Difference between a National Park and a National Monument

By: | Updated: Feb-14, 2018

On a trip across the country, you will find a lot of national parks and national monuments you might want to visit along the way. But do you know which is which and what is the difference between them? Here are a few things you can start off with.

Summary Table

National ParkNational Monument
Is a natural areaCan be any location owned by the Federal Government
Is a protected area with the purpose of preserving species of flora and faunaHas special historical importance
Established by an Act of CongressEstablished by a Presidential Proclamation
Is visited to get in touch with natureIs visited to commemorate a special event


national park

A national park is a natural area in the countryside protected by the state and open to public access. The purpose of designating a national park is to preserve the area for future generations and to protect several species of flora and fauna. These areas are protected by the state and visiting is done according to strict rules.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore, a national monument

A national monument is created on land belonging to the Federal Government. These monuments have a historical significance. They are man-made and they can be visited by people.

National Park vs National Monument

Here is what you need to know about the difference between a national park and a national monument.

Who establishes them

A national park is established by an Act of Congress. On the other hand, a national monument can be established by a Presidential Proclamation. Therefore, it is more difficult and a more complex process to establish a national park.


A national park is a protected natural reservation. Specific species of animals and plants get protection in a national park, so declaring a land a national park is the best way to keep them out of the reach of poachers. On the other hand, a national monument is an object of cultural or historical interest. It is either a memorial built especially to mark a moment, like the Statue of Liberty, or it is named, like the theater where President Abraham Lincoln got shot.

Reason to visit

We go to a national park to get in contact with nature and maybe to sneak a peak at some of those precious species, if possible. When we visit a national monument, we do it to commemorate the moment it is supposed to remind us of.

Did this article help you?
Thank you!
Thank you!
What was wrong?