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The Best National Monuments to Visit in the USA

In the United States, national monuments are any place of scenic, scientific, or historical importance. They're usually designated by presidential proclamation as a way to preserve the area or landmark and its significance. There are a lot of types of national monuments in the U.S., ranging from vast open spaces and unique geographical formations to forts, statues, and symbols of the country's past. Some you can visit on a quick day trip. Others are immersive experiences that transport you to another time and place.


01 The National Mall

Jefferson Memorial during the Cherry Blossom Festival

When it comes to national monuments, there's no better place than the National Mall in Washington, D.C. There are 18 monuments here, not to mention a handful of museums. Visit memorials to some of the nation's most influential presidents, as well as those honoring the brave veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice defending America's freedom.


02 The Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell Philadelphia

Philadelphia once served as the U.S. capital and played an important role in the early history of the country. One of the most recognizable monuments here is the Liberty Bell. The engraving reads, "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof," which has served as an inspirational rallying cry throughout history for those fighting against slavery and during the Civil Rights Movement. No one knows when or why the bell cracked in the first place. The wide fissure seen today is the result of unsuccessful attempts to repair it.


03 Devil's Tower National Monument

Devil's Tower Wyoming

Devil's Tower National Monument is located in the Black Hills of Wyoming, jutting up 867 feet from the prairie below. Pioneers heading west in the mid-1800s used it as a landmark for how far they'd traveled. Today, the monument maintains the foreboding, cracked appearance that it did way back then. Hiking trails surround Devil's Tower, and camping is available in the park, so there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal. Believe it or not, rock climbing on the tower is permitted.


04 Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Monument in Rapid City SD khyim / Getty Images

Chiseled into a mountain in the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic monuments in the U.S. More than three million people visit Mount Rushmore every year. It took more than 400 artists about 14 years to complete this piece of art, featuring the faces of four of the most influential and recognizable presidents in American history.


05 Colorado National Monument

Rest and Repose: Colorado National Monument evanbrogan / Getty Images

The American West has a lot of grand, breathtaking landscapes, and nowhere is this more evident than at the Colorado National Monument. Canyons and valleys carved into the gorgeous red rock create an amazing panoramic view, and there are plenty of ways to explore it. Follow the famous rim ride overlooks or use the extensive trail system for hiking or mountain bike through the monument, keeping your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep and deer along the way. Camping and mountain climbing are also permitted in designated areas.


06 Castillo de San Marcos

Sunrise Over Castillo de San Marcos

It might surprise some people to know that the oldest city in the U.S. is not on the northeast coast of the Atlantic but much farther south. St. Augustine, Florida, was founded in 1565, and construction on the Castillo de San Marcos began in 1672. This stronghold was erected by the Spanish to protect the city against a British invasion and is the oldest masonry structure still standing in the U.S. today. The walls are made of limestone and shell fossils, which absorbed the force of cannonballs, making the Castillo seemingly impenetrable.


07 Vermillion Cliffs

The Wave, rock formation in Coyote Buttes North,Arizona USA kojihirano / Getty Images

The Vermillion Cliffs cover 294,000 acres across northern Arizona and southern Utah. This monument is not for the faint of heart, but adventure seekers and experienced backpackers are rewarded with amazing views of the towering cliffs and canyons made of colorful sandstone. This monument doesn't have any paved roads, so the only way to see it is on foot. There are two campgrounds outside of the monument to set up base camp, but no buildings, food, or water exist inside. If you're up for this adventure, apply for a hiking permit and make sure you come prepared.


08 Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty and New York City skyline

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable monuments in the United States. The statue was a gift from France, dedicated in 1886. It's made of copper that has developed the familiar green patina over the passing years. Every year, millions of people take the ferry ride through New York City's harbor to visit the Statue of Liberty. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 and remains a reminder of acceptance and hope.


09 Craters of the Moon

Flowers bloom amidst the rocky volcanic landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. Wirepec / Getty Images

Located in southern Idaho, the Craters of the Moon was created from lava expelled over eight significant eruptions between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. Today, it covers 618 square miles. While the area is dormant, scientists believe that lava will begin to flow again within the next thousand years. The other-worldly landscape features hiking trails of various difficulties as well as cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. Camping is permitted and recommended - the area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, an ideal spot for stargazing.


10 Fort Sumter National Historical Park

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

It was at Fort Sumter National Historical Park, at 4:30 am on April 12, 1861, that the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Union troops stationed here were bombarded with Confederate cannons for 34 hours until they eventually surrendered the fort to the South. Today, the visitor's center sits where Gadsden's Wharf once was, significant as this is where thousands of African slaves entered the country. Fort Sumter is an important reminder of America's past, one that should never be forgotten.


11 Muir Woods National Monument, California

Mill Valley, CA, USA January 25, 2010 A wood beam and sign welcomes visitors to the Muir Woods National Monument, home of giant redwood trees, in Mill Valley, California James Kirkikis /

Just a short drive from San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is a sanctuary of towering redwoods, some of the tallest trees on Earth. This tranquil haven offers visitors a chance to wander through mist-laden paths, where sunlight filters through the dense canopy, creating a serene, almost ethereal experience. The well-maintained trails cater to both leisurely strolls and more vigorous hikes, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers of all ages.


12 White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

In the heart of the Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Monument stands out with its wave-like dunes of glistening gypsum sand. This surreal landscape offers a unique adventure, from sledding down the soft white dunes to embarking on moonlit walks. The ever-changing dunes, covering 275 square miles, create an otherworldly experience that captivates photographers, adventurers, and families alike.

Unusual White Sand Dunes at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA

13 Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

Steeped in thousands of years of Native American history, Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeastern Arizona is a testament to the resilience and culture of the Navajo Nation. The monument's sheer cliffs and sprawling vistas are home to several well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan ruins. Visitors can explore the canyon's depths on guided tours, gaining insights into the rich tapestry of stories and traditions that echo through these ancient walls.

 Reflected light makes the cliffs at Canyon de Chelly glow. Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

14 World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Hawaii

OAHU, HI - AUG 5, 2016: World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument on August 5, 2016 in Pearl Harbor, USA. The Monument includes the Pearl Harbor Visitor Centre and the USS Arizona Memorial. Jeff Whyte /

Located in Honolulu, Hawaii, the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is a poignant reminder of the events at Pearl Harbor. This site includes the USS Arizona Memorial, where visitors can pay their respects to the fallen soldiers of the infamous 1941 attack. The monument offers a profound educational experience, with exhibits that delve into the war's impact on the Pacific and the enduring legacy of peace and reconciliation.


15 Sequoia National Monument, California

SPRINGVILLE, UNITED STATES - APRIL 12, 2014: Entrance sign to Giant Sequoia National Monument in California. National Monument was created in 2000 and covers area of 1330 km2. Tupungato /

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia National Monument is a realm where nature's giants – the giant sequoias – reign supreme. These colossal trees, some over 3,000 years old, inspire awe and wonder. The monument's diverse landscape, ranging from rugged foothills to deep canyons, is crisscrossed with trails that invite visitors to explore the majestic forest and its vast array of wildlife.


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