death in yellowstone book cover

The 11 Best National Parks Books to Read Before Visiting

Looking for the next book to read before visiting a National Park? Or maybe just dreaming about planning your next National Park adventure? Here is the list of all of our favorite books about National Parks and I promise I’ve read every book on this list! Whether you’re looking for a book you can read with your kids, a murder mystery, or non-fiction reads about the parks, you will find something for you on this list.

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Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park

By Lee H. Whittlesey

death in yellowstone accidents and foolhardiness in the first national park

This book is CRAZY. Let me tell you I was hooked right away. Each chapter contains a different category of deaths that have occured inside Yellowstone National Park including hot springs, wildlife, falls, etc. There are a ton of stories in here to keep you captivated for your drive into the park, or depending on how you take this kind of information… maybe read it after your trip. An argument for reading it beforehand is to share with your group, what things NOT to do or situations to avoid while visiting Yellowstone. I mean… in my opinion, this book should be required reading to enter the park. Link to buy here.

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park

By Conor Knighton

leave only footprints my acadia to zion journey through every national park

This is my favorite of the comprehensive national parks stories. It tows the line perfectly between his personal stories and sharing what is unique and amazing about each park. One of my favorite books I read last year and I could see myself reading this again in a few years or reading a few chapters before I go to specific parks. Link to buy here.

Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks

By Mark Woods

lassoing the sun a year in americas national parks

This book has a unique perspective because instead of visiting each national park, the author travels to one new park each month. The parks he chose weren’t necessarily the most popular or the most beautiful parks, but each one highlights an issue that the parks system is facing. Link to buy here.

National Parks of the U.S.A.

By Kate Siber

national parks of the usa book kate sibler

This book is great for both kids and adults. I absolutely love the illustrations and prior to visiting specific parks, we love to read the pages about that park! Not every park is highlighted but each page contains some great facts about the wildlife and plants in the major National Parks. I have seen this book available at most gift shops within national parks as well. Link to buy here.

Into the Wild

By Jon Krakauer

into the wild book jon krakauer

Okay this book is also crazy and is a true story. Additionally, it happens to be written by my favorite author so I am partial to it. Into the Wild is a short read and highlights Denali National Park specifically. This story is so well written and tells the tale of a truly unique man who is captivated by the Alaskan wilderness. You don’t even have to save this one until you go to a national park. I promise you won’t regret it. There was also a movie made about this story, which I would recommend watching after reading the book. Link to buy here.

Wild Rescues: A Paramedic’s Extreme Adventures in Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton

By Kevin Grange

wild rescues book by kevin grange

As someone who works in emergency medicine and loves national parks, this was definitely the crossover book I needed. Through this short book, Grange highlights some of the adventures he had during his time serving as a paramedic in these Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park. These stories will give you a whole new appreciation for the struggles that first responders have, especially when coupled with lack of resources and being in a remote location. Link to buy here.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

By Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns

the national parks americas best idea

Warning: This book is dense and long! However, if you are interested in the history of the national parks and want a book you can read a little at a time, you may like this one. It is an illustrated history and tells many different stories including the establishment of our first national park, Yellowstone, and what John Muir did for the protection of Yosemite. I would also recommend this book as a good coffee table book to keep around! This book was also made into a documentary. Link to buy here.

The Wild Inside

By Christine Carbo

the wild inside by christine carbo

Another National Parks murder mystery set in Glacier National Park. This one is a bit more gruesome and has some adult themes compared to Vanishing Edge, but captivating nonetheless if you can handle that.

Link to buy here.

Vanishing Edge (National Parks Mystery #1)

By Claire Kells

vanishing edge claire kells book

Vanishing Edge is a fictional National Park murder mystery which will keep you on the edge of your seat while somehow still making you want to visit the Sequoia National Park backcountry. A national park ranger and former Navy Seal teams up with a former FBI agent to solve the mystery in the deep wilderness of the park. Claire Kells has also written An Unforgiving Place (National Parks Mystery #2), and National Parks Mystery #3 is set to be released in 2023.

Link to buy here.

Take Me With You

By Catherine Ryan Hyde

take me with you by catherine ryan hyde book

This book follows a burned out teacher, August, who is making a Summer trip to Yellowstone. A trip that was originally supposed to be taken with his 19 year old son that died, but is now to scatter his son’s ashes. August ends up making the trip with two extra passengers, and has a transformative trip that changes everything. If you’re looking for a book that is sure to tug at your heart strings, this is the one!

Link to buy here.

Dear Bob and Sue: One Couple’s Journey Through the National Parks

By Matt and Karen Smith

Matt and Karen Smith are on a journey to visit every National Park together since their kids have grown up. They write this book in the format of letters (filled with hilarious anecdotes) to their friends Bob and Sue. They talk about their trials and tribulations, and all the fun they had in their years completing their mission. I thought they were both very entertaining people and I am looking forward to reading their other books! Also, the type A person in me loves that each park is separated and numbered in order of how they visited them and described separately.

Link to buy here.

Others I didn’t love, but you might!

Okay, now that you’ve picked out your book to read it’s time to plan your national park vacation. Check out our national park posts to help you have the best time ever. What other National Parks books do you love? Here are our favorite National Parks Books for Kids! Would you rather listen to podcasts? Check out our list of the 10+ Best National Parks Podcasts.

Happy reading!

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