The optimal road trip to see all the US national parks

What a better way to explore the beauty of a country than taking a road trip! At some point in your life you have probably thought about taking a road trip across your country, but it never seems possible to plan the perfect one. There's always some point of interest that gets lost in the shuffle or a boring route taken rather than a more interesting one. 

Randy Olson is a Computer Science & Engineering Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University who dedicates a lot of his time and creativity to design ideal road trips, such as the ultimate US road trip and the best cross-Canada trip. This time, Olson created a route that would allow travelers to view each national park in the 48 continental states without wasting time.

This road trip is designed to be 14,498 miles long and is going to take about two months to be completed. So, all you have to do is get your friends together and drive.

Note that you can start the journey at any point and proceed whatever direction you like, as this road trip forms a circle around the U.S. If exploring the stunning beauty of  National Parks on a road trip is on your bucket list, this might be the perfect map for you; the natural beauty of national parks, unique geological features, unusual ecosystems meaning a perfect escape from the bustle of the big city.


Map: Randy Olson 

The following is a list of all National Parks included in Olson’s route:


Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Everglades National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Acadia National Park, Maine

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Glacier National Park, Montana

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Redwood National and State Parks, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California

Pinnacles National Park, California

Channel Islands National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Death Valley National Park, California