10 Books for a National Park Family Vacation

While planning a road trip to any of America’s National Parks, many people read up on the subject. Especially for families visiting a National Park with kids in tow, research is key to getting the most out of your visit. From collecting coins to selecting lodging and finding wildlife, here are 10 kid-friendly books to get the entire family in on the action.

National Parks with Kids

Family travel experts Paris Permenter and John Bigley have narrowed the tons of options available and bring you the top 21 family-oriented national parks in their Open Road’s Best National Parks with Kids 2E. You’ll get great family-friendly lodging ideas, expert advice on viewing wildlife (and taking memorable photos!), insider tips on Junior Ranger programs, top attractions and activities outside the parks, and travel planning tips perfect for the whole family.

Teddy’s Travels, America’s National Parks

“Winner of a ForeWord Book of the Year Award and also a Benjamin Franklin Award, Teddy’s Travels: America’s National Parks is a travel guide to the National Parks written for children. Join Tedrick de Bear™ as he travels across the United States by way of the National Parks and Monuments. Filled with full color photographs and graphics designed to engage, Teddy’s Travels takes the reader on a fun filled ‘Venture™ with first hand information, web addressees, journal pages and scavenger hunts. Kids of all ages will learn how to visit a National Park from Visitor Center to wilderness hike. Teddy’s Travels is all about learning, through experiencing, about the world around us. The 128-page book has pages for photographs, places for young travelers to write, and lots of room to
collect stamps.” Bring along your favorite stuffed-animal and let the kids create a Teddy’s Travels adventure of their own.

Mapping the Future of America’s National Parks

From Alaska’s wilderness to the Florida Keys, the park service increasingly relies on geographic information systems (GIS) to work more efficiently and make better, more informed decisions. Packed with maps, full-color illustrations, and other graphics, Mapping the Future of America’s National Parks: Stewardship Through Geographic Information Systems describes how the National Park Service uses GIS in everything from trail building, wildlife protection, and archaeology to managing wildfires, monitoring park health, and studying human impacts on wilderness. An important topic to have with children, what better place is there for a discussion on planet change than at a National Park. If you geocache, this book might appeal to the geek in you too.

The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges

Perhaps one of the best ways to make the most of a trip to a National Park is to eat, stay, sleep, and play there. Get out of your car; just don’t drive through. Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges is an “insider’s guide to finding the best lodges throughout the United States—and to securing a reservation well in advance to beat the crowds. The authors, national park experts who have crisscrossed the country many a time, tell readers how to leave behind the hassles and headaches and make trip planning painless. Having visited nearly every national park area and lodge in America, they share their sage advice on how to choose a lodge that will best suit the taste and needs of an individual or, indeed, a family.” From luxurious inns to rustic cabins, you’ll find firsthand information about the properties, room rates, maps, phone numbers, and even beautiful illustrations. Order this book before your trip and use it as a planning tool.

Oh, Ranger! True Stories from our National Parks

Described as a great campfire read, the Oh, Ranger! True Stories from Our National Parks book is a “collection of exciting stories told directly by National Park rangers [that] provides an insider’s view into the most beautiful and culturally significant treasures in America. Stories include everything from animal encounters to fire fighting and search and rescue missions.”

Oh, Ranger! Guides

Oh, Ranger! Guides (see photo above) are a set of 23 guides are valuable planning tools and lightweight enough to carry along on a camping or hiking trip in the park. Family-friendly features include a Watchable Wildlife section with photos and descriptions of animals that live in the park, as well as a “Just For Kids” chapter, which outlines kid-focused activities and provides information about park Junior Ranger programs. A handy Walking & Hiking chart helps parents quickly identify which trails are appropriate for their family and an illustrated Lodging & Dining chart makes hotel reservations a no-brainer. The guides also include Sights to See and Things to Do chapters, as well as information about trip planning, camping, park history, preservation and geology, and advice on what to do if you’ve only got a day in the park. Look for the guides locally at visitor centers, AAAs, outdoor retailers and Chambers of Commerce across the country and especially in communities located near National Parks.

National Parks, The American Experience

National Parks: The American Experience, 4th Edition continues to be a favorite National Parks read for families across the country. Author Alfred Runte “takes us from Yosemite and Yellowstone to Alaska on a journey of discovery of the American land. Also a prominent adviser and on-camera personality in the Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Runte reminds us what it means to have national parks in a country equally committed to economic achievement.” Reminding us of our role as global citizens, the book also reminds us that in order to carry the vision of the National Parks into the future, we must teach our children to love them too.

Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into National Parks

Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into National Parksis filled with all kinds of trivia, tidbits and morsels including: “the ranger who was struck by lightning seven times, the lonely phone booth in the Mojave Desert, petrified rocks, moving rocks, and rock stars, the “bear” necessities of animal encounters, outrageous questions tourists ask park rangers and wardens, and much much more!” A fun read to get your kids engaged in the trip before you arrive, let’s face it, toilet humor is funny even when it’s about the National Parks.

Adventure Across The National Parks

Proponents of the “find all 50 license plates” game, Adventure Across the States National Park Quarters (Official Whitman Guidebooks), is another fun road trip activity. Designed for the U.S. Mint’s new “America the Beautiful” national park quarters, running from 2010 through 2021 (56 in all: one for each state, district and territory), “this book tells you about every national park, landmark, forest, and other site honored on these fun coins. You’ll also learn about other coins you can collect. Plus how to grade your coins, how to protect and display your collection.” With 10 more years before the last coin rolls off the press, you can have fun learning about the National Parks and collect state quarters in the mean time.

The National Park Architecture Sourcebook

The National Park Architecture Sourcebook focuses on man’s thumbprint throughout our National Park System. The book “takes readers on an architectural tour of the remarkable variety of man-made structures that dot the landscapes of [the] spectacular mountains, valleys, deserts, and coastlines. Organized by region, The National Park Architecture Sourcebook is unique and comprehensive guidebook to America’s most significant historic park-based architectural treasures. Kaiser leads readers beyond the rustic lodges of Yellowstone and Yosemite found in typical guide books to those special places where history, form, and natural beauty have combined to create moments of architectural magic or enduring symbols of patriotism and heroic action such as the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, Fort Sumter, and the USS Arizona.”

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. In March 2018 Julie Henning published the book "100 Things to Do in Eugene Before You Die" (Reedy Press). She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. She has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, Travel Wisconsin, Travel Oregon, Hometown News Group, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine (DNR publication), Experience Michigan Magazine, the Official Oregon Wine Touring Guide, Metro Parent Milwaukee Magazine, Eugene Cascades & Coast Official Visitors Guide, Trivago, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, Amtrak.com, Eugene Magazine, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio. She has produced episodes for Journey of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. Julie has also produced travel apps with Sutro Media and Bindu Media. She works full time in marketing. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.