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It’s said so often that it’s almost become a cliche: National Parks are hands down one of the best ideas that America has ever had. Setting aside some of the most beautiful parts of our natural world to protect them and enjoy them – dang, that was some solid foresight!
Now as humans, we’re not great at foresight (which is what makes the parks such an incredible feat); instead, we’re much better at looking backward and reflecting (sometimes when it’s too late). Luckily, our National Parks afford us both opportunities. We can visit, admire what has come before, protect for the future, and bring home a little token to strengthen our memories.
Many, many people have ways of tracking National Parks they’ve visited, but I couldn’t find any list pulling together your different options, in case you’re new to visiting the parks – or just new to tracking your trips.
Below you’ll find five creative ways to track which of the National Parks you’ve visited so far – from ones you’ve probably seen to creative ideas you may never have heard of before. I share which one I do, and why. Hopefully, you’ll find one that speaks to you – and get inspired to get out there and explore more National Parks too!
National Parks Passport
Ah, you’re a fan of the classics, I see.
The National Parks Passport is hands down the most common way to track which National Parks you’ve visited; it’s affordable and a simple way to see which park units you’ve visited – and which remain on your someday list.
In addition to having both information and space for each park’s stamps color-coded by region, the passport also includes general travel information, maps, and advice to help you make the most of your quest to visit all the National Parks.
You can buy the Passport to Your National Parks classic, spiral-bound edition on Amazon and directly from America’s National Parks (a nonprofit education partner of the NPS); there’s also a collector’s edition, though I don’t quite understand what justifies the $40 price difference.
Vintage-Style Park Postcards
I’ll be honest: the parks passport never really spoke to me, so I didn’t buy one when I started visiting parks in earnest. Instead, at some point, I just started collecting something different: vintage-style park postcards, which I buy in each park I visit and stamp on the back – creating my own passport! (I store my postcards in a photo album like this one.)
There are several designers of these vintage-style postcards, which evoke the mid-century enthusiasm for national park travel; most remind me of the kind of old-time posters you’d see in your travel agent’s office back in the day – remember those?
The only tricky part about collecting these postcards to track national parks you’ve visited is that sometimes the gift shop isn’t open or they don’t have a design I like (or at all). In these times, I’ve usually just stamped the small square papers that parks provide for when people forget their passports, then get a postcard later.
National Park Tokens
There are so many things you can collect when visiting National Parks, but if you’re looking for something small and portable – this is the one for you.
The Wander Club prints small metal tokens, which can be strung together onto a keychain and clipped to your favorite bag or keys. Each one has the name of a different park, and you can eventually have them all on a single keyring – very space-conscious. Best of all, when you’re first getting started, there’s a discount for buying in bulk all the parks you’ve visited so far.
I have a monogrammed keychain with most of the parks I’ve visited; I need to order some of the ones I’ve visited more recently like Death Valley and the Texas/New Mexico parks I visited in early 2023.
Stickers, Patches, or Stick Medallions
There are lots of other collectible ways to keep track of your National Park visits which are available for sale at basically all NPS gift shops.
You might collect stickers, as Mr. V and I do together during our travels; we stick them to our car cooler, making it even more colorful. You could instead purchase a patch at each park, and attach it to your hiking or day pack.
Speaking of… if you love hiking and the trail opportunities that our National Parks afford, you might be drawn to collect hiking medallions, those small, curved metal pieces that you can affix to a wooden walking stick. I always love these little trinkets, though I don’t use a hiking or walking stick (yet!).
Basically, if you don’t love any of the options so far and want to get an item for each park you visit, there are lots of options.
National Park Checklist/Map
If, instead of the passport or a bunch of collectibles, you want something simple and beautiful to display your visits, there’s no better choice than a National Park scratch-off map.
There are lots of options out there, so it’s really a matter of finding one you like; some have icons for each park on the map with more scratch-off spots for each park below the map, while others place a unique icon for each park on the map near where it is. Some come with gold to scratch off, others with silver or black. Some have a more artistic style, while others lean into the vintage design style of the parks.
There are even some incredible wooden maps where you can place a small token into each park you’ve visited after you return home.
Basically, if you want to find a way to display your park visits in an artful style, there are options. Etsy is a great place to browse items like this, made by creators.
What do you think of these ways to track National Parks you’ve visited – or do you know of another cool way to track them? Let me know any questions in the comments below!