The 9 Best Books About National Parks for Travelers

Written by Maxwell Martinson
Updated: April 8, 2023
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Key Points

  • Some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet are part of the U.S. National Park System.
  • Books about the U.S. National Park System fall into three categories: coffee table books, travel guides, and books by naturalists or philosophers.

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!

  1. Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide)
    • 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
    Check Amazon
  2. National Parks of the USA (Kids)
    • Perfect text to get your child interested in traveling to parks
    • Good buy if you’re headed to a national park with your family
    • Beautiful illustrations
    Check Amazon
  3. National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks
    • Great way to understand the entire US National Park ecosystem
    • Could be a great coffee table book
    • 432-page book that details each of the 61 national parks in the United States
    Check Amazon
  4. 100 Great American Parks
    • Great way to learn about parks outside the US National Park system, including state parks
    • State parks are great intermediate points on your way to the next national park
    • Beautifully illustrated
    Check Amazon
  5. Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks, Third Expanded Edition
    • 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
    Check Amazon
  6. 100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails
    • 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
    Check Amazon
  7. Subpar Parks: America's Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors
    • 224 pages.
    • Funny collection of negative reviews for US National Parks
    • Great travel companion
    • Some great travel trips included as well
    Check Amazon
  8. Best Road Trips In The USA
    • Collection of the best routes and destinations
    • Time-tested knowledge
    • Great photos
    Check Amazon
  9. Our National Parks
    • Written by one of America’s greatest environmentalists
    • Beautiful, philosophical prose on the meaning of nature
    • A classic work of the environmental movement
    Check Amazon

1. Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide) by Bradley Mayhew (Author), Carolyn McCarthy (Author), Christopher Pitts (Author), Benedict Walker (Contributor)

Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide) by Bradley Mayhew (author), Carolyn McCarthy (author), Christopher Pitts (author), Benedict Walker (contributor) 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, which is available in paperback and Kindle formats, 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. You’ll find reviews for all budgets, contextual insights to make your trip even more rewarding, and over 45 full-color trail and park maps and full-color images.

A couple of reviewers said that some parts of the book are outdated. A few said that they could find travel information more quickly online.

Pros and Cons of Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide) by Bradley Mayhew (Author), Carolyn McCarthy (Author), Christopher Pitts (Author), Benedict Walker (Contributor)

ProsCons
This travel guide covers two of the most popular national parks in the U.S., which are located in the same section of the Rocky Mountains: Yellowstone and Grand Teton.A couple of reviewers said that some parts of the book are outdated.
It’s available in paperback and Kindle formats.A few said that they could find travel information more quickly online.
This book will queue you into all the hikes, sights, roads, and things to do and see.
You’ll find reviews for all budgets, contextual insights to make your trip even more rewarding, and over 45 full-color trail and park maps and full-color images.
Lonely Planet Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (Travel Guide)
  • 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
Check Amazon

2. National Parks of the U.S.A. (Kids) by Kate Siber (Author), Chris Turnham (Illustrator)

National Parks of the U.S.A. (Kids) by Kate Siber (author), Chris Turnham (illustrator) 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, this hardcover book discusses the flora and fauna contained in the parks with beautiful illustrations.

Several reviewers were disappointed that the book didn’t include every national park in the U.S.

Pros and Cons of National Parks of the U.S.A. (Kids) by Kate Siber (Author), Chris Turnham (Illustrator)

ProsCons
This guidebook covers the top 21 national parks in the U.S.Several reviewers were disappointed that the book didn’t include every national park in the U.S.
This guidebook covers the top 21 national parks in the U.S.
The book highlights the things that kids love about each park.
This hardcover book is beautifully illustrated to point out the flora and fauna in the parks.
National Parks of the USA (Kids)
  • Perfect text to get your child interested in traveling to parks
  • Good buy if you’re headed to a national park with your family
  • Beautiful illustrations
Check Amazon

3. National Geographic’s Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman

National Geographic’s Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman is a must-have for all dedicated travelers. This 432-page book, which is available in hardcover and paperback, details each of the 61 national parks in the United States. You’ll get maps, charts, and stories that illuminate the value and dignity of each park.

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 cruise down the highway, headed toward your next great park adventure.

Reviews for this book were overwhelmingly positive, though, as with most publications, there were some complaints. One said that the writing was “strangely gloomy.” Another said that the purchase was a “total waste,” with “cut and paste descriptions from their travel guides and maps you could download from the internet.”

Pros and Cons of National Geographic’s Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman

ProsCons
This 432-page book details each of the 61 national parks in the U.S.One reviewer said that the writing was “strangely gloomy.”
It’s available in hardcover and paperback and includes maps, charts, and stories that highlight the value and dignity of each park.Another said that the book was filled with “cut and paste descriptions from their travel guides and maps you could download from the internet.”
You can use the text to understand how these parks serve as subdivisions of the greater North American ecosystem.
National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks
  • Great way to understand the entire US National Park ecosystem
  • Could be a great coffee table book
  • 432-page book that details each of the 61 national parks in the United States
Check Amazon

4. 100 Great American Parks by Stephanie Pearson

100 Great American Parks by Stephanie Pearson, which is another National Geographic title, expands further than the national park system, including many of the country’s wonderful state parks, and even some city parks, and green spaces.

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.

You could go to Custer and cross paths with wild buffalo, incredible rock structures, and breathtaking hikes. The same is true for many of the other state parks around the country.

This beautifully-illustrated hardcover 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.

One reviewer said that the book was incomplete: “I can understand including city parks like Grant Park in Chicago and Central Park in NYC, but to leave out Mount Rushmore National Memorial. That just doesn’t make sense, yet still it’s a beautiful book.”

Pros and Cons of 100 Great American Parks by Stephanie Pearson

ProsCons
This National Geographic title includes 100 parks from the national, state, and city park systems, and even some “green spaces.”One reviewer said that the book was incomplete: “I can understand including city parks like Grant Park in Chicago and Central Park in NYC, but to leave out Mount Rushmore National Memorial. That just doesn’t make sense, yet still it’s a beautiful book.”
This hardcover book is beautifully illustrated.
100 Great American Parks
  • Great way to learn about parks outside the US National Park system, including state parks
  • State parks are great intermediate points on your way to the next national park
  • Beautifully illustrated
Check Amazon

5. Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by QT Luong (Photographer), Dayton Duncan (Foreword)

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by QT Luong (photographer) and Dayton Duncan (foreword) 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. This hardcover book covers all 63 U.S. national parks and is the winner of 12 national and international awards.

While a couple of reviewers reported issues with the condition of their books, we were only able to find one that was critical of the content itself. It read, “like a tourist guidebook. QT always makes the point of the number of treasures he’s landed. for those most interested in photography, even of landscape, learn to make your own.” (If you’re unclear as to what the issue is, you’re not alone.)

Pros and Cons of Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by QT Luong (Photographer) and Dayton Duncan (Foreword)

ProsCons
This photography book includes descriptions, stories, and photography tips.A couple of reviewers reported issues with the condition of their books.
It’s ideal for photographers of all skill levels who want to travel the U.S. taking memorable photos.A sole reviewer had a negative criticism of the content: “like a tourist guidebook. QT always makes the point of the number of treasures he’s landed. for those most interested in photography, even of landscape, learn to make your own.”
Luong explains how to adapt your photography style to different climates and seasons.
This hardcover book includes all 63 U.S. national parks and is the winner of 12 national and international awards.
Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks, Third Expanded Edition
  • 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
Check Amazon

6. 100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails by Kate Siber

100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails by Kate Siber is another book that stretches beyond the National Park System by including many other U.S. parks.

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!

Several reviewers reported that this book doesn’t include the hiking routes (maps). Others said that this book was written for individuals with the resources to travel from one location to the next in order to hike.

Pros and Cons of 100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails by Kate Siber

ProsCons
This book includes hikes in the National Park System as well as other U.S. parks.Several reviewers reported that this book doesn’t include the hiking routes (maps).
It includes 100 hikes that you should try (and complete) throughout your life.Others said that this book was written for individuals with the resources to travel from one location to the next in order to hike.
100 Hikes of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Scenic Trails
  • 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
Check Amazon

7. Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors by Amber Share

Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors by Amber Share 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 bestseller. 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.

One reviewer said that the whole book, including the illustrations, seemed like a rough draft. Several other reviewers said that they were underwhelmed and thought that the book was “silly.”

Pros and Cons of Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors by Amber Share

ProsCons
This is a humorous collection of the worst online reviews for the best parks in the world.One reviewer said that the whole book, including the illustrations, seemed like a rough draft.
This New York Times bestseller offers details and travel trips while quoting online negativity about these spectacular locations.Several other reviewers said that they were underwhelmed and thought that the book was “silly.”
Subpar Parks: America's Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors
  • 224 pages.
  • Funny collection of negative reviews for US National Parks
  • Great travel companion
  • Some great travel trips included as well
Check Amazon

8. Fodor’s Best Road Trips in the USA: 50 Epic Trips Across All 50 States (Full-color Travel Guide) by Fodor’s Travel Guides

Road trips are the best way to experience multiple national parks in a single sweep, and Fodor’s Best Road Trips in the USA: 50 Epic Trips Across All 50 States (Full-color Travel Guide) is the guide you’ll want to take along. Road trips are 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, which is available in paperback and Kindle versions, 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.

Some reviewers said that this book included more info about restaurants and hotels than what to see while on a road trip.

Pros and Cons of Fodor’s Best Road Trips in the USA: 50 Epic Trips Across All 50 States (Full-color Travel Guide) by Fodor’s Travel Guides

ProsCons
This travel guide includes 50 road trips across all 50 states.Some reviewers said that this book included more info about restaurants and hotels than what to see while on a road trip.
It’s available in paperback and Kindle versions.
It features a collection of the best routes and destinations compiled into 50 trips.
Best Road Trips In The USA
  • Collection of the best routes and destinations
  • Time-tested knowledge
  • Great photos
Check Amazon

9. Our National Parks by John Muir

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.

A couple of reviewers said that the book was “kind of dry.”

Pros and Cons of Our National Parks by John Muir

ProsCons
This book was written by John Muir, one of America’s first — and greatest —environmentalists.A couple of reviewers said that the book was “kind of dry.”
It’s filled with his clear and deep insights about the North American wilderness.
In essence, Muir’s writing conveys that this land is sacred and majestic and should not be disturbed or destroyed by humans.
Our National Parks
  • Written by one of America’s greatest environmentalists
  • Beautiful, philosophical prose on the meaning of nature
  • A classic work of the environmental movement
Check Amazon

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.

About the Author

Hi! I'm Max and I'm a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I've been freelancing for more than five years and love the freedom and variety that this profession offers. Animals are also a big part of my life, and a lot of my time is dedicated to playing with my cat, Herbie.

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