Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions? Start here for answers to frequently asked questions about the National Park Service, visiting national parks, and miscellaneous topics.

About the National Park Service

Who is the director of the National Park Service?

Michael T. Reynolds is the acting director of the National Park Service.

Learn more about past directors of the National Park Service.

What government agency oversees the National Park Service?

The National Park Service is a bureau of the Department of the Interior. Directly overseeing its operation is the Department's Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

How many employees are in the National Park Service?

  • Permanent, temporary, and seasonal: Approximately 22,000 diverse professionals
  • Volunteers in Parks: nearly 340,000 in 2016

How old is the National Park System?

The National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. Yellowstone National Park was established by an act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, as the nation's first national park. View the National Park System timeline.

What is the origin of the National Park Service arrowhead?

The arrowhead was authorized as the official National Park Service emblem by the Secretary of the Interior on July 20, 1951. The components of the arrowhead may have been inspired by key attributes of the National Park System, with the sequoia tree and bison representing vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water representing scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead itself representing historical and archeological values. Read more about the history of the arrowhead and other elements of NPS visual design.

The NPS allows limited use of the NPS arrowhead when doing so contributes to our work. Learn how to request permission to use the arrowhead.

How many areas are in the National Park System?

The system includes 417 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. Learn more about national park designations. See the complete list of National Park Service units and affiliated areas (145KB PDF) by type and number.

What is the largest national park site? Smallest?

Current information on acreage for units across the National Park System is also available.

How many people visit the national parks?

  • Total recreation visitors to the national parks in 2016: 330,971,689

See the Visitor Use Statistics page for more detailed information.

What is the most-visited national park?

View a list of the most-visited sites in the National Park Service (28KB PDF).

What is the National Park Service budget?

  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Enacted: $2.98 billion
  • FY 2015 Enacted: $2.615 billion
  • FY 2016 Enacted:$2.851 billion
  • FY 2017 Enacted: $2.932 billion

Visiting the National Parks

How do I obtain a park entrance pass?

Only 118 of your 417 park sites charge entrance fees. You can obtain park entrance passes by visiting a park site that charges an entrance fee. Entrance fee sites have passes available; we recommend calling a park prior to your visit. (See the park search to locate a specific park.) There are a number of entrance passes available, including park-specific passes as well as passes that offer entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites in addition to the national parks (Annual, Military, Senior, 4th Grade, Access, and Volunteer passes). Learn more about the America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Where can I find a park map?

You can view maps on specific park websites or download maps from the Harpers Ferry Center map collection.

How do I make reservations for camping/lodging in national parks?

For campground reservations, visit Recreation.gov. Not all parks participate in this service; many campgrounds are first come, first served. For more information on specific camping and lodging services offered at the park(s) of your interest, please check specific park websites.

How do I reserve a tour in a park?

You can book some park tours through Recreation.gov such as WWII Valor in the Pacific (Pearl Harbor), many Mammoth Cave National Park cave tours, Independence National Historical Park tours, and more. Not all parks participate in this reservation service. For more information on tours offered at a specific park, please see the park search.

What do I need to know about driving off road in national parks?

Before you head out, check with the national parks that you intend to visit. In many national parks, off-road driving is illegal. Where off-road driving is allowed, the National Park Service regulates it.

Miscellaneous

How do I apply for a job with the National Park Service?

National Park Service jobs, including both permanent and seasonal positions, are listed on USAJOBs. Learn more about working for us, including opportunities for students and volunteers and tips for applying for jobs.

What are concessions?

Concessionaires provide park visitors with lodging, transportation, food services, shops, and other services. More than 480 NPS concession contracts in more than 100 different park units vary in size from small, family-owned businesses to national/international corporations. Learn more about commercial services in the National Park Service.

How do I find out about contracting opportunities?

Opportunities to contract with the National Park Service are posted to FedBizOpps.gov, the federal government’s electronic business portal.

Where do I find out about grant and cooperative agreement programs and opportunities?

To find out how to register, search for opportunities, and apply for financial assistance visit Grants.gov.

Specific information on NPS grants programs and financial assistance opportunities for historic preservation, natural resource conservation, recreation, education, and community engagement projects, visit these pages:

Last updated: July 7, 2017