Have you heard of the National Parks Passport program? If you like to travel, and see amazing things, you should check it out! The passport is a book (there are several different styles available) that lists all of the parks in the nation. It divides the country into color coded regions and has a key to help you locate the parks in each region.
It lists all of the federal parks, wildlife refuges, scenic corridors, waterways, etc. within those regions. The standard book is about the size of a regular passport, though much thicker. Here is mine. You can buy your own here.
The front of the book has a little vinyl pouch that contains a fold out map of the united states with all of the federal agencies contained in the passport marked. I actually plan a lot of my road trips using this map and my passport! Here is a link to a PDF that lists all of the passport cancelation locations as of 2014 here.
Each region has a preface describing the history and location. The pages for the region have a location for the sticker, and then an area for “cancelation stamps” like a real passport. Each of the parks has a sticker. The sheets of stickers are often sold at the parks, on big sheets arranged by years. You can also order them from the eParks website here.
When you go to the parks, there will be a passport station where you can stamp your passport.
I bought the 25th anniversary edition a few years back. I have completely finished several regions out. There is no more room. There are many blank pages in the back that I can stamp on, but I am giving very serious thought to upgrading to the Passport to your National Parks Explorer ring binder. This is why:
Several of the regions look like this. I travel to certain parts of the country more often than others. For instance, I generally avoid the northeast coast and the southwest coast like the plague. I’m not so much a people person. So those regions of my passport are blank, other than the stickers that may have come on the annual sheets I bought. The regions that I DO visit are completely full and I have not even come close to going to every park.
The beauty of the ring binder version is that I can add extra pages within each region, and I have been lead to believe that each park has it’s own spot in the book. The book I have has a limited number of pages for each region. The Rocky Mountain region had 5 pages. I pretty much killed that in less than a week, and only went to a fraction of the parks there.
With the limited size of the standard passport, they had to make choices on how many pages to give you. The Explorer ring binder has much more room. This is what it looks like:
I found out there are many families that take their passports very seriously. They have challenges to see who can visit every park. I’ve met retirees who have finished several passports! It really is a fun project, especially if you love road trips as much as I do.
The passport program is a wonderful minimalist approach to souvenirs, too. It is a record of your travels, so you can thumb through and remember when you were there- but it doesn’t take up much in the way of space. They have versions just for kids, too.
Federal lands are our lands. We own them jointly, in trust, for our mutual enjoyment and usage. Over 84 million acres of federal land for each and every one of us. Some of the best camping around is in federal parks. Our national is geologically and ecologically beautiful. If you don’t visit our national parks, I strongly encourage you to start!