National Geographic Wants to Help You Plan Your Next Great Adventure to One of ‘100 Great American Parks’ [REVIEW]

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
Yosemite National Park (Photo courtesy Canva)

I am often amazed when I talk to friends and hear that they have never visited any of America’s national parks. From the time I was a child, my parents took me to gasp in awe at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, watch the bats fly out of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, and relax in Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. But in Stephanie Pearson’s new book for National Geographic, 100 Great American Parks, she shows us that we don’t have to visit a national park to appreciate nature and have a little fun. There are loads of great places to choose from!

Stephanie Pearson's 100 GREAT AMERICAN PARKS
National Geographic

As a California native, I have to say that one of our most remarkable national treasures is Yosemite National Park. It’s not the biggest national park in the country—in fact, it comes in third in size next to Yellowstone and Sequoia National Parks—but it is one of the most iconic.

Established in 1890, it once supported 36 villages and was home to the Ahwahneechee Indians, before the soldiers, settlers, and gold prospectors forced them out of the area. Yosemite is made up of 1,169 square miles of land, including towering sequoia trees, sheer granite walls, and plunging waterfalls, so there is definitely plenty to see!

New York City's Central Park
New York City’s Central Park (Photo courtesy Canva)

On a much smaller scale, Pearson also writes about another park that is near and dear to my heart, New York City’s Central Park. It isn’t part of the national park system, and was a rocky, swampy mess when it was first purchased back in 1853. But park designer Frederick Law Olmsted had a vision for the 1.31 square mile property that would ultimately make it the “lungs of the city” and attract 42 million annual visitors.

When I lived in Brooklyn back in the early 90s, my friends and I frequently took the subway under the Hudson and up to Central Park to relax, play frisbee, or walk around the Lake. More than a decade later, I took my wife there to enjoy the musicians who played there, to visit the zoo, and enjoy watching both the people and the wildlife that could be spotted among the flowering trees. It is definitely a respite from the chaos of the city and is a gem you need to visit if you ever make your way to Manhattan.

Nauset Light Lighthouse
Nauset Light Lighthouse (Photo courtesy Canva)

One of our absolute favorite places to visit, however, I’ve saved for last. A number of years ago, the radio company I worked for transferred me from Arkansas to work at its cluster of stations in New Bedford, Massachusetts. While New Bedford itself is a national historical park that is well worth a visit (particularly if you love Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick), it was Cape Cod that totally stole our hearts. At every opportunity, we drove across the Bourne Bridge and made our way to the Cape Cod National Seashore.

We inevitably started at Nauset Beach Light, which was erected in 1923, using an 1877 tower moved there from Chatham. (If you’ve ever purchased a bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips, this is the lighthouse used in the company’s logo.) This 40-mile stretch of seashore was established in 1961 and consists of 68 square miles. It offers up some of the most breathtaking views of the Atlantic that you will come across, whether you’re there during the early hours or during the waning light of day.

Marconi Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
Marconi Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy Canva)

Our favorite stretch of seashore, however, is at Marconi Beach, which is named for Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor who transmitted the first transatlantic radio messages from the president of the United States to the king of England. Parking here is ample, and you simply take the stairs down to the beach where you can breathe deep, filling your lungs with crisp ocean air as you either sunbathe or walk the seemingly endless miles of beach to explore nature. It was always thrilling when we saw the seals leap out of the surf and onto the shore in an effort to escape the native great white sharks that hunt them. But don’t let the sharks keep you away. They aren’t as ferocious as the one depicted in Jaws and rarely bite humans.

These are only three of the parks mentioned in this fabulous book full of fascinating details and jaw-dropping photos. Of the 100 parks presented here, only 63 are part of the national park system, while the rest are culled from America’s countless city and state parks. Pearson does a stellar job incorporating all the must-know travel tips you need to find the best views, trails, and spots to catch a glimpse of wildlife. And no matter which state you live in, she’s listed at least one place you should add to your travel itinerary.

If you’re sick of sitting at home, staring at the walls, and waiting for the pandemic to end before you get outside and start living again, Nat Geo’s 100 Great American Parks is a great place to start daydreaming. It will spark your imagination and have you heading out to enjoy nature once again. Most of all, it’s a phenomenal reminder of just how magnificent the American landscape is, and why we should treasure and protect it for generations to come.

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Stephanie Pearson is a journalist and contributing editor to Outside magazine. She is the author of the forthcoming book 100 Great American Parks, a beautifully illustrated collection of the nation’s most breathtaking natural landscapes to be published by National Geographic in May 2022.

After earning her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Pearson began her career at Outside, where she was on the editorial staff for more than 13 years. Her assignments over three decades have included reporting from Mount Everest Base Camp, meditating with Tibetan Buddhist Scholar Robert Thurman in Bhutan, and producing an online science curriculum while traveling through Australia and Latin America with National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner and his team.

Pearson has received four Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation in the categories of Foreign Travel, Environmental and Sustainable Tourism, Service-Oriented Consumer Work, and Travel Journalist of the Year.  Her work has also been anthologized in “The Best American Travel Writing” series. 

For more information, visit

Stephanie Pearson
Stephanie Pearson on Wilson Mountain

By Stephanie Pearson, Foreward by Garth Brooks
400 pp. National Geographic. $35.

Preorder 100 Great American Parks direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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