National Geographic GuideJust in time for the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, and to help families plan their spring/summer trips, there’s a new guide available.

The 8th edition of the National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States has everything you ever wanted to know about our country’s treasure trove of 59 nationally protected spaces.

First published in 1989, the guides have sold more than 1.25 million copies. For the new edition, contributors revisited each park to find just the right spot to best observe wildlife, sunrises and sunsets, or scenic views.

The Guide is divided into eight sections (East, West, Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Pacific Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska). These overviews provide maps, text and gorgeous photos that made this reader want to visit every single one of them.

While that might be a little too ambitious, my husband and I are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona this spring. Thanks to the Guide, we have been able to pinpoint the areas we don’t want to miss. There’s so much to see on a visit to the 1.2 million acre American icon, considered one of the 7 wonders of the natural world.

Established Feb. 26, 1919 by President Theodore Roosevelt (who we’re told considered it his civic duty to urge every American to see it), the park runs for 177 Colorado River miles and preserves 1,904 square miles of wilderness.  Along with spectacular photos and detailed maps of the Grand Canyon National Park, the Guide gives tips on how best to escape the crowds.  One tip is to visit the remote North Rim instead of the heavily visited South Rim.  It’s 10 miles across the chasm but 212 driving miles–roughly 4 hours away.

The South Rim is where all the action is, if that’s more your thing.  With the arrival of a railroad in 1901, lodging, mule rides, a visitor’s center, and other concessionaires flocked to the area. The South Rim is visited by 90% of the tourists to the canyon park.

After reading the Guide’s tips on camping, lodging, and hiking the Canyon, we adjusted our schedule to allow another full day to take in more of the activities and sights.  While we would have liked to take the mule train trip along the Bright Angel Trail, this adventure is so popular it needs to be booked a year ahead.

The National Geographic Guide is an invaluable tool for anyone planning a trip to one or more of these parks. For families, there is also a National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA: Centennial Edition, which is a great buy at $14.99 for ages 8-12.  For information about National Geographic Books, visit