Here’s an easy way to get a good mix during a long but gorgeous road trip.
This is a fantasy road trip through 9 states, visiting over 11 parks and monuments, in 27 days. One day, this trip will become a reality. But until then, here’s what I wish I could be my next great adventure. Based out of San Francisco, this 4,000 mile drive is opened up for a number of camping, lodge or lux cabin and hotel opportunities, so there’s an easy way to get a good mix during a long ride on the road. Someone, please! Go! And report back about all the amazingness you got to experience.
Day 1: San Francisco to Yosemite National Park
Drive Time: 4 hours
Yosemite National Park is one of the great parks in the north west, and a must stop for any nature enthusiast. Lodging and camping options are available inside the park, but advanced reservations are a necessity as it can be quite crowded during the summer months. Bring some hiking shoes to check out Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, and Glacier Point, and then enjoy a drink in front of the 6ft roaring fireplace at the Majestic Lodge.
Note: The park is very cautious about the local bears, so if camping, make sure all your food and equipment is locked tightly away! Also, try to plan for an early morning or late night arrival as the park entrance can often be backed up for miles with visitors waiting to get in.
Day 3: Yosemite National Park to Valley of Fire State Park
Drive Time: 9 h 30m
Get an early start for the first big drive across state lines. Arrive in time for an afternoon hike amongst the red Aztec sandstone and limestone, dating back 2,000 years. Set up camp for the night and prepare for crystal clear starlit skies.
Day 4: Valley of Fire to Grand Canyon
Drive Time: 4 hour
Time to check out one of the Seven Wonders of the World! The Grand Canyon offers may different ways to see all the amazingness that it has to offer – tour by helicopter, mule, raft, motorbike, hike or airplane. There’s a multitude of different camping and lodging spots, but for the ultimate in glamping, look into Under Canvas camps that offer the ultimate lux experience with the rustic natural elements.
Note: Under Canvas has multiple locations along this road trip, so will be referenced frequently! The camps also offer activity experiences if you’d prefer to have the time arranged for you.
Day 6: Grand Canyon to Zion National Park
Drive Time: 5h 20m
Zion is another breath taking national park stop that has a variety of attractions and ways to see the best of the park. Depending on your hike-ability, there are shuttle buses and horseback riding groups that can show off the most spectacular parts of the space, or opt for high adventure with rafting, canyoneering and rock climbing routes. Make sure to take a few days to hit some of the classics like the Narrows, and Weeping Rocks. Camping and lodging options vary, there is also another Under Canvas should you opt for a lux glamping tour.
Day 9: Zion National Park to Antelope Canyon / Monument Valley or Gooseneck State Park
Drive Time: 2- 4.5 hours
State: Arizona/ Utah
Antelope Canyon is an Instagram haven with rich colors and sharp twisting rocks. This can serve as either a full day trip, or a quick stop onto the next destination depending on your energy level. Gooseneck State Park is a smaller attraction that has a similar feel to Horseshoe Bend, so might give you that fix if you can’t detour down for the full Horseshoe experience. Gooseneck is a great stop if you’d like to bank some miles and then take a ½ day rest before continuing on. It wont demand much time to check out, and then you can relax camp-side for the rest of the afternoon.
Note: If you have the time or funds, add in a trip to Horseshoe Bend. There are helicopter and airplane tours that can show off both sites in one day from Antelope Canyon, or add in the 6 hour drive to check it out on foot.
Day 10: Antelope Canyon or Gooseneck State Park to Arches National Park
Drive Time: 2h 30m -4h 30m
This is a park to bend over backwards for as Arches National Park shows off over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. Worth spending a couple of days to set up camp and take hikes through Devils Garden for the Landscape Arch, the Windows Section for North and South Window, Turret and Double Arch. At over 128 feet tall, don’t forget to see Balanced Rock defing gravity… for now.
Note: Heavy summer traffic may make this one a struggle to get into. Make sure to check out camping reservations well beforehand, and try to arrive at the park entrance in the early or late night hours to avoid traffic lines.
Day 12: Arches National Park to Goblin Valley State Park
Drive Time: 1 h 44
A chance to walk on the surface of Mars and be surrounded by goblins? Sounds a bit weird, but kinda cool. Goblin Valley State Park is a great afternoon stop for a ½ day of hiking or canyoneering through the other worldy cosmos. On top of that, Goblin has one of the darkest night skies on earth and unmatched views of the Milky Way. Arrange ahead of time for moonlit hikes and telescope tours for a night gazing at the stars.
Day 13: Goblin Valley State Park to Timpanogos Cave National Monument / Homestead Resort
Drive Time: 4 hours
Time to cool off and go underground at the Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Hopefully you don’t get claustrophobic as you twist your way through a maze of cavernous tunnels. Once the hard hat comes off, jet over to Homestead Crater Resort for a well-earned spa afternoon or morning, soaking in geothermal spring hidden beneath a 55-ft tall limestone rock.
*If you have extra days to spare, consider making a stop at the Grand Teton National Park for some essential Big Sky mountain viewing.
Day 14: Timpanogoas Cave National Monument to Yellow Stone National Park
Drive Time: 6 hours
Entering through the West Entrance, it’s time to finally see Old Faithful geyser! Old Faithful, which inspired Yellowstone to be established as the world’s first national park in 1872, is just one of many, many geysers, hydrothermal pools, and volcanic terrain that make up Yellowstone National Park. Summer crowds can often overrun some of the main attractions, so look for underrepresented off shoot trails that may lead you on an unexpected adventure throughout the park. Yellowstone is also very cautious of their wildlife, so make sure you are aware of signs and take caution for the local bear families.
Day 17: Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
Drive Time: 6 hour
This epic destination may seem a bit out of the way, but it is a well deserving drive. Glacier National Park is open during the summer and winter months, offering options for hiking and cross-country skiing, biking, boating and backcountry camping for a truly wilderness experience. Enjoy a few days checking out Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald Valley, Logan Pass, St. Mary, and Two Medicine – some are available to visit by car or foot, but make sure to check out any road closures and low or high temperatures that may arise. With the finicky weather, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Note: Although it is another Under Canvas location, check out some of the camping and lodging options inside the park that get you
Day 19: Glacier National Park to Sierra Silver Mine tour/ Columbia Cliff Villas
Drive Time: 7 hour
State: Idaho/ Oregon
A quick stop over in the long drive to learn about the Sierra mining history (check out Silver Mine Tour.) Or go straight to the Columbia Cliff Villas for a restful, luxury night overlooking the Columbia River.
Day 20: Columbia Cliff Villas to Portland
Drive Time: 2 hour
Hang out in Portland few a couple of nights to check out the local breweries, vegan restaurants, bustling night life and beautiful Pacific Northwest. Don’t forget to put a bird on it.
Day 22: Portland to Ecola State Park
Drive Time: 1h 44m
Time to start heading back south to complete the circle, but first for a night on the northwest coast. While it won’t exactly be beach weather, but the cliffs and grassy bluffs make it a reawakening to the wonders of the Pacific Ocean. Also keep your eyes peeled for some epic whale watching as the grey whales migrate up and down the coast.
Note: Ecola State Park can easily be switched out or timeline swapped for a stop in Portland. No drive time is lost either way.
Day 23: Ecola State Park to Terrebonne/ Smith Rock State Park
Drive Time: 4h 25m
Known as “Good Earth,” Terrebone, is the birthplace of rock climbing and has a VERY impressive Rock to show it off. Arrive early enough for an afternoon climb – or bike or hike – to see the staggering ridges of Smith Rock piercing into the sky.
Day 24: Terrebonne to Pacific Crest Trail
Drive Time: 5 hour
Made even more popular after the film “Wild,” the Pacific Crest Trail is over 2,650 miles long and crosses from Mexico, through the US and into Canada. While there are those that have dedicated the time and built the stamina for this adventure, how about just a quick camp and hike in an Oregon stretch? Still sounds WILD enough to me.
Day 25: Pacific Crest Trail to Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Drive Time: 6 hours
Finally back in the home state, don’t forget one last camping stop amongst the soaring Humboldt redwood trees before heading home.
Day 27: Humboldt Redwood State Park to San Francisco
Drive Time: 4 hour
Made it home after a long trip, thousands of miles, and a million memories exploring cherished national and state parks that the U.S. was created upon. Amazing!