Lonely Planet Writer

How to visit all mainland US National Parks in one optimised road trip

The creator of the most efficient US road trip ever has turned his sights on creating the optimum route for visiting all the US National Parks by car.

The Optimal U.S. National Parks Centennial Road Trip

Click here for an interactive version

Randy Olson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, created the map to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the US National Park system. The road trip spans 14,498 miles (23,333 km) and he estimates it will take about two months to fully enjoy, depending on your pace; a generous estimation from the man who developed a way to hit 48 US states in 8.5 days!

The road trip is designed in a circle so you can hop on the route wherever you are and start driving. If you decide to take the trip, don’t forget to pick up your park passport to get stamped!

This could be you using this roadtrip map.
This could be you using this roadtrip map. Image by Thomas Barwick

Notice something missing? Because 12 of the USA’s National Parks are in Alaska, Hawaii and other U.S. territories which make a smooth road trip a bit difficult, Olson decided to exclude them for the purposes of this route. This optimised road trip will bring you to the 47 other parks in the mainland US states.

Randy created the map to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the incredible National Park system. The anniversary has caused a huge upsurge in interest in the protected outdoor spaces.

Olson used information from Google Maps along with Python and the Gurobi TSP solver to optimize this road trip and he includes some advice and links on how to make your own on his website. If only he had published it before Conor Knighton set out to visit every national park this year.