Ultimate National Parks Road Trip

If you’ve ever thought of visiting all 59 of our national parks and protected areas, Dr. Randal Olson, a Senior Data Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, has a plan for checking off the 47 of them found in the contiguous U.S.

Created in honor of the 100th birthday of the NPS, Olson’s Optimal U.S. National Parks Centennial Road Trip is a route designed in a circuit, allowing you to start anywhere on the journey and travel the route through all of the parks, eventually arriving back home.

Optimal U.S. National Parks Centennial Road Trip map
Randal Olson’s Optimal U.S. National Parks Centennial Road Trip maps a route to all 47 national parks in the contiguous United States.

“If you’ve followed my blog for the past year or so,” Olson wrote introducing the project, “you’ll know that I’ve made a hobby of optimizing various road trips around the U.S., so I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to optimize yet another road trip.”

It’s no small commitment of time to make this once-in-a-lifetime trip. “In total, this road trip spans 14,498 miles (23,333 km) of road, and will take roughly 2 months if you’re traveling at a breakneck pace,” said Olson.

Olson has created an interactive map of the entire route, and also five Google maps of each segment of the trip, available on his website.

Wes is the editor of Outdoor Photographer.


    I realize Rhode Island is the smallest state with the smallest national park, Roger Williams National Park, but please don’t claim to include all the national parks in the lower 48 if you are not really going to keep the promise. Or maybe you don’t consider us worthy?

    You left out Roger Williams National Park in Providence RI. Granted it is the smallest of the national parks, but you did say you included all the national parks in the lower 48.

    Roger Williams is a National Memorial. Cited as such on page 93 of the 2016 Official Index of the National Park Service, produced by the National Park Service. Also by National Geographic’s 2009 edition of the Complete National Parks of the United States – page 72. So I think Wes is correct.

    Other examples of National Memorials are the General Grant National Memorial and Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

    Here is a list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Memorials_of_the_United_States

    This is awesome! I’m currently visiting all 59 national parks, and my route looks a little similar for the continental parks.. unfortunately not as efficient – but I’m also traveling by seasons. The southwest is tough to plan, there are so many close together.

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