As the National Park Service gears up for its centennial in 2016, it's re-branding to attract a broader audience. So far, the only major change has been to the logo, which trades the busy nature scene sketch for a single white arrowhead. Park Service representative Kathy Kupper said more changes will come, but they'll mostly take place in 2015 and won't affect the parks themselves.
"Baby boomers grew up with parks, but 50 years ago or so, distractions like Disneyland and theme parks began to pop up," Kupper said. "Now, with the internet age, we began to worry that they could be forgotten. So we're revamping a little."
While a new look is welcome, longtime park patrons known that what makes parks significant isn't the packaging, but what's inside their borders. Still, the more popular parks get crowded – Yellowstone gets an average of 26,500 visitors every day in July – so it's wise to seek out new territory. In that spirit, we rounded up 23 of the most scenic national parks and their best attractions, from the quiet lighthouses at Michigan's Isle Royale to glaciers only viewed by seaplane in Wrangell-St. Elias.
Great Smoky Mountains
With 9 million visitors each year, the Great Smoky Mountains is the country's busiest park. That means the best way to explore it is to go off the beaten path, and traverse this park by foot. The park covers more than 800 square miles over North Carolina and Tennessee and has hiking trails throughout, dotted with old barns and churches built in the 1700s that are preserved as historical landmarks. "This park gets twice as many visitors as the Grand Canyon," said Kupper. "But that's because it's part of our national lore. Just because it's busy doesn't mean its all touristy. There's a lot the masses miss."
Don't Miss: The Fontana Reservoir is a 480-foot dam on the southwestern edge of the park, the tallest concrete dam east of the Rocky Mountains. It's a hub for fishing, boating, swimming and provides hot showers at the trail shelter for hikers traveling the Appalachian Trail.
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