Planning Your National Park Trip

Planning Your National Park Trip

Every year, Anderson Design Group artists, creatives, and staff travel to the American National Parks and other American travel destinations in search of artistic inspiration. Needless to say, we know how to plan cross-country road trip itineraries and schedules!

So we thought we’d put together a few brief sections outlining our packing lists and helpful tips regarding how to plan a National Park road trip.

National Park Road Trip Packing List

Planning a trip by road to a National Park always begs the question, “What to bring on a road trip?” Driving to a National Park will look different from flying or traveling by boat or train. And a National Park packing list will be quite different from a cruise vacation or a flight overseas. Here’s a simple National Park packing list we’ve found universally workable for all our trips into the parks:

Water bottle
Compass and map
First aid kit
Extra clothing
Extra water
Protective hat
Insect repellant
Comfortable footwear

The above would constitute a 'day pack,' items you would collect and add into a small backpack before heading out into a park for a few hours.

Road Trip Essentials and Travel Essentials

Hopping in the car and heading to a National Park? You’ll want additional items in your vehicle that can be easily accessed once in the park. lists the following National Park travel essentials (their site is a great resource for backpacking packing lists, car camping packing lists, and hiking packing lists):

Water in a reusable bottle
Food (including snacks)
Travel documents
Cash + debit/credit cards
Annual national parks pass
Cooler for food storage
Picnic tablecloth
Reusable cutlery/utensils
Reusable plates/cups
Day bag/fanny pack
Comfortable shoes
Insulated jacket
Rain jacket
Camera + batteries
Phone + phone charger
Sun hat
Mosquito repellent
First aid kit
Park map

The Best Travel Gear and Hiking Equipment We Take Into the Parks

We travel light when we visit the National Parks, since our goal is to immerse ourselves in the parks and see as much of the park’s more remote areas as possible. That’s how we gather crucial inspiration and reference photos for future artwork!

The following is a list we often use for hiking in the National Parks, also borrowed from

Hiking shoes
Merino wool socks
Hiking pants or shorts
Quick-dry hiking top
Hiking backpack
Trekking poles
Insulated jacket
Rain jacket
Navigation (map, compass)
Drink bottle
Sun hat
Mosquito repellent
First aid kit

A Universal National Parks Checklist for Car Camping in a National Park

There is a poetic joy in the iconic American road trip. Now more than ever, people are interested in driving to the National Parks and reserving campsites at local campgrounds.

Borrowed from, the following is a list of essentials we have found helpful when planning a road trip that will involve camping in the National Parks or spending overnight stays at rustic cabins or in the backcountry:

Light source
Drink bottle + water storage
Tent, if sleeping outside
Sleeping pad
Sleeping bag
Camp pillow
Camp stove (with extra propane canisters)
Firewood + fire starter
Camp plates, bowls, cups, mugs
Camp cutlery/utensils
Coffee making kit
Cooler and food storage containers
Biodegradable soap
Small camp towel
Camp table
Camp chairs
Charging device
First aid kit
Body/face towel

The packing lists above can be adjusted and edited to reflect your travel plans best. We hope they help you have a blast when you plan a National Parks trip for this summer!

Utah National Parks Road Trip

If you’re planning a trip to the “Big Five” National Parks (Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef), we recommend carefully planning this adventure so you experience as much of the natural wonder of these places as possible. The Big Five are called that because they are five stunning National Parks, all within relatively close proximity to each other. Visiting them is a great way to cross off five National Parks in one trip, but such a trip should be carefully planned to get the best experience.

Thankfully, ADG has you covered! In the tradition of our award-winning National Parks coffee table books, we are proud to introduce a new book about the Grand Circle’s amazing parks, a circuit of natural wonders in southern Utah and northern Arizona that can be experienced by car or camper. This gorgeous book includes hand-rendered illustrations, maps, photos, timelines, and a fascinating narrative by historian Daniel S. Pierce. This 9” x 12” full-color hardcover coffee table book is loaded with new poster art by Anderson Design Group and stunning photography by Joel Anderson. It has trip-planning information and tips to help you plan your adventure. This artful book is perfect for any outdoor lover, poster art fan, or American Southwest history buff!

The Best National Park Guide Book

The best National Park books are the ones that help you identify how to visit a National Park and get the most rewarding experience possible. No matter which National Park trip you have planned, we recommend taking our Adventure Guide Book and our 63 Illustrated National Parks Updated Edition with you.

We have expanded and updated our award-winning National Parks Book by adding the newest Park—New River Gorge National Park. This updated edition includes dozens of new illustrations, photos, hiking tips, and facts. This 9” x 12” full-color hardcover coffee table book includes all 63 of our National Park posters, oil paintings, historical photos, a map of the USA, facts, travel tips, and the 100-year history of the National Park Service.

This gorgeous book is perfect for any outdoor lover, poster art fan, or American history buff! In 2015, ADG founder Joel Anderson and his team of award-winning artists set out to create a poster for each National Park. Along the way, Joel and his son Nathan traveled to several parks, gathering references, photos, and inspiration for a book that would eventually combine the entire poster series with a wealth of interesting information. Designed by the talented artists of Anderson Design Group and written by Nathan Anderson, this beautiful National Park book is truly spectacular.

A National Park Book for a Walk on the Wild Side

Last but not least, if you are planning a National Park road trip and you’re hoping to see some of the legendary beasts, mythical creatures, and cryptids said to live in the parks, we recommend our latest book release, Legends of the National Parks, a National Park guide book featuring loads of information about National Park legends.

The artists of Anderson Design Group have spent years documenting the wilderness and wonder of America’s National Parks. During our adventures in the parks, we’ve run across scary, bizarre, and fantastic legends of mythical creatures reported to have inhabited many of the parks and surrounding areas. We began to collect creepy accounts of strange creatures—like Bigfoot, the Jackalope, the Wendigo, or visitors from outer space. We collected tall tales of unexplainable events, ancient myths, and stories passed down by Indigenous Peoples, colonial settlers, and park visitors over the last two centuries. Many legends are based on Native American folklore, and we have been careful to indicate which tribes were associated with each story, being respectful of sacred traditions and Indigenous beliefs.

Our artists, writers, and researchers interpreted the creatures featured in the legends of the National Parks, rendering images of fantastic beings, using historical reference and some artistic license. We have created a repository of cryptid information, pinpointing the various National Parks where each legend originated. Maps, captions, facts, and info-graphics bring these mysterious creatures to life in this handy, pocket-sized guidebook. The legends are retold and amplified with info about the powers and characteristics of each creature, along with plausible natural explanations for how each mystery may have come to be. This book is ideal for anyone who enjoys National Parks, mythical creatures, and mysterious, unexplained phenomena. In addition to featuring 32 Legends of the National Parks, a bonus section highlights 19 other mythical creatures worldwide.

Happy Trails!

We hope you found this information helpful and that our books and artwork will be informative and inspirational for your National Parks road trip. Once you return, check out our most popular art collection, the Illustrated National Parks, for a souvenir from your favorite adventure!

Hope to see you on the trail,

-Ren Brabenec
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer

Older Post Newer Post

Sign up for our weekly email and get 10% off your first order.