A photo journey of America’s National Parks

A photographic tour across America to inspire your very own Great American Road Trip!

I recently read an article by a doctor who had plotted the most optimal route for a road trip to visit all of the USA’s lower 48 National Parks. I thought it was an intriguing proposition. I’ve done quite a few road trips around the US trying to visit them all, but I’ve only managed to see half.

The route creator claims you could do this US road trip in 2 months if you put your foot down, but I’m not sure you would enjoy them at that speed. However, as a visitor to the USA on the visa waiver programme you are entitled to 90 days, so I think this route could be an awesome adventure if you’re up for a 3 month trip across America!

Crater Lake, Oregon

The perfect US road trip

There are many adventures to be had in the US, so even though it might not fall into my category of off the beaten path destinations, it still deserves a place on this blog. In the National Parks there are a ton of hikes to enjoy and plenty of amazing photography locations to revel in. So, in this post I’m reminiscing with a photo journey around some of the USA’s best National Parks.

If we were being nostalgic it would be great to start this trip at Yellowstone, as this was the first National Park to be created in the USA, the world even. It’s also the home of Yogi Bear 🙂 However, given the geographical location, it wouldn’t be the most practical place to start a trip as a visitor. Since LAX is a big airport with flights to most places, I’d suggest LA is the most logical place to start a USA road trip itinerary. 

For reference, here is a list of all 47 National Parks that you could potentially visit on this American road trip, in the order provided by the route planner. The ones I’ve visited are highlighted in blue. Note that these are National Parks only so doesn’t include State Parks, National Monuments or Tribal Lands. To visit the full article, complete with interactive maps, click here.

  1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  2. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  3. Saguaro National Park, Arizona
  4. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  5. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  6. Big Bend National Park, Texas
  7. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
  8. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
  9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
  10. Everglades National Park, Florida
  11. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
  12. Biscayne National Park, Florida
  13. Congaree National Park, South Carolina
  14. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  15. Acadia National Park, Maine
  16. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
  17. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  18. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
  19. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  20. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  21. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
  22. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  23. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
  24. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
  25. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  26. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  27. Arches National Park, Utah
  28. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  29. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  30. Zion National Park, Utah
  31. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
  32. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  33. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  34. Glacier National Park, Montana
  35. North Cascades National Park, Washington
  36. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  37. Olympic National Park, Washington
  38. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  39. Redwood National and State Parks, California
  40. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
  41. Yosemite National Park, California
  42. Kings Canyon National Park, California
  43. Sequoia National Park, California
  44. Pinnacles National Park, California
  45. Channel Islands National Park, California
  46. Joshua Tree National Park, California
  47. Death Valley National Park, California

The Great American Road Trip – A tour of US National Parks

The Grand Canyon is a must visit on a photo journey of America's National Parks
The Grand Canyon NP: A view from Plateau point. I captured this photo whilst hiking from the North Rim to the South Rim. Read about my Grand Canyon adventure here!
Petrified Forest NP: The colourful Badlands are just one type of landscape on display in this under rated park.
A saguaro cactus on a journey of America's national parks
Saguaro NP: A funky Saguaro cactus endemic to the Sonoran Desert.
Smokey mountains on one of my American road trips
Great Smoky Mountains NP: Ridge upon ridge of forests for as far as the eye can see.
Shenandoah NP: A section of the Appalachian Trail which is 2200m in length!
Visit Badlands on your roadtrip USA
Badlands NP: These colourful wastelands are fabulous for hiking.
Include Rocky Mountain NP on a drive across America
Rocky Mountain NP: A National Park that spans the continental divide.
Sand dunes NP is a must for a road trip around America
Great Sand Dunes NP: The unique combination of sand and snow.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP: A rarely visited and often overlooked gem of a National Park!
Mesa Verde NP: Cliff Palace – the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde.
Canyonlands is one of my favourite stops on a photo journey of America's National Parks
Canyonlands NP: This large National Park is divided into several districts. This is my favourite view point which is located in the Islands in the Sky section of this fabulous park.
Arches NP: The iconic Delicate Arch
Capitol Reef NP: Grand Wash trail
Bryce Canyon NP: Famed for it’s hoodoo towers
Zion NP: A view overlooking Angel’s Landing – one of the park’s most popular and daring hikes. Click here for a guide to hiking Angel’s Landing.
Grand Teton NP: Classic view of the Teton Range
Yellowstone NP: Grand Prismatic Spring. Yellowstone was the USA’s first National Park, established in 1872.
Glacier NP: The iconic St. Mary’s lake.
Mount Rainier NP: The first time I sprinted off a mountain because of a thunderstorm was during a hike on Mt Rainier!
Crater Lake NP: Probably the bluest lake you’ll ever see – fact!
Redwoods NP: Tree hugging time! If you can spot me you will appreciate just how massive these Redwood trees are. Absolutely spectacular!
Yosemite is a favourite for climbers and a must for a photo journey of America's National Parks
Yosemite NP: Oh Yosemite valley with El Capitan and Half Dome clear to see. Yosemite holds a special place for me as the first National Park I ever visited.
Death Valley NP: It has the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth – a scorching 56.7C!

I hope you enjoyed this photo journey across America’s National Parks. Which parks would you most like to visit? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Looking for more inspiration? Read about the time I drove from Alaska to Panama in an old American School Bus!

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Louise is a tour leader from South Wales who runs adventure tours in Africa, Asia and the Americas. She lives in her converted campervan & is currently based in Turkey. Louise is trained in mountain leadership and has a passion for photography.

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