Tag Archives: Top 10

Top 10 Non-Fiction Books Set in Multiple National Parks

The only thing that is nearly as fun as visiting National Parks is reading about them. Here is a list of our 10 favorite non-fiction books that cover multiple units of the National Park Service (NPS) System. Our previous list was limited to those set in a single park.

10. Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor and Misadventure from America’s National Parks
by Jim Burnett (2012)
Like the historic Oh, Ranger! books, this one covers the lighter side of interactions between NPS employees and tourists.

9. My Wild Life: A Memoir of Adventures within America’s National Parks
by Roland H. Wauer (2014)
The first half of this autobiography of a National Park Ranger is an interesting look at research in Big Bend, Death Valley, and other National Parks before devolving into his life list of international bird species.

8. Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks
by Mark Woods (2016)
This Florida journalist received a grant to explore National Parks across the United States of America and brings an interesting perspective on them.

7. The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest
by Timothy Egan (1990)
The author visits many National Park Service sites in this good introduction for outsiders to the landscapes and people of Washington and Oregon.

6. Travels in the Greater Yellowstone
by Jack Turner (2008)
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem also includes Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and this is an interesting journey across its many corners by an always opinionated and interesting writer.

5. Desert Time: A Journey through the American Southwest
by Diana Kappel-Smith (1992)
The author’s pencil illustrations add a wonderful layer to her vivid descriptions of American deserts from Idaho to Texas, including numerous National Park Service units.

4. House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest
by Craig Childs (2007)
Craig Childs has written several great non-fiction books set in the Southwest U.S. This one describes the world of the Ancestral Puebloan (formerly called Anasazi) people at multiple sites including Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Aztec Ruins National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park.

3. The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons
by John Wesley Powell (1874)
The author, a one-armed Civil War veteran, led the first expedition down the unmapped and untamed Green and Colorado Rivers through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

2. Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks
by Michael Lanza (2012)
The writer travels to some of the most imperiled National Parks with his family to experience them before they are permanently altered by climate change.


…and finally our number one non-fiction book set in multiple National Parks:

1. Our National Parks
by John Muir (1901)
Famous preservationist John Muir wrote many colorful descriptions of America’s wonderlands in his books (especially his beloved Yosemite), but none covers as wide a range as Our National Parks.


Honorable Mentions
Travels with Charlie in Search of America
by John Steinbeck (1962)
Perhaps a bit dated now, but this is a cherished travelogue from a national treasure.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
The Pacific Crest Trail crosses many parks in the National Park Service System and is considered an affiliated unit. This sometimes painful-to-read autobiography contains beautiful descriptions of the natural landscape.

Top 10 National Park Campgrounds with Running Water

We have not stayed at many campgrounds in National Parks, but enough to have had bad experiences in noisy Zion and Yosemite.  This is our ranking of the top 10 National Park campgrounds with running water (as opposed to those with vault toilets that we ranked separately).

  1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

Juniper Campground (50 sites) in the North Unit sits in a grove of mature cottonwood trees on the banks of the Little Missouri River.

  1. Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado)

Mule deer frequent Pinyon Flats Campground (88 sites) which overlooks the dunefield.

  1. Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland)

Owens Creek Campground is thickly forested, offering privacy and quiet.

  1. Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Chisos Basin Campground has 360° views and its high elevation keeps it cool even in the summer.

  1. Acadia National Park (Maine)

Away from the bustle of Mount Desert Island, we spent a quiet night at the new Schoodic Peninsula Campground.


  1. Everglades National Park (Florida)

Long Pine Key Campground is open year round and was almost deserted during our April visit.

  1. Arches National Park (Utah)

Located at the end of the road, Devil’s Garden Campground is a great starting point for a hike to Tapestry or Broken Arch.


  1. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Arizona)

Probably not as nice in the summer, but we enjoyed our March stay in Twin Peaks Campground with its many trails.

  1. Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

Campsites are nicely spread out in Dunewood Campground, inland from Lake Michigan.

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

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  1. Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

Turkeys and mule deer will also be camping with you in the apple orchards of the Fruita District.


Honorable Mention

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

The spots are close together, but it has a great location at the trailhead for Guadalupe Peak and not far from Carlsbad Caverns National Park (without a campground) across the border in New Mexico.

Top 10 Caves in National Parks  

Some of our favorite units in the National Park Service system include caves.  Here is a list of our 10 favorites.  We now have a page just for all of our Top 10 lists.

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

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

  1. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Kentucky)

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

  1. 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.

  1. Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

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

  1. 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).

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  1. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

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

  1. 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.

  1. Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)

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

  1. 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 Mention

Sequoia National Park (California)

Having not yet visited Oregon Caves National Monument, we will defer to Crystal Cave for this spot since it is the first cave Scott ever entered in 1988.

Top 10 Novels Set in a National Park

There is nothing like a great novel, especially one set in a National Park. Here is a list of our 10 favorite fiction books set in a unit of the National Park Service System.  Our previous list covered non-fiction books.

  1. Skinny Dip

by Carl Hiaasen (2004)

Everglades National Park

Hiaasen sets all of his funny novels in South Florida (including the wonderful children’s book Hoot).  We have read several, but this is our favorite with swamps, subtropical islands, alligators, and a dive from a cruise boat.

  1. Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Scott O’Dell (1960)

Channel Islands National Park

A Newbery Medal Winner that tells the story of a girl marooned for 18 years in the Channel Islands off California in the 1800s.  Based loosely on a true story.

  1. Winter Study

by Nevada Barr (2008)

Isle Royale National Park

Ranger Anna Pigeon mysteries are a staple in most National Park bookstores.  They are entertaining and we always learn about something new, like wolf research and hypothermia prevention in this one.

  1. River Runs Deep

by Jennifer Bradbury (2015)

Mammoth Cave National Park

Long before it became a National Park, cave tours were led by slaves in Kentucky.  This children’s book also deals with the cave’s brief history as an infirmary for tuberculosis patients.

  1. Misty of Chincoteague

by Marguerite Henry (1947)

Assateague Island National Seashore

A classic about a wild pony that grows up on Assateague and Chincoteague Islands on the Atlantic border of Maryland and Virginia.  She also wrote the excellent Brighty of the Grand Canyon.

  1. One Day on Beetle Rock

by Sally Carrighar (1944)

Sequoia National Park

Humans are not main characters in this imaginative novel that details the happenings in the lives of the many animals inhabiting this California forest.

  1. Song of the Exile

by Kiana Davenport (1999)

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Historical fiction follows the decades of changes experienced by a woman who is exiled to the leper colony on the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula of Moloka’i Island in Hawai’i.  Alan Brennert’s Moloka’i is a similar book.

  1. Serena

by Ron Rash (2008)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This novel is set in the years prior to the creation of the park when ruthless logging companies rushed to maximize their profits.  Also a feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

  1. The Deer Stalker

by Zane Grey (1925)

Grand Canyon National Park

The greatest Western novelist ever turned his attention to a wildlife manager on the North Rim of the canyon in the wake of World War I.  Another of his works set in a National Park is Boulder Dam (Lake Mead National Recreation Area).

…and finally our #1 novel set in a National Park!


  1. The Killer Angels

by Michael Shaara (1974)

Gettysburg National Military Park

Narratives of the momentous events at Gettysburg in July 1863 told from the point-of-view of some of its most prominent players.  Arguably the best work of historical fiction ever written.

Honorable Mention

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

by Tom Robbins (1976)

Badlands National Park

Tom Robbins is hilarious.  His books are character driven (like the unforgettable Sissy Hankshaw with her oversized thumbs) but the South Dakota setting is also important to this book.

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:


  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).