Whether because of Covid, a faltering economy, or both, many U.S. travelers are sticking close to home. “2021 was a banner year for us because of our strong domestic list,” says Grace Fujimoto, acquisitions director at Avalon Travel, whose Moon imprint is releasing USA Best RV Adventures by Bonnie and Grant Sinclair in February 2023.

Other publishers, too, are focusing on driving vacations and national parks; National Geographic is updating its three road trip guides, which are vetted by park rangers. “A lot of people think the outdoors is safe right now,” says Allyson Johnson, senior editor at National Geographic Books. “People developed new outdoorsy hobbies and interests, and they’re holding strong.”

Those trip planners can supplement their research with new books that explore America as a palimpsest of layered histories, whether on the great rolling Mississippi or over the Rocky Mountain range. Here’s a selection of traditional guidebooks, narrative accounts, and pictorials.

Epic Road Trips of the Americas

Lonely Planet, Sept.

Fronted with a nostalgic sepia-toned cover, the newest title in the Epic series is as much coffee-table lookbook as it is practical guide. Covering 50 trips across North America, South America, and the Caribbean, it includes photo spreads, information on route difficulty, advice on road grub and accommodations, and first-person travelers’ tales.

Great American Road Trips: Best of All 50 States

Reader’s Digest. Trusted Media Brands, Oct.

From the Maine Highlands to Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park, road warriors will find plenty of sights worth filling the tank (or charging the hybrid) for. Personal accounts detail favorite experiences—visiting the wild Chincoteague ponies on an island off the coast of Virginia, for instance, or hunting for rocky treasure on Moonstone Beach in Cambria, Calif., along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Life on the Mississippi

Rinker Buck. Avid Reader, Aug.

The author of 2015’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey (166,000 print copies sold, per BookScan) returns with a “captivating and occasionally cantankerous” account, per PW’s review, of his 2,000-mile trip down the Mississippi River in 2016 aboard Patience, a 19th-century–style flatbed riverboat. “Throughout, he interweaves intriguing discussions of U.S. political, cultural, and economic history with sharp critiques of ‘traditional historians’ who neglect ‘the hardscrabble, edgy lives of most 19th-century Americans,’ reveries on how the light reflects off riverine landscapes, and tense accounts of modern hazards, including extensive lock-and-dam systems and barge traffic.”


More Than Scenery

Janet L. Pritchard. George F. Thompson, Oct.

For this year’s 150th anniversary of Yellowstone, the country’s first national park, Pritchard assembles a collection of 150 of her photos, plus historical maps and other materials. Inspired by her teenage summers spent in 1960s Wyoming, the large-format hardcover explores the relationship between tourists and landscape, the natural world and human intervention. Activist and art critic Lucy R. Lippard provides a foreword.

Native American Archaeology in the Parks

Kenneth L. Feder. Rowman & Littlefield, Dec.

Central Connecticut State University professor Feder celebrates 30 U.S. National Parks, monuments, and landmarks containing the work and history of Native Americans, preserved by the federal government following tireless lobbying by Native and non-Native groups. Subjects include 700-year-old cliff dwellings, thousand-year-old sculptures, and 2,000-year-old burial grounds. Readers who think of America as a “young” country will be reminded of the long history of Native peoples before colonizers and settlers arrived on the country’s shores.

Park Place

David Heberlein. George F. Thompson, Nov.

Photographer and art professor Heberlein documents nearly three decades of his travels through national parks in the western U.S. His photos of 35 parks, monuments, and recreation areas explore the tension between the natural world and human impact on the land. Duotone images capture both the changes human beings have made to the land and the people themselves as they explore the landscape.

Same Ground

Russell Wangersky. ECW, Sept.

Determined to discover his family’s past, journalist Wangersky embarks on a madcap trip across the U.S., following in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather, William Castle Dodge, who went west in a blaze of gold rush fever. Intertwining his own travelogue with passages from Dodge’s diary, Wangersky tracks two journeys—one taken by car, one by mule—in search of a dream.

USA: The Rockies

Insight Guides, Dec.

This magazine-style guide follows the famed mountain range from the Canadian border to the southern tip in New Mexico, showcasing famous destinations including Bozeman, Wyo.; Taos, N.Mex.; and Vail, Colo.; plus national parks and breathtaking views. Containing cultural and historical tidbits as well as photographs and travel tips, the guide has something for experienced hikers and trail-moseyers alike.

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