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America's first national park, the granddaddy of all the world's national parks, turns 110 this year. By summer's end, its entry gates will record more than 2.5 million visits.Overall, the 333 natural, historical, cultural, and recreational areas of the US National Park System will chalk up some 240 million visits in 1982.

But many of the visitors may feel some hesitation about the condition of the parks. During the past year they may have seen headlines such as: ''Crisis in the National Parks'' (Rocky Mountain Magazine), ''Park Lands Under Siege Across U.S.'' (Los Angeles Times), ''Watt Says National Parks Are In 'Shameful' Shape'' (New York Times).

The conditions heralded by these headlines aren't likely to prevent anyone from having an enjoyable time at the national parks this summer. On the other hand, they point to the need for a close look at what's happening to those parks.

Fourteen years ago, the time of my series for the Monitor, ''Will Success Spoil the National Parks?,'' the overriding problem was the popularity of the parks. Results included overcrowding, crime, pollution, traffic, and harm to natural resources from overuse. Since then, some 82 new park areas have been added, which might have helped to ease the crowding, except that the number of people going to parks has more than doubled. While the Park Service has been striving to cope with these problems, conditions have not greatly improved.

This year's visitors may find that haze from energy plants obscures the view at Grand Canyon on some days, or mars the vistas at a number of other parks in the West and East. A few campgrounds and facilities will open late and close early because of budget cutbacks. And it may be difficult to find a ranger to answer questions or an interpreter to lead nature hikes. Also, some trails may be closed because the Youth Conservation Corps and Young Adult Conservation Corps, whose members did much of the maintenance, have been eliminated. But, generally, visitors will discover that the parks are in good enough shape to meet most of their needs.

The most urgent problem confronting the parks


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