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I love the national parks and that’s no secret. Every time I visit the parks I have to check out the books in the visitor center. I will get the Nevada Barr books every time I see them and love finding new books set in national parks all the time.
So today I’m sharing a ton of awesome national park novels with you so you can feel like you’re in the parks anytime. Most of these are fiction, but there are a few non-fiction national park books, too. I am not including any guides in this, just books for pleasure reading.
Some of these are series and I included at least one from them, some I’ve included multiple, but that just means there are even more not on this list to keep you busy for months or even years.
- If you want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free. Get that Audible deal here.
- If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd! You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot. Sign up for Scribd here!
- Shop my collection of bookish goodies on Etsy! These aren’t my shop items, but other shops I’ve curated into a book-themed collection. Shop my Etsy bookish goodies here!
- If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option. It’s $9.99 a month but if you read a lot and like to read more than just new releases, it could be worth it. Get Kindle Unlimited here!
- Get $5 off of $25 from BookOutlet! This is a great place to find new books for pretty cheap. They also have sales quite a bit, so keep an eye out for those. I tend to check here for books I want if they’re more expensive other places. They don’t have everything but they do have a lot. Shop BookOutlet here!
- Thrift Books has become my go-to when I’m looking for a book and want it cheap. It’s great if you like buying used books. With this you can get a free book after spending $30!
- Shop my book lists here! You can find every book list I have on Bookshop.org (except my monthly round-ups) and I add everything I can but they occasionally won’t have some. I do occasionally add extras though. If any lists are empty, they’ll be filled in shortly! Shop my bookshop.org book lists here.
This is the story of Annette McGivney’s investigation into the most brutal murder in the Grand Canyon which led to her own life-threatening crisis.
Tonomi Hanamure was a Japanese citizen that loved exploring the rugged terrain of the western US. On May 8, 2006, her birthday, she was stabbed 29 times as she hiked to Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Reservation by Randy Redtail Wescogame, an 18-year-old with a history of robbing tourists and meth use.
Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
Backcountry leaders Lollie Winans and Julie Williams left on a backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park in May 1996. On the last day of their trip, they set up camp in a hidden spot after descending the narrow remnants of a trail. When they failed to return home, the park rangers found them dead in their sleeping bags, their tent slashed, and their dog missing. The unsolved murders continue to haunt all who knew them.
When Kathryn Miles begins looking into the case, she finds a lot of conflicting evidence, mismatched timelines, and odd details. She is given unprecedented access to evidence and key witnesses to uncover the truth.
I would love to read this one! I would love any suggestions on more books about true crime in national parks if you know of any!
The Cold Vanish
Jon decides to investigate the disappearance of Jacob Gray in Olympic National Park, talking with his family and other people involved in the investigation.
Before reading this I would read this review and comment. I started reading this one and actually DNF’d it, but it’s worth a shot!
Track of the Cat
This is the first book in the Anna Pigeon series and she has fled New York to work as a ranger in the national parks. Her first post is at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.
Fellow ranger Sheila Drury is killed, presumably by a mountain lion, but the deep claw marks Anna finds on her body are too perfect to be real. Now it’s up to her to get to the bottom of it all.
This is another Anna Pigeon story (there’s a lot on here, but not all of them) and we’re in Mesa Verde National Park this time.
Visitors have been bringing home a strange deadly disease, not just photos. As people start to get ill in the park, Anna has to uncover the truth of what’s causing the problems.
Canyon Solitude: A Woman’s Solo River Journey Through the Grand Canyon
I don’t think I can do this description justice, so here is the official one straight from Amazon:
“It’s well known that Mother River doesn’t like a smart aleck,” says Patricia McCairen. Accordingly, she plies her oars with reverence and skill on a sometimes hair-raising solo rafting trip along the Colorado River that winds through the stupendous stone valleys of the American Grand Canyon. Like the waters of the Colorado, which change from long, still stretches to boiling white water that barely clothes sharp rocks and hides holes that can suck down a raft, McCairen’s moods–and even her name–change as the miles unwind. One moment, she’s the cocky, athletic river guide Babe; the next, she’s an earthier, more spiritual woman who answers to the name of Patch. Hours later, she seems more vulnerable, less convinced of her strength and joy in the solitude she so zealously courts. Canyon Solitude records these shifts and beautifully limns a journey that tests McCairen’s mettle and shows that determination, grit, and the will to spurn conventional rewards offer their own deep satisfactions.”
Don’t worry, not all of these national park books are Nevada Barr! But this one is, too.
This time Anna Pigeon takes us to Yosemite National Park in the fall at the Ahwahnee Hotel. Four young seasonal employees have disappeared and two weeks of searching have turned up nothing. They don’t know if they left of their own accord or have mysteriously disappeared.
She goes undercover to find out what’s really happening and takes a snowy solo hike in the high country to find answers.
The Wild Inside
Here is another series of books set in national parks and the first one brings us to Glacier in Montana.
Ted and his father were camping in Glacier National Park when a grizzly bear attacked and dragged his father to his death.
Twenty years later as a Special Agent for the Department of the Interior, he is called back to investigate a crime that is scarily similar to the horror of that night.
While he’s there he learns how wary locals are of newcomers and that more than human life is at stake before he reaches a shocking and unexpected personal conclusion.
Our first non-fiction national park book is from former ranger Andrea Lankford who was a ranger for 12 years.
This is the account of life as a park ranger and the stories behind America’s crown jewels. She’s helped baby sea turtles get to the sea, pursued bad guys on a patrol horse, jumped into rescue helicopters in the heart of the Grand Canyon, slept with a few too many rattlesnakes, and won arguments with bears.
We get to hear all about the adventures in Ranger Confidential. I am so excited to read this one, too!
Willa of the Wood
I just got this on a recent visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and while it may not explicitly be set there, I’m counting it since it has a lot of inspiration and history from the park and the Cherokee people of the area.
Willa is a young night-spirit and the best thief in her clan. She creeps into cabins of day-folk and takes what they won’t miss. It’s dangerous because day-folk kill what they don’t understand, but Willa will do anything to win the approval of the Padaran, the leader of the Faeran people.
Her curiosity leaves her stranded in the day-folk world and she calls upon the powers of her grandmother and the unbreakable bonds of her forest allies to escape. But this is when she finds out not all day-folk are the same.
Dear Bob and Sue
This is the first in a series of books about traveling the national parks. It’s written as a series of emails to friends, Bob and Sue, describing their adventures through the parks.
Matt and Karen take us along on their adventures and share the joys and challenges of traveling together. We hear of their adventures being chased by a grizzly bear, pushed off a trail by bighorn sheep, and even surviving a mid-air plane collision.
I actually have this one but haven’t read it yet. I’ll have to do that this winter. This is another book about park ranger life and the stories they leave the parks with.
You’ll get to enjoy stories about animal encounters, fire-fighting, search and rescue missions, and more directly from the rangers that experienced them. This is a wonderful non-fiction national park book, plus, it’s just pretty.
I Married a Park Ranger and Became a Park Wife
If you want a national park book that’s a little different, this is one about being married to a ranger, not actually being a ranger.
Phel was a park wife in eight parks: Isle Royale, Crater Lake, Hawaii Volcanoes, Olympic, Sequoia, Lehman Caves (now Great Basin), Chalmette Battlefield (now Jean Lafitte National Historical Park) and Shenandoah.
These are the stories of life living in the rainforest, at the edge of a volcano, in a high desert and deep snow, often in isolation.
The Last Season
This is about the search for Randy Morgenson who, after 28 seasons as a National Park Service ranger, failed to answer his radio call one morning in the unforgiving backcountry of the Sierra Nevadas.
Morgenson was more comfortable with nature than people and prided himself his ability to leave no trace of himself at a campsite and this skill proved costly when he went missing at age 54.
This is a desert classic that I, shockingly, still haven’t read. It’s the experience of Edward Abbey working as a park ranger at Arches National Park and his quest to experience solitude and nature in it’s purest form.
Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon
This is one of those books you just have to read. It includes the accounts of all thee known fatal mishaps in the Grand Canyon with 550 tales of untimely deaths.
This is the second book in the Glacier Park Mystery series. Monty Harris, a park police officer, knows there will be at least one death each summer, but Paul “Wolfie” Sedgewicks fatal fall from the sheer cliffs near Going-to-the-Sun Road is incomprehensible.
He was an experienced and highly regarded wildlife biologist who knew the dangers of the park and how to avoid them.
During his investigation, Monty discovers Wolfie’s zealous studies of the park’s wolverine population met local and federal resistance. He digs further into the investigation, fighting demons of his past. And then a second body is found.
The Emerald Mile
If you’re looking for an adventure book about the Grand Canyon, this is perfect. In the winter of 1983, the largest El Nino event on record swept in from the pacific ocean. Government officials were worried about one of the most dramatic dam failures in history at the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.
While this was happening, three river guides secretly launched a wooden boat named the Emerald Mile just below the dams base and headed downstream. Chaos was already underway and rangers were conducting the largest helicopter evacuation in the history of Grand Canyon National Park, but Kenton Grua, the Emerald Mile captain, was on his own mission through the canyon.
This is a book about Jordan Fisher Smith’s account of 14 years as a park ranger that dispels all ideas of life in the great outdoors.
We get to hear about his stretch of land that’s condemned to be flooded, that brings him in contact with drug users tweaked out to the point of violence.
In Nature Noir, he shares the unexpedctedly dark underbelly of protecting America’s public lands.
That Wild Country
While this isn’t specifically about the national parks, it is about public lands and the public land system, so I still think it’s relevant.
America’s public land system has been embroiled in controversy since its conception with the constant push and pull to develop the land for all of the resources it holds.
Mark was alarmed by the rising tensions over the use of these lands and set out to explore the spaces involved in the heated debate to see how they came about and what their future may hold. This is part travelogue and part historical examination.
Bear in the Back Seat
It’s just another day in the park when a sedated bear wakes up in the back seat.
This is a collection of tales of life as a park ranger at Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are hilarious and heartwarming. Kim spent thirty years protecting visitors from one of America’s densest populations of black bears – and protecting the black bears from the visitors.
Millions of people visit thee national parks every year and some never leave. These are stories from wranglers, bridge builders, bed makers, and rangers that have worked in the national parks.
If you’re looking for a book about working in the national parks and different ways to do that and what you can experience, this is a great option.
Death in Yellowstone
Just like Death in the Grand Canyon, this is a collection of all the fatal incidents in Yellowstone National Park from fatal grizzly bear attacks to hot spring incidents that end in death.
Whether you plan on visiting or not, this is a must-read national park book.
Canyon Sacrifice brings to life the rugged western landscape, the mysterious past of the Anasazi Indians, and the Southwest’s ongoing cultural fissures.
Chuck Bender is forced to face up to his past after a deadly struggle against murderous kidnappers in the Grand Canyon.
Lassoing the Sun
Mark grew up visiting the national parks with his family and on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, he decided to reconnect with them and spend a year visiting the national parks. He planned to take his mother to a park she hadn’t visited yet and recreate childhood trips with his wife and daughter.
But then his mother was diagnosed with cancer with just months to live and his book about the future of the national parks turned into a book about family, the parks, and the legacies we inherit and leave behind.
The Road to Paradise
I, of course, want to read this, but I will legit just get a paper copy of this because I love the cover. It’s another series set in the parks, starting with Mount Rainier.
Margie is an avid naturalist during the infancy of the national parks in 1927. She lands a coveted position working in Mount Rainier National Park and the chief ranger isn’t looking forward to looking after her. He takes managing the park and it’s crowds seriously.
Margie’s former fiance is set on turning the Paradise Inn and it’s surroundings into a tourist playground that may put the park’s pristine beauty in danger. Margie and Chief Ranger Ford will have to sacrifice to preserve the wilderness that they love.
Anna Pigeon is called to Lechuguilla Cavern, part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, when a fellow ranger is injured in the cave. Anna has to swallow her paralyzing fear of small spaces and descend into the cave to help her injured friend.
More haunting than her fear are the signs, some natural, some manmade, that not everyone is destined to leave the cave alive. It’s up to Anna to decide to she can trust and ultimately, who will live and who will die.
Death in Glacier
We’re back with another death in the parks book, but this one is for Glacier. This is stories of some 260 deaths dating back to 1913 when a man froze while snowshoeing between Cut Bank and St. Mary.
It includes people falling into crevasses while skiing, moonlight biking on Going-to-the-Sun Road, disappearing in strange places, and more.
We’re back in Glacier with Anna Pigeon who has been sent on a cross-training assignment to study grizzly bears. She joins Joan Rand, a bear researcher, and an unpredictable teenage boy as they hike into the back country looking for signs of a bear.
The tables are turned on the second night when the bear comes looking for them. They find the boy missing in the morning and a camper mutilated and now Anna has to find out the truth.
Where the Fire Falls
We have another vintage national parks book set in the 1920s. Olivia Rutherford is a watercolor painter who designed her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to wealthy art collectors in the region.
She hopes to lift herself and her sisters out of poverty after she lands a lucrative job painting the landscapes of Yosemite National Park, including it’s iconic Firefall event.
Clark Johnson, a former minister, has found purpose as a backcountry guide in the park and is now facing the decision of becoming a park ranger. He helps open Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite when she discovers the people are as important to the park as it’s vistas, a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.
Anna Pigeon is back and running from a marriage proposal from Sheriff Paul Davidson and takes a temporary job as a ranger at Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.
Anna lives in a fort with little company when her sister sends her a packet of letters from a great-great aunt who lived at the fort with her husband and Anna’s life is filled with visions of life long ago.
Soon, a mysterious boat explosion and the discovery of unidentifiable body parts keep her anchored to the present. A tangled web was woven before her arrival and is now threatening her sanity and life. She is cutoff from the mainland has to find answers or weather a storm that rivals the hurricanes that the islands are famous for.
This is our last Anna Pigeon book on this list (only the ones I have/read) and it takes us to Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Anna has been diagnosed with PTSD after her time on Isle Royale and is now on administrative leave and wonders if it may be permanent. Her husband of less than a year, Paul, is the bright spot in her life and he takes her on a rafting trip to Big Bend to lift her spirits.
All is well until the raft is lost in rapids and a young college student falls overboard resulting an even more grisly discovery: a pregnant woman caught between two boulders, more dead than alive. She and Paul are sucked into a labyrinth of intrigue that takes them from the Mexican desert to the Governor’s mansion in Austin.
In the Heart of the Canyon
This is a novel about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that changes the lives of everyone on board.
JT Maroney is guiding them and thinks he has seen everything on his previous 124 trips down the river but on thee first night, the equilibrium of this little family is changed when a stray dog wanders into camp.
Over the next thirteen days they learn that the most daunting adventures on the river may have nothing to do with the rapids but with reconfiguring the rocky canyons of the heart.
Leave Only Footprints
I snagged this on a Kindle deal this summer and I’m so excited to read it! This is another book about visit all of the national parks in a year.
After a broken heart and broken engagement, Connor needs a change of scenery and sets out to visit all of America’s national parks.
We’ll see how his worldview changed on everything from God to politics to love and technology in this hilarious, smart, and informative book.
Have you read any of these? Which ones? Any other national park books I should check out?
I just read the vintage National Parks series and every single one was fantastic. I couldn’t put them down!!
Thank you, thats so good to know! I need to add them to my wishlist haha
Hi Megan, Do check out “Great Spirit of Yosemite: The Story of Chief Tenaya”. I am biased because I am the author!!! But it has 22 5-star ratings on Goodreads. Check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/152694.Books_to_Read_Before_Visiting_Yosemite
If you are able to take a look, then many thanks. Best wishes, Paul
P.S. Love your selection
Thank you for sharing! It would be the perfect addition to the list!
I’ve read all of the Anna Pigeon books by Nevada Barr. Some are rather dark but I like them!
I’ve only red maybe 5? But I love them, too! always look for them when I visit new parks.