Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set in a National Park

The only thing that is nearly as fun as being in a National Park is reading about one. Here is a list of our 10 favorite non-fiction books set specifically in one unit of the National Park Service System. Our next list will include those that cover multiple parks.

  1. Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park

by Tim Cahill (2004)

Yellowstone National Park

There are many great books written about this oldest of all National Parks (including the bestselling Death in Yellowstone), but none is as funny as the one written by this globetrotting travel writer.

  1. A Naturalist in Alaska

by Adolph Murie (1961)

Denali National Park

Wildlife biologist Adolph Murie was invited to Alaska by the National Park Service in 1939-40 to study the diverse species inhabiting Mt. McKinley National Park (as it was known at the time).

  1. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

by Rinker Buck (2015)

Oregon National Historical Trail

Two mules pulled a wagon with two brothers across the modern American West to Oregon: hilarity ensued and history relived.

  1. The Last Season

by Eric Blehm (2006)

Kings Canyon National Park

A well-researched investigation into the disappearance of a National Park Ranger in the rugged backcountry of California’s Sierra Nevadas.

  1. The Everglades: River of Grass

by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1947)

Everglades National Park

Unfortunately, her name may be more known as a high school today, but this woman’s efforts helped to protect this park from South Florida developers.

  1. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring

by Richard Preston (2007)

Redwood National Park

Whoever said scientists can’t have any fun conducting research needs to read this exciting book about the ecologists that climb 300 feet up redwood trees in California.

  1. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

by Edward Abbey (1968)

Arches National Park

Many National Park Rangers have written memoirs, but this is by far the best one. Written about a time before the red rock wonderland around Moab, Utah became the zoo it is today.

  1. One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey

by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke (1973)

Lake Clark National Park

The journal of Richard Proenneke who homesteaded a remote part of the Alaska Peninsula before Lake Clark National Park and Preserve was created around it in 1980. There is also an excellent documentary of the same title.

  1. The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

by Kevin Fedarko (2013)

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

An epic combination of history and biography about the men and women who run the Colorado River through Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

…and finally our number one Non-Fiction Book Set in a National Park:

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  1. The Jewel Cave Adventure: Fifty Miles of Discovery in South Dakota

by Herb and Jan Conn (1977)

Jewel Cave National Monument

The last frontier may well be beneath our feet. This true adventure of cave exploration is written in a very matter-of-fact way, yet is still a page turner.

Honorable Mention

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

by Bill Bryson (1998)

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian Trail is counted as one of the 417 units in the National Park Service System, and this is the funniest book ever written about backpacking it (or part of it).

Bandelier National Monument

Overview

One of 13 national monuments in New Mexico, this archaeological site is located in a beautiful forested canyon at 6,000 feet elevation outside Los Alamos.  Ancestral Puebloans inhabited Frijoles Canyon from AD 1150 to 1550, building villages and carving rooms out of the soft volcanic tuff, much like in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Bandelier

Highlights

Ruins, cavates, Alcove House, Upper Falls, Painted Cave

Must-Do Activity

Climb 140 feet up ladders and steep steps to Alcove House cliff dwelling for superlative views of the canyon.

Best Trail

After exploring the ruins, be sure to hike 1.5 miles to Upper Falls downstream from the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The National Park Service has installed some awesome, authentic-looking ladders to access the cavates.

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Peak Season

Summer when a shuttle is required from Los Alamos, New Mexico due to limited parking

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$25 per group or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Paved, but visitors are required to take a shuttle from Los Alamos between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the summer (May 17 – October 17)

Camping

Juniper Campground has 94 sites, running water, and is open most of the year.  Its 70 miles of trails also make the park popular for backpacking, which requires a zoned camping permit.

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Scott at the entryway for a large dwelling
Scott inside a cavate
Tiff a few rooms down
Tiff inside a cavate

Tiff climbing down

16-May New Mexico 247

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The tuff looks like Swiss cheese; maybe that’s what attracted Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier.
Waterfall
Upper Falls is only a 1.5 mile hike downstream from the visitor center

Explore More – When did the giant volcano erupt that created the 16-mile wide Valles Caldera and deposited hundreds of feet of volcanic ash that formed tuff?

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Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Overview

American inventor Thomas Edison still holds the record with 1,093 U.S. patents awarded during his lifetime. Most of those came while running the massive laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey from 1887 until his death in 1931. After perfecting the incandescent lightbulb in 1879, it was here he employed hundreds to work on improving his phonograph, motion picture camera, alkaline storage battery, and Portland cement (one of his most profitable ventures). The park also includes the family estate, Glenmont, located one-mile away (a tour ticket is required to enter the house).

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Highlights

Historic laboratories and workshops, inventions on display, house tour

Must-Do Activity

The multi-story Main Laboratory is handicap accessible and contains 400,000 artifacts from Edison’s prolific career. On display are some of the world’s first electric coffee-makers, waffle irons, and toasters marketed by his company Edicraft in the 1920s.

Best Trail

A self-guided walk around the grounds of Glenmont includes Edison’s gravesite.

Instagram-worthy Photo

At the West Orange laboratory is a replica of “Black Maria,” the world’s first movie studio originally built in 1893 on a track that allowed it to pivot for better lighting.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but not every day of the week

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/edis/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per adult or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

Entrance to the park

Tiff in the heavy machinery lab

Inside Edison's office/library

Tiff at the West Orange lab

Tiff with Thomas
Edison famously said “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Explore More – On the day of Thomas Edison’s funeral, how was homage paid nationwide?

 

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Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Overview

The only site in New Hampshire administered by the National Park Service (NPS) is dedicated to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, an Irish born immigrant that studied art in Paris and Rome.  On this country estate he utilized beginning in 1885, he converted a barn into his sculpture studio.  Other artists flocked to “Aspet” until his death in 1907.

Gaudens

Highlights

Home and sculptures of famous 19th-century artist, sculptor-in-residence program

Must-Do Activity

A tour ticket is required to enter the house and is included with your admission fee.  While you are waiting, explore the many marble, plaster, and bronze castings of Saint-Gaudens’ work located around the property, including his famous Shaw Memorial whose original can still be found in Boston.  A new cast of one of his Abraham Lincoln statues was added in 2016 during the NPS Centennial.

Best Trail

The quarter-mile Ravine Trail starts at the Ravine Studio, the workshop of the sculptor-in-residence.  Blow-Me-Down Trail runs 2 miles between the Temple and a swimming hole.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Take a photo of “Aspet” house from the porch of Little Studio framed by the vine-draped arbor.

View of the house from the patio of the studio
Find this photo and others for sale on Imagekind

Peak Season

Summer as exhibit buildings are closed November through late May

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/saga/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per adult or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but parking is limited.

Camping

None at this site, but Mt. Ascutney State Park is short drive away across the border in Vermont.

Covered bridge connecting New Hampshire and Vermont
Covered bridge connecting New Hampshire and Vermont
Scott with a huge honeylocust
Scott with a huge honeylocust tree

Tapestry inside Saint-Gaudens house

This historic cast of Abraham Lincoln by Saint-Gaudens was installed in 2016

Shaw Memorial can also be seen in Boston Common
The Shaw Memorial took Saint-Gaudens 14 years to complete.  This cast was completed in 1997.
Tiff in the studio with a Diana sculpture also found on Madison Square Garden
Diana sculptures like this top Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Victory

Explore More – Why does the gift shop sell a stuffed animal goat named Seasick?

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