The United States is filled with some of the most beautiful places on earth. Many of these wonderful locations are tucked away into the National Park System.
If you’re willing and able, you can discover hidden glacial lakes in Glacier National Park, witness the majesty of the Grand Canyon, cross paths with Grizzly Bears, or relax in some of the most serene environments around.
But first, you have to know where you’re going! That’s why we’ve compiled some of the best books on various national parks for travelers. If you’re heading out but you’re not sure where to, the following books will give you some excellent ideas.
Let’s hit the road.
9. Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton is an excellent guide to two of the most popular national parks in the United States. Yellowstone is well known for its diversity of life, geography, and travel destinations.
Grand Teton National Park is located just south of Yellowstone, falling into the same section of the Rocky Mountain Range. So, if you’re heading to one, you’d might as well go to the other, if even for a day.
This book will give you insights into all of the hikes, sights, roads, and things to watch out for. A travel guide like this one will queue you into the things that you wouldn’t be aware of if you were just driving through.
- Yellowstone is well known for its diversity of life, geography, and travel destinations
- Grand Teton National Park is located just south of Yellowstone
- nsights into all of the hikes, sights, roads, and things to watch out for in both parks
8. National Parks of the USA (Kids)
National Parks of the USA covers the top 21 parks in the United States. Written for kids, this is the perfect text to get your child interested in traveling to parks and exploring the wonders that lie therein.
It’s also a good buy if you’re headed to a national park with your family but one or two of the younger members aren’t as excited as they could be. The book smoothly transitions throughout the parks and highlights the things that children have loved about them for centuries.
Plus, the book discusses the flora and fauna contained in the parks with beautiful illustrations.
7. National Geographic’s Atlas of the National Parks
The Atlas of the National Parks is a must-have for any dedicated travelers out there.
It’s a 432-page book that details each of the 61 national parks in the United States. You’ll get maps, charts, and stories that illuminate the value and dignity that each of the parks holds.
Further, this is a great text to use in order to understand the way that these parks work together as subdivisions of the greater North American ecosystem.
It could serve as a fascinating coffee table book or sit alongside you as you barrel your way down the highway, headed toward your next great park adventure.
6. 100 Great American Parks
This is another one from National Geographic. 100 Great American Parks expands further than the national park system, including many of the country’s wonderful state parks.
Note that National Parks aren’t necessarily bigger or better than state parks. Parks like Custer State Park, for example, are a lot larger and more diverse than National Parks like Mammoth Cave which are relatively small.
This beautifully-illustrated book offers 100 of the best places for you to travel to on your next journey. State parks are also great waypoints to camp and stop on your way to primary destinations.
5. Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks
Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks is a visual journey intact with descriptions, stories, and even photography tips.
For those looking to travel the country and take some priceless photos, this is the book for you. You’ll learn about adapting your style to the various climates and respective seasons depicted in the photographs.
Most importantly, this book highlights the beauty of the National Parks System in a way that’s visually superior to most other books on the market.
- Highlights the beauty of the US National Parks with amazing photographs
- Learn about various climate systems associated with the parks
- Great tips for taking your own photos
4. 100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails
100 Hikes of a Lifetime is another book that stretches beyond the National Park System but includes many U.S. parks inside.
The gems of National Parks are truly the hiking trails they contain. These trails are the best (and often only) ways to see the majestic mountains or to get up close and personal with national landmarks.
Without a trail to hike, you might only get a passing glimpse of these attractions from the roadside. This book contains 100 of the hikes you should try and do over the course of your life. Some of them are harder than others, though, so you should scramble to get the tough ones in now!
- Talks about the US National Parks but also other parks outside the system
- Covers some great hiking trails
- 100 hikes you should try in your lifetime
3. Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors
Subpar Parks is a hilarious collection of some of the worst online reviews for the most wonderful parks in the world.
The contrast of majesty to online negativity is unbelievably funny. That’s what made this book a New York Times best seller. While you travel the country hearing some of the funniest reviews left about the land, the book also gives you some detail on these places, offers travel tips, and more.
It’s a great travel companion or simply something fun to show your friends who have been to some of the parks listed in the book.
- Funny collection of negative reviews for US National Parks
- Great travel companion
- Some great travel trips included as well
2. Best Road Trips In The USA
Road trips are the best way to experience multiple national parks in a single sweep. They’re also excellent because they provide you with the ability to see the landscape gradually change as you approach new and exciting geography.
In many cases, the ‘park’ really begins hundreds of miles before you pay the fee, as the land shifts and adjusts in the direction of the landmark you’re heading to. Road trips also give you the chance to engage with various people and cultures along the way.
Plus, you’ll no doubt stop and do memorable things you’d never do otherwise.
This book is a collection of the best routes and destinations, compiled into 50 respective trips you could possibly take. They’ve collected the time-tested knowledge of travelers and compiled it into this road trip bible.
1. Our National Parks
Our National Parks was written by one of America’s greatest environmentalists, John Muir.
He was one of the pioneers that set forth plans to reserve national lands and protect them for all posterity. He also puts forward his clear and deep insights into the North American wilderness in this book.
The key takeaway you’ll get is that these lands are sacred and majestic, not to be disturbed or harmed by human beings. You’ll also get a sense of the ecological and spiritual importance of these places. Muir’s perspective shows us how fortunate we are to experience them at all!
Don’t be surprised if you take away a new philosophical perspective on nature after reading this book.
Which Book is Right for You?
National parks books typically fall into one of three categories; coffee table books, travel guides, and books by naturalists or philosophers.
Each one has its own merits, and you might be interested in all three types! Coffee table books are excellent reminders that the big world is out there waiting for you, and it’s typically within driving distance. Plus, it’s always enjoyable to see well-shot photographs of the most beautiful places in the world.
Travel guides are extremely useful for those heading to national parks, particularly if you’ve never been to them before. All parks are accessible to absolute beginners, but they’re so vast that it can be a challenge to make the most out of your trip. So, if you’re a newbie, a travel guide of some kind is highly recommended.
Finally, books by naturalists like John Muir are there to deepen your appreciation and understanding of nature. These books are typically laden with scientific knowledge woven together to paint a philosophical picture of nature. Older books like this also tend to be deeply spiritual.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the most-visited national park?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the most-visited park in 2021, followed by Zion and Yellowstone. Its attendance is fueled by its natural beauty, accessibility, and eminence as one of the few mountainous parks on in the eastern United States.
Most of the large parks with unusual geography are concentrated in the western half of the country.
2. What is the coolest national park?
This is up for debate, but many people think that Glacier National Park is the ‘coolest’ in the United States. This could be because it contains a wide diversity of wildlife, extreme geographical beauty, and accessible hikes.
Parks like the Grand Canyon, Badlands, Yellowstone, and Zion are top contenders as well.