The Optimal Route for Visiting Every U.S. National Park


Originally published at:


Well there is my problem, I live smack in the middle of no park land, almost…


I see its full national parks, not including monuments.


Note the topography where most of those are clustered.


The trip would take 14,498 miles, which is only 9.29 days of pure driving time with no stops and no sleep.

Should be loads of funski.


That is a very nice piece of code!


Congratulations on figuring out the worst family vacation ever, Science.


You mean flat grasslands don’t bring in the visitors?

That said, there are some really nice areas in Kansas, such as the Flint Hills and Kanza prairie. Missouri has some interesting parks. I thought The Mark Twain Park was a National park in SE Missouri, but I guess it is a state park. The Ozarks have some really pretty areas, though.

I always mentally erase any trees when I drive through, and add buffalo and maybe a lone Indian on a horse, standing on a hill scouting the herd.


If by every National Park you mean not every National Park it’s pretty complete.

Eg. that pretty big one with a mountain in it between Fairbanks and Anchorage…

There’s another one with a mountain it just west of Hilo, too.



12 of the national parks are in Alaska, Hawaii, and other U.S.
territories, which can make them difficult to drive to unless you have a
flying car. Thus for road trip, we’re going to focus on the national
parks that span the 48 contiguous states in the mainland United States.
Don’t worry: that limitation still leaves us 47 national parks, which
should be plenty for one road trip.


Yeah, but is it mathematically optimal? If so I know a few traveling salesmen who will be happy to hear about this development.


Idiot me.

And here I thought “The Optimal Route for Visiting Every U. S. National Park” might have had some relationship to… well, you know.

Having personally driven up to and into both the parks I mentioned in utterly prosaic autos, I didn’t even think to take into account their inaccessibility to non-flying-car traffic. (Although there was a particular scenic road within Denali closed to private vehicles, but I digress.)

I guess all the disappointment falls on me…


A great thing about Olson’s posts is he open sourced his original code, so you can dig in and make your own route.

Just swap out NationalPark$ with KrispyKreme$ and you’re set to go.


You can’t drive through canada?


I’ve been thinking about the park system a bit ever since the Republican convention where there was talk about transferring all national park lands to the states. I wonder if much would change?


We saw Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Badlands and Glacier in a week last year, and that was way too much in too short a time.

This might be a bit sporty.


You can, if you don’t mind dodging igloos, moose, and maple trees.


I hear they’ve licensed the code at Guantanamo.


In the transportation world, they’re known as Deadly Fixed Objects. (although technically, so are mailboxes)


Also doesn’t include national historical parks, like Valley Forge. There are a lot of different classifications in the National Park service.