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7 Unforgettable USA Road Trip Ideas With Complete Itineraries

Road trips are my jam. I lived out of my RAV4 for the summer and have done a cross country road trip at least once along the southern states.

Needless to say, my mind is bursting with USA road trip ideas.

While I’m partial to the West Coast, I’ve put together a list of the BEST USA road trips that absolutely must make your bucket list. Think: national parks road trip with a flare of culture, scenic drives, and small towns in between.

I’ll go through all of the best road trips to explore and give my own tips based on my experience. But first, I’ll give you a few tips for planning smooth and enjoyable road trips.

LFG!

USA Road Trip Preparation Tips

Embarking on an epic road trip across the United States is an exciting adventure, but proper preparation is key to ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey. Whether you’re cruising down Route 66, exploring the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, losing your sh*t over the Million Dollar Highway, or venturing through the heartland of America, these road trip preparation tips will help you make the most of your experience.

1. Car Maintenance Matters

Before hitting the open road, start by giving your trusty vehicle a thorough check-up. If you’re on top of your car maintenance, then you may not need to do anything at all. But there are a few things that I always keep a running tab on as I’m driving around.

Here’s what you should inspect:

  • Oil and Fluids: Ensure that your engine oil, transmission fluid, and other essential fluids are at the right levels. Consider an oil change if you’re due for one.
  • Brakes and Tires: Check your brakes to ensure they’re in good working condition. Also, examine your tires for proper tread depth and tire pressure. Don’t forget the spare tire!
  • Fuel Up: Start your journey with a full tank of gas. It’s a good habit to refuel when your tank is around half-empty to avoid running into any unexpected fuel shortages in remote areas. I like using Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas near me.

PRO TIP: Rent a car to avoid any unnecessary mileage or damage on your personal vehicle.

2. Dress in Layers

The United States boasts a diverse range of climates and landscapes, so it’s important to be prepared for fluctuating weather conditions. Pack clothing that can be layered, allowing you to adapt to temperature changes.

Essentials include:

  • Warm Layers: Even in summer, evenings in some regions can get chilly, so bring a light jacket or sweater.
  • Rain Gear: A compact rain jacket or poncho can be a lifesaver if you encounter unexpected showers.
  • Sun Protection: Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.

I have a whole post about my summer hiking gear where I list my exact layers for constantly-changing weather conditions.

3. Essential Travel Items

In the age of technology, some items are indispensable for a road trip. Make sure to have these essentials on hand:

  • GPS or Navigation App: While smartphones often have built-in GPS, consider a standalone GPS device or a reliable navigation app that can work offline to avoid data issues in remote areas. Here’s how I get wifi while traveling through remote areas.
  • Phone Charger: Keep your devices charged with a car charger or portable power bank. Here’s the power bank I use in emergencies.
  • Hydration and Snacks: Staying hydrated is crucial during long drives. Carry a reusable water bottle and a lots of road trip snacks to keep your energy up between meals.
  • First-Aid Kit: Accidents happen, and it’s best to be prepared. Your first-aid kit should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications.

Here are my essentials for traveling and hiking alone as a woman.

4. Accommodation Planning

The beauty of a road trip lies in its spontaneity, but it’s wise to book accommodations in advance, especially if you’re visiting popular destinations like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or national parks. Booking ahead ensures you have a place to rest after a day of exploring.

Here are my favorite ways to book accommodations (affiliate links):

5. Comfortable Footwear

Many of the USA’s most captivating destinations are best explored on foot. Invest in comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots that provide support for all the adventures you have planned. Your feet will thank you after a day of sightseeing.

I also really like my Blundstone boots, which are trendy, waterproof, durable, and totally capable of tons of terrains.

blundstone boots for women
Wearing my Blundstone boots in Missoula, Montana; Photo by: Marquis Matson

With these road trip preparation tips in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to embark on your USA road trip adventure with confidence. Now, let’s dive into some incredible road trip ideas that will take you from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

PRO TIP: Get around and see things off the beaten path on your trip. Book your affordable car rental here.

Want something even grander? Check out these girls trip ideas!

US Road Trip Idea #1: California Coast Road Trip (7 days)

Embark on a memorable journey along California’s iconic coastline, from Northern California and passing through small towns along the Pacific Ocean all the way to Southern California.

Starting from the vibrant city of San Francisco and ending in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, this 7-day California road trip offers a mix of city attractions, coastal views, and natural wonders all along the Pacific Ocean.

Recreate the Karlie-and-Taylor California road trip (aka one of the best road trips in recorded history) and enjoy this California state route with quirky roadside attractions.

  • Best Time to Travel: Consider traveling during the spring or fall months. The weather is mild, and you’ll avoid peak tourist seasons, ensuring a smoother drive and better accommodation rates.
  • Mild Weather: During these seasons, California enjoys pleasant weather with comfortable temperatures and fewer extreme conditions. You’ll have the ideal climate for exploring both the cities and the coastline.
  • Avoid Peak Tourist Seasons: By avoiding the summer months, you’ll sidestep the crowds that flock to California’s tourist hotspots. This means shorter lines at attractions, less traffic on the road, and better availability of accommodations, making for a smoother and more enjoyable trip.

Day 1: San Francisco

Begin your coastal road trip in Northern California in the “City by the Bay.” Explore iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Be sure to ride the famous cable cars and savor delicious seafood.

sf fisherman's grotto
Visit the Fisherman’s Grotto for an authentic SF experience; Photo by: Marquis Matson

Here are a few highlights from the San Francisco Bay Area:

  • Golden Gate Bridge: Start your day with a visit to the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. As you approach this iconic red-orange suspension bridge, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the city skyline. Consider taking a stroll or renting a bike to cross the bridge, providing an up-close experience with its stunning architecture and surrounding scenery.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf: After your Golden Gate Bridge adventure, head to Fisherman’s Wharf for a delectable seafood lunch. This bustling waterfront district is renowned for its clam chowder, Dungeness crab, and seafood platters. Enjoy your meal at one of the many waterfront restaurants while watching sea lions basking in the sun at Pier 39.
  • Alcatraz Island: Dive into the intriguing history of Alcatraz Island. Take a ferry ride to this former maximum-security prison and embark on a guided tour that immerses you in the stories of notorious inmates like Al Capone. Explore the prison cells, the prison yard, and the captivating tales of daring escape attempts. Book a tour of Alcatraz here.
  • Cable Car Ride: No trip to San Francisco is complete without a ride on the city’s iconic cable cars. Hop on a cable car at the Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason lines and traverse the city’s famous hills. The evening ride offers a charming ambiance as you take in the city’s sparkling lights.
  • Nightlife: San Francisco’s nightlife is vibrant and diverse. You can explore bars, jazz clubs, or even catch a live performance at one of the city’s renowned theaters. For a taste of the local scene, head to a neighborhood like the Mission District or North Beach, where you’ll find plenty of entertainment options.

🏨 Find a hotel in San Francisco or book a rental home in the Bay Area.

Day 2: San Francisco to Monterey (2.5 hours)

  • Drive to Monterey: Head south along Highway 1, enjoying breathtaking coastal views along the way. Stop at Santa Cruz for a stroll along the boardwalk, then continue to Monterey for its charming waterfront and world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.

🏨 Find a hotel in Monterey or book a rental home in the Central Coast.

Day 3: Big Sur (1 day)

  • Explore Big Sur: Drive along one of the most scenic stretches of highway in the world, with dramatic cliffs, redwood forests, and the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge. Hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and take in the beauty of McWay Falls.

Day 4: Cambria (2 hours)

  • Drive to Cambria: Drive south to Cambria, a quaint town known for its beautiful Moonstone Beach. Visit the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery to observe these magnificent creatures.

🏨 Find a hotel in Cambria or book a rental home in Morro Bay.

Day 5: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara (2.5 hours)

  • Explore San Luis Obispo: Discover the charm of this college town and hike the popular Bishop Peak Trail.
  • Continue to Santa Barbara: Head to the “American Riviera” for its Mediterranean-style architecture, beautiful beaches, and the historic Santa Barbara Mission. Explore the many tours in Santa Barbara, including wine tasting 🍷

🏨 Find a hotel in Santa Barbara or book a rental home in Santa Barbara.

Day 6: Malibu and Santa Monica (1.5 hours)

  • Drive through Malibu: Experience the stunning Malibu coastline and perhaps spot a celebrity or two.
  • End in Santa Monica: Finish your journey in the lively beach city of Santa Monica. Visit the famous Santa Monica Pier and enjoy the vibrant nightlife.

🏨 Find a hotel in Malibu or book a rental home in Santa Monica.

Day 7: Los Angeles

  • Explore Los Angeles: Spend your last day exploring Los Angeles. Visit attractions like Hollywood Boulevard, Griffith Observatory (highly recommend), and Universal Studios. Take a hike through Runyon Canyon and wrap up your trip with a visit to Venice Beach and its famous boardwalk. Take a look at all of the fun tours around Los Angeles!

PRO TIP: If you have space for it, then take a side trip from LA over to Joshua Tree National Park. The deserty oasis is just 2 hours away from the city… but will transport you to another world entirely. Check out these cool rental homes near Joshua Tree National park to get an idea of the vibe there.

Idea #2: Pacific Northwest Adventure (10 days)

Explore a captivating side of the West Coast on a 10-day journey through the Pacific Northwest, a region renowned for its lush forests, majestic mountains, and vibrant cities. Begin in the bustling city of Seattle, where iconic landmarks like the Space Needle and Pike Place Market await.

seattle public market
Photo by: Marquis Matson

As you venture further, you’ll be enchanted by the natural wonders of Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park, offering a perfect blend of coastal vistas and alpine landscapes. The charm of Portland, with its unique microbreweries and enchanting gardens, make it a very cool place to coexist with mannnyyyyy types of people.

Wine enthusiasts will relish a day in the Willamette Valley, tasting some of the finest wines the region has to offer. And as you wind down your trip, the breathtaking views of Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood promise a fitting end to an unforgettable journey.

Best Time to Travel: The best time to embark on this road trip is during the late spring to early fall, as you’ll experience milder temperatures and fewer rainy days, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey.

  • Mild Weather: During these months, the Pacific Northwest experiences pleasant temperatures, making it easier to explore both urban and natural attractions comfortably.
  • Less Rain: While the region is known for its rain, the late spring to early fall period tends to have fewer rainy days, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable journey.

Day 1: Seattle

  • Start in Seattle: Begin your journey in the vibrant city of Seattle, where you can explore iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit.

🏨 Find a hotel in Seattle or book a rental home in Seattle.

Day 2: Olympic National Park (3 hours)

Day 3: Olympic National Park (1 day)

Day 4: Mount Rainier National Park (4 hours)

Day 5: Mount Rainier National Park (1 day)

  • Discover Mount Rainier: Spend another day exploring the breathtaking landscapes and scenic viewpoints of Mount Rainier National Park. You’ll want to spend a full day here, it is sooooooo gorgeous.

🏨 Find a hotel in Seattle or book a rental home in Seattle.

Day 6: Portland (3 hours)

  • Travel to Portland: Drive south to the quirky and charming city of Portland, Oregon. Explore the city’s unique neighborhoods, food carts, and microbreweries.

🏨 Find a hotel in Portland or book a rental home in Portland.

Day 7: Portland (1 day)

  • Portland Exploration: Delve deeper into Portland’s offerings, including a visit to the International Rose Test Garden and Powell’s City of Books. I loooooove bookstores so this is an obvious stop for me, but there are tons of parks and quirky neighborhoods to explore all the same.

Day 8: Willamette Valley (1 hour)

  • Wine Tasting: Enjoy a day of wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, known for its exceptional Pinot Noir wines.

🏨 Find a nearby hotel or book a rental home in Willamette Valley.

Day 9: Columbia River Gorge (1 hour)

  • Scenic Drive: Travel to the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge, where you can hike to beautiful waterfalls and take in panoramic views.

Day 10: Mount Hood and Departure (1 hour)

  • Mount Hood: Conclude your journey with a visit to Mount Hood, where you can explore Trillium Lake and capture breathtaking photos of the mountain. Check out this Mount Hood air tour, which gives you epic birds-eye views of the mountain peaks!

🏨 Find a hotel in Portland or book a rental home in Portland.

This 10-day Pacific Northwest road trip promises a captivating blend of urban exploration and natural wonders that will leave you with lasting memories of this breathtaking region. Start planning your road trip today, and get ready to immerse yourself in the Pacific Northwest’s diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes.

Find the perfect home rental for your upcoming trip here 🏠

Idea #3: Texas Culture and History (7 days)

Begin your adventure in the bustling city of Houston, where the wonders of space exploration await at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. As you make your way to San Antonio, immerse yourself in the rich history of the Alamo and the serene beauty of the Riverwalk. Austin, the state’s capital, offers a blend of political history and a thriving music scene, ensuring your days are filled with exploration and nights with rhythm. Conclude your trip in Dallas, where art and history collide, giving you a taste of the state’s diverse culture.

Best Time to Travel: While Texas can be visited year-round, spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) offer pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds.

  • Mild Weather: Texas can get scorching in the summer and chilly in the winter. Spring and fall offer comfortable temperatures, making it easier to explore and enjoy outdoor attractions.
  • Avoid Peak Tourist Seasons: Traveling during these shoulder seasons ensures fewer crowds at popular sites and attractions, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in Texas’s unique culture and history.

Day 1: Houston

🏨 Find a hotel in Houston or book a rental home in Houston.

Day 2: San Antonio (3.5 hours)

  • Drive to San Antonio: Head southwest to San Antonio. Explore the historic Alamo, stroll along the picturesque Riverwalk, and savor some authentic Tex-Mex cuisine. Check out these really cool tours around San Antonio.

🏨 Find a hotel in San Antonio or book a rental home in San Antonio.

Day 3: San Antonio

Day 4: Austin (1.5 hours)

🏨 Find a hotel in Austin or book a rental home in Austin.

Day 5: Austin

Day 6: Dallas (3 hours)

🏨 Find a hotel in Dallas or book a rental home in Dallas.

Day 7: Dallas

This 7-day Texas Culture and History road trip offers a captivating blend of historical exploration, cultural immersion, and artistic appreciation. Start planning your own road trip itinerary today to experience the spirit of Texas from its roots to its modern vibrancy.

PRO TIP: Get around and see things off the beaten path on your trip. Book your affordable car rental here.

Idea #4: Southern Charm and History (10 days)

This 10-day road trip weaves through the rich tapestry of the American South. Starting in the cobblestone streets of Charleston, you’ll be transported back in time with horse-drawn carriage tours and visits to historic plantations. As you make your way to Savannah, let the city’s enchanting squares and parks mesmerize you, and don’t miss the chance to experience its hauntingly beautiful ghost and vampire tours!

Atlanta offers a blend of history and modernity, from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to the dazzling aquatic life at the Georgia Aquarium. Your musical soul will find its rhythm in Nashville, the country music capital, before you conclude your journey amidst the scenic beauty of Asheville’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Best Time to Travel: Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are ideal for this journey. These months offer moderate temperatures, allowing you to comfortably explore the historic sites and natural beauty of the South. Additionally, you’ll sidestep the intense summer heat and the peak tourist crowds, ensuring a more relaxed experience.

  • Moderate Temperatures: Spring and fall offer pleasant weather, allowing you to comfortably explore outdoor attractions and historic sites without sweltering heat or biting cold.
  • Avoid Peak Crowds: Traveling during these seasons means fewer tourists at popular destinations, ensuring a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.

Day 1: Charleston, South Carolina

  • Start in Charleston: Begin your journey in the historic city of Charleston. Explore cobblestone streets, take a horse-drawn carriage tour, and visit historic plantations like Boone Hall or Magnolia Plantation. See all tours in Charleston to see what’s on offer!

🏨 Find a hotel in Charleston or book a rental home in Charleston.

Day 2-3: Savannah, Georgia (2 days)

  • Drive to Savannah: Head south to Savannah, Georgia, known for its enchanting squares, historic architecture, and beautiful parks.
  • Explore Savannah: Take a guided ghost and vampire tour, visit Forsyth Park, and indulge in Southern cuisine at local eateries.

🏨 Find a hotel in Savannah or book a rental home in Savannah.

Day 4-5: Atlanta, Georgia (2 days)

🏨 Find a hotel in Atlanta or book a rental home in Atlanta.

Day 6-7: Nashville, Tennessee (2 days)

  • Drive to Nashville: Travel to the heart of country music, Nashville.
  • Music City: Explore the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, and enjoy live music on Broadway. (Take a look at all of the places in Nashville that have live music here.) Don’t forget to try the famous hot chicken! From whiskey tours to bike tours to ghost tours, there are TONS of fun things to do in Nashville.

🏨 Find a hotel in Nashville or book a rental home in Nashville.

Day 8-10: Asheville, North Carolina (3 days)

  • Drive to Asheville: Head to Asheville, North Carolina, nestled in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Explore Asheville: Visit Biltmore Estate, hike in the surrounding national parks, and savor craft beer at local breweries. Enjoy the vibrant arts and music scene. Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be included as a side trip from Asheville, if you want to check out one of the most popular national parks in the US!

🏨 Find a hotel in Asheville or book a rental home in Asheville.

This 10-day Southern Charm and History road trip promises an enriching cultural experience, taking you through the heart of a region steeped in heritage and musical tradition. Start planning your journey today, and get ready to be captivated by the allure of the American South!

Idea #5: New York and Surrounds (7 days)

Dive into the vibrant urban tapestry of America’s East Coast. Kick off your adventure amidst the skyscrapers of New York City, where the neon lights of Times Square beckon and Broadway’s magic awaits to be discovered. Explore the city’s illustrious past with visits to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and let the artistic wonders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art inspire you.

Journeying south, Philadelphia’s historic allure greets you, with the Liberty Bell echoing tales of freedom and mouthwatering Philly Cheesesteaks tempting your palate. Conclude your expedition in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., where the grandeur of the National Mall, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian museums offer a blend of history and culture.

Best Time to Travel: Spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) stand out as the prime times for this expedition. These periods present temperate weather, allowing for comfortable exploration of the cities’ landmarks. Moreover, the spring’s cherry blossoms in D.C. and the fall foliage in New York provide a picturesque backdrop, enhancing your travel experience. Opting for these seasons also helps you avoid the summer tourist rush, ensuring a more serene journey.

  • Temperate Weather: Spring and fall offer comfortable temperatures, making it pleasant to explore the cities and their landmarks without extreme heat or cold.
  • Road Trips For Scenic Beauty: Spring brings the famous cherry blossoms in Washington D.C., while a fall road trip showcases vibrant foliage in New York. These natural spectacles add an extra layer of beauty to your journey.
  • Avoiding Tourist Crowds: Traveling during these shoulder seasons allows you to bypass the summer tourist rush, providing a more relaxed and enjoyable experience.

Day 1: New York City

  • Start in NYC: Begin your journey in the heart of the Big Apple. Explore Times Square, catch a Broadway show, and dine at one of the city’s world-class restaurants. Take a look at all of the different kinds of tours in NYC for more ideas.

🏨 Find a hotel in New York City or book a rental home in Manhattan.

Day 2: New York City

Day 3: Philadelphia (2 hours)

  • Drive to Philadelphia: Head south to Philadelphia, the birthplace of American independence. Visit the Liberty Bell and indulge in the iconic Philly Cheesesteak.

🏨 Find a hotel in Philadelphia or book a rental home in Philly.

Day 4: Philadelphia

Day 5: Washington D.C. (2.5 hours)

  • Drive to Washington D.C.: Journey to the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., and check into your accommodations.

🏨 Find a hotel in DC or book a rental home in DC.

Day 6: Washington D.C.

  • National Mall Exploration: Delve into the grandeur of the National Mall, visiting iconic landmarks such as the U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and the Smithsonian museums.

Day 7: Washington D.C.

  • Cultural Immersion: Spend your final day exploring the diverse cultural offerings of D.C., from the museums to the vibrant neighborhoods like Georgetown and Adams Morgan.
  • Shenandoah National Park: If you have time, then take a side trip to Shenandoah National Park, where you can hike along scenic trails, witness stunning waterfalls, and savor breathtaking vistas of lush forests and the Shenandoah Valley.

With this comprehensive guide, you’re ready to embark on an East Coast adventure that will take you through the history, culture, and urban splendor of these iconic American cities. Enjoy your 7-day journey filled with unforgettable experiences and cherished memories!

There are a few more East Coast road trips I can dream up, reaching all the way down the overseas highway to Key West. 😍 Take a look at my list of the best hikes on the East Coast to get more inspiration.

Book your upcoming trip on this booking platform✈️

Idea #6: Rocky Mountain National Parks Tour (14 days)

Be prepared to see some of the most jaw-dropping mountain ranges in the USA. This makes one of the best road trips for hikers. This breathtaking 14-day expedition traverses the iconic mountain peaks of America’s Rocky Mountain region.

Your adventure commences in the bustling metropolis of Salt Lake City, Utah, where architectural marvels like the State Capitol and Temple Square beckon. As you journey onward, the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone and the majestic peaks of Grand Teton National Park promise awe-inspiring vistas. Glacier National Park’s untouched beauty and Coeur d’Alene’s serene lakefront further enrich your experience.

Heading south, the rugged allure of Rocky Mountain National Park awaits, complemented by the urban charm of Denver and the natural splendors of Colorado Springs. Your odyssey culminates as you circle back to Salt Lake City, completing a loop of unforgettable memories.

Best Time to Travel: Embarking on this expedition between late spring (May) and early fall (September) is optimal. This timeframe ensures you’re greeted with pleasant weather, devoid of the mountainous regions’ heavy snowfall, allowing the national and state parks here to showcase their full splendor. Moreover, it helps you avoid the winter closures and ensures a more immersive experience amidst nature’s grandeur.

  • Pleasant Weather: During these months, you’ll experience mild and comfortable weather in the Rocky Mountain region, making outdoor activities and sightseeing a pleasure.
  • Avoid Snowfall: Traveling during this period ensures you avoid heavy snowfall in the mountainous areas, allowing you to explore the national parks without road closures or accessibility issues.
  • Full Splendor of Nature: Late spring to early fall showcases the national parks at their best, with lush landscapes, blooming wildflowers, and vibrant wildlife, offering a more immersive and picturesque experience.

Day 1: Salt Lake City

  • Start in Salt Lake City: Begin your adventure in Salt Lake City (SLC), known for its stunning architecture, including the State Capitol and the historic Temple Square. Explore the city’s cultural attractions and enjoy local cuisine.

🏨 Find a hotel in Salt Lake City or book a rental home in SLC.

Day 2: Yellowstone National Park (4 hours)

  • Drive to Yellowstone: Head north to Yellowstone National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its geothermal wonders, including Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. Keep an eye out for bison, elk, and other wildlife.
yellowstone national park
Photo by: Marquis Matson

Day 3-4: Yellowstone National Park

  • Explore Yellowstone: Spend two full days exploring the various geothermal features, hiking trails, and picturesque lakes within the park. Be sure to visit the stunning Yellowstone Grand Canyon.

Day 5: Grand Teton National Park (1.5 hours)

  • Travel to Grand Teton: Continue south to Grand Teton National Park, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking mountain scenery and opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography. This is the absolute highlight of this trip: the first time I saw the Tetons, I cried. They’re so magnificent and beautiful.

Day 6: Grand Teton National Park

  • Explore Grand Teton: Dedicate a day to exploring the beauty of Grand Teton, with highlights like Jenny Lake, Jackson Lake, and the Teton Range.
jenny lake grand teton
Photo by: Marquis Matson

Day 7: Drive to Coeur d’Alene (6 hours)

  • Coeur d’Alene: Cross into Idaho and head to Coeur d’Alene, a picturesque lakeside town. Enjoy the tranquility of Lake Coeur d’Alene and explore the charming downtown area.

🏨 Find a hotel in Coeur d’Alene or book a rental home in Coeur d’Alene.

Day 8: Glacier National Park (4 hours)

  • Journey to Glacier: Drive north to Glacier National Park, known for its pristine wilderness, rugged mountains, and glacial lakes.

Day 9-10: Glacier National Park

  • Explore Glacier: Take your time exploring the park, hiking along scenic trails, and taking in iconic sights like Logan Pass, Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Lake McDonald. (Or try one of these other lakes in Montana for more affordable options!)

Day 11: Rocky Mountain National Park (9 hours)

  • Drive to Rocky Mountain NP: Head south to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, where you’ll encounter stunning alpine landscapes and an array of wildlife.

Day 12-13: Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Explore Rocky Mountain NP: Spend two days discovering the park’s hiking trails, pristine lakes, and the scenic Trail Ridge Road.
  • Gunnison National Park: You can include a visit to Gunnison National Park during the journey from Yellowstone to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Day 14: Denver and Colorado Springs (3 hours)

  • Denver: Visit the vibrant city of Denver, exploring its cultural attractions, such as the Denver Art Museum and the lively downtown scene.
  • Colorado Springs: Continue to Colorado Springs to see the stunning Garden of the Gods and take the cog railway to the summit of Pikes Peak for breathtaking views.
  • Return to Salt Lake City: Circle back to Salt Lake City, completing your loop of unforgettable memories.

🏨 Find a hotel in Denver or book a rental home in Denver.

Tips and Resources:

  • Park Passes: Consider purchasing an annual National Park Pass if you plan to visit multiple parks; it can save you money on entrance fees.
  • Hiking Gear: Bring comfortable hiking gear, including sturdy boots, layered clothing, and essential outdoor equipment.
  • Safety Precautions: Be aware of wildlife safety guidelines in the national parks and practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve these pristine environments.
  • Extend Your Road Trip: If you can, then it’s worth tacking on a few Southern Utah national parks to your trip. Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park, and even Grand Canyon National Park are all within driving distance from SLC.

This 14-day Rocky Mountain National Parks Tour promises a remarkable blend of natural wonders, outdoor adventures, and cultural exploration. Start planning your expedition now, and get ready to immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Find the perfect accommodations for your upcoming trip here ✈️

Idea #7: Northern Midwest Exploration (10 days)

Embark on a 10-day journey that unveils the hidden gems of the Northern Midwest. Begin your adventure in the bustling city of Minneapolis, where art and nature intertwine at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the serene Minnehaha Falls. As you cross the river to St. Paul, immerse yourself in the wonders of science and history.

Venture north to Duluth, where the charm of Canal Park awaits. The highlight of your trip will undoubtedly be the two days spent in the untouched beauty of Isle Royale National Park, a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

As you make your way through Marquette (where my goooooood friends Nicole and Ian are from!!), Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Madison, experience a blend of maritime history, iconic sports venues, artistic brilliance, and state pride. Conclude your expedition by returning to Minneapolis, reminiscing about the diverse experiences this road trip has offered.

Best Time to Travel: The ideal time for this expedition is during the summer months (June to August). The weather is pleasant, ensuring smooth, scenic drives and comfortable outdoor explorations. Moreover, Isle Royale National Park is best visited during this time, as it offers a respite from the summer heat and showcases its flora and fauna in full bloom. Opting for this season also provides longer daylight hours, maximizing your sightseeing opportunities.

  • Pleasant Weather: Summer in this region brings pleasant temperatures, ensuring comfortable driving and enjoyable outdoor activities. You’ll be able to explore the diverse attractions without the need for heavy winter gear.
  • Isle Royale National Park: Visiting Isle Royale National Park during the summer allows you to experience its pristine beauty at its peak. The park comes to life with lush greenery and abundant wildlife during this season, making it a must-visit destination.
  • Longer Daylight Hours: Summer offers extended daylight hours, giving you more time to explore and maximize your sightseeing opportunities.

Day 1: Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Start in Minneapolis: Begin your journey in the vibrant city of Minneapolis. Explore the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the breathtaking Minnehaha Falls. Don’t miss the chance to dine at local restaurants offering diverse culinary delights.

Want to see even more epic sh*t in that area? Here is a cool side trip worth making while you’re over that way:

  • Badlands National Park: Badlands National Park can be added as a side trip when traveling from Minneapolis to Isle Royale National Park. Visiting Badlands National Park is like stepping onto another planet, where rugged, otherworldly landscapes showcase a breathtaking mix of eroded buttes, canyons, and colorful rock formations.
  • Wind Cave National Park: Wind Cave National Park can also be included as a side trip from Minneapolis to Isle Royale National Park. Exploring Wind Cave National Park reveals intricate underground chambers and passageways reveal a mesmerizing world of delicate calcite formations and unique geological features.

Day 2: St. Paul (20-minute drive)

  • Cross to St. Paul: Venture across the Mississippi River to St. Paul, where you can delve into science and history at attractions like the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota History Center.

Day 3-4: Duluth (2.5-hour drive)

  • Head to Duluth: Drive north to Duluth, a picturesque city on the shores of Lake Superior. Visit Canal Park, known for its charming lighthouse and waterfront views.

Day 5-6: Isle Royale National Park (Ferry from Duluth)

  • Explore Isle Royale: Spend two days exploring the untouched beauty of Isle Royale National Park. Hiking trails, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife await you in this remote paradise.

Day 7: Marquette, Michigan (Ferry to Copper Harbor and drive)

  • Ferry to Marquette: Depart from Isle Royale and take a ferry to Copper Harbor. Continue to Marquette, where you can explore its scenic lakeside charm. Make ferry reservations to Isle Royale National Park well in advance to secure your spot. One of my good friends lives here and she is always out exploring the woods… looks like a beautiful, friendly oasis untouched by the chaos of the world.

Day 8: Green Bay, Wisconsin (3-hour drive)

  • Visit Green Bay: Discover the rich history and iconic sports venues in Green Bay, home to the Green Bay Packers.

PRO TIP: Get around and see things off the beaten path on your trip. Book your affordable car rental here.

Day 9: Milwaukee and Madison (2-hour drive to Milwaukee, 1.5-hour drive to Madison)

  • Explore Milwaukee: Experience maritime history and vibrant cultural scenes in Milwaukee.
  • Drive to Madison: Head to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, for its beautiful lakes, vibrant arts, and thriving food scene.

Day 10: Return to Minneapolis (3.5-hour drive)

  • Conclude Your Expedition: Wrap up your Northern Midwest Exploration road trip by returning to Minneapolis. Reflect on the diverse experiences and memorable moments this journey has offered.

Embark on your Northern Midwest Exploration road trip during the summer, and get ready to discover the hidden gems, unique cultures, and natural wonders that make this region of the United States truly special. Start planning your adventure now and create memories that will last a lifetime!

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