The 14,500-Mile Road Trip Through Every National Park

Researcher Randal S. Olson created the most efficient route through all national parks in the lower 48 states. Credit: Courtesy Randal S. Olson

If you hadn’t already heard, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. And since it’s the biggest birthday the greatest lands in the country have seen yet, why not celebrate with the ultimate road trip to honor all 47 of the national parks in the lower 48?

Randal Olson, PhD, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, has created a map that routes the shortest possible road trip that passes through each and every national park — minus the 12 in Hawaii, Alaska, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. The trip spans 14,500 miles, from Acadia National Park in Maine to Redwood National Park in California, but forms a loop that allows you to start at any park. Olson estimates that the trip would take about two months to complete, but that’s only if you’re not inclined to stop and take in the sites.

Our recommendation? Plan for at least three months if you take on this behemoth drive — because if you’re going to visit each park, you might as well take the time to play in them. A couple prime activities to squeeze in would be canoeing in Big Bend and hiking the remote beaches of Olympic National Park (read more national park adventures here).