32 National Monuments Everyone Should Visit at Least Once

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks Close-Up


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A Monumental Decision

If you've ticked off every destination on your national parks bucket list, then this list is for you: 32 national monuments across the U.S. that showcase the nation's history, wildlife, and stunning natural wonders. And another is soon to be named. President Biden plans to add Camp Hale, a World War II training site near the Continental Divide in Colorado, as a national monument. From the city to the mountains to historic sites like Pearl Harbor, you won't regret visiting any of these must-see national monuments.

Related: The Best State Park in Every State

USS Arizona, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Hawaii

World War II Valor in the Pacific


There are actually three sites for this national monument, in Alaska, California, and Hawaii, but the most recommended location is the latter, in Oahu — the site of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack that launched U.S. involvement in World War II. This is where the USS Arizona battleship sunk and still rests to this day. A memorial, accessible by boat, has been built over its final resting spot. The memorial is free to visit but does require a ticket. During busy seasons (Christmas break, spring break, and summer) getting one of the daily 1,300 tickets can be difficult, so it's suggested that visitors book 60 days in advance, or show up early the day they plan to visit. The Pearl Harbor visitor center and other museums are free and don't require a ticket.

Related: 15 Awe-Inspiring Memorials and Other Places to Honor Our Vets

Kootznoowoo Wilderness, Admiralty Island.
Kootznoowoo Wilderness, Admiralty Island. by Don MacDougall (CC BY)

Admiralty Island


As part of Alaska's Tongass Forest, Admiralty Island is unique in several ways. It's a prime example of the northern temperate rainforests that exist in the Pacific Northwest, and it has the largest population of brown bears in the world. To view these bears in their natural habitat, visitors take a float plane to Pack Creek, followed by a short hike to an observation tower where the animals can be seen eating salmon in the wild. Fishing and canoeing are also popular activities on the island.

Related: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico


New Mexico

An archeologist's dream come true, Bandelier boasts signs of human activity dating back 11,000 years. Cliff dwellings and masonry walls are still standing, and a short 1.2-mile hike takes you through the excavated sites, while longer hikes showcase beautiful falls and mesa tops. You can drive into Bandelier from mid-October through mid-May, but otherwise the only way to access the park's main visited area is by shuttle bus. The park and trails are open every day of the year from dawn until dusk, and fall is a beautiful time to witness Bandelier's fall foliage. Monument-goers who visit in winter should be prepared for plenty of beauty, but also snow. Those 16 and older pay $15 for park entry, or $25 per car.

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Point Loma panorama



Named after a Mexican explorer who was the first to land on North America's west coast, this year-round San Diego monument has history, views, and nature to offer visitors. Visit the welcome center for more on the area's history, take a short walk to explore the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and its keeper quarters, do a longer trail hike to take in views, visit Whale Overlook for a possible glimpse of whales, and, during low-tide conditions, visit the monument's tide pools. January and February typically are the best months to see whales, while spring is recommended as the prettiest wildflower season.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly


Located near the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, Canyon de Chelly has gorgeous views and history to offer visitors. Humans have continuously lived here dating back 5,000 years, and today the area is home to tribal lands where the Navajo raise their families and tend livestock and farms. Entrance is free, and there are two paved rim drives that lead to canyon overlooks, as well as hiking trails and private guided tours (for a fee). There also is a first-come first-serve campground.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Carrizo Plain


With its remoteness and lack of services — get your fuel, food, and running water before entering the park — Carrizo Plain is one of the most serene landscapes on American soil. It's also home to an array of plants and animals, many on the threatened or endangered list. Anytime is a good time to visit this calming and beautiful national monument, but in spring thousands upon thousands of wildflowers bloom. Roads within the park are largely unpaved, and rain in particular makes them hard to traverse.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine, Florida

Castillo de San Marcos


Located in St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos was built over 23 years — completed in 1695 — by the Spanish to fend off a British invasion. The building construction is impressive — it's the oldest masonry structure still standing in the U.S., and its construction is unique in that it is made from limestone and mostly shell fossils. The material is pliable, so when objects such as cannonballs were launched at it, the building absorbed them rather than shattered. Packed full of history, it also boasts high towers and a moat. The national monument is now considered a walk-in park, open to the public year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. A seven-day pass costs $15 for those 16 and up, and its peak visitor season is the summer and holiday weekends, when nearly 3,500 people visit daily.

Castle Clinton National Monument, New York City

Castle Clinton

New York

Located in New York City's Battery, this national monument is a huge part of American history. It was constructed between 1808-1811, and its original purpose was to prevent a British invasion, but over the years it has transformed into a welcoming — and free — tourist attraction for visitors from all around the world. Guided tours are offered daily during visiting hours (7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). Castle Clinton is easy to get to via bus, subway, car, or ferry, and serves as the starting point for ferry tours of the Statue of Liberty.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Cedar Breaks


Cedar Breaks offers breathtaking views at all levels, but the main attraction is the staircase-type formations that overlook a natural amphitheater. No matter the season, there is plenty to do. See the foliage colors come alive in the fall, or visit in the spring and summer to see the wildflowers in bloom. In summer, visitors can camp out under the stars, in winter they can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowmobiling. Three main trails are also always open to accommodate all levels of hikers. Entrance to the park is $10 a person for those 16 and older.

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument


You can't miss the opportunity to see what many would call one of America's grandest Western landscapes. Red rock canyons and valleys make Colorado National Monument a top panoramic destination, and it also boasts plenty of wildlife like bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, and mountain lions. See the national monument in a variety of ways: a 23-mile famous rim ride with various lookout points; over 40 miles of hiking for all skill levels; and even by bicycle. There are also challenges for rock climbers, and less adventurous visitors can camp in the monument. It's open year-round unless weather or a rock fall prevents entrance. Cost is $25 a car to enter the park. 

Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Craters of the Moon


A terrain unlike any other, Craters of the Moon is a scenic expanse of land created from lava flow — and one that could change at any time. The monument's volcanic area is dormant, and geologists believe it will become active again sometime within the next 1,000 years. There are numerous trails for hikers of all skill levels from spring through fall. In winter, there is a trail for cross-country skiing, and some visitors hit the monument's slopes for a unique skiing experience. Craters of the Moon is open every day and costs $20 a vehicle. In winter, Loop Road is closed and entrance is free. 

Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Devils Postpile


Named after the unique rock formation of columnar basalt that towers over 60 feet high, this Northern California national monument offers hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing. Devils Postpile is typically open from mid-June to mid-October, and costs $10 a car to visit. The park technically never closes but it does have an annual snowfall of more than 400 inches, making it accessible, according to the NPS website, only "by ski or snowshoe" during those times. But, the site goes on to note, "winter use is growing and the Reds Meadow Valley is a beautiful and wild place in this season" — just not for novices.

Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Devils Tower


America's original national monument, Devils Tower is so named because of its foreboding appearance. Located in the Black Hills of northeast Wyoming, the geological tower shoots up out of the prairie, and hundreds of parallel cracks give it an even more mystic appearance. The monument is open 24/7 year-round and costs $25 a vehicle. There's also camping within the park, and many hiking trails that give visitors plenty of vantage points from which to view the geological wonder. Rock climbing on the tower is also allowed.

Fort Matanzas National Monument, St. Augustine, Florida
Erica Finstad/istockphoto

Fort Matanzas


Situated 15 miles outside of St. Augustine, Fort Matanzas offers plenty to do and see, and visitors can learn about Florida's Spanish colonial history and culture. The fort itself, built to protect St. Augustine and the rich Spanish Caribbean shipping lanes from British threat in 1740, can be accessed by boat and toured. The 35-passenger boat ferries passengers four times each day, and passes are available from the monument's visitor center. There is no fee for the fort or the ferries. For fewer crowds and better parking opportunity, visit on a weekday morning.

Fort McHenry National Monument, Baltimore, Maryland
National Park Service

Fort McHenry


Fort McHenry is famous for the Battle of Baltimore, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write what we now know as our nation's anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner." A trip to this national monument provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the area's rich history, tour the Star Fort, see an officer's quarters, and help rangers lower or raise replica flags morning and evening. The park and national monument are open daily and entry is $15 for 16 and older.

Fort Sumter National Historical Park, Charleston, South Carolina

Fort Sumter

South Carolina

As part of the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, this monument, built to defend U.S. ports, is rich in American history and worth a visit for the critical role it played in another conflict. On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired on Union troops housed in Fort Sumter, igniting the Civil War. Fort Sumter can only be toured via an authorized boat concessioner; tickets are $19 for children 4-11, $29 for students and seniors, and $32 for those 12 and up.

The Giant Sequoia National Monument, California

Giant Sequoia


Located in the Sierra Nevada region, the giant sequoia is the planet's largest tree, growing upward of 300 feet tall, and up to 30 feet in diameter. Designated a national monument by President Bill Clinton in 2000, Giant Sequoia contains more than 30 sequoia groves in over 325,000 acres, and offers opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast such as hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, and camping. The groves and surrounding areas are always open unless weather conditions are hazardous. Price is $35 a vehicle and can be purchased in advance. The fee also grants entrance to Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

Governors Island National Monument, New York City

Governors Island

New York

For nearly 200 hundred years, the U.S. Army and Coast Guard called this island home. It is located in New York Harbor and offers exceptional views of one of America's most iconic skylines. There are many historic buildings to see and tour, as well as a bike path, guided tours, and self-guided tours. It is free to visit the island, but the ferry ride to get you there costs about $4 a person. The island is open late spring through October.

Parashant National Monument, Grand Canyon, Arizona
National Park Service



If you want to truly experience nature, Parashant is your national monument. Perched on the Grand Canyon's rim, this area is remote — be prepared to forgo cell service, and no food, water, or park amenities are available inside the monument. Entrance is free and camping, hiking, and scenic drives — most of which require four-wheel drive — are the best ways to explore. A trip to Parashant requires great care, planning, and caution, but offers a magnificent adventure while leaving the 21st century behind.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks

New Mexico

Located about an hour's drive west of Santa Fe, these impressive rocks were formed 6 to 7 million years ago as a result of volcanic eruptions. Boulder caps are balanced on many of these formations, giving them a tent-shaped appearance. You can see these amazing formations on foot only, via a trail that winds through the park. Open most days year-round from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the entry fee is $5 a car. Summer months are much busier; visitors sometimes wait up to 90 minutes for a parking space. The monument is temporarily closed so check the website before making plans. 

Lava Beds National Monument, California

Lava Beds


The terrain in this national monument was formed exactly as the name implies, with eruptions creating about 800 caves, 20 of which are available for exploration. The desert terrain also offers a chance to see Native American rock art, walk through historic battlefields, and camp. If you plan to spelunk, wear appropriate gear — long sleeves, long pants, closed-toed shoes, headlamp or a flashlight, etc., — and be prepared, as the caves can be chilly and the weather above ground can change quickly. The park is open 24/7, year-round, for $25 a vehicle.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

Little Bighorn Battlefield


Retrace the steps of the epic battle of Little Bighorn, when Lt. Col. George A. Custer led his troops against Lakota and Cheyenne warriors — one of the tribes' last efforts to hold onto their way of life. You may tour the battlefield on foot or by driving, and, in the winter months, snowshoeing is also available. Cost is $25 a car.

Misty Fjords National Monument, Alaska

Misty Fjords


A completely majestic experience, Misty Fjords are natural skyscrapers that shoot directly out of the ocean more than 3,000 feet into the sky. There is near-constant precipitation, and rainforests grow off of these cliffs. Tons of wildlife can be found at Misty Fjords — it's one of the largest expanses of wilderness in the U.S., spanning 2.3 million acres of the Tongass National Forest. There are a few ways to view this impressive site: kayaking the preserved coves and inlets, on a boat tour or day-long boat cruise, or a flight tour via helicopter or float plane. Entry is free.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Montezuma Castle


More than 800 years old, the Montezuma Castle is a five-story high structure built into the side of a cliff. This unique national monument is one of the most well-preserved ancient dwellings in the world, and can be visited via a 1.3-mile self-guided hike that affords views of the dwelling from all angles. It's open every day of the year except Christmas and New Year's Day. Cost is $10 for those 16 and older.

Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota

Technically a national memorial rather than monument, Mount Rushmore rivals the Statue of Liberty in popularity. Located in the Black Hills, the stone carvings of four of the most influential men in American history — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln — are a sight to behold, as are the area's natural surroundings. Take the Presidential Trail hike to get up close with the famous sculpture — it's only slightly over a half mile, but it includes 422 stairs. The national monument is open 365 days a year and is free to visit, but parking is $10. 

Muir Woods National Monument, California

Muir Woods


If you've never seen the redwoods up close, it's time to fix that — the primeval forest is simply breathtaking and worth the visit. Open all year, late October to early May is winter — meaning rainy season — in Muir Woods, and September and October are considered by many the ideal months to visit. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and expect to walk a lot. Visitors are required to get a parking or shuttle pass online prior to visiting, but there is no cellphone service — so download those passes prior to arriving. Tickets are $15 for 16 and older.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Natural Bridges


The Natural Bridges are renowned for their beauty and are some of the best examples of natural architecture. There are three in the park: Kachina, Sipapu, and Owachomo, which is said to be the oldest. It is also the smallest and most fragile. The bridges can be viewed via a drivable scenic loop or by various hiking paths. Fall, when the leaves are changing, and spring's blooming wildflowers are the two most beautiful times to visit, but also the monument's two busiest seasons. Cost is $20 a vehicle.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus


Known for its cacti, Organ Pipe Cactus offers a unique desert experience. See the desert landscape and wildlife on bike, by car, on a hike, or even on horseback. Camping is allowed in two campgrounds, and December to February are the best months to visit — when the temperature is still warm but more comfortable. This national monument backs up to the Mexican border, and border patrols are present. Entry is $25 a vehicle.

President Lincoln's Cottage National Monument, Washington, D.C.

President Lincoln's Cottage


Also referred to as the Cradle of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln's private residence is now open for the public to view. There are both regular and special exhibits, and also a visitor education center. Open seven days a week, guided tour tickets may be purchased for those 12 and older for $15, and ages 6-12 for $5. It's recommended to get advanced tickets as weekends usually sell out.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah

Rainbow Bridge


Rainbow Bridge is one of the largest, most famous natural bridges in the world — and not easy to get to. Visitors must access it by personal boat or via a National Park Service concessionaire — a seven-hour trip that requires a 1.5-mile hike at the end — or by backpacking a 14-mile, two-day journey that requires a permit from the Navajo Nation. The national monument is open year-round from sun up to sun down, and is free.

Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York City

Statue of Liberty

New York

You've seen it in pictures and in movies, but if you haven't seen Lady Liberty in person, put it on your bucket list. She is perhaps the single biggest symbol of freedom and democracy in the world. Gifted to the U.S. by the French in October 1886, it became a recognized monument in 1924. The history housed within the Statue, on Liberty Island, and in the museum, are definitely worth a visit. It is free to visit, but visits to the pedestal and crown (crown access is currently unavailable) require reservations. Hours vary depending on the season and weather for ferry access (available from Castle Clinton), so be sure to research and plan your visit accordingly.

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona

Vermilion Cliffs


Spanning 294,000 acres, Vermilion Cliffs has no paved roads, and backpacking treks are about the only way to explore this national monument. The views and the unique wildlife, including a variety of bird species, make this a popular world backpacking destination. A permit is required to backpack and spend the night. Small hikes can also be done but be aware this is a very rustic monument — no food, water, buildings, or roads. Visitors will be in complete wilderness and should come prepared.