Let Taylor Swift Pick Your Next National Park Trip (2024)

I don’t know that Taylor Swift has ever even visited one of our national parks, but as a longtime Swiftie I can say with certainty that her music is the perfect companion to a road trip through America’s public lands. I’ve listened to a scratched and ancient Fearless CD on many, many miles of dirt roads when cell service and phone battery gave out. I’ve jammed to “22” on my corresponding birthday while driving Olympic’s tree-lined roads. Reputation has kept me awake on endless late night work assignments at parks from Yosemite to Grand Canyon. Whether or not Taylor Swift is a national park girly, her music undeniably pairs well with them.

While I eagerly await The Tortured Poets Department release on April 19, I’m revisiting all my favorite Taylor Swift eras from her debut album to Midnights and it got me thinking. Which parks pair particularly well with which albums? I’m not the only Swiftie on my team, and I can’t imagine we’re alone in our national park/Taylor Swift fandom, so we came up with the ultimate pairings. If you’re looking for some travel ideas this summer, let your favorite album inspire your next trip.

Taylor Swift: Great Smoky Mountains

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If OG Taylor is your favorite Taylor, you’re going to want to take a trip back to where it all began: Tennessee. While the waterfalls and forests of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are just about as far from her Nashville home as you can metaphorically get, the nostalgic vibes pair perfectly with the park. An early morning drive from your hotel in Gatlinburg to Cades Cove to bike the 11-mile loop is the perfect time to let 17-year-old Swift’s youthful voice fill the speakers. While I’ll always celebrate a re-release, there’s something irreplaceable about the original I’m glad I can still listen to without guilt. Spending the morning trying to remember how to ride a 10-speed and getting lost in the misty morning landscape will surely transport you right back to your teenage years, trying to find a place in the world.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version): Yellowstone

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An iconic coming of age album, Fearless pairs perfectly with the one park I’d honestly be surprised if you hadn’t visited as a kid: Yellowstone. The beauty of our first national park is that it probably hasn’t changed much since you were here in braces. The geysers still go off faithfully. Tourists are still stopping to take pictures of bison (though it’s on a much newer generation of iPhone). But if thinking about your first love story makes you smile fondly, I guarantee revisiting Yellowstone will make your heart soar. Plus, the Fearless (Taylor’s Version) level glowup from your 2008 trip photos is worth the eight hour drive, full stop. Escape the crowds by venturing out past Old Faithful into Upper Geyser Basin. As you wander the boardwalks past shooting geysers and colorful hot springs, you’ll realize that there’s a reason this park is forever & always.

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version): Rocky Mountain

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It’s impossible to feel anything less than enchanted when Rocky Mountain National Park’s snowcapped peaks come into view. Like any Taylor Swift album there’s a few breakup songs, but to me, Speak Now will always be a giant love song. Maybe it’s because the original album came out when I was in highschool, maybe it’s because it’s hard not to fall in love as you listen to it. I grew up with Rocky Mountain in my backyard, so the two will always be linked. Roll your windows down as you drive up to 12,183 feet on Trail Ridge Road and let the sparks fly as you fall in love with this stunning landscape.

Red (Taylor’s Version): Zion

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There may be no better way to sum up our relationship with Zion National Park than this album’s title track. It’s complicated. On one hand, it can be a total zoo. See pictures of the crowds on the precarious switchbacks of Angels Landing or wading through the Narrows and you swear you’ll never go back. But, missing it is dark gray, all alone. Forgetting it is like trying to know somebody you never met. Yeah Zion, loving you is red, and not just because of your rocks. A single drive through the mesmerizing canyon walls and you’ll feel the same way the folks who named the park first did: this place is holy ground. Red (Taylor’s Version) speaks to the hopeless romantics among us. Just because something is super popular doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Skip the crowds by visiting in winter, when weather is often still warm enough for hiking, but the crowds disappear. Otherwise, pop in your headphones and tune the crowds on the shuttle bus out with “All Too Well” (the 10 minute version, obviously, you’ve got time).

1989 (Taylor’s Version): Glacier

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As someone who has been to a lot of national parks, I don’t say this lightly. Glacier is like something out of your wildest dreams. We, perhaps, debated this album the most of any on the list. It’s got beachy, Channel Islands vibes. It’s reminiscent of the wonderland that is Yosemite. Honestly, if any Taylor Swift album feels like a national park, it’s 1989 and maybe that’s because this album is so personal. So, I picked the park that I feel best encapsulates the national park system as a whole: Glacier. There’s so many different ecosystems here. There’s extraordinary natural beauty and abundant wildlife. There’s history. Here, your cellphone might try to connect to Canadian towers, but this experience you’re having is decidedly American. There’s glaciers and waterfalls and yes, even beaches. It’s a little bit of everything, just like 1989 (Taylor’s Version): a love story, a breakup, a reflection, a new start. I think 1989 best encapsulates Taylor Swift and to me, Glacier embodies the spirit of all of our national parks. If you visit one park this year, make it this one. Don’t miss an iconic drive up and over Going-to-the-Sun Road to see everything this park has to offer.

Reputation: Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon has a reputation, just like this album. And? It’s decidedly good. As one of the seven wonders of the natural world, this park is definitely a little more mainstream and on the beaten path, but who doesn’t love a bucket list item? Just like a bad girl era, pop album, the Grand Canyon is well loved. Whether you choose to stick to the rim, gazing out across the gorgeous and delicate layers of the canyon walls plunging down to the Colorado River below, or venture out onto Bright Angel Trail, you’ll love this park’s intensity. Don’t miss a sunrise or sunset at one of the most popular spots on the South Rim, Hopi Point. Side note: I know you’re a little edgy, but please, for the love of all things good, stay away from the rim. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Lover: Olympic

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I may be biased because Olympic National Park is one of my favorites and Lover is one of my favorite Taylor Swift albums, but to me there’s no match more perfect. Let’s get the color story out of the way first thing: cotton candy beach sunsets, nearby lavender fields to rival Provence, high alpine meadows bursting with wildflowers. But more than that, Olympic feels like an old sweatshirt, worn perfectly soft. A favorite TV show you’ve seen a dozen times. Even on your first visit. It’s the kind of place that lands in your ‘favorites’ category as soon as you set eyes on the glassy waters of Lake Crescent, explore tidepools at Ruby Beach or watch sunset from Hurricane Ridge, holding onto the afterglow. My favorite way to experience the park is by renting the first canoe at Lake Crescent Lodge and paddling out on the perfectly still lake in the early morning light. Don’t forget your lover.

folklore: Yosemite

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Anyone who says Yosemite is overrated hasn’t really spent any time there and I feel the same way about folklore. On first blush maybe it seems a little ~too much~. Too hyped, trying too hard. I mean, all those waterfalls? But then drive into the valley and see the granite walls looming above you and tell me tears don’t come to your eyes. My tears literally ricocheted when I first laid eyes on El Capitan. If you’re a folklore apologist, you know what I mean. You gave this, admittedly, strange and artsy album a chance so don’t listen to the naysayers. Give Yosemite a chance. Because, honestly? It’s the 1. Rent a bicycle and let an august afternoon slip away like a bottle of wine as you pedal from Half Dome to El Capitan.

evermore: North Cascades

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Taylor Swift obviously never saw the larches at North Cascades National Park, or she’d have amended her lyrics to “I love a gold rush.” If whimsical, evermore vibes are your style, grab your flannel and head to the Pacific Northwest because this park is for you. From shockingly blue lakes to snowcapped peaks to thick forests, this park embodies evermore’s fairytale aesthetic perfectly and not just because the tracklist reads like a plant guide. Willow (dancing witch remix, obviously)? Check. Ivy? Check. Catch a boat or plan or long hike to the tiny, backcountry village of Stehekin. Grab a pastry from the town’s little bakery and watch the birds flit about the shores of the lake to feel totally transported.

Midnights (The Til Dawn Edition): Great Sand Dunes

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If Taylor’s most recent era is your favorite, head to one of Colorado’s most underrated destinations, Great Sand Dunes National Park. As an International Dark Sky Park, it’s the perfect place to spend your midnights. Here in southern Colorado, a unique combination of wind, water and sediment formed North America’s tallest sand dunes at the foot of the rugged San Juan Mountains. If you visit in the winter, you might just see snow on the beach of Medano Creek (weird but f*cking beautiful) but plan a trip for the summer so you can camp out on the dunes and get the full experience. It’s one of the quietest places on Earth. Soak in the view of seemingly infinite stars above you, there’s truly nothing like midnights like this.

Let Taylor Swift Pick Your Next National Park Trip (2024)
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