5 Things to Collect at Every National Park Unit

Grand Portage Passport Stamp

Question: What do all travelers chasing a visit to each of the 400+ units in the National Park Service have in common?

Answer: We are natural-born collectors.

For many of us, the goodies we collect at each National Park Service unit are just as exciting as the visit itself. Collections capture the memories and later help you tell the stories of your trips. As your list of parks left to chase gets smaller and smaller, your collections continue to grow.

It’s positive reinforcement for pushing towards the ultimate Park Chasing goal.

We rarely come across a fellow visitor who is not also collecting at least one of the items on the list below. Almost all are willing to tell you the story about how the collection was started, the latest addition, and the most wanted items left to go.

Whether you are planning to chase your 1st or your 50th national park, check out these ideas for what to collect at every national park unit:

5 Things to Collect at Every National Park Unit

1. A picture with the official sign.

Park Chasers Signs from Amy Sippl on Vimeo. Music: The Time To Run by Dexter Britain (http://www.dexterbritain.co.uk)

No visit to a national park unit is complete without a photo of the entrance sign.  It’s one of the first things to collect at every national park because it’s almost always the first thing you see when you arrive!

Imagine the photo album you’ll have someday to show those grandchildren. Getting these shots may take some creative use of your car hood, or a friendly request from a fellow traveler, but we think it should be the first thing on your list when you visit.

Park Chasers in front of different National Park Signs

2. A passport stamp.

We’ve written here about the Passport to Your National Parks stamps being the best $9 you’ll ever spend in a National Park. Once you’ve taken your photo with the sign, head to the bookstore or ranger station to stamp your passport. It collects an instant record of the date and location of your park visit.

NPS Passport Book - Inside

Not sure where to find the passport stamps?  The National Park Traveler’s Club is a small but growing organization that keeps an online database of all the passport stamps available.  Not only are they a great resource for things to collect at every national park, members are also a terrific resource for planning trips and sightseeing tips.

Related Links:

3. The Unigrid.

Unigrid? What’s a ungrid? 

Unigrids are those famous brochures with the black bands and bold white font on the top and bottom. In 1977, Massimo Vignelli designed the Unigrid System for the National Park Service as a way to create a consistent, recognizable system to distribute park information. They are available at ranger stations, visitor’s centers and online for more than 375 of the park units.

When you start your collection, hop over to our Facebook page and share how you store your unigrids with other Park Chasers!

America the Beautiful Coin Program - Image provided by USMint.gov
America the Beautiful Coin Program – Image provided by USMint.gov

4. The coin.

In 2010 the United States mint began issuing quarters commemorating the National Park Service.

While there is not a coin to collect for every park, 56 coins in total will be issued during the program, one for each state and territory. Special coin folders for the national park coins are also available. When you visit a site with a currently circulating coin, stop in the bookstore or at the ranger station; staff are frequently willing to trade your quarter in for the commemorative coin.

5. A postcard.

While not technically free to collect, postcards were one of the original things to collect in every national park. Sometimes spending a quarter or two for a postcard as a keepsake is all you need to remember your park visit (or even mail it to yourself so it’s waiting when you get back home!)

Park Chasers also recommends sending the national park postcards you collect through Postcrossing.com, an online community that exchanges postcards from all around the world.

Save this post for later – or share it with a friend to help them start their own National Park Collection!



Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 130/423
Next Stop: @hawaiivolcanoes


6 thoughts on “5 Things to Collect at Every National Park Unit”

  1. You’re right on the money with this list. Before reading it, I figured I might be a collector of two or three, but no…I collect all five! The coins are the hardest things to find in change, however, so that is my most incomplete set–apart from visits to all 411 units themselves. There’s probably an internet trading group which can help fill the gaps in the America the Beautiful coin program. Send word if you know of such a thing. Being in Toronto, it’s kinda hard to get *any* of these quarters in my change (grin). Maybe folks will happily trade for special quarters issued here. Meantime, we celebrated the centennial of our national park service in 2011. It was the world’s first!

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