One question immediately came to mind when I first examined Fodor's "Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West." I wondered whether an actual printed-on-paper travel book could possibly be useful in today's milieu of Google Earth, MapQuest, GPS, dedicated websites and travel blogs. I've concluded there is indeed value in such a book. Having visited all but two of the 37 National Parks that this tome covers, I found it to be complete, informative and visually appealing, with effective use of color throughout.
Most travelers will probably use the "Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West" as a supplement to, but not a replacement for, other available, mainly on-line, resources. It is perhaps most suitable as an overall trip planner, rather than as a detailed tool for visiting specific Parks. As such, it truly excels. It offers lots of interesting and relevant information in a well-organized format that encourages armchair exploration. What's between the covers of this thick Guide is sure to enhance any trip through America's wide-open West.
The first 100 pages cover generic topics such as: the history of the National Park Service; the Parks' wildlife and lodges; Park-by-Park thumbnail sketches of what's where; activity guides; definitions of common geological terms; suggested multi-day driving tour itineraries, and more. Then each Park gets a 20-page-plus section of detailed information, divided into the following topics: Welcome, Planner, Park Essentials, Scenic Drives, What to See, Sports and the Outdoors, Educational Offerings, What's Nearby and Where to Eat and Stay. A nice full-color map graces each section. Clever colored icons make it easy to find what you're looking for. Of course, some information, such as prices, hours of operation, telephone numbers, etc., is ephemeral, and on-line confirmations before you visit are essential.
As an inveterate hiker who has logged hundreds of grueling miles on backcountry trails in most of these Parks, I found the hiking coverage in the "Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West" to be very cursory. But I don't consider this a shortcoming. I would not expect to find detailed trail descriptions here. Such information is very specialized, and is probably of interest to only a small percentage of visitors. Any serious hiker or backpacker will stop at the Visitor Center for maps and up-to-date trail information before setting out.
Paging through this book brought back many pleasant memories of my previous trips through the West, and it will be a constant, invaluable companion to help me plan future trips. I recommend it highly as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible guide to much of the best scenery and recreational opportunities that America offers.