its Nation­al Park sys­tem. The sale and/or despo­li­a­tion of this more than 80 mil­lion acres of moun­tain, for­est, stream, ocean, geyser, cav­ern, canyon, and every oth­er nat­ur­al for­ma­tion North Amer­i­ca con­tains would dimin­ish the coun­try immea­sur­ably. “Nation­al parks,” wrote nov­el­ist Wal­lace Steg­n­er, “are the best idea we ever had. Absolute­ly Amer­i­can, absolute­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”


Stegner’s quote—which gave Ken Burns’ Nation­al Parks doc­u­men­tary its subtitle–can sound overop­ti­mistic when we study the parks’ his­to­ry. Though not offi­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed until the 20th cen­tu­ry, the idea stretch­es back to 1851, when a bat­tal­ion, intent on find­ing and destroy­ing an Indi­an vil­lage, also found Yosemite. Named for what the sol­diers thought was the tribe they killed and burned, the word actu­al­ly trans­lates as “they are killers.”

West­ward expan­sion and the annex­a­tion of Hawaii have left us many sober­ing sto­ries like that of Yosemite’s “dis­cov­ery.” And dur­ing their devel­op­ment in the ear­ly- to mid-20th cen­tu­ry, the parks often required the mass dis­place­ment of peo­ple, many of whom had lived on the land for decades—or cen­turies. But despite the bloody his­to­ry, the cre­ation of these sanc­tu­ar­ies has pre­served much of the country’s embar­rass­ment of nat­ur­al beau­ty and irre­place­able bio­di­ver­si­ty for a cen­tu­ry now. (The Nation­al Park Ser­vice cel­e­brat­ed its 100th anniver­sary just this past August.)


The Nation­al Park Ser­vice and its allies have act­ed as bul­warks against pri­va­teers who would turn places like Yosemite into pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive resorts, and per­haps fell the ancient Red­wood Nation­al forests or blast away the Smokey Moun­tains. Instead, the parks remain “absolute­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic,” open to all Amer­i­cans and inter­na­tion­al vis­i­tors, the pride of con­ser­va­tion­ists, sci­en­tists, hik­ers, bird watch­ers, and nature-lovers of all kinds. Giv­en the sprawl­ing, ide­al­is­tic, and vio­lent his­to­ry of the Nation­al Parks, it may be fair to say that these nat­ur­al pre­serves reflect the coun­try at both its worst and its best. And in that sense, they are indeed “absolute­ly Amer­i­can.”


There are many ways to expe­ri­ence the Nation­al Parks with­out long car rides or flights across the coun­try or the world, though none of them can match the awe and grandeur of the real thing. Ansel Adams pho­tographed the parks reli­gious­ly, and in 1941 received a com­mis­sion from the Nation­al Parks Ser­vice (NPS) to cre­ate a pho­to mur­al. World War II scrapped the project, but the 200 plus pho­tos he took are all freely avail­able online. The NPS has also made avail­able 100,000 pho­tographs, blue­prints, and draw­ings of the Nation­al Parks through­out their his­to­ry with its Open Parks Net­work.


We can add to these already incred­i­ble free resources the online project Nation­al Parks Maps. Begun in 2013 by Col­orado park ranger Matt Hol­ly, the site cur­rent­ly hosts “1,198 free high-res­o­lu­tion nation­al park maps to view, save, and down­load.” Hol­ly cre­at­ed the site for pure­ly prac­ti­cal rea­sons. “I’ve always found it time-con­sum­ing to vis­it each park’s web page and use an embed­ded map view­er or mud­dle through the web­site to find a nice print­able map,” he writes. “So I’ve done the dirty work for you.”


That said, we find this col­lec­tion is filled with aes­thet­ic plea­sures, and no small num­ber of geo­graph­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal curiosi­ties. At the top see a 3D map of Hawaii’s Haleakala Nation­al Park, with a “stun­ning overview of Maui.” Below it, see a map of “the range of the Coast Red­wood, stretch­ing from south­ern Ore­gon to south of Big Sur.” (Red­wood Nation­al and State Parks appear as a tiny area on the left, just below the Ore­gon state bor­der.) Fur­ther down is a bright blue aer­i­al map of Florida’s Dry Tor­tu­gas Nation­al Park, and below it, a map of the his­tor­i­cal Wilder­ness Road through the Cum­ber­land Gap, the “path of the famous road used by set­tlers to reach Ken­tucky.” Plus, then the South­ern Rim of the Grand Canyon.


Fur­ther up, see a map of Death Val­ley, and just above, a floor plan of the U.S. Pen­i­ten­tiary on Alca­traz Island. This tiny sam­pling of the more than one-thou­sand maps at Holly’s Nation­al Parks Maps site shows just some of the nat­ur­al (and man-made) won­ders the Nation­al Parks Ser­vice stew­ards. For more, vis­it the site, where you can browse by state or alpha­bet­i­cal­ly by park. Hol­ly has also uploaded brochures and trail and lodg­ing maps, and includ­ed links to oth­er resources as well as gifts and prints. The site more than accom­plish­es its prac­ti­cal pur­pose of cen­tral­iz­ing all the car­to­graph­ic info trav­el­ers might need. But it also makes an implic­it case for the Nation­al Parks by show­ing us how well they have kept intact the country’s defin­ing fea­tures, which will, one hopes, still be here long after we are gone.

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Yosemite Nation­al Park in All of Its Time-Lapse Splen­dor

226 Ansel Adams Pho­tographs of Great Amer­i­can Nation­al Parks Are Now Online

Down­load 100,000 Pho­tos of 20 Great U.S. Nation­al Parks, Cour­tesy of the U.S. Nation­al Park Ser­vice

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Reyes says:

    Thanks for shar­ing incred­i­bles Maps.
    I start Think­ing that all the World Bright for this Gret views
    for us with splen­dors.
    Thanks for all Geo­graph­ics curiosi­ties.

  • William Barendse says:

    I’m an avid hik­er and trav­el­er. I’ve always dec­o­rat­ed my hous­es with maps of places I’ve been(missing quite a few) or places I want to go. I just got a place out­side of Palm springs. My friends and I plan all trips out of here but my walls are bare. We need inspi­ra­tion!! Can you help us?

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.