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 or a park pass for all national parks?

Some parks charge an entrance fee. Visit the park's website or contact the park to learn more.

In addition, the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass series offers a number of passes that cover entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day-use fees) at other federal recreation sites. Pass options include the annual (as well as the annual military and annual 4th grade), senior, access, and volunteer passes. Most parks have passes available, but please contact the park prior to your visit to be sure. For more information, including specific locations that sell passes, what the passes cover, and requirements for each pass, see the America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass page.

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 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.

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.


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 500 NPS concession contracts in more than 120 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.

Last updated: March 31, 2017