How to protect "America's best idea": National Parks | @CNNOpinion

How to protect "America's best idea": National Parks | @CNNOpinion
How to protect "America's best idea": National Parks | @CNNOpinion

Most popular National Park Service sites

1. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina/Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway meanders for 469 miles through two states, revealing gorgeous views of the Appalachian Highlands that vary by season. Autumn's changing foliage is evident in a sunrise view of the mountains in Brevard, North Carolina mountains near Asheville.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California: Hikers can spot these old redwood trees in Muir Woods, which is part of the Golden Gate site.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee: The most popular of the 59 headliner National Parks, Great Smoky Mountains protects a variety of animal and plant life. Enter the park's southern entrance near Cherokee, North Carolina, to enjoy the view from the Oconaluftee Overlook.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

4. Gateway National Recreation Area, New York/New Jersey: Sunrise at Sandy Hook, on the New Jersey side, is worth waking up for. Gateway has three geographic units: Sandy Hook in New Jersey, and Jamaica Bay and Staten Island, both in New York City.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

5. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.: President Abraham Lincoln's influence on the country was so vast, there are 16 sites associated with the 16th president's legacy. Construction of the Lincoln Memorial was completed in 1922.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

6. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona/Nevada. Lake Mead, observed here from the Hoover Dam, is one of the most popular spots to play in this 1.5 million acre park site that includes canyons, mountains, valleys and two lakes (the other is Lake Mohave). There are also nine wilderness areas to explore.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

7. George Washington Memorial Parkway, Washington, D.C./Virginia/Maryland: While the parkway is a commuting route for many working in the region, it's also a carefully planned "park and playground" near the nation's capital. Forts, wildlife preserves, gardens and memorials can be found along the route, including these springtime tulips and dogwood in McLean, Virginia.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

8. Natchez Trace Parkway, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee: The historic Old Trace trail was once the main road through the Old Southwest, going through Chickasaw and Choctaw lands to get from Natchez to Nashville. Commemorated by the Natchez Trace Parkway, the trail still exists in part today. This location is milepost 221.4.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: The second most popular National Park, the Grand Canyon was first protected as a national monument by then-President Theodore Roosevelt. Watching the sunrise at the park's North Rim is majestic.

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Most popular National Park Service sites

10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.: Designed by Maya Lin, the memorial lists the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who lost their lives in the

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