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The optimal road trip to the 47 National Parks in the contiguous U.S., by Dr. Randal S. Olson

Stashed in: @troutgirl, Awesome, America!, Maps!, Out of Doors, Vacation Ideas, Favorites, National Parks, Data is beautiful.

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In August 2016, the National Park Service celebrates their 100th year of managing the United States’ system of beautiful national parks.

The U.S. national park system consists of 59 protected areas across the U.S. that are managed by the U.S. National Park Service.

12 of the national parks are in Alaska, Hawaii, and other U.S. territories, which can make them difficult to drive to unless you have a flying car. 

In total, this road trip spans 14,498 miles (23,333 km) of road and will take roughly 2 months to fully enjoy, depending on your pace.

Here’s the Google Maps for the full trip: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Here’s the full list of national parks in order:

  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

Want to make your own road trip?If you like the idea of taking an optimal road trip but don’t like the locations I chose, don’t fret: you can make your own road trip!

This time around, I used the Gurobi TSP solver to optimize this road trip. Check out Nathan Brixius’ blog post to learn how to make your own, or check out my alternative methods to optimizing road trips using Python and Google Maps.

If Python coding is beyond you, there are web sites like that will do it for you. They optimize road trips with up to 20 stops for free, and 20+ stops for a nominal fee.

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