1

Road Trips throughout the USA & Canada

It is hard to imagine the United States without the iconic road trips it has to offer. The way how this country has grown because of the massive growth in the automobile industry. The road trip in the United States represents something that can’t be found in any other country. The road trip started when couples and families started to become curious to discover the country, taking children to national parks and the outdoors. It is the best part to experience the United States and Canada, with having great conversations in the car, listening to music, sipping a cup of coffee and discovering the country’s diversity, beauty and cultural differences in real time. And, the best perk: it is very easy to drive in the United States given that all rental cars and RV’s come with automatic transmission, cruise control, cupholders and comfortable seats.

The national parks have a big impact in this as many famous roads were built to connect with public lands going through the open spaces. This will make it a perfect experience where you can go back in time to see how America was built and connected via most scenic highways throughout the country.

Is an American Road Trip right for me?

I would answer the question as an absolute yes. However, it comes with questions: are you ok driving long distances in a car, for example 5 hours of driving per day straight for two weeks? Do you enjoy sleeping in a different bed every night? Are you open for the unexpected? Road trips come with dangers. You can get into accidents and unforeseen weather changes, get stuck somewhere or your car may break down.

However, driving in the United States and Canada is a very safe experience, with an excellent highway and free system that connects national parks and major metropolitan cities. You will definitely see the country’s best when renting a car spending time on the road. While it might not always be very convenient, you will experience a sense of American freedom where you meet many locals on your journey.

Planning an American Road Trip with national parks

Ultimately, visiting the national parks and driving long-distances into the wide open space will make this a vacation of a lifetime for you. Therefore, we recommend planning ahead and starting with a map. Invest in good printed old school maps as your phone won’t always have connection to Google maps in remote areas. There are three things you should plan ahead:

  1. Choose your route. You can either make it a round trip or a start-end destination trip with different locations. The advantage of starting/ending at the same area is often better for airfares and car rentals. However, travel time and distance should weigh this decision.
  2. Reserve a rental car at least 2-3 weeks in advance at the airport where you will arrive. It is fairly easy to pick up rental cars at the airport. Buy proper insurance so that you are fully covered. You can either choose a tour operator/travel agent or find your deals about rental cars online. In case if you get an RV, you should calculate extra budget and insurance. Don’t forget that there are many things inside and outside the RV that can be damaged.
  3. Make hotel reservations in some areas. Especially in national park areas with a higher visitation, such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Great Smokey Mountains, it might be challenging not to have a reservation. Check out our individual itineraries to learn more about when it is best to make a reservation.The other alternative is camping. Most of public camp sites in the United States are first-come first serve. This means that you should not be there later that noon to secure your spot. Some campgrounds allow you to make reservations in advance. For reservations inside national parks and state parks, you can find out more under Reserve America.

Top 10 Road Trip American Road Trip Ideas

While this is a hot topic and mainly discussed to find the “Ultimate American Road Trip”, we have put together the best road trips that we as a team believe will make this a vacation of a lifetime for you. Please note, that no road trip itinerary is absolutely perfect. However, they cover at least suggested overnight stays, distance between your stops along with the best activities and local secrets.

Yosemite & Grand Canyon in the Southwest

Covering California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, this is the traditional first-timer road trip for anyone who wants to see the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the most scenic national parks in Utah.

The Hidden Northwestern Parks

These cover California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia.
Beautiful with lush rain forests along the coast, local wines, national parks and the incredible Cascade Mountains, this trip is nothing short in experiences that might resemble you being in New Zealand, especially with the beautiful Pacific Ocean, together with remarkable cities like Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.

Rocky Mountain High Country Parks

Covering Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, this trip is by far the highest elevation road trip with many mountain peaks, lakes, lush forrest, high-desert areas and dramatic weather that you can enjoy on your trip. Be prepared from driving through the desert up to passes that are 12,000 feet high, enjoying incredible mountain scenery, outdoor activities and hikes combined with Old Western history.

The Great American Road Trip

This would cover Illinois, South Dakota, Montana, Washington. It is one of the traditional one-way American road trips highlighting all the things you can discover in one country. You will start in Chicago and then head to the Black Hills, then see Yellowstone & Glacier National Park and end up in Seattle.

Back into the history of Highway 66

Covering Illinois, the Midwest and Southwest, it is one of the very first long-distance highways in the United States. This journey will take you from Chicago to Los Angeles. It covers over 2,448 miles that will let you discover a forgotten style of the 50s in North America. Of course, together with national parks.

Coast to Coast

This involves, logically, the entire country to discover from East to West. By starting in New York City, you will discover the country as it is from the east coast to the west coast. It will highlight the best national parks along the way. This might be strenuous, but it is the best trip to experience the entire United States; its cultural, natural and economic diversity.

Southeastern Beaches & National Park

This one includes Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. If you like sand beaches, warm weather, national parks and local foods, this would be a great way to see the best beaches in the United States. You can also combine it with a relaxing beach vacation. Plus, Disneyland, Universal Studios and Bush Gardens will keep your fun at an all time high.

Northeastern Metropolis

Covering New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maine, this road trip is known for the famous Niagara Falls, Acadia National Park, together with American’s most architectural cities like New York and Boston. You can also a start in Chicago, with an ideal combination of national parks and big cities.

American – Canadian Parks

In the US, it covers Washington, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia, while Canada is neither anything short of road trips. This route covers the best national parks of both countries that you can combine in one trip. Of course, it requires some extra driving. However, you can discover two distinct countries in one trip, learning about local cultures.

Old West & Native Americans

Covering New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, this route is dedicated to visit the great American national parks in the Western United States, while discovering ancient roots of Native Americans and learning about the history of the Old West. It will include interpretive tours and riding old trains. Additionally, you should attend powwows and visit national parks in the United States.




58 National Parks in the United States

Need some help planning your national park road trip? We’ve compiled a list of U.S. national parks by state. Check them off state by state, or pick a route! Either way, we’ve got you covered.

Some national parks, like Yellowstone, are so enormous you could take two weeks and still not see the whole thing. Other national parks, like Joshua Tree, can be comfortably enjoyed within one day. We have compiled a state-by-state list of 58 national parks in the United States. We hope this list will help provide you with all the information to help you plan your route.

Carbon County WY

NATIONAL PARKS IN THE U.S. BY STATE

Apart from hiking, biking and water sports (the most common highlights of national parks) the following highlights are rather special to the individual parks and may help you to make your choice on which to prioritize for your visit.

alaska national park, whale watching

ALASKA

  1. Denali National Park and Preserve
    Highest peak in North America (Mt. McKinley).
  2. Gates of the Arctic National Park
    Northernmost park administered by the National Park Service, roughly the size of Switzerland, no established roads, visitor centers or other facilities.
  3. Glacier Bay National Park
    Terrestrial and marine sanctuary, no marked trails or roads, many visit on cruise ships.
  4. Katmai National Park and Preserve
    Large population of brown bears, Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, named for Mount Katmai (stratovolcano).
  5. Kenai Fjords National Park
    Smallest national park of Alaska, carved by glaciers flowing from the Harding Ice Field to the sea, rugged arctic landscape.
  6. Kobuk Valley National Park
    Only backcountry, half a million caribou, sand dunes.
  7. Lake Clark National Park
    Active volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, birch forests and tundra.

AMERICAN SAMOA

National Park of American Samoa
South pacific paradise, three volcanic islands, only U.S. national park south of the equator; tropical rainforests, beaches, coral reefs, cliffs.

grand canyon national park

ARIZONA

  1. Grand Canyon National Park
    One of the symbols of America, one of the most visited national parks, largest canyons in the world.
  2. Petrified Forest National Park
    Wide variety of late triassic fossils (incl. trees, ferns and giant reptiles), geological formations, forest with ancient ruins and historic buildings.
  3. Saguaro National Park
    Named for the giant Saguaro Cactus, unique desert landscape and grassland.

ARKANSAS

Hot Springs National Park
Smallest national park by area, known for its hot spring water, bathhouses of a bygone era.

yosemite national park, yosemite

CALIFORNIA

  1. Channel Islands National Park
    Only reachable by park concessioner boat/plane or private boats, one of the least-visited national parks, whale watching (in summer, largest gathering of blue whales in the world).
  2. Death Valley National Park
    Part of the Mojave Desert included, hottest and driest national park, yet surprisingly diverse, sand dunes, canyons, salt flats, mountains and valleys.
  3. Joshua Tree National Park
    Joshua trees, part of the Mojave Desert included, teeming with life, palm oases, wildflowers.
  4. Kings Canyon National Park
    Giant Sequoia Groves, High Sierra Peaks, old-growth coniferous forests.
  5. Lassen Volcanic National Park
    World’s largest plug dome volcano, all four types of volcanoes there are – all in one park: plug dome, shield, cinder, stratovolcanoes.
  6. Redwood National Park
    Tallest trees on Earth, wild coastal deltas and gorges, colonies of sea lions.
  7. Sequoia National Park
    Enormous redwood trees, five of the ten largest trees in the world, massive exposed granite walls.
  8. Yosemite National Park
    Waterfalls, giant sequoias, valleys and sheer cliffs.

aspen, maroon bells, colorado, hiking

COLORADO

  1. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
    Named for the darkness of Balck Canyon, like no other canyon in North America due to narrowness, depth and sheer walls.
  2. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
    Tallest sand dunes in North America, no marked hiking trails, after rain it offers possibilities for sliding down the dunes on sleds, sandboards or snowboards.
  3. Mesa Verde National Park
    Cliff dwellings of the ancestral Puebloans, more than 4,000 archeological sites.
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park
    Continental divide, haven for off-piste skiers in winter, can be traveled by car.

everglades, everglades national park, florida parks

FLORIDA

  1. Biscayne National Park
    Third-longest living coral reef in the world, 95% water.
  2. Dry Tortugas National Park
    Many people are unaware of it as it is closer to Cuba than to the U.S. mainland, underwater wonderland.
  3. Everglades National Park
    Only subtropical wilderness in the country, network of rivers and wetlands.

HAWAII

  1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    Two volcanoes which are among the world’s most active, yet predominantly non-violent eruptions, visitors can get very close to watch.
  2. Haleakalā National Park
    Cinder cones, a dormant volcano and tropical paradies.

KENTUCKY

Mammoth Cave National Park
Longest known caving system in the world, well-known for its cave tours.

acadia national park

MAINE

Acadia National Park
America’s first sunrise, without having to abandon modern comforts.

MICHIGAN

Isle Royale National Park
Historic shipwrecks, around the main island plus 400 smaller ones.

MINNESOTA

Voyageurs National Park
Collage of hardwood tree forests and waterways.

Hidden Lake Trail, Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, Wildflowers glacier national Park

MONTANA

Glacier National Park
Over 740 miles of trails, historic Swiss-style chalet landmarks.

NEVADA

Great Basin National Park
Marble caves, paved scenic drive.

NEW MEXICO

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Impressive network of over 110 limestone caves, seventh-longest in the world, impressive bat outflights.

Asheville, north carolina

NORTH CAROLINA

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
America’s most visited national park, named for the prevalence of fog, one of the rainiest habitats in the U.S., abundance of waterfalls, modern campsites with amenities.

NORTH DAKOTA

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
View the location of Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch.

OHIO

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Waterfalls and caves along the crooked river, is among the smallest and newest national parks.

Hells Canyon, Oregon, Parks

OREGON

Crater Lake National Park
Deepest lake in the U.S., with exceptional purity and clarity.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Congaree National Park
Largest tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in North America with river sweeping through the floodplains.

Wild Horse Sanctuary Hot Springs South Dakota

SOUTH DAKOTA

  1. Badlands National Park
    Buttes, pinnacles and spires, fossils of saber tooth cats, rhinoceroses and other bygone creatures.
  2. Wind Cave National Park
    Complex underground labyrinth of corridors with rare boxwork, third-longest cave in the U.S. and fifth-longest in the world.

TENNESSEE

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Same as North Carolina: America’s most visited nation park, named for the prevalence of fog, one of the rainiest habitats in the U.S., abundance of waterfalls, modern campsites with amenities.

big bend national park

TEXAS

  1. Big Bend National Park
    More than 200 miles of hiking trails across diverse terrain and scenic drives.
  2. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    A seemingly vast emptiness that is anything but empty, ancient marine fossils, highest peak in all of Texas.

UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS

Virgin Islands National Park
Warm waters, white sandy beaches, wonderful coral, subtropical climate.

bryce canyon national park, utah parks

UTAH

  1. Arches National Park
    Red rock landscape, more than 2,000 sandstone arches, natural bridges, towers, rock fins and other impressive formations.
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park
    Labyrinth of hoodoos at more than 7,800 feet above sea level.
  3. Canyonlands National Park
    Red, orange and yellow canyons, mesas and buttes.
  4. Capitol Reef National Park
    Waterpocket Fold (“wrinkle on the earth“), in combination with crevices, canyons, domes and bridges.
  5. Zion National Park
    Towering sandstone monoliths, swooping rock arches and painted canyon walls.

VIRGINIA

Shenandoah National Park
Scenic Skyline Drive.

WASHINGTON

  1. Mount Rainier National Park
    Tallest peak in the State (stratovolcano), talks around the campfire by park rangers.
  2. North Cascades National Park
    Experience the mix of glaciers and mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, temperate rainforests, marshes and swamps.
  3. Olympic National Park
    Habitats ranging from coastline to dense forests, to alpine grassland and glaciers.

Grand Tetons, Yellowstone National Park

WYOMING

  1. Grand Teton National Park
    Pleasing combination of majestic natural beauty and tourist-friendly convenience.
  2. Yellowstone National Park
    The world’s first national park, more than half of the world’s geysers.

Canada national parks, national parks in Canada

44 NATIONAL PARKS IN CANADA

While we have visited most of the national parks in the United States, Canada is in no short supply of natural beauty. Canada’s geographic size is much larger than the United States, and some national parks can be found in very remote areas. While Banff, and Jasper belong to the more common national parks that can be combined with a U.S. road trip, there are quite a few unknown areas that would be worth exploring. For complete information about Canada’s national parks, you can find more information here.

Like it? Pin it!




The Ultimate Road Trip Guide

It is hard to imagine the United States without its iconic road trip scenery. The automobile explosion of the 1950s led to Americans and foreigners having access to whole new parts of the country. The road trip in the United States represents something that can’t be found elsewhereHere at Visit USA Parks, we believe the best way to experience the United States and Canada is by car. Great conversations, listening to music, sipping a cup of coffee, and discovering beauty and cultural differences in real time can’t be beat. The best part? It’s super easy to drive in the United States given all the rental cars and RVs that come with automatic transmission, cruise control, cupholders, and comfortable seats.

Believe it or not, America’s national park system has had a large impact on road trip culture. Many famous roads were built to connect with public lands across the open spaces. Road tripping is almost like going back in time to see how America was built and connected via most scenic highways throughout the country.

road trip, national park road trips, car trip, girls trip, yellowstone road trip, western road trip

Photo by Emily Taylor

Is an American Road Trip right for me?

For most people, yes! However, it comes with questions: are you ok driving long distances, for example 5 hours of driving per day straight for two weeks? Do you enjoy sleeping in a different bed every night? Are you open to the unexpected? Road trips have no guarantees. One day, you might have a flat tire, in a rainstorm, 50 miles from anything. But the next day? Maybe you’ll have the most incredible conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop while you wait for the mechanic to call. With every unforeseen challenge comes opportunity.

Driving in the United States and Canada is a fairly safe experience, with an excellent highway system that connects national parks and major metropolitan cities. The impressions many have of the dangerous and questionable characters one meets on the road tend to be overblown. You will definitely see the country’s best when renting a car spending time on the road. While it might not always be very convenient, you will experience a sense of American freedom where you meet many locals on your journey. And remember the old saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination.”

driving, road trip, northwest road trip, northeast roadtrip, winding roads

Photo by David Rule

Planning a trip with national parks

Ultimately, visiting the national parks and driving long-distances into the wide open space will make this a vacation of a lifetime for you. We recommend planning ahead and starting with a map and/or road trip app. Investing in good printed old school map is a good idea, as your phone may not always have service in remote areas. There are three things you should plan ahead:

1. Choose your route

You can either make it a round trip or a start-end destination trip with different locations. The advantage of starting/ending at the same area is often better for airfares and car rentals. However, travel time and distance should impact this decision.

2. Reserve your vehicle

Reserve a rental car at least 2-3 weeks in advance at the airport where you will arrive. It is fairly easy to pick up rental cars at the airport. Buy insurance so that you are fully covered, or check to see if one of your credit cards offers free car rental insurance (many do!). You can either choose a tour operator/travel agent or find your deals about rental cars online. In case if you get an RV, you should calculate extra budget and insurance. Don’t forget that there are many things inside and outside the RV that can be damaged. Take photos of your rental vehicle if there is any damage prior to leaving.

3. Decide where to stay

Make hotel reservations or camping reservations early. In some of the more crowded national parks, like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, it might be challenging not to have a reservation. Check out our individual itineraries to learn more about when it is best to make a reservation. Many public camp sites in the United States are first come first serve basis. Some campgrounds allow you to make reservations in advance. For reservations inside national parks and state parks, visit the individual national park sites for more information.

utah, utah state park, yellow van, road trip

Photo by Dino Reichmuth

Top 10 Road Trip American Road Trip Ideas and Itineraries

We have put together a list of our favorite road trips, trips that we believe will be the vacation of a lifetime for you. Please note, no road trip itinerary is perfect for any one individual. Half the fun of road tripping is discovering cool things along the way. These itineraries cover at least suggested overnight stays, distance between your stops, and the best activities and local secrets. Get planning!

The American Southwest Road Trip Itinerary

Covering the incredible national parks of Arizona and Utah, this is a great traditional first-timer road trip for anyone who wants to see the Grand Canyon and see the iconic desert towers of the American southwest.

From Seattle to the Rocky Mountains and Back

From Seattle to the Rocky Mountains and back This is a road trip of epic proportions as you travel from sea level to 10,000 feet and back again. From the pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, visit Washington, Montana, and Idaho, and travel through the North Cascades and Mount Rainier National Parks.

The National Parks of Canada

The great land up north is full of amazing scenery and beautiful landscapes interspersed with some great cities and a kind and welcoming people. In this epic road trip, we guide you from the Pacific to the Atlantic and highlight all the great stops, national parks, and iconic areas in between.

The Epic Coast to Coast

The Epic Coast to Coast Itinerary trip takes you from the shores of the Atlantic to the golden coast of California. Traveling in a line across the United States from East to West gives visitors the opportunity to see cities and country, national parks and hidden small towns. This is the ultimate way to see everything America has to offer.

National Parks and the Midwestern Route

From Chicago all the way down to the tip of Texas, this road trip will take you on an adventure vertically down the center of the United States. In this trip you will visit America’s second city, see a number of great parks, and even visit the home of Elvis along the way!

The Hidden West Coast

The northwest is one of the United States’ great treasures. From rocky coastlines to fog shrouded mountains, desert basins, and world-class cities, this trip will give you an experience of some of the best this country has to offer. See the northwest, California, and Idaho!

National Parks and the Colorado Peaks

Colorado has some of the most staggeringly beautiful landscape in the world, and you will be seeing all it has to offer as you travel the state along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, then down into the desert basin, before heading North again to Pikes Peak.

The National Parks of the Southeast

The deep south of the United States is full of rolling forested hills, deep flowing rivers and sun-soaked beaches. In this trip you will get to experience it all and create memories of a lifetime along the way.

The National Parks and the Mighty East Coast

Get ready to experience some of the most unique cities and parks the United States has to offer. This trip will take you into some of the most famous cities in the world like Boston and New York, as well as coastal hideouts and gorgeous views.

Yellowstone National Park, Utah and Idaho

Have you ever seen a bison before? Visit four amazing states, two national parks, and one superb national monument. You travel along the Rocky Mountains and down into the high plains in this classic western road trip.

Like it? Pin it!

road trip, america, pin