Tag Archives: Top 10

Top 10 Guidebooks to National Parks

Every major travel publisher (Fodors, Moon, Lonely Planet) has a guidebook to America’s National Parks, which all say the same things about where to go.  We recently published our first book to offer alternatives for those readers seeking to have unique National Park adventures.  You might guess where that one ended up on our Top 10 list, but we also recommend the following guidebooks. 

10. Wildlife Watching in America’s National Parks: A Seasonal Guide by Gary W. Vequist & Daniel S. Licht (2013)

Tips abound in 12 chapters that cover the best spot to see wildlife each month of the year with excellent color photos.

9. 10 Best of Everything: National Parks: 800 Top Picks From Parks Coast to Coast by National Geographic (2011)

Brief descriptions of parks in a variety of categories introduce readers to units in the National Park Service (NPS) system beyond the 61 National Parks.

8. 50 Great American Places: Essential Historic Sites Across the U.S. by Brent D. Glass (2016)

A historian chooses his top 50 iconic American spots to visit, many of which are in the NPS system.

7. Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into National Parks by Toney Allman, Jahnna Beecham, et al. (2007)

Beyond the funny stories, this book is actually full of interesting tidbits of information on National Parks that you might not learn anywhere else.

6. Ancient America: Fifty Archaeological Sites to See for Yourself by Kenneth L.  Feder (2016)

Many NPS units focus on archaeology and this succinct guide provides a solid background on many of the best sites spread across the country.

5. The West Less Traveled: The Best and Lesser Known Parks, Monuments, and Natural Areas by Jan Bannan (1996)

Out-of-print guide focused not solely on units in the NPS system that contains good detail on geology and ecology.

4. Guide to the National Park Areas: Eastern States by David L. Scott & Kay W. Scott (2004)

Out-of-print two-volume set includes all NPS units at the time, with great information for RV campers.

3. Your Guide to the National Parks: The Complete Guide to all 59 National Parks by Michael Joseph Oswald (2017)

An ambitious and in-depth exploration of the National Parks, including great detail on hiking trails and full-color maps.

2. Complete National Parks of the United States by National Geographic (2016)

Provides a brief description of all 400+ units in the NPS system, plus some of the affiliated sites.

1. A Park To Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks by Scott Sink & Tiff Sink (2019)

As far as we know, our guidebook is the first one to include Indiana Dunes National Park, established February 15, 2019.

Honorable Mentions

National Parks: A Kids Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks by Erin McHugh (2012)

This full-color, graphic-oriented children’s book is perfect for anyone collecting the 56 quarters in the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful collection.

Guide to the National Parks of the USA by National Geographic (2016)

Of the major publishers, National Geographic does the best job of summarizing each park, plus they include color photographs.

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Top 10 National Park Logos

We have now created black-and-white designs for 50 National Parks, which are for sale on T-shirts and a variety of other products through Amazon and Café Press.  Each of the logos is special to us, but we wanted to share the ones we liked best (check out our other Top 10 Lists).  On our Café Press page, our original designs can be printed on mugs, pillows, stickers, and clothing.  With the holidays coming up, they might make the perfect gift for the National Park fan in your life.

10. Yosemite National Park (California) depicts the view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point

9. Big Bend National Park (Texas) depicts a javelina in front of Balanced Rock

8. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska) depicts mountains looming above Lamplugh Glacier

7. Sequoia National Park (California) depicts a sequoia tree grove in the Giant Forest

6. Great Basin National Park (Nevada) depicts a bristlecone pine tree snag in front of Wheeler Peak

5. Zion National Park (Utah) depicts the view of the Virgin River valley from atop Angels Landing

4. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas) depicts a mountain lion lying on Guadalupe Peak overlooking El Capitan

3. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan) depicts Lake Superior near Scoville Point

2. Channel Islands National Park (California) depicts Inspiration Point on East Anacapa Island

…and finally the #1 logo we have designed for a National Park!

1. Glacier National Park (Montana) depicts an hoary marmot at Hidden Lake Overlook near Logan Pass

Honorable Mentions

Canyonlands National Park (Utah) depicts Chesler Park in the Needles District

Joshua Tree National Park (California) depicts a Joshua tree growing in Hidden Valley Campground

Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado) depicts Long House on Wetherill Mesa

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Top 10 National Parks

Of the 419 units in the National Park Service system, only 61 have earned the most prestigious title of National Park.  While not all of them are equal, each of these special places is full of history and wildlife, while protecting some of America’s most treasured natural landscapes.  Here we have ranked our favorite National Parks, unfortunately being forced to leave out some truly iconic ones.  Click here to view more of our Top 10 lists.

Our first hardcopy guidebook to 50 National Parks will be released in October 2019!

10. Wrangell-St. Elias (Alaska)

Drive to McCarthy and walk on a glacier                

9. Grand Canyon (Arizona)

You don’t know it until you’ve been to the bottom

8. Everglades (Florida)

Get in a boat to really experience the ’Glades

7. Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico)

Spectacular cave and bat flight program

6. Great Sand Dunes (Colorado)

America’s sandbox is tons of fun

5. Virgin Islands (U.S. Virgin Islands)

A variety of activities await in this tropical paradise

4. Sequoia (California)

Visit the big trees in the snow

3. Capitol Reef (Utah)

Drive the dirt roads for the best scenery

2. Death Valley (California)

A wide range of elevations and sights

…and finally, our #1 National Park!

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming)

The world’s first is still the best

Honorable Mentions

Great Basin (Nevada)

Explore the alpine region and tour the cave

Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

Everyone should drive Trail Ridge Road at least once

Top 10 Caves in National Parks  

Some of our favorite units in the National Park Service system include caves, from lava tubes to highly decorated caverns. This is a list of our 10 favorites.  Check out our page dedicated to all of our Top 10 lists.

10. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

Thurston Lava Tube is an electrically lighted half-mile walk through a high-ceilinged cave.

9. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (Oregon)

A marble cave surrounded by a beautiful old-growth forest.

8. El Malpais National Monument (New Mexico)

Short lava tubes are open to the public if you pick up your free cave permit at a visitor center.

7. Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

Lehman Caves is only 0.6 miles long, but it is full of beautiful formations, like Parachute Shield.

6. Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)

Boxwork is an uncommon cave formation and 95% of the world’s known quantity is right here (see photo at the top of page).

October 2017 Ohio 057.JPG

5. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

The many tour options will keep you coming back to this wonderful park.

4. Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Utah)

Start by hiking switchbacks up 1,092 feet, then your ranger guide will show you the gravity-defying helictite crystals.

3. Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)

The Wild Caving Tour here is reportedly the most difficult in the entire National Park Service System.

2. Lava Beds National Monument (California)

Pick up a guidebook and chart your own course through dozens of unlit lava tubes.


…and finally our #1 cave in a National Park!


1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Visit this incomprehensibly huge cave during the summer to witness the Evening Bat Flight Program.


Honorable Mentions

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Kentucky)

Reservations are recommended for the ranger-guided two-hour tour of Gap Cave.

Sequoia National Park (California)

Crystal Cave was the first cave Scott ever entered in 1988.

Scott and his older brothers in 1988

Top 10 National Historic Sites

There are 77 National Historic Sites managed by the National Park Service and several others that are affiliated sites.  Similar to the list of our Top 10 National Historical Parks, these choices represent our experience and not the significance of a place in the annals of U.S. history.  In fact, most of these spots we never would have heard about when sitting next to each other in Mrs. Williams’ AP American History class back in high school.  Check out all of our Top 10 lists here.

10. Grant-Kohrs Ranch (Montana)

All things “cowboy” are remembered here

9. Golden Spike (Utah)

Colorfully reconstructed train engines daily evoke May 10, 1869

8. Weir Farm (Connecticut)

Borrow art supplies to create your own memory of this artist colony

7. Ford’s Theatre (Washington, D.C.)

Live theater is still performed at this infamous assassination site

6. Brown v. Board of Education (Kansas)

Thought-provoking exhibits on segregation fill the classrooms of an old school in Topeka

5. Bent’s Old Fort (Colorado)

Costumed reenactors take you back in time on the Santa Fe Trail

4. Minuteman Missile (South Dakota)

A great museum and guided tours recall the Cold War era

3. Tuskegee Airmen (Alabama)

Civil Rights pioneers are celebrated at this site created in 1998

2. Manzanar (California)

The U.S.A. is a great nation because it remembers the shameful parts of its past

…and finally our #1 National Historic Site!

1. Andersonville (Georgia)

Visiting the National Prisoner of War Museum is a powerful experience

Honorable Mentions

Little Rock Central High School  (Arkansas)

Learn about integration kitty-corner from this architectural beauty

Christiansted National Historic Site (Virgin Islands)

The yellow walls of this seaside fort are great for photographs