If you’re looking to travel to some or all of the parks in the U.S. and don’t know where to start, this is a great guide to keep in your arsenal. Keep reading below to find out more!
Where to Purchase: I purchased my copy in my hometown bookstore (support local businesses!), but you can also purchase on Amazon, or on the National Geographic website. (FYI – It’s often sold out on the NatGeo site since it’s one of their most popular publications. Plus, it’s cheaper on Amazon.)
First Impression: I got this guide prior to any of my National Park visits (save for Acadia, which is practically in my backyard). And honestly, this little book does wonders for the early-stages of trip planning. I was super excited to have a book I could reach for when I wanted an overview of whichever park was next on my list. (Because seriously, whole travel guides have been written about each park, so I liked that NatGeo condensed a whole heck-of-a-lot of info into a perfectly acceptable purse/backpack reader-sized package.)
Overall Structure: Chapters of this book are divided into geographical regions (East, Midwest, South Central, etc.), with a helpful map in the Introduction section to identify which parks are within each region. There’s a section for every Park in the U.S. (yes, every single one), and each section covers a variety of topics: popular overlooks, trails, sights, and features.
What to Expect for Each Park: Every park summary begins with a convenient intro, including the park’s location, establishment date, and size. A helpful “How to Visit” column identifies the park’s entrances and suggests how many days you might want to spend there. They also provide a small park map to show you the extent of the park, as well as the major attractions and hiking trails. For more detailed trail maps, however, you’ll need to pick up a pamphlet at the park entrance, turn to a park-specific book, or get them online.
The remaining sections (usually two or three) cover particular areas, attractions, or activities that are most popular with tourists in the park. These are helpful if you want quick history of the attraction or if you want an easy way to pick out places to stop (all of these are conveniently in bold for those of us that don’t want always want to read through the entire chapter).
Finally, an “Information”/summary page lists the need-to-knows: how to get there, when to go, where the visitor’s center is, and where you can find nearby camping and lodging. Definitely a useful page when getting into the logistics of your trip.
The Verdict: Now, I haven’t read the chapter on every single park, but for those that I have read, I can say that I’m pretty happy with the information presented in this book. With a guide like this, though, it’s impossible to get down into the finer details of all the parks. But nevertheless, you get a great starting point to go from for each park, and if you like what you read for one in particular, you can always splurge on a park-specific guide or do more research online. (Plus, they were able to at least identify the majority of Acadia’s attractions in a mere 10 pages – which I can tell you is not an easy task!)
So I would absolutely recommend getting this book for yourself, or for your family/friends if you’re a newbie-National Park-er like me, wanting to check every one off your bucket list! And if you’re an old pro when it comes to National Park trips, while you may not find anything in here that you don’t already know, it’s always helpful to have a quick reference guide.
I have not received compensation by NatGeo for this review. All comments made are wholly opinion-based.