The first step in planning an epic road trip is deciding where to stop. For a lover of nature, there is no better plan than stopping at national parks. You can experience the most beautiful areas the country has to offer and see a wide range of landscapes. One day you’ll find yourself in the barren desert and the next in a lush forest. For the best possible trip, follow our guide below.
Note: We chose southern California as our start point. Of course, if you’re located somewhere else, change the order so that it makes the most sense.
Stop #1: Grand Canyon, AZ
The iconic views of the Grand Canyon are well worth a visit. Located in Arizona, this park is also a convenient stop on your loop of the US. This might be the best place in the entire world to catch a sunset, so don’t miss it.
Stop #2: Big Bend, TX
When you’re traveling along the southern border of the US, there is no better location than Big Bend. It is famous for its desert landscape, lovely canyons, and bright red sunsets.
Stop #3: Hot Springs, AR
This park has been nicknamed “The American Spa” due to the number of hot springs it features. It is a wonderful place to kick back and relax or conquer a long, tough hike. This range of activities makes it a great stop as you head to the east coast.
Stop #4: Shenandoah, VA
Once you hit the east coast, visit the gem of Virginia: Shenandoah National Park. It features a beautiful forest landscape and has a diverse range of activities to offer. You can camp inside the park or choose to stay nearby and drive in each day.
Stop #5: Acadia National Park, ME
Though this park is somewhat small, its reputation is undeniable. Here, you’ll find a diverse range of land types such as woodlands, granite peaks, and rocky beaches. If you’re headed to the east coast, this should be the number one destination on your list.
Stop #6: Cuyahoga Valley, OH
On your way back from the east coast, make a stop at this beautiful park in Ohio. You can walk through forested paths, climb to the top of waterfalls, or spend a day kayaking through the Cuyahoga River. This park will entertain you no matter what you’re interested in.
Stop #7: Rocky Mountain, CO
As you head back west, make a stop at the Rocky Mountain National Park. It has some of the best views in the country and is a fantastic place to spot wildlife. Depending on the season you visit, it can be a lush forest that is full of life or a snowy winter wonderland.
Stop #8: Yosemite, CA
It is almost time to head home, but first, check out what may be the most famous park in the entire country. This reputation is well-earned, as Yosemite offers one of the most varied and enjoyable landscapes out there. You can climb the great peaks or explore the valleys between them. You’ll want to make this location your longest stay, as there is just too much to do in Yosemite to rush through it.
Feel free to tailor this route depending on how long your trip is and how much ground you want to cover. If you only have a week to vacation, definitely don’t try to drive around the entire country. Close the loop anywhere you’d like and tailor your road trip to be just what you want it to be. Happy travels.