Books are one of the best ways to learn about national parks. From guide books to biographical tales, there’s plenty of pages to help you learn more about the 63 parks. That’s why I’m sharing this list of 25 must-read national park book recommendations!
In this guide, you’ll find the best guide books, coffee table books, memoirs, and books for kids – all about the national parks! Many of these books make the perfect gift for a national park lover too… (wink, wink!). Without further ado, let’s find the book that will help you find your park.
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Best National Park Guide Book
Guide books are the first place I start when planning a national park trip. You’ll find details on the history of the park, the best things to do, and where to stay and eat. After years of exploring the parks, you could say I’ve come across a guide book or two. Here my 8 favorite national parks guide book recommendations.
Your Guide to the National Parks: The Complete Guide to all 59 National Parks
If you want a guide book that goes beyond the popular things to do, look no further than Your Guide to the National Parks. This guide by Michael Joseph Oswald has helpful tips and a detailed history the parks, more than I’ve found in any other guide book! There’s informative maps, road trip ideas, and thousands of hikes, hotels, and restaurants.
This edition was published in 2017 and includes 59 parks (missing Gateway Arch, Indiana Dunes, White Sands, New River Gorge).
Moon USA National Parks: The Complete Guide to the 62 Parks
Moon is one of the biggest travel guide companies out there, publishing guides on everything from New York City to America’s National Parks. In this guide book, you’ll find overviews of each park, including itineraries, trail maps, road trip ideas, and planning resources. If you’re looking for a popular, informative guide book, this is the one for you.
This guide book was published in 2020 and includes 62 parks (missing New River Gorge).
Lonely Planet USA’s National Parks
Lonely Planet is known for its city guides, but they have an excellent guide on the USA national parks too! For each park, you’ll find tips on the best things to do, sample itineraries, maps, and reviews of restaurants and accommodations. You can even buy this guide as an ebook, perfect to take along on your trip without the extra weight!
This is one of the most up-to-date guidebooks out there, re-published in 2020 to reflect recently closed businesses. This guide book does not include the newest park, New River Gorge.
Fodor’s Travel The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West
If you’re interested in exploring the national parks in the western half of the US, this is the guide book for you! Fodor’s is a huge, reliable international travel brand. Like all Fodor’s guides, you’ll get helpful tips to plan your trip, itinerary suggestions, and maps for each park.
This guide was published in 2019 and includes 33 parks from California to the Rocky Mountains.
100 Parks, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do
For beautiful photographs and plenty of inspiration, this is a go-to for national park lovers. Not only will you find ideas for the national parks, but you’ll find state and city park inspiration too! The experiences in this guide book range from hiking to camping to biking, and more. No matter what you’re interested in, this book will give you plenty of ideas to start exploring our beautiful parks.
This guide book was last updated in 2019.
National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States, 9th Edition
National Geographic is the original outdoor adventure brand. It’s only fitting that they publish some of the most up to date national park guides. You’ll find ranger tips, expert travel advice, and informative maps spread throughout this guide. Plus, National Geographic shared road trip itineraries to see multiple parks on a road trip.
The 9th edition of this guide was published in 2021 and contains 62 parks (missing New River Gorge).
National Geographic Complete National Parks of the United States
Another guide book from Nat Geo, this one focuses on beautiful photography and detailed trip planning. You’ll find maps, history of each park, and tips on the best time to visit and the best things to do. While not as updated as other guides, this one is still comprehensive for America’s most popular parks.
This guide was last updated in 2016.
Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges
Lodges are one of the crown jewels of America’s national parks. This informative guide book specifically covers national park accommodations. In this small book, you’ll find overviews of each park lodge, inn, hotel, and cabin. With this guide in hand, you’ll find the perfect in-park accommodation for your trip, from the Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon!
This guide was last updated in 2017.
Best National Park Book for Your Coffee Table
Want a guide to the national parks filled with jaw-droppingly beautiful photos? Better yet, want a book with beautiful photos AND informative information and maps. These best-selling national park coffee table books do that and more.
Roaming America truly captures the beauty of America’s National Parks. But this book goes beyond just beautiful photos. You’ll also find helpful tips, like when to visit each park and what to do there. This book was inspired by Renee Hahnel’s trip to visit every national park on one long road trip. If you’re looking for a visually appealing coffee table book that will inspire you to visit the parks, check out Roaming America.
This book was published in 2019 and features 59 parks (missing Gateway Arch, Indiana Dunes, White Sands, and New River Gorge).
National Geographic Atlas of The National Parks
National Geographic has more than informative guide books. They’ve also put together a visually stunning national park coffee table book! Atlas of the National Parks was written by a former national park ranger and is filled with full size photos, maps, and tips for visiting the parks.
This atlas was last updated in 2019.
The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
Want a coffee table book that covers the history of the parks? Then you’ll love The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. This book was written to accompany a PBS series on the same topic. You’ll learn about the founding of the parks and the men like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt who led the charge.
This book is a bit dated, last updated in 2009, but given that it focuses on the history of the parks, it’s still relevant today!
USA National Parks: Lands of Wonder
Lands of Wonder perfectly straddles the line between coffee table book and guide book. Inside, you’ll find beautiful, inspirational photography and maps, plus tips for planning a trip to each park. You’ll even find tips on the best time to visit each park.
This book was last updated in 2020 and includes 62 national parks (missing New River Gorge).
Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks
Treasured Lands is an award winning coffee table book filled with professional photos of the parks. Each photo is captured by photographer QT Luong, featured in the PBS documentary for the America’s Best Idea book. These beautiful photos will inspire you to visit each and every national park.
This book was originally released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. In 2019, it was updated to include more parks.
The National Parks: An American Legacy
Storytelling and photography come together in this coffee table book. Beautiful national park photos are paired with essays from scientists and adventurers. Together, they provide an overview of the beauty you’ll find in America’s national parks. Hundreds of photos will inspire you to visit the national parks, monuments, and historical sites.
This coffee table book was last updated in 2017.
Best National Parks Book: Memoirs and Biographies
Want to go beyond just the guide books and truly understand the lives of those impacted by the national parks? There’s no better way to do that than with a memoir. These books dive into the personal stories of park rangers, explorers, and even regular folks like you and me.
Ranger Confidential: Living, Working and Dying in the National Parks
This memoir gives you a behind the scenes look into a life of a national park ranger. Andrea Lankford shares her experiences working in some of the most popular parks. You’ll be treated to a behind the scenes view of life in the parks and read about her encounters with wildlife, visitors, and how she made it through it all.
Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks
Lassoing the Sun tells the story of Mark Wood’s one year adventure to the national parks. What was expected to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip becomes something more. Mark shares his thoughts on family bonds and the legacy of the national parks and ourselves.
The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
Best selling author Terry Tempest Williams shares her thoughts on the national parks in this unique memoir. You’ll read about our impact on the parks and how the parks impact us in return. With descriptive writing and historical insight, she paints a beautiful picture of each park.
The Last Season
This memoir explores the life of park ranger Randy Morgenson and his disappearance in the California mountains. The Last Season perfectly blends together biography with mystery, detective narratives. This is a unique read that is most definitely a page turner.
Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park
The national parks are all fun and games until they aren’t… Death in Yellowstone covers all the dangerous ways to die in Yellowstone National Park. While a bit morbid, it makes for an interesting read to understand the park’s threats. You’ll read about accidents, animal attacks, and falls that have happened over the years in America’s first national park.
The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
Theodore Roosevelt is the founding father of America’s national parks. This in-depth novel dives into the history of Teddy Roosevelt, including his policies and interest in the outdoors. For history buffs, this is a must read on the founding of the national parks.
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia to Zion Journey Through Every National Park
Leave Only Footprints shares the highlights and behind the scenes of the national parks. The story follows the author, Conor Knighton’s, year long journey to visit every national park. He shares more than just the beauty of the parks. You’ll read about his journey along the way, from the funny to the inspiring, and how the national parks can change us.
Best National Park Books For Kids
Looking for a book to get your kids excited about the national park service? These 4 national park books are the perfect intro to the park system for kids of all ages, making your trips that much more exciting!
National Parks of the USA
National Parks of the USA by Kate Siber and Chris Turnham showcases the national parks in beautiful illustrations. Kids will love the fun facts and activities for each park included in the kid-friendly guide. This is the perfect companion to get excited for the trip or bring along to explore in the park!
The National Parks: Discover All 62 National Parks of the United States!
For an overview of all the parks made just for kids, this is the perfect guide! With plenty of full size illustrations and fun facts, kids will learn to love our national parks. It strikes the perfect balance between educational and entertaining. Plus, this book is a great companion to pack for any national park trip!
This book was last updated in 2020 and includes 62 parks (missing New River Gorge).
America’s National Parks by Lonely Planet Kids
Lonely Planet makes fantastic guide books for adults and they weren’t just about to leave the kids out! This book is brought to you by Lonely Planet Kids, a sub-brand from Lonely Planet focused on making kid-friendly travel books. This guide helps kids learn about the parks and get excited to visit.
This version was last updated in 2019 and includes 60 parks (missing Indiana Dunes, White Sands, New River Gorge).
Seek and Find National Parks (2020)
The last book on this list is an exploratory guide through the national parks, just for kids! This guide covers 9 of America’s most popular parks, including Zion, Yellowstone, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the book, you’ll find fun facts and illustrations, plus keys sights to ‘seek and find’ in the parks.
Final Thoughts on the Best National Parks Books
This guide covered the best national park books in 4 categories:
- Best national park guide books
- Best national park coffee table books
- Best memoirs about national parks
- Best national park books for kids
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