Science Says This Is The Best Way To See All The U.S. National Parks
Gotta hike ’em all!
The United States National Parks Service recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. To celebrate the natural wonders of our vast nation, data nerd Randy Olson, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Biomedical Informatics, has applied a fancy algorithm to connect the parks in one epic road trip.
This mega-route, which links every single national park in the contiguous United States (sorry Alaska and Hawaii), covers 14,498 miles and would take 9.29 days of non-stop driving or roughly 2 months to fully enjoy (hello, summer goals). Olson, the grand poobah of road trip mapping, has designed the route to form a circle around the U.S. so you can start at any point and head in either direction—as long as you stay on course for maximum efficiency.
Here at Dose, we’ve taken Randy Olson’s hard work and cute-ed it up a bit. Please enjoy the pretty colors and our recommendations for the best national parks to hit up in your region. If you’d like to cross-reference with Olson’s map, complete with a list of the stops in order, it’s available on his website.
From the rocky shores of New England to the crystal-clear waters of the Florida Keys, East Coasters have a diverse group of parks on their route. We’ve included Smokey Mountains National Park (3), on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, because well, it’s worth the trip. Here are the highlights:
1. Acadia National Park, Maine
2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
6. Everglades National Park, Florida
Buckle up, West Coasters, you’ve got a lot to see. There are 9 national parks in California alone, while Washington and Oregon are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. It was hard to pick 3 favorites, but we gave it our best shot.
2. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
4. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
7. Yosemite National Park, California
We’re pretty sure the Southwest was designed for exactly this purpose—long drives through the desert, “Themla & Louise” style, on the way to see some of the most breathtaking natural wonders our nation has to offer. Take in all the southwestern sites, but don’t even think about missing these:
1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
5. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
6. Big Bend National Park, Texas
We saved the best for last, y’all. Now before you get on our backs for lumping a few western states in with the Great Plains, let us say that this nice horseshoe route defies regional lines—looping from the Dakotas down into Utah and Colorado and back up to Montana. And damn, do these states have some amazing parks. We’ve picked our four favorites, but every single one is worth the trip. So what are you waiting for?! Get on the road!