Do you find joy in reading novels set in places you have been or places you wish you could visit? Do you delight in being able to picture exactly the spot the hero is searching for clues, the spot where she falls in love or the spot where everything falls apart and then comes together.
I’ve collected a list of some of the best novels set in National Parks that fits the bill. Now seems like a really great time to dig in and explore the parks! These are a mix of fiction novels that take place in United States National Parks and real life experiences in the parks. What they are not is your usual travel guide. I hope you find a couple that will take you on a virtual vacation as you explore the parks through the eyes of the story’s hero.
This post contains affiliate links to make it easier for you to find products I have mentioned. You don’t pay any extra and in some cases I could earn a small commission.
The Wild Inside
by Christine Carbo
Why this author: We are going to start with one of my favorite novels set in a National Park. Carbo truly captures the ruggedness of Glacier National Park.
Overview of The Wild Inside: This combines my fascination with grizzly bears and my love of mysteries. Carbo weaves an great story about a murder in Glacier National Park where the criminal appears to be a grizzly. The Wild Inside contrasts the beauty of Glacier National Park and the ugly truth behind this death.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
by Edward Abbey
Why this author: Desert Solitaire is a collection of essays by Abbey, based on his time as a ranger in Arches National Park. He’s acclaimed as a great story teller, weaving amazing imagery that will transport you to another place. Fair warning though, almost all readers comment about his rants about protecting this fragile environment might be a bit over the top.
by Amy Greene
Why this author: A native of the Appalachians, Amy Greene pulls from her intimate knowledge of the culture in crafting her characters.
Overview of Bloodroot: This novel weaves through 4 generations as it spins the tale of an interesting mix of characters and their lives in the Appalachian Mountains. Many reviews remarked at the slow start of Green’s novel Bloodroot and then rave about how it slowly draws you in and ends up being one of those books you just can’t let go.
A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains
by Isabella L. Bird
Why this author: These are the true stories as written and shared by Isabella Bird in 1873. She’s definitely quirky and unique. A character not to be missed.
Overview of A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains: In 1873, female travel writer Isabella Bird rode horseback through the Rockies. The stories of her adventures were published first in letters to her sister and later in A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. She’s quite the character, remembered for being the first woman to climb Longs Peak in a flowing Hawaiian gown. You’ll love traveling through the Rockies and experiencing life almost 150 years ago with her.
by Stephen King
Why this author: Without a doubt this is one of Stephen Kings signature novels. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time.
Overview of The Shining: Discover the famous Stanley Hotel, just outside the gates of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Shining was inspired Stephen King’s 1974 stay in Room 217. A truly frightening psycho horror story, the young son of the hotel’s new caretaker is sensing strange forces. In traditional King style you will be scared out of your mind.
Waltzing in Ragtime
by Eileen Charbonneau
Why this author: Eilieen Charbonneau is legendary for her detailed historical research and her ability to weave it into a beautiful story.
Overview of Waltzing In Ragtime: The year is 1900 and Olana Whittaker is striving to be recognized as a serious journalist in San Francisco. Through Olana you can experience the challenges a woman in business faced. She meets forest ranger and conservationist Matthew Hart while writing a feature on Sequoia National Park. What ensues is a clash of cultures and of course a trying romantic relationship.
by Shelton Johnson
Why this author: Shelton Johnson artfully combines his passion for researching the story of the Buffalo Soldiers with his over 20 years as a National Park Ranger (15 in Yosemite NP) in telling this powerful story.
Overview of Gloryland: This tale of Elijah Yancy’s life as a Buffalo Soldier skillfully explores the conflicting emotions of man fighting to discover his own identity while under the flag of his country persecuting other men of color. Elijah finally finds peace when his troop is stationed in the wilderness of Yosemite.
by John Nance
Why this author: Nance, a decorated pilot veteran, is famous for his aviation based suspense novels. Now he takes that deep knowledge and applies it to this very timely story about the brave men and women who fight wildfires.
Overview of Fire Flight: A mysterious string of accidents claims the lives of veteran fire fighters and now it appears that it is no accident. Clark Maxwell joins the fight against wildfires in Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons. He gets caught up in the well twisted plot as he tries to unravel the clues. And of course, there is a little bit of romance included.
by David Riley Bertsch
Why this author: Fans rave about Bertsch’s great fly fishing imagery that he has woven into this suspenseful drama.
Overview of Death Canyon: Retired from the courtroom, Jake Trent has headed to Montana to open a lovely bed and breakfast and a fly fishing guide service. Life doesn’t stay idyllic long as he discovers a dead body. Then when 2 more, seemingly unrelated, deaths are reported in the same day Jake finds himself sucked into the drama. Now he is fighting to solve this mystery.
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree
Why this author: Weisgarber’s love of American History is evident as she spins this tale of pioneers in the Badlands in 1917.
Overview of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree: The story of a fiercely proud black family building a ranch in the harsh Badlands as told through the eyes of the wife, Rachel. The trials of the land challenge her on every level and lead her to question if her love for her husband is worth the risk to her family.
Track of the Cat: Anna Pigeon Mysteries
by Nevada Barr
Why this author: Nevada Barr draws on her experience working in the National Parks to create intriguing mysteries. If you love this one, Barr has crafted series of 18 mystery novels featuring her famous Anna as she works in other National Parks. As a huge Agatha Christie fan, I had to purchase this one right away!
Overview of Track of the Cat: In this Agatha Christie award winning novel her heroine, Anna Pigeon, unravels a murder that had quickly been written off as a mountain lion attack.
I hope you enjoy an afternoon of adventure with these great books. It’s such fun to travel to places through these novels set in National Parks. Picture yourself right there with the characters.