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The Spruce Railroad Trail in Olympic National Park in Washington state follows the north shore of Lake Crescent on a repurposed railroad track. The park is so lush that, if you took a trailside nap, jokes author Becky Lomax, you’d wake up covered in moss. Photo by Becky Lomax
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Guidebook eases your national park trip planning

You don’t have to be that old to remember that to visit a national park, you just showed up at the gate, paid a modest fee and drove on in.

Like everything these days, it ain’t so simple anymore.

The sometimes-crushing number of visitors, coronavirus pandemic, on-again-off-again construction and climate change all play havoc these days with our memories of serendipity.

The bad news: You can’t visit a national park without a plan.

The good news: Nearly all the work of forming that plan has been done for you by adventurer, explorer, photographer and author Becky Lomax

Everything she knows and more is in her “Moon USA National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 63 Parks,” and is available through Moon Travel Guides. The book placed first in the best-guidebook category in the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards competition.

“Climate change has really affected the parks,” Lomax said in a phone call from her home in Columbia Falls, Montana, just 20 minutes outside Glacier National Park. “It’s caused wildfires and road closures (due to flooding, landslides and construction). So, you need to check conditions before you go. We’ve also loved our parks to death, so this means we have to take a bit of a different attitude — plan ahead and pack a lot of patience.”

Hikers on the trails and boardwalks along the Bumpass Nature Trail will see Bumpass Hell, the largest and most active volcanic basin in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located in northeast California, Lassen rarely sees crowds. Photo by Becky Lomax

If it’s crowd relief you seek, Lomax recommends Lassen Volcanic, “California’s Yellowstone,” and Great Basin on Nevada’s eastern border.

“One is really volcanic; the other has caves, hiking, lakes and climbing a 13,000-foot peak,” Lomax said. “Neither is crowded. You’re not fighting traffic; there is breathing room.”

All this information and more is contained within Lomax’s 775-page, softcover, third edition. With its hundreds of stunning color photos, most taken by Lomax, the guide is a beautiful thing. It provides well-arranged and categorized details about each park.

No internet searches are necessary to find information on park entrance fees, reservations, hours, maps and visitor centers; best times to visit; top sights; how to plan your time and get around; recreation spots; where to stay (not always in the park); disability access; special events; and other nearby, visit-worthy sights, including other national and state parks.

“We designed the book so you can plan your trip at home,” Lomax said, “and if you are doing more than one park, which parks you can link up with.”

The guide groups the parks geographically, and it should be (proudly) noted that only the states of Alaska, which has seven parks, and California, which has eight parks, have their very own sections.

Author, adventurer and photographer Becky Lomax of Columbia Falls, Mont., has published the third edition of “USA National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 63 Parks.” Her father was a park ranger and Lomax has spent a lifetime exploring this country’s wild spaces. Courtesy photo

Lomax said that she “has visited about 75% of the 63 parks,” but when it comes to updating her guidebook, she relies partly on writers from other areas of the country — mostly the East and Midwest with which she is less familiar.

Lomax learned about the value and beauty of national parks early. Her father was a park ranger in Washington state. During college, she worked summers in Glacier and later as a backpacking guide.

Summer is high season for most of the parks, but winter has its charms, too — especially nearby Glacier, Lomax said.

“It’s delightful right now,” she said. “We just got a huge dump of snow. I’ll probably go skiing on Sunday.”

For more discussion and photos, visit