The National Parks offer a vast landscape to explore from densely forested mountains to endless deserts. With 62 National Parks in the U.S. find a new park to explore in the coming year. And if you’re in-between trips, read. For those looking for a gift other than socks and underwear, consider a book. Find a book for the history buff, the weekend adventurer and even the kids. Here’s a list of the best books about the National Parks.
Best National Park Books
As an avid reader, books set in the National Parks and about the national parks are always on my bedside table. I read to learn National Park Service history and more information for my next National Park trip. Though I like to read for fun as well. And if you don’t have time to read, then many of the following books are available as audio books as well. It’s a great way to enjoy books while doing mundane tasks.
Dories, Ho! by Matt and Karen Smith
For fans of Matt and Karen Smith, they’re out in the national parks again. This time the duo take a multi-day white water rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. They tell their story like you were sitting next to them on the raft and afterwards at the nightly camp fire.
Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith
A pair of young retirees, Karen and Matt Smith, take off and hit the road to see all the national parks. In a series of emails to Bob and Sue, the friends they left back home, get a park-by-park account.
A must for anyone gearing up to explore the U.S. with their spouse in tow. Get truthful accounts of the popular tours and trails. And find tips for sneaking beer into lodges along with the best pizza joints near the parks in this humorous read.
And the near plane crash in Alaska explains why I’m leery of small planes.
Grab a walking stick and set out to walk from Georgia to Maine with your favorite bearded travel writer, Bill Bryson. A pair of middle-aged dad bods are pushed to the limits and packed down with junk food as they try to ford streams in the middle of the wilderness along the AT, or Appalachian Trail. Equal parts funny and informative and possibly Bryson’s best book.
This is a Book for People Who Love the National Parks by Matt Garczyski
I loved the portable size of this handbook. It features a short introduction into the National Park Service. Then read two page summeries of the more popular parks across the U.S. The illustrations are charming as well.
After reading, I really wanted to see the last of my remaining parks, like Voyageurs National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park.
Get a detailed account of how to die in Yellowstone National Park. Should be required reading for volunteers and contract workers spending their first summer in the park. Through the seasons and over the years, learn about how the weather, the animals and the skirmishes can be deadly. Not suitable for sensitive readers or young kids.
Let the photographers at National Geographic show you the most beautiful spots. Great for the traveler or the photography lover on your list.
Books for the Traveler and Adventurer
Be ready for adventure and pack a map. Since WiFi and data coverage are sketchy in the remote backcountry, maps are a necessity, along with a water bottle.
Forget about socks and underwear for the young adventures. They need maps. I’ve used this atlas on the road and when planning trips for years.
I’ve used Moon Guides for years and appreciate the common sense tips along with up-to-date information. Here’s an updated guide covering all 62 National Parks. Find it packed with information for your next National Park getaway.
Along with individual write-ups for the parks, find lots of general parks facts and tips in the front. And the photos are inspiring.
I have a shelf full of Lonely Planet guides. This guides provides an overview of the parks. Buy the individual guides for detailed information for specific parks.
Books for the National Parks History Buff
Need a gift for the history buff. Here’s several books to learn more about the National Park Service.
An easy-to-read book packed with interesting facts and stories from the first 100 years of the NPS. Learn the history, the politics and the characters surrounding the legendary U.S. parks.
Relive the early days of conservation in the U.S. as told by Borroughs. He accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir during a pivotal camping trip in the Sierra Mountains. A small book that makes a good stocking stuffer.
For serious student of the national parks, Brinkley offers over 800 pages of history into the complex president who shaped the National Parks. It’s an engaging and thoughtful analysis from a historian.
Learn about 20th century pioneers that paved the way for the Great American Road Trip. In Ford’s cars see how Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs traveled in the 1920s.
The Wisdom of John Muir: 100+ Selections from the Letters, Journals, and Essays of the Great Naturalist
Get the best of John Muir’s lyrical writings in this collection. Pulled from his books, articles and even personal letters, Rowthorn offers insight into the thoughts of Muir.
Where to Stay if You Don’t Camp
This book is the gold standard though more a reference book than a guidebook for your trip. PBS made a series exploring the architecture of the NPS too. It’s a must for architecture fans too.
Offering a packable size, this guide covers all the national park lodges in the National Park Service. This book is more of a travel guide provides information for trips.
National Park Books for Kids
Since I have three kids, I’m always picking up books on our adventures. I especially like children’s books with rich and detailed illustrations.
Can’t tell you what I love better–mazes or the national parks. If you are or know a maze kid, here’s the book. Learn about the uniqueness of the U.S. and Canadian national parks, from Branff to Crater Lake to the U.S. Virgin Islands to Yellowstone. Work the maze and get to know the park. This book even includes a glossary.
A charming series of five books divided by region, like Western region and the Rocky Mountain Region. Kids learn about individual parks, like the geological features and the animals of the park.
Then kids can fill out a page to document their visit, including space for park cancellation stamps. Makes for an excellent companion for national park road trips.
Here’s your book to cover all 62 National Parks for kids. Packed with information in kid-sized bites.
In a guide with charming illustrations, kids can explore the big book of national parks. Starts with nifty things to know about visiting National Parks, then learn about the parks in ABC order. So this is a great reference guide for kids. Or get them excited about a national parks road trip.
A great read-aloud book to learn more about conservation and the Father of the National Parks.
Kids engage with the historical characters so learn about the legendary duo that trekked from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. There are several national park sites dedicated to Lewis and Clark sprinkled across the U.S.
Journey Around Our National Parks by Martha Day Zschock
Take a virtual trip through the national parks, or get excited for an upcoming trip. Offers charming illustrations for kids.
Don’t underestimate the power of poop. Kids dig it. Find a book from your favorite national park and they’re a hit with kids in the lower grades.
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