Established in the Rocky Mountains of the province of Alberta in 1885, Banff is Canada’s oldest national park. The 6641 km2 delimited area comprises glaciers, lakes, coniferous forest and alpine landscapes of pure splendor. The park is also one of the few in Canada that preserves ecological integrity, with its adoption of The National Parks Act amendment in 1988. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, together with the other national and provincial parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks in 1984.
Known as ‘the place where two desert meets’, the 3,200 km2 area that comprises Joshua Tree National Park brings together two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado. It is named after the botanical species that survives the best in these conditions: the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, a member of the Agave family. Years ago the Joshua tree was recognized by American Indians for its useful properties, namely its tough leaves that worked wonders into baskets and sandals, and their flower buds and seeds that made for a healthy diet supplement. When the Mormons arrived in the 19th century, it is rumored they have named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua. The park is a geological wonder (some of the rocks are allegedly 1.7 billion years old.), and its elevation and dry desert air, along with the relatively stable atmosphere characteristic of southern California, provide for excellent astronomical observing conditions, in addition to other ideal activities such as rock climbing.
Located in the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and established in 1872, the 8,983 km2 designated area of Yellowstone is regarded as the 1st American national park, and world national park for that matter. Native Americans have lived in its region for at least 11 000 years. The area comprises the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest volcanic system in North America. It has been termed a "supervolcano" because the caldera was formed by exceptionally large explosive eruptions. The park also contains operating seismic activity and the largest active geyser in the world—Steamboat Geyser in the Norris Geyser Basin. A study that was completed in 2011 found that at least 1283 geysers have erupted in Yellowstone. The national park was designated a UNESCO world heritage site as early as 1972.