The national parks are ideal camera fodder: they’re inherently dramatic and gorgeous in any light. These three series stand out, whether you want an absorbing narrative, sumptuous visuals, or a little of both.
National Parks Centennial
100 reasons to love the parks (and a few things we'd improve)
Informative: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
Six episodes, 12 hours, 53 parks. Ken Burns’s 2009 love letter is without peer in its scope, cinematography, and research, even if the breathless exaltations get a little repetitive as the hours grind on.
Beautiful: More than Just Parks
Straight-up nature porn. Filmmaker brothers Will and Jim Pattiz intend to capture all 59 parks in this Web series. So far they’ve done six, presented in five-minute time-lapse segments set to a Zen soundtrack.
Informative and Beautiful: Rock the Park
Hosts Colton Smith and Jack Steward (pictured above) explore a different park in each episode. (Season two is airing now on ABC.) They bumble through backpacking and ice climbing, and end each installment with the exhortation “If we can do it, so can you!”