The Best National Parks Books to Inform & Inspire

From Acadia to Dry Tortugas and from Hawaii Volcanoes to Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, U.S. National Parks provide some of the most popular travel destinations year after year. And while you may not be able to visit every park as often as you’d like, you can enjoy the beauty of these parks through some wonderful books. These are the very best national parks books.

The best books on American national parks will inspire you as well as inform you about their history, features, and available activities. There are even some great books about national parks written specifically for children.

So take a look. You’re sure to find something you just can’t live without. They also make great national park gift options.

Zion national park

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Coffee table books

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Have you seen the Ken Burns documentary about National Parks? First of all, if you haven’t done that and you’re a National Parks lover, then you need to see it for sure. You’ll be an expert in national park history.

But there’s also a book. It will make you appreciate the people like John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt who believed strongly that there are places that need to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

National Parks are important places, and if you’re a fan, you’ll also love learning about how they came to be National Parks.

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The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
  • THE NATIONAL PARKS
  • Hardcover Book
  • Duncan, Dayton (Author)

The National Parks of the United States: A Photographic Journey

This book was published near the centennial of the National Park Service (in 2016), so it doesn’t include all 63 National Parks, but the photos in there are just beautiful.

The book also includes details about each park featured, quotes from park rangers and famous personalities such as Mark Twain, and a map overview of each park in the book.

The author, Andrew Thomas, is the winner of the 2011 Burrard-Lucas International Photography Contest.

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The National Parks of the United States: A Photographic Journey, 2nd Edition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Thomas, Andrew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

National Geographic The National Parks: An Illustrated History

You can’t go wrong with National Geographic books for any travel lover in your life, but especially for National Park lovers.

This book celebrates the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. National Park Service and includes NPS sites such as Gettysburg and the Statue of Liberty… not just National Parks. The author is a former U.S. National Park Service ranger.

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National Geographic The National Parks: An Illustrated History
  • The National Parks: Illus Hist
  • Hardcover Book
  • Heacox, Kim (Author)

Books featuring artwork

The Art of the National Parks

Be prepared to get bowled over by the beautiful artwork in this book. 

And it’s not just a great book for art lovers, it also includes helpful information about the featured parks including top sites in the parks, the flora and fauna you’ll find there, plus tips for visiting.

Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors

I dare you to read this without laughing out loud. It’s a favorite book among national park lovers because it is just so funny.

Artist Amber Share created National Parks posters featuring quotes from those who weren’t as impressed with the parks they visited as some others were. In fact, some people post 1-star reviews of parks like Glacier, Yellowstone, and Acadia.

Mind-boggling, I know, but it’s apparently true. And they’re hilarious. Take, for example, the person who visited Yellowstone and then took the time to write online: “Save yourself some money, boil some water at home.”

This book is perfect for National Park lovers with a good sense of humor.

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Subpar Parks
1,678 Reviews
Subpar Parks: America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors
  • Hardcover Book
  • Share, Amber (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Informative guides

Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA

Fodor’s is one of the most trusted names in travel guidebooks. Their Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA includes essential information about all 63 U.S. National Parks.

It includes over 70 maps, itinerary options, and recommendations from locals about sites, restaurants, hotels, and more. You’ll also find cultural and historical insights as well as beautiful photos to keep you inspired as you plan your trip.

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Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the USA: All 63 parks from Maine to American Samoa (Full-color Travel Guide)
  • Fodor’s Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 960 Pages – 09/14/2021 (Publication Date) – Fodor’s Travel (Publisher)

Rand McNally 2024 Road Atlas & National Park Guide

If you like a good paper map and you love traveling the National Parks, you’ll probably want to get your hands on a copy of the Rand McNally National Park Road Atlas and Travel Guide.

This spiral-bound book includes a guide to the best of the best of the parks, plus detailed road maps of cities and the parks and a driving times map (helpful!).

Think of it as the companion book to your amazing road trip.

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Rand McNally Road Atlas & National Park Guide 2024: United States Canada Mexico
  • Atlas: A four-color, 132-page National Park Guide details the best of the best in each park — from trails, drives, and natural wonders to programs, museums, and lodges.
  • Atlas: Park inset maps highlight key points-of-interest.
  • Folded Maps: Larger map with a bigger type size than the Rand McNally Folded Map

National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States

It’s National Geographic so you know it’s going to be good. This guide features hundreds of stunning photos, full-color maps, expert helpful tips on wildlife spotting in the parks, and much, much more of course.

It’s a substantial book at over 520 pages, and this is the 9th edition, which does not yet include the most recent U.S. National Park, New River Gorge in West Virginia.

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National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States
1,336 Reviews
National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States 9th Edition
  • National Geographic (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages – 02/02/2021 (Publication Date) – National Geographic (Publisher)

USA National Parks: Lands of Wonder

DK Eyewitness brings you USA National Parks: Lands of Wonder. If you know DK Eyewitness travel books, you know that they’re generally a really nice blend of informative and inspiring, with LOTS of great photos.

Each park profile in this book includes details about the park, what to do there, maps, photos when to go, and more. 

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USA National Parks: Lands of Wonder
  • Hardcover Book
  • DK Eyewitness (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Walks of a Lifetime in America’s National Parks: Extraordinary Hikes in Exceptional Places

Hikers, take note! Walks of a Lifetime in America’s National Parks was a 2020 Foreword Indie Book of the Year Winner and features the best hikes in the Parks. Their insights will lead readers to “quintessential scenic vistas, celebrated rivers and lakes, majestic waterfalls, outstanding wildlife viewing areas, significant historic and prehistoric sites” and more.

The authors are Hiking Ambassadors for the American Hiking Society. 

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Walks of a Lifetime in America’s National Parks: Extraordinary Hikes in Exceptional Places (Falcon Guides)
  • Robert Manning (author) and Martha Manning (author) (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages – 07/30/2020 (Publication Date) – Falcon Guides (Publisher)

100 Parks 5000 ideas

National Geographic’s 100 Parks 5000 Ideas is highly rated for a reason. It’s filled with beautiful National Geographic photos, plus all the information you need to plan a trip that centers around or includes a park visit. Consider it a sequel to the bestselling 50 States 5000 Ideas

The book features not just National Parks but also the best of state and city parks throughout North America.

100 Parks 5,000 Ideas (Spiral Bound)
  • Joe Yogerst (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages – 02/12/2019 (Publication Date) – National Geographic; Rebound version / edition (Publisher)

National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks, 2nd Edition: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond the Tourist Trail

Think of this book as your guide to the best hidden gems of America’s National Parks. It includes “secret tips” like where to find the Clingman’s Dome bypass trail (who knew??) at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It includes expert tips from park rangers, park managers, and even locals to help you have the best National Parks trip that you possibly can. If you’re interested in avoiding the biggest tourist crowds at the most popular parks, think about checking this book out.

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National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks, 2nd Edition: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond the Tourist Trail
  • National Geographic (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages – 12/15/2020 (Publication Date) – National Geographic (Publisher)

Books for kids

National Geographic Junior Ranger Activity Book 

Especially for young National Parks explorers ages 8 – 12, this activity book is full of puzzles, games, and facts. It’s designed to keep young travelers entertained while they explore.

This is one of the most popular children’s books about US national parks.

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Junior Ranger Activity Book: Puzzles, Games, Facts, and Tons More Fun Inspired by the U.S. National Parks!
  • National Geographic Kids (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages – 02/09/2016 (Publication Date) – National Geographic Kids (Publisher)

National Parks of the USA

This beautiful book is aimed at readers ages 6 through 9 and features 21 National Parks including Acadia, Biscayne, Bryce Canyon, Death Valley, Denali, Everglades, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Olympic, Yellowstone, and Yosemite.

This book was a 2019 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K–12 (National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council).

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National Parks of the USA
  • Hardcover Book
  • Siber, Kate (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

National Parks of the USA: Activity Book

Designed for children ages 7–10, this activity book is a companion to National Parks of the USA (above). It’s full of activities, stickers, puzzles, and interesting facts. It’s perfect for passing the time on a long trip! 

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National Parks of the USA: Activity Book
  • Siber, Kate (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages – 04/07/2020 (Publication Date) – Wide Eyed Editions (Publisher)

The bottom line

If you can’t travel to a National Park, then reading about them and looking at beautiful photos of them has to be the next best thing. With a beautiful book about American national parks, you can visit your favorites over and over again from your very own home. 

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The best national parks books

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