Book Review: National Geographic Guide to National Parks

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Happy 100th!

Did you know that 2016 is the National Park Centennial? As we celebrate 100 years of national parks here in the U.S., there are all kinds of happenings and special events throughout the year. The National Geographic Guide to National Parks (8th Edition) is releasing in conjunction with this 100th birthday celebration and is a great way to help you plan a trip this year or anytime. I’ve already started making a list of the national parks I’d love to visit on my travels!


Book review: National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States (8th Edition)

Photo by Phil Schermeister/National Geographic


General Info

I was immediately drawn into the guide by the captivating photograph and classic National Geographic design of the front cover. As one would expect from Nat Geo, the photos throughout the book don’t disappoint. I’m a visual person, as I’m sure many of you are, so the gorgeous glossy pages make me much more likely to use this book.

The guide begins with a basic introduction, which includes helpful information about where to find more detailed maps, the structure of each park entry, and helpful advisories. I appreciated the reminders throughout the book that the national parks are not just places for human enjoyment, but they are intended to protect nature.

“You’ll see why a single step off a trail can harm fragile plants and why visitors are detoured from areas that shelter wildlife. The parks are not just for people; the conserve ecosystems” (p. 8). Also included at the front of the book is a map of the entire U.S. showing the location of all the parks–an essential feature, in my opinion.

The Structure

The book is divided into sections of the country, and the park entries are alphabetical within those regional sections. Having grown up in Maine and explored Acadia National Park on many day trips throughout my life, I dug into that entry first. Aside from providing “how-to” information, each entry gives a little context of the national park.

I found the information about Acadia National Park’s history both surprising and fascinating. I was already aware that wealthy families, such as the Rockefellers, owned large pieces of land in coastal Maine, but I had no idea that they pushed to preserve the beauty of this landscape with a national park. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. even donated nearly 11,000 acres of land.

Other elements I enjoyed about this guide:

–For a guidebook that covers so many parks (59 of them), the entries are fairly robust and provide a sufficient amount of information to be a good starting point for planning a trip to a national park. It also provides websites where more information can be found.
–The book offers reminders about protecting the ecosystem and wildlife, but it’s not overbearing.
–Many entries include information about nearby excursions, such as state parks or wildlife areas.
–The writing is both enjoyable and informative.
–Have I mentioned the incredible photography that invites you to fan through the glossy pages, explore, and daydream about the adventures you could have?

A couple of things that were missing:

–Can I bring my dog? I imagine that many parks don’t allow dogs due to wildlife, but I know that Acadia National Park allows leashed dogs in certain portions of the park. (Even the restaurant at Jordan Pond is incredibly dog-friendly!) A simple note stating whether dogs are allowed in some areas, or not allowed at all, would be incredibly useful.
–A note about when the best time to visit the popular Thunder Hole (midway between low and high tides) would have been helpful and easy to include. Instead, it states tells you to go when the tide is “just right.”
“…A small cave roars like thunder when the tide is just right and a large wave hits the shore…water can shoot some 40 feet into the air.” (p. 19)



Since I have only visited a couple of scenic national parks in the U.S., I don’t feel I can give this a 10 rating (yet). Based on Acadia’s entry and my knowledge of that park, as well as other entries to parks I haven’t visited, I would feel comfortable using this guidebook along with maps and information from the National Park Service in planning a trip.

The National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States makes me realize how little of our country I’ve seen and fuels a desire to discover more of the vast nature our country still offers. On my more adventurous days, I find myself daydreaming about an epic national park road trip. But at the very least, this book makes me want to get out and explore more of our national parks!

Rating: 7/10

What’s your favorite U.S. national park? Let me know in the comments!

Want more?

National Geographic Expeditions is holding a sweepstakes from April 6th-August 31st, 2016. Details below!

“This fabulous 8-day family adventure from National Geographic Expeditions is a dream trip come true. Discover the incredible geological treasures of the American Southwest and marvel at the rainbow colors of the high desert; explore the Grand Canyon’s North Rim on foot or mule; hike amid Zion’s wonderland of slot canyons, hanging gardens, and waterfalls, and splash through the Narrows of the Virgin River; wind through Bryce Canyon’s whimsical maze of red rock spires, and go on a scavenger hunt. Stay in historic park lodges with Old West atmosphere, and take part in activities and excursions geared for explorers of all ages.  The National Geographic National Parks Sweepstakes runs from April 1-August 31, 2016. To enter or obtain full Official Rules go to:”


Book Review: The National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States 8th Edition (pages 320-321) Photo by Phil Schermeister/National GeographicPhoto by Phil Schermeister/National Geographic
The National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States 8th Edition (pages 320-321)
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