Welcome to a closer look at our journey around the country! Here you can check out our more detailed route, including each National Park and NPS site we’ll see along the way. See our National Parks page for posts about each park.

First, here’s a conceptual map of our overall route. We explain this to people with wild hand gestures all the time, so we figured a quick color-coded route map would be helpful.

59 National Parks Route Map

As you can probably tell, we’re from St. Louis. No, we’re not just that obsessed with gooey butter cake. Okay, yes we are. 

We returned home three times: for a baby shower, Christmas and a wedding. Our route is by no means highly efficient, but it worked perfectly for our circumstances and the weather.

Here are more details:

Leg 1: RED (August-October)

Our first leg of the trip served several purposes: tackle a few key parks while they were still warm enough, and test out the amount of equipment we had with us. We swung back home for an important baby shower and Mizzou’s homecoming before heading east for leg two.

For our blog posts about each park, click on the links below.

Leg 2: ORANGE (October-December)

Our second leg featured the country’s Eastern parks: from the mountainous coast of Maine to the top of the Smokies to the beaches of Virgin Islands. Click the links below to read more.

Leg 3: YELLOW (January)

We headed into paradise for a month of beaches, volcanoes, and rain forests!

Leg 4: GREEN (February-April)

Our biggest leg of the trip will cover the south-est west parks, as well as California and the Pacific Northwest. We will finish with a week-long break with family in Seattle.

Leg 5: BLUE (May-June)

Leg 5 is a big one! We will bag several iconic parks during this leg, moving across the Rocky Mountain region.

  • Glacier National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Badlands National Park
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Vouageurs National Park
  • Isle Royale National Park

Leg 6: PURPLE (July)

Our grand finale is all things Alaska. We have everything planned to a tee, and are anxious to see if it all pans out!

  • Glacier Bay National Park
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
  • Kobuk Valley National Park
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Lake Clark National Park
  • Katmai National Park
  • Denali National Park

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  • Jill Watkins

    You have inspired me! We may not be able to take a year off work, but we are definitely going to add visiting each National Park to our “bucket list.” I am thinking I might be able to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon in or near each National Park. 🙂 You know me–I’ve got to figure out a way to connect it to running.

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks, Jill! So glad you have been inspired. Those races sound awesome!!

  • Great 59

    Good Luck on your very ambitious quest to travel ALL the US National Parks in one year. It has been a fantastic journey for our family. We have traveled to 51 National Parks so far to date over the past 2 years and we are on schedule to visit the final 8 by the end of Aug 2016. (3 years in total) To Celebrate the NPS Centennial – our final park will be 10 days at the National Park of American Samoa, Aug 21-31,2016.
    In which Leg of your travels do you plan on visiting the National Park of American Samoa? (established 10/31/1988). We only see that you have listed 58 National Parks.
    We have been followers of the blog 59NationalParks in 59Weeks and celebrate in their successful accomplishment. We will continue to follow your blog adventures and we wish YOU much success.

    • Elizabeth

      Hi, Great 59! That’s awesome! And good eye; we hadn’t noticed that we’d left it off. We’ll be visiting American Samoa at the start of 2016, right after the holidays. We are also big fans of 59 National Parks. Thanks for the well wishes and good luck yourselves! 🙂

  • Rodrigo

    Hello Kids!

    You must be spending you last nite at Great Basin or already at Bryce. We are mesmerized by your huge adventure! So inspiring meeting you that tonite we started planing for Alaska!!!! The logistics are not easy but the determination is there! Maybe you two pros could share with us tips, when time permitting, via email. We totally understand you are busy. Also we are not sure if Las Vegas is on your way to any of the Parks. But we want to extend an invitation that our home is open to you. Looking forward to your posts and pictures!!! Be safe and rejoice. Hugs

    Rodrigo & Toby.

    Ps: many of your pics, Toby ‘s pics and mine pics are posted on FindYourPark site!!!

    • Thanks, Rodrigo! That’s SO awesome about Alaska! Feel free to email us (I think we gave you that?) and we can talk more! We will probably be asking your advice more than anything… it’s intimidating! We loved meeting you guys and hope to adventure with you again when we’re in your area! 🙂

  • Cindy Brown

    What a wonderful adventure for the two of you! We enjoyed visiting several National Parks this past July and we were also inspired to continue our exploration of many more in the near future! We especially enjoyed Mesa Verde, Canyonland, Arches and Grand Canyon. By the way, seniors over the age of 60 can really save some $$ by purchasing a senior pass to visit National Parks- especially if they are visiting multiple sites. It saved us quite a bit of money and some state parks will also give a discount on admission fees or waive them altogether! Enjoy your travels and we’ll be cheering you on! Travel safe!

    • What a great reminder, Cindy! Thanks! We have told our parents about this tip, and hopefully everyone who qualifies will take advantage. It’s a great deal!

  • Joanna Benson

    Hi Cole and Elizabeth –
    So glad you enjoyed my “home park” this past week, Cuyahoga Valley NP. I found out about your journey in the Plain Dealer – great article. Did you happen to get a look the great blue heron “rookery tree” on Bath Road? Although it might not be very busy this time of year since the herons are taking off, its still amazing to see all those huge nests in one tree.
    I too have embarked on a campaign to see all 59 National Parks, although I am more on a 10-year plan rather than 1-year. At 55, I figure its something I can enjoy now while still working and continue into retirement. Have been to 13 parks so far, and next week I head out for a week in Death Valley, Zion and Bryce. Although I am not much of a camper, I try to hike at least one decent trail in each park. I’ve stayed at a lot of amazing places near the parks through AirBnB, however, and really recommend it if you’re not equipped to camp out.
    So far – my all-time favorite park is Grand Tetons. You will fall in love with those amazing mountains, I promise. I look forward to see how you tackle the Alaska parks. Best of luck!!

    • Cole

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Joanna! We didn’t see the rookery tree, but we loved Cuyahoga and are already putting it on our list to come back someday! Your trip sounds amazing! There’s something to be said for taking your time. Sometimes we feel a bit rushed, unfortunately. Safe travels!

      • Joanna

        Hello again Elizabeth and Cole. Just finished a week of vacay and saw Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. wow. Death Valley from Dante’s View was amazingly cool. a little disappointed that a lot of side roads in DV were still closed due to massive flooding damage. did Zion today – mind-blowing. did not attempt Angel’s Landing (although my house mate did – you guys are my new heroes!). I went to Acadia about 10 yrs ago. I agree – very beautiful this time of year. But I really hope you managed to grab some lobster along the way too!
        Safe travels – Joanna

        • Cole

          It’s great to hear about your latest travels, Joanna! You are in some mind-blowing parks for sure. We can’t wait to visit Death Valley. And we definitely made sure to get a lobster roll in Maine!

  • Theresa

    I’ve been to a number of NPs. I need to make a list to see how many.
    I made a goal of visiting all 50 states and have achieved that.
    I would love to visit more NPs. Plan to go to Glacier NP this summer.
    We aren’t campers or hikers but I know you are seeing the best the NPs have to offer by doing it this way.

    • Cole

      Haha, I was almost the opposite. Our goal is obviously the National Parks and I realized I should make a list of all the states we’ll have traveled to. After this year I’ll just be missing 2 – Alabama and Wisconsin. So not far to go! Gotta love those travel goals.

      And Glacier is my absolute favorite from visiting with family. Hope you enjoy!

  • Tammy Donelson

    Anxious to catch up with you in some of our favorite parks this summer: Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons, or maybe Rocky Mtn.

  • shawn wilders

    We had the opportunity to visit 5 national parks in 3 weeks back in May of this year. Congrats on your year long trip to visit all of them. Happy trails!

    • Thanks, Shawn! Appreciate the support! 🙂

  • Sue

    Cole and Elizabeth,
    Just read the Yahoo finance article my husband forwarded and will certainly print it and your itinerary for future reference. You have my admiration and envy! One park mentioned (Acadia) and one park pictured (Grand Tetons) are thus far my favorites and Denali is a close third. How long will you be in Alaska as your plans entail alot of parks? If you can, take the (school) bus loop ride into Denali. The scenery and wildlife are breathtaking. Enjoy the rest of your travels and be safe.

    • Thank you, Sue! We will be in Alaska for about a month – all of July! We planned 6 days for Denali and will be taking the camper bus all the way to Wonder Lake, so we will definitely be enjoying those views!! Can’t wait for our final leg in Alaska!

  • Kathy

    Hi Cole and Elizabeth, I saw your article on my Yahoo feed and it sparked my interest since I have a goal of getting to all the National Parks in my lifetime. I was even more interested as I read you had been to Isle Royale and we had just returned from a trip there! Then I thought about a young couple that we were behind inside the Lodge registration building who had lost a cell phone charger on the trail. Wondered if that was the two of you. By your pictures it looks like it could have been. Anyways, kudos to you both for your amazing accomplishment. I love your blogs, videos, and tips for each of the parks. I’ll refer to them as we continue our journey to the parks. Hit number 19 at Isle Royale – I’ve got a ways to go at age 55!

    • Hi Kathy! Luckily we did not lose anything; must have been another couple! Thank you so much for your kind words. Appreciate your support! 🙂

  • Rick Johnson

    I am starting your purple leg in a month! How are/did you plan your Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley leg?