If you are looking for the best national park books, I’ve found 52 that you need to know about! Along with my favorites, you’ll also discover books on every facet of our national parks.
Of course you’ll find the usual guides and coffee table books but there is so much more when it comes to books about our national parks. Get ready to learn about cookbooks, art books, history, fiction, books by national park rangers, kids books, and so much more. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
National Park Guides
There’s nothing like sitting down with a comprehensive guide book to plan a national park trip. Before I know it, I’m immersed in the photographs, ideas for what to see and do, advice on where to stay plus insider tips that truly make the trip a memorable one.
100 Parks 5000 Ideas
I’ve recommended 100 Parks 5000 Ideas (Amazon bestseller) to national park lovers for years. Author Joe Yogerst has included plenty of inspiring photographs and information for planning your next national park trip in the U.S. or Canada.
This book goes beyond U.S. National Parks by including outstanding state parks and city parks.
National Parks Bucket List
Written in collaboration between a retired National Parks employee and his 19 year-old grandson, National Parks Bucket List (Amazon bestseller) is a complete travel guide and journal to 63 U.S. national parks. The book (recommended by the National Park Service) includes a pre-trip checklist, national park tracking log, a journal section for each national park, and much more. There are also pages for National Park passport stamps plus personal sketches and photos.
Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas
When Alan and I explore a national park, we always bring the Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas for the state where the park is located. This way, we learn about the national forests, public lands and state parks located close by.
Benchmark publishes atlases for most of the Western states as well as the Southern Appalachians. Benchmark makes great maps, too!
Your Guide to the National Parks
In Your Guide to the National Parks (Amazon bestseller), Michael Joseph Oswald offers comprehensive information on all 63 national parks. His guide includes detailed maps, hiking information and other popular activities, a history of each national park and those small details that make your trip a success. You’ll even find suggested road trip itineraries.
Moon USA National Parks
Moon guide books have been around for a long time. USA National Parks (Amazon bestseller) includes overviews of 62 parks (it’s missing information on New River Gorge National Park). The popular guide includes planning resources, itineraries, trail maps, and road trip ideas for each park.
USA’s National Parks
If you’re a Lonely Planet fan, you might think the famous guidebook publisher only covers exotic destinations. Not so. The company has an excellent national parks travel guidebook, USA’s National Parks.
The information has been updated to eliminate businesses that are no longer open after the 2020 pandemic. You’ll also find essential information like park hours and website links as well as insider tips to enhance your national park trip.
Note: New River National Gorge National Park is not included.
The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA
I’ve always been a fan of Fodor’s guidebooks because the company hires local experts to research and write them. And The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA is no exception to this practice.
Published in 2021, this guide includes up-to-date coverage on all 63 national parks. You’ll discover the top things to do based upon local recommendations along with historical and cultural insights.
Of course there are the usual trip planning tools and practical tips. I especially appreciate the multiple itineraries for organizing my trip to maximize my time in the parks.
National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States
As you would expect, National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of the United States includes 300 gorgeous photographs and 80 maps. Updated in 2021, the 9th edition includes Indiana Dunes, White Sands and Gateway Arch national parks. Along with plenty of practical information, you’ll also find itineraries for week-long regional road trips that visit multiple national parks.
Books about National Park lodging
Did you know that there’s a special name for those gorgeous, rustic lodges you find in national parks? It’s called Parkitecture, a special mix of rustic building elements that give a nod to nature.
Don’t wait until you arrive to learn about these historic national park lodges. Read a book, first!
National Park Lodges
Written in 2017, National Park Lodges, by authors David L. Scott and Kay W. Scott, covers every lodge in in the National Park System, including national monuments. Actually, the book includes all the accommodations in the parks from luxury inns to rustic cabins. While the authors write about lodging rates and facility information, I recommend double checking with each park as prices and facilities have probably changed since 2017.
Barrier-Free Travel National Park Lodges: for Wheelers and Slow Walkers
As boomers age, some of us will experience disabilities that affect our walking capabilities. But that doesn’t mean national park travel has to end. In Barrier-Free Travel National Park Lodges, Candy Harrington offers detailed information on the accessibility at 52 national park lodges on the US mainland. You’ll even learn the bed heights.
This book is a valuable resource to seniors or boomers with mobility issues. Parents traveling with strollers for children will also benefit from this book as it covers accessible activities as well.
Great Lodges of the National Parks
Great Lodges of the National Parks, by Christine Barnes, is a beautiful gift book that accompanies the 2002 PBS television series of the same name. The book includes 175 full-color photographs that illustrate the history, wildlife and natural settings of national park lodges like Glacier Park Lodge or El Tovar in the Grand Canyon.
A portion of the book’s proceeds is donated toward the continued rehabilitation of these historic buildings.
Great Lodges of the National Parks, Volume 2
One volume of Great Lodges of the National Parks was not enough. There needed to be another one! Volume 2 of Christine Barne’s series continues to tell the fascinating stories of national park lodging.
Travel vicariously to Grand Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park or Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Park, plus many more park destinations. Once again, you’ll enjoy the history that’s illustrated with beautiful photography.
National Park Cookbooks
Relive travel memories through cooking? Yes, you can. Discover national park cookbooks from the chefs who work there. But these books include so much more.
Western National Parks’ Lodge’s Cookbook
Published in 2007, Kathleen Bryant’s Western National Parks’ Lodge’s Cookbook highlights signature recipes shared by the chefs who cook them. The book also includes the histories of fifteen lodges in ten western national parks. What a fun way to remember the delicious lasagna you enjoyed at Crater Lake Lodge.
The Yellowstone National Park Cookbook
In the Yellowstone National Park Cookbook, park personalities share favorite recipes along with stories of their time in America’s first national park. From park employees to tour guides, botanists, and chefs, enjoy 125 wonderful recipes that recall the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.
Dining at Great American Lodges
This cookbook comes with its own soundtrack! Dining at Great American Lodges entices readers with gorgeous food photography, photos of each lodge, and of course, recipes! The CD from Big Sky Ensemble adds the perfect touch when serving up these delicious meals at home.
The National Parks Cookbook
Pre-order for November 22, 2022! Lynda Ly’s The National Parks Cookbook, features signature dishes from top national park restaurants. You’ll enjoy the beautiful photography, as well.
The author spreads the love around by covering regional favorites from throughout the country. If you’ve lusted for the Salmon Tostada with fire-roasted corn and greens from El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon, here’s your chance to learn how to prepare it at home.
Beauty and Bounty: A Celebration of Olympic National Park and Olympic Coast Cuisine
Beauty and Bounty combines delicious Olympic Coast cuisine with lovely paintings of the Olympic Peninsula. Featuring regional farm products combined with the bounty of the sea, this is the perfect cookbook for fans of Olympic National Park in Washington State.
National Park hiking books
Putting your feet on the ground is the best way I know of to experience a national park. But it helps to know what to expect, especially if you have a fear of heights (like me).
Knowing what to expect is crucial to a fun hiking experience. Thankfully, there are many books and maps to help us out.
Walks of a Lifetime in America’s National Parks: Extraordinary Hikes in Exceptional Places
In Walks of a Lifetime in America’s National Parks, Bob and Martha Manning write about the best trails in the parks. Discover scenic vistas, waterfalls and the best trails for wildlife viewing. Hiking Ambassadors for the American Hiking Society, the Manning’s are experienced walkers and hikers. The book includes hundreds of photographs as well as practical tips for making the most of your national park hike.
Hiking Yosemite National Park: A Guide to 62 of the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures
Alan and I are big fans of Falcon Guides hiking books. You’ll find one for almost every national park.
I’ve included Hiking Yosemite National Park is an example of the details you’ll find in Falcon Guides. Recently updated and revised, the book includes 62 hikes in Yosemite, including difficulty ratings, trailhead directions and what to expect on each trail.
Day Hikes of Glacier National Park Map Guide
Day Hikes of Glacier National Park Map Guide, by Jake Bramante, is THE book for hiking the Crown of the Continent. Actually it’s more of a map with thick, waterproof pages, making it convenient to bring on the trail.
The author includes a list of his favorite Glacier National Park hikes. Plus trails are numbered and easy to find on the map. This is a must if you’re hiking in Glacier!
50 Best Short Hikes in Utah’s National Parks
Author Greg Witt shows you how to make the most of your time in 50 Best Short Hikes in Utah’s National Parks. You’ll appreciate the 1 to 8-mile hikes covering Utah’s 5 national parks: Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Arches, Bryce, and Zion.
Hikes include GPS coordinates, detailed maps plus the author’s recommendations for top hikes divided by categories. He also includes information on geology, animals, and plants.
National Park coffee table books
Sometimes, I want to sit down with a coffee table book filled with visual inspiration and information. These best-selling national park coffee table books will do just that. And there are so many to choose from. Get ready to be inspired!
The National Parks, America’s Best Idea
The National Parks, America’s Best Idea is an Amazon Bestseller. After flipping through the pages, you’ll understand why. The book is a beautiful accompaniment to the PBS series of the same name that documents the history of the parks.
With a publication date of 2009, you might think this book is a bit outdated. However the emphasis is on history and men like Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir who inspired the preservation of these lands so it still deserves a spot on your coffee table.
National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks
Another Amazon Bestseller, National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks is a visually stunning coffee table book. Written by Jon Waterman, a former national park ranger (and updated in 2019), the book includes his tips for visiting the national parks as well as maps, and of course, those gorgeous photos.
Our National Monuments, America’s Hidden Gems
Part of the National Park system, U.S. National Monuments offer an under-the-radar trip to beautiful lands that rival more popular national parks. Photographer, QT Luong, has documented their beauty in Our National Monuments, America’s Hidden Gems.
The author hiked and camped in 22 land-based national monuments. The result? Three hundred photos with text that highlights each national monument. If you enjoy off-the-beaten-path, less crowded nature experiences, this book belongs on your coffee table.
Here’s another award-winning coffee table book by QT Luong. Originally released to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, Treasured Lands was recently updated in May 24, 2022.
Enjoy flipping through the gorgeous pages of this national park coffee table book. You’ll be planning a trip before you know it!
The National Parks of the United States, A Photographic Journey
The National Parks of the United States, written by Andrew Thomas, features 59 national parks and also three de-listed ones in Michigan, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. You’ll find park details such as the nearest city, GPS coordinates, and more.
The map overview of all the parks is especially good as well as the wildlife section. Published in 2016, the book is missing 2 parks that have recently been added to the NPS.
National Parks history
While most of us visit national parks for the fabulous outdoor experiences, history plays a part, too. Reading about the epic journeys that influenced leaders of the day to preserve these lands puts a fresh perspective on how U.S. national parks came to be. Like all history, there’s the good and the bad, but it’s all worth reading about.
A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell
When John Wesley Powell led a 1869 expedition down the Colorado River, his exploits introduced the Grand Canyon to the nation and the world. Donald Worster, author of A River Running West, documents the life of Powell: scientist, explorer, writer and conservationist. This is a grand adventure worth reading about.
The Power of Scenery: Frederick Olmsted and the Origin of National Parks
Did you know that Yosemite Valley was state owned before it became a national park? Famous landscape architect, Fred Olmstead, played a big part in determining the management of this wilderness park.
The Power of Scenery, by Dennis Drabelle, explores Olmstead’s influence (as well as others) on the establishment of the national park system. The goal was to avoid the carnival-like atmosphere that had become Niagara Falls. Enjoy this fascinating account on how the national park movement came to be.
Creating the National Park Service: The Missing Years
Written by the second Director of the National Park Service, Horace M. Albright, Creating the National Park Service chronicles a history that you might not know about. Albright directed that the book not be published until after his death.
When Stephen T. Mather, first National Park Service Director, had a nervous breakdown, Albright took over while protecting Mather’s reputation and continuing to carry out his vision for park management. The story also includes corporate intrigue and is told from the first-hand observations of one who lived it.
The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
An Amazon Editor’s pick, The Wilderness Warrior examines the life of Theodore Roosevelt in relation to the conservation of America’s lands. Author Douglas Brinkley shares Roosevelt’s crusade to preserve more than 230 million acres of wild America, creating the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, passing the Antiquities Act of 1906, and saving Devils Tower, The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest.
Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
Another Amazon Editor’s pick, Rightful Heritage, by Douglas Brinkley, reveals Franklin D. Roosevelt’s role as founder of the Civilian Conservation Corps and as a protector of America’s lands. “Pristine landscapes such as the Great Smokies, the Everglades, Joshua Tree, the Olympics, Big Bend, Channel Islands, Mammoth Cave, and the slickrock wilderness of Utah were forever saved by his leadership.” We may know Roosevelt as a war president but his accomplishments in preserving America’s landscape deserve attention, too.
National Parks books for kids
National parks books make great gifts for the grandkids. From activity books to campground survival books, you’re sure to find just the right one.
Scratch and Sketch National Parks & Landmarks
Martha Day Zschock has created a Scratch and Sketch book that allows young artists to learn while doing. As they scratch away the white outlines, the wonders of California’s mighty redwoods and the presidential figures of Mount Rushmore are revealed.
The book includes 20 pages with text and illustrations. Plus you’ll find 20 extra pages for young artists to create their own national park magic. Recommended for ages 5 and up.
The National Parks: Discover all 62 National Parks of the United States!
Updated in 2020, The National Parks: Discover all 62 National Parks of the United States, is an overall national park guide that kids will enjoy. Entertaining and educational, your grands will appreciate the eye-catching photographs and easy-to-read text. Beware, they’re going to quiz you with all that new-found national park knowledge so you’ll need to read the book, too!
America’s National Parks 1 (Lonely Planet Kids)
An Amazon Editor’s pick, this Lonely Planet for kids book helps your kiddo learn about 60 national parks. Reading it with them is a great way to help them get excited for a visit.
Updated in 2019 (New River Gorge, Indiana Dunes and White Sands are missing from this book), your favorite traveling child will enjoy the facts, photos and illustrations throughout the book. They’ll meet the wildlife, discover beautiful landscapes, and learn about geographical features with fun, relatable facts.
Smoky Mountain Survival (The Campground Kids: National Park Adventures)
Part of The Campground Kids series, Smoky Mountain Survival is an action-packed account of kids enjoying Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In this lively Amazon bestseller, children learn about camping and bears while having an epic adventure in Great Smoky Mountains. They will also be highly entertained by the story.
National Parks of the USA
Are you looking for a kid’s national park book with beautiful illustrations and fun facts? National Parks of the USA by Kate Siber and Chris Turnham is a kid-friendly guide for your next national park trip.
While this book only includes 21 national parks (by region), your child will enjoy the gorgeous illustrations complemented by write-ups of the animals and plants that make the park their home.
Books by National Park Rangers
When it comes to information, I like going to the source. Do you?
National park rangers have a ringside seat when it comes to visiting and enjoying national parks. Lucky for us, several rangers have written about their experiences. Which book will you choose?
Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, And Dying In The National Parks
In Ranger Confidential, Andrea Lankford writes about her experiences working in some of the most popular parks in the NPS.
Enjoy Andrea’s insight into: Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smokies, and Denali. You’ll read behind-the-scene stories of drama, determination, and redemption in this funny (but graphic) memoir.
Tales from the Parks
Former National Park Ranger, Russell Cahill, shares his personal stories and experiences for a fun read in Tales From the Parks. You’ll enjoy his stories of ushering bears out of hotel lobbies, dealing with terrified climbers at Yosemite, and much more. If you’re looking for a first-hand account of working in the parks that’s also enjoyable, this is it.
Underground Ranger: Adventures in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Other Remarkable Places
Are you fascinated by caves? Doug Thompson was a park ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, which introduced him to the fascinating world of spelunking. In Underground Ranger, he shares his adventures exploring Carlsbad and many other caves in the region. In the process, he overcame a fear of heights and tight spaces. Talk about a challenging job!
Since I’m not a cave explorer, I’ll live vicariously through Doug Thompson’s book!
Bear in the Back Seat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Bear in the Back Seat, by Kim DeLozier and Carolyn Jourdan, documents DeLozier’s experiences as a wildlife ranger. In fact, he was the chief wildlife ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His 30 years of service includes many black bear encounters, including sedated ones and those who woke up mid-flight in the back of a helicopter.
You’ll enjoy this funny memoir that details the heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of life as a National Park ranger.
The Last Season
In The Last Season, author Eric Blehm writes about the amazing life of National Park ranger, Randy Morgenson. The backcounty ranger disappeared in California’s Sierra Nevada under mysterious conditions. Part biography, part mystery, the gripping story of The Last Season is sure to entertain and inform you.
National Parks fiction books
Sometimes I want to forego the guide books and informational sources to sit down with a good read. And what better setting for a fictional book than one of the sixty-two national parks spread across the U.S. From mysteries to adventure, here’s a sampling of fiction books set in national parks that are sure to keep you entertained.
Boar Island: An Anna Pigeon Novel
New York Times bestselling author, Nevada Barr, writes a series of books based upon fictional national park ranger, Anna Pigeon. In Boar Island, Pigeon travels to Acadia National Park to begin her job as Acting Chief Ranger in the company of a friend and her daughter who is experiencing cyber-bullying and stalking.
In addition to dealing with a cyber crime, Pigeon must solve a brutal murder that happens soon after her arrival in Acadia. Enjoy this compelling crime story.
The Wild Inside: A Novel of Suspense
The Wild Inside is book one of Christine Carbo’s Glacier mystery book series. The Whitefish, Montana resident writes an intriguing story of a Glacier National Park father-son camping gone wrong. Ted Stystead watches his father being dragged to his death by a bear.
Twenty years later, Ted, now a Special Agent for the Department of the Interior, returns to Glacier to investigate a similar death in the park. Only this time, the victim was tied to a tree before the bear attack. Mystery fans will enjoy this gripping novel.
Down by the River
If you’re looking for a charming, lighthearted read, Lin Stepp’s, Down by the River, is the book for you. Set in Tennessee near Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this warm-hearted novel about a mid-life change of location and career is a beautiful reminder of small town living in the Smoky Mountains.
If you enjoy Down by the River, you’ll want to read the rest of the Smoky Mountain Novel books. Dolly Parton writes about Lin Stepp, “I’ve finally come across someone that believes in all the things that I do…love, family, faith, intrigue, mystery, loyalty, romance, and a great love for our beloved Smoky Mountains.”
Unquiet Ghosts: A Novel
Unquiet Ghosts: A Novel is a thriller set in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Author, Glenn Meade, combines a mysterious plane crash in the Smokies, family tragedy, and a found briefcase containing millions of dollars into a high energy read.
Why did the plane crash? Where did the money come from? What really happened to Kathy Kelly’s family? Are powerful people searching for Kathy, too? Will you read this fast-paced book in one sitting?
Death Canyon: A Jake Trent Novel
In Death Canyon, former prosecutor, Jake Trent, teams up with national park ranger (yes a beautiful one), Noel Klimpton, to solve a series of murders in Jackson, Wyoming. Hot on the murderer’s trail, the clues take them into Yellowstone National Park.
Written by David Riley Bertsch, Death Canyon takes you into the majestic Rocky Mountains and scenic valley of Jackson Hole. Along the way, you’ll meet believable characters involved in the sinister side of life in Yellowstone.
National Park Art Books
You’ll discover many art books inspired by the spectacular scenery found in U.S. National Parks. From pages filled with acclaimed artists to coloring books where you create the art, there’s a book for every national park lover.
The Art of the National Parks
The Art of the National Parks is the best national parks book for fine art lovers. Fifty-nine artists have created posters that richly illustrate the beauty of our national parks. The book also includes information about each park focusing on nature, trip highlights and visitor’s tips. Place this book on your coffee table knowing that a portion of the proceeds goes to conserving our national parks.
Coloring Glacier National Park
Become a national park artist when you color the pages of Coloring Glacier National Park. I created this grayscale coloring book from photos that Alan and I have taken in Glacier National Park.
I particularly enjoy coloring grayscale because the results look like a painting. Coloring Glacier National Park includes a varied selection of scenic landscapes, wildlife, and nature close-ups. It’s a great way to remember your visit to Glacier National Park.
The Art of the National Parks: Historic Connections, Contemporary Interpretations
In Art of the National Parks, seventy painters and sculptors offer their impressions of eight national parks. Enjoy this large-format book with over 450 artworks of Acadia, Everglades, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion. You’ll also learn about the artists’ styles, techniques, and philosophies.
Mount Ranier National Park: An Artist’s Tour
Visit Mount Ranier National Park through the eyes of artist and author, Molly Hashimoto. In Mount Ranier National Park: an Artist’s Tour, you’ll tour the park’s main roads through over 80 watercolor paintings and sketches.
Along the way, you’ll learn about about pertinent information about the park, including natural history, geology, architecture, and more. This book is a beautiful keepsake for visitors to Mount Ranier National Park.
The Art of the National Parks: Coloring book
In The Art of the National Parks: Coloring Book, you’ll enjoy coloring poster-sized and stylized line-art of 63 national parks. Each poster includes a short park description. There are full-color images of the national parks to inspire your color choices.
Pre Order for publication in August 23 2022.
Painters of Grand Tetons National Park
The Teton Range has long attracted artists drawn to capturing the majesty of the area. Painters of Grand Teton National Park, by Donna L Poulton and James Poulton, was published in 2016 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Grand Teton National Park.
The book includes four hundred paintings, drawing, and photographs by well-known artists. Covering two hundred years of art and a variety of styles, Painters of Grand Teton National Park emphasizes artists who lived and worked year-round in the Tetons.
As you can see, there’s a national park book for all interests and ages. Which one will you read, first?