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Photo: America's Largest National Park

biggest national park
(Image credit: National Park Service)

To find the largest national park in America, head to southeast Alaska. Here you'll find a rugged park that's bigger than Switzerland.

Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve covers 13.2 million acres. The park is named after the Wrangell and St. Elias mountain ranges that form the park's backbone. The Wrangell Mountains were themselves named after Baron Ferdinand Petrovich von Wrangel (1796-1870) and the St. Elias Mountains were named by Vitus Bering (1681-1741), Russian and Danish explorers, respectively.

At 18,008 feet (5,489 meters) Mount St. Elias is the second highest mountain in North America. The mountain spills into neighboring Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada, where it's also that country's second highest mountain. Nine of the 16 highest peaks on U.S. soil are located in Wrangell-St. Elias Park. The park is also the largest designated wilderness area in the United States.

Wrangell-St. Elias is home to many large mammals such as grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, caribou and two herds of transplanted bison. Afraid of snakes? Wrangell-St. Elias is the national park for you, since there are no snakes in Alaska.

The park isn't just big and hard to get to; Wrangell-St. Elias is a living laboratory for scientists to study everything from social science to fisheries, climate change to pollution, and glaciers to geology.

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Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.