What IS the National Park to Park Highway?

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Last week we announced our biggest adventure yet. A seven week, 5,600 mile auto tour of the National Park to Park Highway. You may be wondering the same thing everyone I’ve talked to does: What exactly IS the National Park to Park Highway?

Image from Paving the Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway

In 1920 there wasn’t good road access to the National Parks of the West. The primary transportation in and out of National Parks was the railroad or roads designed for use by horse and wagon, not the increasingly popular automobile.

A group of intrepid travelers wanted to change that. With the help of AG Westgard, route finder for AAA, and Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, the National Park to Park Highway Tour was born.

The Playground Trail

National Parks were known as The Nation’s Playgrounds in those early days, and this book by Lee and Jane Whiteley is the best resource I’ve found about it. It’s a wealth of information with authentic maps and photographs, plus directions on driving the tour today.
One thing I learned from The Playground Trail: The National Park-to-Park Highway was that roads in the 1920s were named and maintained by private groups, usually auto clubs. Nowadays we take for granted that some government agency maintains our roads, but at that time private groups provided signs, maps and maintenance of their adopted route.

Although many auto trails existed, nothing connected all of the National Parks of the west. The National Park to Park Highway association banded together to fix this.

View on Amazon.com

Paving The Way
The PBS Documentary Paving the Way: The National Park to Park Highway directed by Brandon Wade is another invaluable resource. It chronicles the efforts of the dedicatory tour that left Denver on August 27, 1920.

Twenty vehicles joined the 5,600 mile caravan on The Longest Auto Highway in the World. Along the way they advocated for paved, well maintained roads to connect the National Parks. Their 76 day schedule is truly amazing considering how slow and difficult car travel was compared to nowadays.

If you have any interest in early National Parks or good historical story telling I highly recommend watching Paving the Way: The National Park-to-Park Highway.

See America First
You can learn all you want from books and movies, but at some point you have to be in a place to truly experience it. That’s why I’m taking my mountain family on a tour of the twelve Parks on National Park to Park Highway, plus six more National Parks and Monuments along the way.

Since 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service it’s the perfect time to celebrate these outdoor spaces. This summer we hope you can #FindYourPark along with us as we take the advice of the 1920s National Park advertisements and See America First. We’re taking off in late June and would love for you to come along.

Image from pbs.org

Sign up for the Mountain Mom and Tots newsletter for exclusive photos and content throughout the tour. We look forward to traveling together.

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

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