All I need is some fresh, open air to breathe, and natural, rugged land under my feet to make me a happy gal—and a good read in hand never hurts. That’s why I live in such awe of the sixty-two national parks scattered across the length and breadth of the United States. Just imagining, or reading, about the astounding beauty of this earth feeds the sense of adventure in my nature-hungry soul. If you too are a tree-hugger at heart, eager for an escape laden with rocks and rubble, here are nine breathtaking stories set in the US’s wondrous national parks.
9 Books Set in US National Parks (Almost) As Refreshing as a Vacation in Nature
Glacier National Park:
What was supposed to be a pleasant father-son camping trip beneath the clear skies of Glacier National Park turned into a full-fledged nightmare when Ted Systead’s father was attacked by a bear and dragged to his death. Now, twenty years later, Ted is a Special Agent for the Department of the Interior and has been called back to investigate a similar horrific murder—but this time, the victim was tied to a tree before being mauled. As Ted investigates, he realizes that the locals are wary of outsiders treading on their territory. Ted’s search for answers leads him deep into the wilderness on the trail of the killer, until he reaches a shocking and unexpected conclusion.
Yellowstone National Park:
Jake Trent left his life as a prosecutor for a more placid and peaceful existence as a fishing guide in Jackson, Wyoming—but after three seemingly unrelated deaths occur in one day, Jake’s idealistic life is completely disrupted. And to make matters worse, evidence points to him as a suspect. Attempting to get to the bottom of these crimes and clear his name, Jake teams up with beautiful park ranger Noelle Klimpton to follow a trail of clues through Yellowstone National Park.
The debut novel—“a true thrill ride” (Suspense magazine)—in the series featuring prosecutor-turned-Wyoming-fishing-guide Jake Trent: “a twisting, turning, murderous tale that thriller readers will love” (New York Times bestselling author Michael McGarrity).
It’s early summer in Jackson, Wyoming, where former prosecutor Jake Trent has left the law behind to pursue his dream: becoming a fishing guide and opening a small bed-and-breakfast in the West. Now three seemingly unrelated deaths have occurred in one day—unheard of in the scenic valley of Jackson Hole—disrupting Jake’s idyllic new life.
A skier perishes in a freak late-season avalanche. A French couple is discovered mutilated on a remote trail—presumably by a bear. And on the Snake River, Jake stumbles across the body of an expensively attired fisherman. Meanwhile, a series of small earthquakes—not to mention a bitter dispute between land developers and environmentalists—has left the townspeople uneasy.
Before long, the plausible explanations for each death dissolve. Could there be a sinister connection among them? When fresh evidence points to Jake as a suspect, he goes on the defensive. Is someone out to frame him? Jake teams up with beautiful park ranger Noelle Klimpton to get to the bottom of this series of disturbing events. The trail leads right to the region’s crown-jewel attraction: Yellowstone. With “all the elements of a successful thriller” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Death Canyon features “evocative Rocky Mountain themes, a spot-on sense of place, brilliant fly-fishing scenes and characters you just want to root for” (New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box).
Yellowstone National Park:
Set against the beautiful backdrops of Maine’s backcountry, exotic Indonesia, and scenic Yellowstone National Park, ETERNAL ON THE WATER follows Cobb, a devoted teacher and nature lover who takes a sabbatical from teaching at his New England boys’ prep school to kayak to the last known campsite of Henry David Thoreau. Cobb hopes this break from his daily life will bring him closer to the experiences Thoreau and other early nineteenth-century transcendentalists underwent. On his journey, Cobb meets Mary, a beautiful adventurist who also happens to be a teacher, and the two grow inseparable. Mary eventually reveals to Cobb that she may be carrying the gene for a devastating, incurable illness that runs in her family, turning an adventure of commitment to each other into a journey of joy, hope, heartbreak, and unending love.
Cobb, a devoted teacher and nature-lover, takes a sabbatical from his New England boys prep school seeking to experience what Henry David Thoreau and the transcendentalists did in the early nineteenth century. Kayaking to the last known spot where the American writer and philosopher camped four years before he died, he encounters the beautiful free-spirited Mary. Also a teacher, avid bird-watcher, and deft adventurist, Mary is flirtatious and beguiling, and the two soon become inseparable. Mary is like no one Cobb has ever met before, but he gets the feeling that she is harboring a secret. Eventually she shares her fears with Cobb—that she may be carrying the gene for a devastating, incurable illness that runs in her family. Finding strength in their commitment to one another, the two embark on a journey that is filled with joy, anguish, hope, and most importantly, unending love.
Set against the sweeping natural backdrops of Maine’s rugged backcountry, the exotic islands of Indonesia, scenic Yellowstone National Park, and rural New England, Tender River is a timeless and poignant love story that will captivate readers everywhere.
Yosemite National Park:
Born on Emancipation Day in 1863, Elijah Yancy never had to live as a slave, but as a Black and Native American boy, he is exiled from his home in the Reconstruction-era South for his own survival. Rootless, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains—and, like many other young African American men of the time, he joins the US cavalry. Only memories and prayers keep him afloat as Elijah navigates his new life—which ultimately plants his troop in the newly created Yosemite National Park in 1903. There, living under the light of stars and campfires, Elijah is intent on becoming a man who owns himself completely. Yet in his transformation, he can’t help but remember the pieces of himself he left scattered along the roads he took to get where he is.
Acadia National Park:
Anna Pigeon is a National Park Ranger traveling between parks to solve mysteries in the deep wilderness. In this nineteenth novel by Nevada Barr, Anna is about to start her new post as Acting Chief Ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine. Elizabeth, the adopted teenage daughter of Anna’s longtime friend Heath Jarrod, is targeted by a cyberbully and unsuccessfully attempts suicide. To remove Elizabeth from the situation, Heath brings her to live with Anna. But the move doesn’t prove easy: the stalker follows them, and, to top it all off, a murder occurs just days into their arrival on their otherwise deserted island home. There are more compelling national park mysteries where this came from; if you love BOAR ISLAND, make sure to check out the rest of the Anna Pigeon novels.
Grand Canyon National Park:
In the spring of 1983, a dam failure resulted in massive flooding along the Colorado River, sparking a crisis. But in the midst of this emergency, Kenton Grua decides to use the catastrophic flood as a kind of hydraulic slingshot in an effort to set the all-time record for the fastest boat ever propelled down the entire length of the Colorado River, from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. This epic and remarkable tale of survival through the Grand Canyon will leave readers in utter astonishment.
From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.
In the spring of 1983, massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River confronted a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam with an unprecedented emergency that may have resulted in the most catastrophic dam failure in history. In the midst of this crisis, the decision to launch a small wooden dory named “The Emerald Mile” at the head of the Grand Canyon, just fifteen miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam, seemed not just odd, but downright suicidal.
The Emerald Mile, at one time slated to be destroyed, was rescued and brought back to life by Kenton Grua, the man at the oars, who intended to use this flood as a kind of hydraulic sling-shot. The goal was to nail the all-time record for the fastest boat ever propelled—by oar, by motor, or by the grace of God himself—down the entire length of the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. Did he survive? Just barely. Now, this remarkable, epic feat unfolds here, in The Emerald Mile.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
While on a visit to the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, middle-aged widow Grace Conley decides she needs to leave her busy life in Nashville and open a bed-and-breakfast in tiny Townsend. Her entire family is taken aback at Grace’s decision, and to further complicate the situation, Grace’s daughter, Margaret, has come to live with her after graduating from college. As the women become intrigued by local men and bask in the beauty of the Smokies, they begin to realize that it’s never too late to start over.
Arches National Park:
DESERT SOLITAIRE is the story of author Edward Abbey’s quest to experience nature in its purest form. Abbey, a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah, at the time, grapples with the condition of the remaining wilderness and the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world. Although written in 1968, Abbey’s cry to preserve the earth’s natural beauty is now more urgent than ever.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: When a plane carrying Kathy Kelly’s Iraq War–veteran husband and her two children vanished from the sky, her world was turned upside down. No trace of the plane was found. When the wreckage is uncovered in the wilderness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park eight years later, there is still no sign of Jack or the children. Could they have made it out alive after all? As Kathy desperately searches for clues, she discovers a briefcase containing millions of dollars in cash, a priceless mask stolen from an Iraqi museum, and a clue that links her family’s disappearance to Kathy’s mother’s death years prior. To make matters worse, Kathy soon learns that others have been looking for the wreckage as well—and these “others” are determined to make sure she never finds her family.
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