America's national parks have a storied history that rivals their stunning beauty. The formations in these lands range from windswept caves and river-forged valleys, to savage coastlines and some of the world's highest peaks. There are glaciers and deserts, and a myriad of flora and fauna that thrive amidst these wild expanses of Earth.

Stacker compiled a list of 50 vintage photographs that show the magic of these areas and the wonders which greeted early American explorers. Stretching from sea to shining sea, America's national parks have been protected through a series of laws, which ensure they will be available for all future generations to enjoy. Though easily accessible in the modern age of fast-paced transport, many of these wild lands were only accessible by foot when early explorers discovered their natural wonders.

Beginning with the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864, the Yosemite Valley and surrounding lands became the first federally protected area. Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872, although the National Park Service was not officially created to manage and care for this slowly growing series of vast land tracts until 1916.

Due to the work done by early conservationists, the need to protect these natural areas was emphasized as a priority throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. Legendary naturalists and explorers, such as John Muir and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were influential in keeping the resources contained within these parks from being consumed by the growth of America's industrial age.

LOOK: Stunning vintage photos capture the beauty of America's national parks

Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.

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