Road Trips to National Parks

National parks are amongst the best public projects the US has ever undertaken. They are an opportunity to experience nature in all its beauty and to get to know the vast and complex country as it exists beyond its major cities.

Foreign drivers that plan to take a trip to national parks need to have an international driving permit, issued by the InternationalDriversAssociation. This only works if they can provide a valid national permit and a photo ID. Road trips are the best way to explore the parks since they give you the freedom to do so on your own itinerary.

 Utah National Parks Road Trip


Utah national park has always been one of the most popular destinations for tourists. Landscape arch is the destination you shouldn’t miss as well as the Sand Dune Arch, which is best experienced up close and while wearing no shoes.

The whole trip can take about 15 hours and it’s just as scenic. However, you’ll need about 5 to 7 days if you plan to stop at the major attractions and to really take the time to see and enjoy them, as well.

California Road Trip


There are more than ten national parks in the state of California. The whole trip will take about 36 hours if you make no stops, but the best way to go is to take a week or two to stop at the most popular locations.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the US and it’s a dazzling place to visit. Kings Canyon national park features some of the largest and tallest trees in the world. Yosemite Valley is probably the most famous of California parks and also the most scenic to drive through.

A Drive Through All The National Parks

This isn’t a trip for everyone but it’s an option and there are many resources online dedicated to helping you navigate all the parks in the most comfortable and responsible way. There are 63 national parks in the US so this can be quite of an endeavor if you’re up to it.

For the most part, you’ll need to take out 6 to 12 months to do so. The most popular national park in the US is the Olympic National Park and the least popular one is Gateway Arch National Park, but this doesn’t mean you should skip it.

Denver Colorado to Grand Canyon Road Trip


This amazing trip will take you from the springs of Colorado to the rim of the Grand Canyon, and you’ll get to see the ancient ruins along the way as well as the red rock canyons that have shaped the experience of the West.

It’s best to take at least two days for the Grand Canyon alone and the trip as a whole should take about a week or two depending on how much time you have. Monument Valley is another destination on this route that you shouldn’t miss and that won’t disappoint.

Olympic Peninsula Road Trip


It’s probably the most popular tour of national parks in the US. The waterfall and the hot springs are the most-visited parts of this trip but you should also try to make a few stops at the lesser-known stops. Lake Crescent Lodge is one of the most beautiful lakes in the nation.

Coast Beaches in the Olympic National Park are also among the most beautiful and pristine out there. High tides can be quite dangerous if you plan to take a walk on the beach so make sure you’re safe out there.

Chicago to Nashville Road Trip


This trip is about 670 miles long and it’s best to leave about a week or two in order to fully appreciate it. It’s also a trip that’s especially well suited to RVs since it allows travelers to stay close to nature during the whole ride.

The smoky Mountains are the high point of this trip and it can be as romantic or as exhilarating as you want it to be, depending on how you plan the itinerary within the park. A stop at Nashville is also a must due to how important the city is for the national culture.

Chicago to Yellowstone Road (With a Stop at Dakota Black Hills)


This is probably one of the most American trips on our list since it has stops related to national history, it explores the local wildlife and natural wonders that are hard to beat.

Mt. Rushmore is one of the most famous American monuments and you should definitely check it out while on this route. There’s also a Crazy Horse memorial. The carving is still in process and you can watch the future national monument as it’s being created.

Mapping the Trip Out

The trips that we mentioned are often rather long and complex so it helps to map the route out before you. It will help you get the most out of the trip and allow you to decide which of the many potential stops are the most important to you.

It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a good GPS. While you’re in the city your phone will do, but once you start driving away from the cities you’ll need one in your car. That’s something to ask for when renting a vehicle.

How Long the Trips Should Take?

All of the trips on our list can take as little as a day or two but they can also about two weeks. It depends on how much time you plan to spend on the road and how many stops you plan to make. Obviously, the decision is up to you, and plans can be changed on the road, but try to carve out more than a day.

It’s also a good idea to have a list of stops that you want to make and to rank them based on how important they are to you. That way you’ll know which one to skip if you need to.

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