Adventure, camping, Destinations, Guest Post, road trips, United States, Western United States

The National Park-to-Park Highway with Mountain Mom and Tots

How one family is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service with a journey on the National Park-to-Park Highway.

Today I’m welcoming Susan from Mountain Mom and Tots.  Her family is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, road-tripping more than 5,000 miles as they explore the national parks on the National Park-to-Park Highway. You can follow along this summer on Susan’s blog – Welcome to Back Road Ramblers, Susan!

Exploring America’s National Park-to-Park Highway

by Susan Strayer

This summer I intend to have an adventure unlike any other. The plan? Travel the National Park-to-Park Highway with my young family of five – camping, hiking and biking along the way.

National Park-to-Park Highway

As an outdoor family blogger at, I’m no stranger to getting outdoors with my little ones. Hikes and bike rides are all well and good, but this year I wanted to do something extra special. It is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, after all.

Mountain Dad and I were ready to try something beyond our comfort zone, something neither of us had ever done before. So we’re taking seven weeks and driving around the west, through seven states and nearly twenty National Parks and Monuments to celebrate the wild spaces all around us.

We’ve prepped the Adventure Mobile (AKA our Chevy Silverado) so we can all sleep inside and mapped out our 5,600 mile road trip. The route? The 1920s National Park-to-Park Highway.

What is the National Park-to-Park Highway?

National Park-to-Park Highway map

Spearheaded by Steven Mather, our nation’s first National Park Service Director, the National Park-to-Park Highway linked twelve National Parks on a loop of mostly dirt roads spanning over 5,600 miles.

The group of intrepid motorists that rallied behind the plan formed the National Park-to-Park Highway Association. They planned and raised funds for “A Grand Scenic Tour of the National Parks.” The route would be the longest auto trail of its time through seven western states.

In 1920, the Association left Denver for the inaugural trip. Together they drove for 76 days in a publicity tour to all the Nation’s Playgrounds, as National Parks were then called. On the list were Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Glacier, Rainier, Crater Lake, Lassen Volcanic, Yosemite, Kings Canyon (then General Grant), Sequoia, Zion, Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks.

National Park-to-Park Highway

At the time Rocky Mountain National Park was the most popular park of its day, exceeding the annual visitation of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon combined. Although those parks may be more well known, many of the smaller ones desperately needed the attention the National Park-to-Park Highway brought. Lassen Volcanic National Park didn’t even have a driveable road in 1920 and Mesa Verde National Park may have won the prize for most remote of all the National Parks.

Road Travel Then and Now

Imagine driving one of the thin-tired locomobiles over mostly dirt roads for seventy-six days. The group barely averaged twenty-six miles per day. Sections of the trip required shipping their automobiles by ferry or train, like in Glacier National Park where the Going-to-the-Sun Road wouldn’t be completed until the 1930s.

National Park to Park Highway

A lot has happened to the roads of the west since then. Today the National Park-to-Park Highway can be easily driven on paved highways with gas stations and hotel beds at ready supply. Many more national parks and monuments have joined the ranks of the Nation’s Playgrounds, allowing adventurers more options to explore.

Mountain Mom and Tots National Park-to-Park Highway TourNational Park-to-Park Highway

We’re no stranger to family camping, but this adventure brings it to a whole different level. In order to sagebrush (the 1920s term for car camping) through the national parks of the west, we’ll be turning our Chevy pickup truck into the ultimate camping vehicle. No RV or tent for us. We’ll be sleeping our family of five in a full sized pick up for weeks on end. I know it sounds crazy, but if anyone can pull it off it’ll be me and Mountain Dad.  For seven weeks we will be hiking and biking through some of the most beautiful spaces in the US, dragging our 7, 4 and 1-year-old with us.

National Park-to-Park Highway

I’d love for you to come along, too! Only I don’t think there’s any more room in my truck. Instead, follow our journey on then go out and plan a National Park adventure of your own. Now’s the time to “See America First!”

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The National Park-to-Park Highway was created in the 1920s to help promote popular and obscure national parks. The original road trip covered 5,600 miles of dirt roads. It's still a great way to explore the national parks today, but the roads are paved and you'll find lots of amenities.


 Susan StrayerSusan Strayer is the author of, an outdoor family blog. Based in the mountains of Sundance, Utah, she spends her time skiing, biking, hiking and camping with her husband and three kids. During the summer of 2016 she and Mountain Dad are taking their three tots on their biggest adventure yet - a seven week road trip of the National Park-to-Park Highway. Please connect with Susan on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 



  1. What a wonderful adventure!! I live in Washington state and absolutely LOVE visiting national parks. I have dreamed about doing a trip like this, I just didn’t realize that it was already a ‘thing’ and had a name! I definitely would like to do the national park to park highway in the next few years.

  2. A super idea for a fun family adventure. So much better than having the kids only playing video games at home, soak in the great outdoors! Safe travels and fun times ahead Susan 🙂

  3. What a fabulous adventure! I love national parks and would love to travel the National Park-to-Park Highway – I’d never heard of it before.

  4. It is great to see kids growing up in the big outdoors. So many kids these days are fed a diet of TV and internet!

  5. What an epic experience!! Your kids will have the most awesome time and I wish you all the luck in the world for all of you sleeping in the pick-up for the 7 weeks it will take you! I’m sure it will be something the older kids remember forever!
    Vicki Louise recently posted…Should We Stop Using AirBnB?My Profile

  6. OMG!!!
    It looks like an adventure of a lifetime! I really admire families that go beyond the comfort zone to enjoy nature and experience unique moments like this! The route sounds beautiful and I’m sure the kids will have amazing memories. Looking forward to follow you adventure!


  7. Thanks for sharing this post. I am saving it for my future read because I plan to round up these parks next year on a road trip!

  8. What an awesome adventure!! We’ve been visiting a lot of national parks this past year and have been having a great time–there are so many amazing spots to see! I didn’t know about the park-to-park highway-I’d love to drive it sometime! Hope you have a great trip!
    Jenna recently posted…Camping at Glacier National ParkMy Profile

  9. Carol Colborn

    We did all these but not all at once in one loop. We have been to 88 national parks and monuments in 4 years, captured in my book: Carolina: Cruising to an American Dream. America is a different world from Europe! You have inspired me to write a blogpost about these parks for this year’s centennial celebration.

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