Road Trip to All 59 National Parks in One Vacation

Celebrate the National Parks Service's 100 years of managing our country's wild spaces with the ultimate driving tour.

This year, the National Parks Service celebrates 100 years of managing our country's wild spaces. There are 59 protected areas in all, and if you're like any of the 305 million people who went to a National Park last year, choosing one to visit could be difficult. The Grand Canyon is a favorite. But what about Yosemite? Or Yellowstone? I know, the Everglades!

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Here's an idea: why not travel to all of them in one fell swoop? University of Pennsylvania Randy Olson just posted a map that optimizes such a road trip, making it possible to drive around the country to each one over a period of two months.

Loyal fans of Seeker may recognize Olson's optimized road-tripping map from previous ones he developed. It started with a map that laid out the best driving route to see a historical landmark in every state.

Retired engineer Dennis Andreasson was so inspired by that map, he took to the highway astride his Suzuki V Strom 1000cc and completed that trip on two wheels in 18 riding days.

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This past June, Olson gave us the optimized route to all 48 state capitols in the contiguous United States.

And now, thanks to Olson propensity for leveraging the power of genetic algorithms, folks can visit every single one of the country's national parks -- those that can be reached by car, of course.

If you're not content with any of these road trips, Olson gives you tips to build your own. Let us know if you take the challenge. Happy trails.

GALLERY: 10 Reasons to Visit a National Park Now

Our National Park System is a true treasure. Here are 10 great reasons to visit it right now. More than 440,000 people visit the Canyonlands National Park -- located in Southwest Utah -- every year and it's easy to see why: Dramatic arches and serpentine slot canyons are only matched by the intense colors of the desert rock.

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Though Acadia National Park is perched on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, it is characterized by its mountains: Craggy knobs that spring up in dome-like shapes from the coast. This makes for great hiking only a few steps away from incredible sea kayaking.

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Tucked against the borders of Montana and British Columbia, Glacier National Park is one of the more remote in the system. It is also one of the largest, covering more than 1,000,000 acres, which includes parts of two mountain ranges, over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants and hundreds of species of animals.

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More sandstone arches and towers can be found, not surprisingly, in Arches National Park. The park -- which is also located in Utah -- is home to the famous "Delicate Arch" which hangs improbably over a deep valley.

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Yellowstone needs no introduction: It was the world's first and is famous for its abundance of wildlife and unusual volcanic terrain. Yellowstone's Big 5: The Best Animals to See


n Winter

Great Sand Dunes National Park looks like a scene from the Sahara or Gobi desert -- but this incredible place is, in fact, nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Zion National Park contains the unique intersection of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert -- making it a place of astounding biological and geological diversity.

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Yosemite was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. The granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoia trees and rich biological diversity draw more than 3.7 million visitors each year.

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The park that gets its name from the namesake canyon is a must-see on any national parks hit list. Though most people are content with the view from the rim, Grand Canyon National Park is actually home to some extremely rugged and remote terrain for the more adventurous.

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Last but certainly not least is Joshua Tree National Park -- named for the unusual tree that populates the desert there, which looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

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