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Top Trails: Yellowstone & Grand Teton

Author : Andrew Dean Nystrom
Published : 2009-07-15

The tough thing about judging the quality of a hiking guidebook is it's hard to do unless you've personally hiked the trails covered in the book. And if you had, you really wouldn't need the book, would you?

Well, the other day the mail brought a review copy of Top Trails, Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks to me. Published by Wilderness Press and written by Andrew Dean Nystrom, the book won the 2005 National Outdoor Book Award for outdoor adventure guidebooks.

So what do I think? Well, I think I need to take it out into the field to reach a good conclusion. Nystrom certainly does a thorough job of packaging information between the front and back covers of the book.

You'll find all sorts of charts that let you know whether a particular hike is one-way or roundtrip, steep or level, good for mountain bikers or equestrians, child friendly, and on and on. In fact, the charts and their symbols are so plentiful that the book actually takes a section to explain how to use this information. 

Now, as luck would have it, one of the very first trails I checked out had an error in it. The section on the Shoshone Lake Trail in Yellowstone mentions the Lewis River Channel, which connects Shoshone and Lewis lakes together. In the text it states that, "This channel is very popular, since it's the only waterway in the park where motorized vessels are allowed."

Well, in truth, motorized vessels are specifically prohibited from going up this channel, and I'll kiss off the mistake to a typo, as on the very next page the author points out that "motors are allowed for crossing Lewis Lake, but must be left at the south end of the channel."

The book also contains a pretty thorough section on wildlife and plants, geography, geothermal and hydrothermal activity, and the usual "when to go" and "weather and seasons" info.

In all, this is a pretty informative book. If there's a drawback it's that the book is a tad bit on the hefty side in these days of lightweight backpacking. Perhaps it'd be better if the two parks were given separate books.

And then there's a question of whether you really need a guidebook. In actuality, all you need is a good map (although a guidebook will indeed help you decide exactly where you want to go), and I'll address that in the coming weeks with a review of a new mapping tool from National Geographic.

If anyone out there has logged some miles with the assistance of this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.


I've not yet seen this book. But it's a got to be a great guide if it's anything like the state fly-fishing guides this publisher has produced.

Dear Kurt, Thanks very much and congrats on taking your time to review my book. You obviously have a deep knowledge of all things National Parks-related and I appreciate you pointing out the inconsistency in my text. As you must appreciate – as the author of several fact-intensive travel guidebooks – all first editions inevitably harbor a few factual inconsistencies. It's readers feedback and comments that ultimately help our books evolve into vital reference resources. You are correct: As the National Park Service states: "All vessels are prohibited on park rivers and streams except the channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes, where only hand-propelled vessels are permitted." (source: I sincerely hope that you have an opportunity soon to get out on the trail yourself and test-drive my book first hand. I'm happy to report that the first printing sold out within a year and that the second, updated printing is now on the shelves and available where fine books are sold. For several first-hand reports from readers who have field-tested the book, I would refer you and your readers to the extensive reviews at Yours in adventure + explorations, ~ Andrew Andrew Dean Nystrom Winner 2005 National Outdoor Book Award Author + Photographer + Travel Consultant Americas Regional Manager World Expeditions ( Advisor National Geographic Society Center for Sustainable Destinations (

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