As I prepare for my second trip to Yellowstone and my first trip to an out-of-state national park this year, I finally decided to come back to this post. Heading to a national park usually means a lot of driving, both to get there and once in the park itself, which of course means needing a lot of quality music.
Here are some of my favorites to listen to on the long drives to and around the parks. At the end you’ll find a Spotify playlist of all the specific songs mentioned.
Note: These probably aren’t the road trip songs you listen to. That’s okay. I tried to choose songs that I’ve listened to for multiple years now while on my various road trips to national parks.
Any song by The National Parks
The National Parks are a Provo band I can’t get enough of. They have good lyrics and good music. Many of their songs deal directly with nature, and even those that don’t are still such a joy to listen to when outdoors. So much about the music evokes the feelings of nature. Their most recent album, “Until I Live,” plays repeatedly on longer drives, particularly when my car mates are all snoozing. It’s relaxing enough that it doesn’t keep people awake while being perfectly contemplative for me as I drive. Personal favorites include You Are Gold, Monsters of the North, and Hot Air Balloon.
(The National Parks recently funded their third album, “Places,” and it’s expected out soon!)
The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack
On Black Friday 2015, Peter and I went to Arches to #optoutside. Come and Get Your Love played on the way down and somewhere in Devil’s Garden, Peter started singing it, except I couldn’t tell what he was singing and all he would sing over and over again was the “Hey” part at the beginning. He wouldn’t stop; or perhaps it’s more accurate to say he couldn’t stop? I’m not sure, but every time we hike he now sings parts of this song.
The soundtrack to Moana
The music of Moana (along with the film itself) is a literal gift. We should all be thankful for each and every song on that soundtrack, but we need to be especially grateful for the Jordan Fisher version of You’re Welcome. I don’t think I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a movie soundtrack since Toy Story 2.
This soundtrack gets played basically everywhere I go and the first time I listened to it heading to a national park was earlier in March, but it’s sure to stay a driving favorite. I mean, you can’t not feel inspired to hike after listening to How Far I’ll Go.
Blue Moon: Beck
“Morning Phase” is a treasure of an album, but something about Blue Moon in particular feels so right. It’s not the happiest of songs, but at least it makes you feel.
On Top Of The World: Imagine Dragons
This has been my favorite Imagine Dragons song since it debuted on their EP. It’s upbeat and happy and makes you want to be happy. (And now is my time to brag that I’ve been listening to Imagine Dragons since 2009-2010. Provo does not suck when it comes to music, that’s for sure!) Being outside really does make you feel like you’re literally on top of the world, especially when you start climbing cliffs and rocks.
I Bet My Life: Imagine Dragons
I think this was the first single from Smoke + Mirrors. I’ve loved it ever since. It’s both sad and hopeful at the same time. It makes me want to keep being better. It’s great for a drive because it helps you remember all the things that were there for you and all the things you count on. That includes nature.
Bang Bang: Jessie J with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
This song exudes power and strength, much like how I feel after being in a national park. Also, this song is just really and truly good. I don’t listen to much pop music (apart from Carly Rae Jepsen who is top notch), but Bang Bang makes me ridiculously happy. Why wouldn’t I want to listen to it while in a place I love?
Say It, Just Say It: The Mowgli’s
This is a song about love. And do you know where I fell in love? A lot of the national parks. Between October 2015 and March 2017, Peter and I have been to 7 different national parks 11 times. Tell the people you love that you love them. Go to places together where you can feel that love. For me and Peter that’s the national parks.
Further On: Bronze Radio Return
The music of Bronze Radio Return generally evokes feelings of driving with the windows down. This was the first song of theirs I ever heard, and I come back to it often. It’s folksy and upbeat and just indie enough for my tastes. It’s the music of experiencing new things.
Serendipity: Greg Holden
Did you that know Greg Holden wrote the song Home, the one Phillip Phillip’s sang on American Idol? Greg is a YouTube musician I stumbled upon in 2008. Serendipity makes me feel hopeful for the future. It’s a calm and thought-provoking song that suits dusk drives throughout nature. Note: This song isn’t on Spotify, so go watch it on YouTube. My playlist instead includes a song from Greg’s latest album.
Make Out: Julia Nunes
Julia Nunes was another YouTube find of mine, also back in 2008. She’s a couple years older than me, but that has meant truly growing up with her. Plenty of her songs have been played on many of my road trips. Her music has always felt near and dear, and that includes Make Out. It’s a goofy, heartwarming song about being in the early stage of a relationship where all you want to do is mack on your significant other. It’s pure happiness. It’s perfect for singing at the top of your lungs as you travel with the person you love.
Sloppy Seconds: Watsky
Perhaps the only NSFW (or children) song on this playlist, Sloppy Seconds makes me feel all sorts of things. Listening to it as I travel to national parks now reminds me how much less broken I am. Before it was a reminder of a future I could have. This is a song about pain, love, and conquering. For me that’s perfect for going into nature.
Can’t Help Falling in Love
My version of this song is by Ingrid Michaelson, but plenty of people have done great covers of it over the years. Once again, we have a song about love and hope and living beautiful lives. For me, so much of nature is about love, which makes this song a perfect addition to my road trip playlist. Note: I included 3 different versions of this song on my Spotify playlist, including the version Diego Luna sings.
You’ll Be Okay: A Great Big World
It was thanks to Greg Holden that I discovered Ian and Chad. I was listening to AGBW before it was even AGBW. Their hit song This is the New Year was originally a song Ian persuaded Chad to record once upon a time. You’ll Be Okay once again reminds me how much the world has to offer. When I’m in national parks I am so often reminded that I’ll be okay.
Rivers and Roads: The Head and the Heart
Perhaps the most stereotypical addition to this playlist (even more so than the songs by a band called The National freaking Parks), this song just tugs at the heartstrings. It’s the heartache and anguish of travel and missing people and places. It makes me think and hurt in all the best ways, which is exactly how I want my trips to the national parks to be.