92-year-old grandma and grandson are on an epic road trip to visit every US national park together

Since 2015, Brad Ryan has taken 92-year-old grandmother Joy to 62 of the country’s 63 national parks after she said she had never seen a mountain in person.

The conclusion to this amazing adventure is set for this year with a visit to the last national park on their list – the National Park of American Samoa.

Brad, a vet student at the time, shared with his grandmother his experience on the Appalachian Trail. This was the beginning of the challenge to visit all US parks.

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Joy, a Duncan Falls, Ohio resident, shocked him when she said that she had never seen a mountain range or gone camping.

She wished that she had the chance to go on a trip like her grandson, and Brad responded in the best way ever – he took his grandmother on the journey of a lifetime!

Brad said, “I felt bad that she was always living vicariously through my stories. And so just knowing that she had never seen deserts and mountains and the ocean and these incredible wild places on Earth, it just felt like a responsibility that I had to her to make sure that she had some memories to take away in her life story as well.”

Joy hiking through a beautiful forest at Blue Rock State Park
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The nature-loving couple started with a road trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They have since visited other beautiful locations such as New River Gorge Park or Joshua Tree National Park.

The seven-year challenge enabled them to travel 50,000 miles together. They were also able to climb mountains and go white-water kayaking.

It’s no wonder that the two have strengthened their bond, and are not just grandmother and grandson, but are now the best of friends.

Grandma enjoying a boat ride.
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Their relationship is even more remarkable since there was a time when they did not speak for 10 years due to the divorce of Brad’s parents.

Since their reconnection, they have been able to rely on each other. Joy helped Brad get through a difficult time in his mental health before they began visiting national parks.

Now, after going through almost all the nation’s national parks, Brad is ever grateful for this magical experience with his grandmother.

Joy is standing before the mountains while hiking through the Gates of Arctic National Park
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It was a great opportunity to see more of the country and meet so many new people. Joy, on the other hand, said that the road trips were better than she could have imagined. 

She was astonished at the sights she had seen on her travels and stated that they were both very lucky with their experiences traveling across the country.

This adventure can be life-changing, but it is also costly. Brad paid for their first trip together but soon set up a GoFundMe page to fulfill his grandmother’s wish to see mountains.

Brad was able raise $12,000 which enabled them to visit 21 national parks in 2017. The couple also took a long trip in 2019, visiting 20 national parks in 14 different states.

Joy stops to pick flowers while hiking through Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
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Brad also contributed some of his savings to the trip. The two try to be as careful as possible and save as much as money as they can.

Soon, they were eager to share their joy with friends and family, so in 2019, Brad started sharing their travels on social networks. Brad began sharing their adventures via Instagram and Facebook through @GrandmaJoysRoadtrip. He quickly gained a large audience.

“We didn’t expect that,” Joy said. “He just put that on the social media so the people back home in Duncan Falls knew what we were doing.”

Joy enjoying the scenery at Noatak National Preserve
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Soon, news of their expedition through all national parks spread quickly and they gained both national exposure and international attention. This resulted from offers from companies and travel agencies that helped fund their adventures.

Joy marvelled at the kindness and generosity shown to them by private donors. She thought that their story might have been a good example for others, as it showed how important it is to live life to the fullest.

The trips can last from 5 days up to 45 days. Joy is able to persevere through the adventures. They visited Alaska’s eight national park in July 2021, which was one of their most physically demanding trips.

Brad and Joy enjoying a white water rafting trip.
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There, they went white water rafting down class three rapids, hiked near glaciers and fjords, and even got Joy’s much-desired wildlife encounter.

“I always wanted to see the bears get the fish and I finally got to see it. And it was fun, it really was,” Joy said.

While their expedition to all national park is about to end, the two are ready to set off on their new bucket list – visits to state parks and even to other parts of the world.

Joy shared, “It’s been a grand adventure, it really has. It’s really been a beautiful, beautiful time. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Brad and Joy stand beside the sign of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
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Brad added, “We realize that not everybody is going to be able to travel to every U.S. National Park. But there is some adventure to be found in every corner of the country and we hope that people will go out and seek that adventure.”

Brad is happy to inject even more adventures into Joy’s life, saying that it gives him peace and fulfilment.

They will inspire others to embark on new adventures and share their stories with loved ones no matter where they go.

To follow this amazing duo’s adventure, follow their Facebook page.