Are you looking for the best National Park Road Trip Ideas in the US? Look no further! We’ve rounded up fifteen of the best national park road trips in the United States.
From the iconic Grand Canyon to the towering Rocky Mountains, these road trips are an unforgettable experience!
Pack your bags and get ready! You’re going to have the most stunning views and incredible outdoor adventures on your national parks road trip!
Before setting out on your trip, grab this free ultimate road trip packing guide.
15 National Park Road Trip Ideas in the US
1. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is an American treasure that every traveler should experience at least once in their lifetime. This park is located in Wyoming, but it also extends into Montana and Idaho.
Yellowstone is home to a ton of natural wonders including geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls, plus diverse wildlife like bison, elk, and grizzly bears.
A Yellowstone road trip allows you to explore the huge expanse of the park and take in all of its natural wonders.
Start by entering the park through the North Entrance, passing through the historic town of Gardiner, and into the Mammoth Hot Springs area.
Marvel at the stunning hot springs terraces before heading south towards the park’s most famous attraction, Old Faithful.
Spend a night at one of the plenty of lodges within the park. Then, wake up early to continue your adventure.
Check out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where you can see the gorgeous Lower Falls. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on the drive toward Hayden Valley, a great place to spot bison and wolves.
Make your way toward the West Entrance of the park. Then, visit the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the park.
End your road trip with a visit to the Lamar Valley, another prime location for wildlife viewing.
2. Grand Canyon National Park
One of the most iconic natural wonders in the world is the Grand Canyon. It is a must-visit destination for any national park enthusiast.
The best way to truly appreciate the breathtaking vistas of the canyon is by taking a road trip through the park.
Start your journey by driving to the South Rim. This is open year-round and offers a variety of hiking trails, scenic drives, and ranger-led activities.
Don’t miss out on the super popular Bright Angel Trail. It’s a steep hike that descends into the canyon and gives you absolutely stunning views of the Colorado River.
Next, head to the less-crowded North Rim, which is an overall more rugged and secluded experience.
The North Rim is only open from mid-May to mid-October. However, it’s worth the trip for the incredible vistas of the canyon and the chance to see wildlife like elk and mule deer.
For a really unique experience, consider taking a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon. You’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the amazing landscape and be able to capture some incredible photos.
As you explore the park, make sure to take advantage of the ranger-led activities and educational programs. They are set up to help you learn more about the history and geology of the canyon.
When you’re planning your Grand Canyon road trip, make sure to book accommodations in advance.
Lodging options can fill up really fast during peak season. And don’t forget to pack plenty of water and sunscreen since temperatures can soar during the summer months.
3. Acadia National Park
Nestled along the rugged Maine coastline, Acadia National Park is a breathtaking destination filled with endless natural wonders to explore.
From rocky coastlines and crystal-clear lakes to dense forests and towering mountains, Acadia has something for everyone. And what better way to experience all this beauty than with a road trip through the park?
Start your journey by driving the 27-mile Park Loop Road, which takes you through some of Acadia’s most popular sites.
Be sure to stop at Thunder Hole. This is a natural inlet where waves crash against the rocks and create a thunderous boom.
And don’t miss Sand Beach, a gorgeous stretch of shoreline surrounded by dramatic cliffs and rocky headlands.
If you’re up for a challenge, drive up Cadillac Mountain. This is the highest point on the eastern seaboard. You’ll get a panoramic view of the park and surrounding area.
And for a taste of Acadia’s history, check out the historic Jordan Pond House. The Jordan Pond House has been serving tea and popovers since the 1800s.
When you’re ready to stretch your legs, Acadia offers a huge network of hiking trails for all skill levels. Take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Wild Gardens of Acadia. Or, tackle one of the more challenging trails, like the Precipice Trail or Beehive Trail.
And don’t forget to take in the fall foliage if you’re visiting in the autumn months. Acadia’s hardwood forests have the most vibrant colors. Plus. it’s a very popular destination for leaf peepers.
4. Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park
Located in the beautiful state of Utah, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are incredible! These parks have towering red rocks, winding rivers, and some of the most amazing views in the country.
If you’re planning a national park road trip, be sure to include Zion and Bryce Canyon in your itinerary.
Start your journey in Zion National Park. There, you can take a scenic drive through the park’s 15-mile long Zion Canyon.
Along the way, stop and explore some of the park’s most famous landmarks. For example, the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, and Weeping Rock are must-sees. .
Don’t forget to pack a picnic and enjoy the view at the Temple of Sinawava.
Next, head over to Bryce Canyon National Park.
The Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its unique geological features. For example, the hoodoos are tall spires of rock that have eroded over time.
Drive along the 18-mile scenic drive to catch breathtaking views of the park. Or, if you’d rather stretch your legs, hike one of the many trails available.
If you’re feeling adventurous, consider hiking the Queen’s Garden Trail or the Fairyland Loop.
For the ultimate experience, combine both parks into a three-day road trip. Start by spending a day in Zion National Park, followed by a night of camping or lodging in the nearby town of Springdale.
On day two, make the scenic two-hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and spend the day exploring.
End the day by catching the stunning sunset from Inspiration Point before camping or lodging nearby.
On your final day, make your way back to Zion for a final hike or picnic before departing.
5. Olympic National Park
This park is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the US. Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse national parks in the country.
A road trip through this park will take you through an interesting mix of lush rainforests, rugged mountain peaks, and a gorgeous coastline.
Start your road trip at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, where you can learn about the park’s history and pick up a map for your journey.
The drive up to Hurricane Ridge is a must-see, as you’ll be rewarded with huge views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
From there, head towards Lake Crescent and stop for a dip in the crystal-clear waters or hike to nearby Marymere Falls.
As you continue west, you’ll reach the Hoh Rain Forest, a magical place where moss-covered trees and vibrant green ferns line the forest floor.
The coastline is another highlight of Olympic National Park. There are stunning beaches like Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach offering views of sea stacks and crashing waves.
You may even catch a glimpse of some local wildlife, like otters, seals, and bald eagles.
6. Glacier National Park
For an epic road trip experience, Glacier National Park in Montana is a must-visit road trip destination. This park has some of the most stunning views in the country, with over a million acres of natural beauty to explore.
One of the best ways to explore the park is by taking the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile scenic drive that takes you through some of the park’s most breathtaking landscapes. This road is only open from late spring to early fall, so plan your visit accordingly.
Along the way, you’ll see glaciers, alpine lakes, and mountain vistas that will take your breath away. Make sure to stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, where you can take a guided hike to see some of the park’s famous mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
On top of driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in Glacier National Park.
Hiking, camping, and fishing are all popular activities in this park, and there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing as well.
If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable experience, consider taking a guided horseback ride through the park. This is a great way to see some of the park’s most remote areas and get a real sense of the wild beauty of this amazing place.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in the United States.
Located in the heart of Colorado, this park is home to peaks that soar above the clouds, alpine meadows, and so much variety of wildlife.
A road trip through Rocky Mountain National Park offers you a chance to explore the park’s stunning scenery and enjoy some of the best hiking, camping, and wildlife watching in the country.
Start your trip in Estes Park, a charming mountain town just outside the park’s east entrance. From there, drive along the Trail Ridge Road, a scenic highway that winds through the heart of the park.
Along the way, stop at the Alpine Visitor Center to learn about the park’s geology and wildlife, and take in the breathtaking views from the overlooks at Milner Pass and Medicine Bow Curve.
For the best hiking in the park, head to the Bear Lake area, where you’ll find a variety of trails for all skill levels.
The hike to Dream Lake is a popular choice, with great views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
For a more challenging trek, try the climb to the summit of Longs Peak, the highest peak in the park at 14,259 feet.
In the fall, the park’s aspen trees put on an awesome display of gold and orange foliage. Take a drive along the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway to experience the beauty of the fall colors.
No road trip to Rocky Mountain National Park would be complete without camping.
The park has five campgrounds, all of which offer stunning views and easy access to hiking trails.
If camping isn’t your thing, consider staying in one of the nearby towns like Estes Park or Grand Lake, which has a range of lodging options.
8. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a perfect road trip destination for those looking for natural beauty and outdoor adventure.
The park has more than 800 miles of hiking trails, numerous waterfalls, and stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains.
Start your road trip by driving through Cades Cove, a historic settlement with picturesque cabins and churches dating back to the 1800s.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like black bears and deer that are frequently spotted in the area.
Take a hike to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park. The 7-mile hike will lead you to breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
If you’re up for a bit of adventure, go white water rafting on the Pigeon River or zip line through the lush canopy of the forest.
End your trip with a visit to Gatlinburg, a charming mountain town with plenty of shops and restaurants to explore.
Take a ride on the Gatlinburg SkyLift, a scenic chairlift that offers stunning views of the mountains.
9. Joshua Tree National Park
If you’re looking for a unique national park experience, look no further than Joshua Tree National Park in southern California.
The park spans over 790,000 acres of stunning desert landscape and is home to two different desert ecosystems, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.
Starting from the town of Palm Springs, you can drive through the winding roads of the park.
Take in the breathtaking views of towering rock formations, expansive valleys, and a variety of desert flora and fauna.
Make sure to stop by some of the park’s famous attractions, like Skull Rock, Hidden Valley, and Cholla Cactus Garden.
For those seeking adventure, there are lots of mountain biking, hiking trails and rock climbing opportunities throughout the park.
The 49 Palms Oasis trail takes you through a rocky canyon to an oasis with beautiful palm trees and a refreshing watering hole.
The rock formations throughout the park provide a unique opportunity for experienced climbers to test their skills.
In the evenings, take in the stunning sunsets and starry night sky, which are some of the clearest in the United States due to the park’s location far from major cities and light pollution.
10. Everglades National Park
If you’re looking for a unique road trip experience, consider driving through the Everglades National Park in Florida.
Known as the “River of Grass,” the Everglades is a vast subtropical wilderness that’s home to alligators, panthers, and over 350 species of birds.
To start your journey, head to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, which is located about 50 miles southwest of Miami. Here, you can get maps and information about the park, as well as take a guided tour or watch a film about the Everglades.
As you drive through the park, be sure to stop at some of the park’s must-see sights.
Shark Valley features a 15-mile loop trail that has great views of the wetlands and wildlife.
You can also take a boat tour through the mangrove swamps at Everglades City or hike the Anhinga Trail to see alligators up close.
One of the highlights of the Everglades is the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway. The waterway offers paddling and boating adventures for those who want to explore deeper into the park.
If you don’t have your own canoe or kayak, there are rental companies available nearby.
Lastly, be sure to take a drive on the Tamiami Trail, which crosses the park and offers spectacular views of the wetlands.
Along the way, you can stop at the historic Skunk Ape Research Center or the Miccosukee Indian Village.
11. Yosemite National Park
Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is a breathtaking natural wonder that’s well worth the road trip.
The park offers incredible sights, including towering waterfalls, rugged mountains, and ancient sequoia trees that are among the largest living things on the planet.
One of the most popular attractions in the park is Yosemite Valley, a glacier-carved canyon that has stunning views of the park’s most iconic features.
You can gaze up at the towering granite cliffs of Half Dome and El Capitan, and marvel at the crystal-clear waters of the Merced River.
Another must-see attraction in Yosemite is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, a stunning collection of ancient trees that are over 1,000 years old.
You can take a leisurely walk among these towering giants, and learn about the unique ecological features that make the area so special.
For those who want to experience the beauty of Yosemite from behind the wheel, there are several scenic drives in the park that are well worth the trip.
Tioga Road is a 39-mile drive that takes you from the park’s east entrance to its west entrance – passing by several stunning vistas along the way.
The Glacier Point Road is another popular option. It has stunning views of Yosemite Valley from a lofty elevation of 7,214 feet.
12. Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden gem in Utah. It’s known for its incredible geological formations, scenic drives, and hiking trails.
A road trip to Capitol Reef National Park is a truly unique experience. There’s opportunities to explore hidden canyons, hike through red rock formations, and take in breathtaking views.
Starting your road trip from Salt Lake City, you can reach Capitol Reef National Park in about 3 hours.
Once you arrive, make sure to take the scenic drive along Capitol Reef Scenic Byway. This is a 25-mile drive that offers stunning views of the park’s colorful canyons, towering rock formations, and desert landscapes.
One of the park’s must-visit attractions is the Waterpocket Fold. This is a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth’s crust that runs through the park.
Explore this unique geologic feature by taking a hike along the Grand Wash Trail or the Capitol Gorge Trail. Both offer breathtaking views of the towering rock formations.
For more adventure, you can take a guided tour of the park’s hidden canyons. For example, the Cottonwood Wash and Burr Trail, or try your hand at canyoneering. And if you’re looking for some relaxation, take a dip in the park’s natural hot springs.
If you’re interested in history, don’t miss a visit to the park’s historic district. There, you can see preserved Mormon pioneer settlements and orchards, and learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage.
In terms of accommodation, there are several options available both within the park and nearby towns. The park has several campgrounds. Ranging from primitive sites to those with RV hookups. There are also plenty of lodging options in nearby towns like Torrey and Boulder.
13. Tahoe National Forest
Y’all, this is our favorite! There is definitely a special place in our hearts for Lake Tahoe. Here’s why we think you’ll fall in love with it, too.
Visiting Tahoe National Forest on a road trip can be a wonderful experience for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Tahoe National Forest is located in the northern Sierra Nevada region of California. It covers a vast area of over 871,000 acres.
It offers a diverse range of landscapes, including dense forests, sparkling lakes, majestic peaks, and meandering rivers.
This national forest has hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, and endless scenic views.
You can check out the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada. Here, you will find fishing, boating, and swimming. The alpine lakes, such as Lake Tahoe, Stampede Reservoir, and Prosser Reservoir, are a must see.
While visiting the forest, don’t miss the chance to visit Donner Summit. There, you can hike to stunning viewpoints and explore the historic Donner Pass.
Notable attractions in the Tahoe Forest, include the Emerald pools, Grouse Ridge Lookout, and the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout.
14. Shenandoah National Park
This is a road trip destination that’s both peaceful and stunningly beautiful. Take a trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
The park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is home to over 200,000 acres of stunning wilderness.
Along the way, you can enjoy great views of the Shenandoah Valley, hike along the Appalachian Trail. Take in the natural beauty of Virginia’s stunning countryside.
One of the highlights of a trip to Shenandoah National Park is the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
This scenic drive runs for 105 miles along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It offers amazing views of the surrounding area. The drive is especially beautiful in the fall, when the trees turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold.
When you’re not driving, there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy in Shenandoah National Park.
Hiking is a popular activity in the park, with over 500 miles of trails to explore. You can also go horseback riding, fishing, or camping.
If you’re interested in history, you can visit the park’s many historic sites, including Civil War battlefields and old farmsteads.
If you’re planning a Shenandoah National Park road trip, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The park is open year-round, but some facilities and campgrounds may be closed during the off-season. It’s also a good idea to bring warm clothing, as the mountain weather can be unpredictable.
You can also hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This boarders both the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
15. New River Gorge National Park
The newest addition to the National Park family is the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia.
This park offers some of the most scenic views of the Appalachian Mountains. For example, the New River Gorge Bridge, which is one of the longest single-span arch bridges in the world.
To make the most of your visit, take a road trip through the park. Start at the visitor center and explore the hiking trails.
Take a leisurely walk through the sandstone cliffs or go on a more challenging hike through the rugged backcountry. Don’t forget to bring your camera because the views of the river and mountains are truly stunning.
After your hike, stop by one of the many picnic areas in the park. There, you can enjoy a meal while taking in the beautiful scenery.
Then, head over to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center for some history about the park and the bridge.
The visitor center also offers guided tours and ranger-led programs.
Finally, end your road trip by taking a drive across the New River Gorge Bridge itself. This experience gives you a unique view of the park and surrounding landscape that you won’t want to miss.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Road Trip Destination
When it comes to planning a road trip to these amazing national parks, there are a few things to consider. Before finalizing your destination, here are some factors to keep in mind:
1. Time of year
Different national parks are best visited during different seasons. For example, Yellowstone is great in the summer months, but can be difficult to access during the winter. On the other hand, Joshua Tree is ideal during the cooler months of the year.
Consider how far you’re willing to drive to get to national park sites. Some national parks are just a few hours’ drive away, while others might require a full fledge cross-country trip.
National park road trips can be expensive. It’s important to factor in the cost of gas, lodging, food, and park fees when planning your trip.
To save yourself money, be sure to plan out road trip meals ahead of time.
Think about what activities you’d like to do on your trip. If you’re into hiking and outdoor adventures, parks like Zion or Yosemite may be the perfect fit.
If you’re more interested in scenic drives and wildlife watching, places like Grand Teton or Glacier are great.
Do you prefer to camp, stay in hotels, or rent an RV? Consider your accommodation options and book ahead of time to ensure availability.
By keeping these factors in mind, you can choose the national park that best fits your interests, budget, and timeline. Happy road tripping!
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