If you had no obligations and all the time in the world, what would you do? Sit at home and watch TV? Doubtful. Shuffle through emails and social media all day? Nope. How about travel? Us too.
This week, we’re going to take another look at that great symbol of Americana, the summer road trip. We’ve designed it to hit major National Parks from the West Coast to the East, but you can obviously take any variation you’d like. Ours would take about 3-4 months to complete, but you could certainly shorten the time frame and keep it more regional. Read on travellers!
Stop 1: Yosemite and Big Sur
Unimaginable beauty awaits as you travel through Central California. Gigantic Redwoods, deep canyons, towering mountains and majestic waterfalls (enough adjectives for ya?) adorn this area of the country. You can see Yosemite National Park (henceforth known as NP), Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP. The highways that wind through this area are often regarded as the most scenic drives in the U.S., but beware, other people are aware of this also.
Stop 2: Joshua Tree NP
Two deserts converge in this area in inland California. The Colorado and Mojave Deserts converge to form a spectacle of sand, cactus and bush. You don’t want to get lost here, but there is nothing like spending a night in the desert. Don’t worry, it’s not just for hippies
Stop 3: Grand Canyon NP
Duh. If you’ve never been, it truly is a can’t miss. Known as one of the greatest examples of (beautiful) erosion in the world, it truly is unmatched. Hike down the canyon for a day, or even camp, and you certainly won’t be disappointed. The beauty and size of this NP can truly humble you.
Stop 4: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands NPs
This region is remarkable. Along with the Grand Canyon, these NPs are known as “The Grand Circle.” Spires, incredible rock formations, arches and vistas as far as the eye can see await you in the American Southwest. We could write a blog about this area itself, but if you don’t have time, be sure you at least catch a sunrise or sunset at one of them. Trust us.
Stop 5: Rocky Mountain NP
With elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in the so-called foothills to 14,259 at the top of Longs Peak, bring your respirator (joking). You can view the grandeur of the Rockies everywhere, and there are plenty of adventures to be had for outdoor enthusiasts.
Stop 6: Yellowstone NP
Another duh, but certainly not dull. We could again write another piece solely on Yellowstone, just know you’ll see a ton of wildlife and awe-inspiring geysers. Old Faithful alone draws millions of visitors a year.
Stop 7: The Black Hills
Stop and see us at Rushmore Shadows! We hate to be biased, but this is our favorite. There is awesome scenery and good times to be had all over the Black Hills, from Custer State Park (we know, it’s not a NP) to the Badlands (that is though), Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave NP and much more. It’s tough to beat Western South Dakota in the summertime.
Stop 8: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
OK, so we cheated a bit again, but this is truly an awesome place to visit, especially if you love the water. You’ll definitely want to paddle the riverway, head off the rapids in St. Croix State Park and take in the St. Croix Dalles Gorge. This is also a great area to hike, as seven well-maintained hiking trails adorn the area. Don’t forget to stop and see us at St. Croix River Resort!
Stop 9: Voyageurs NP
The great north woods are fantastic in the summer. Wolves and moose abound, and you’ll enjoy the crystal-clear waters of woodland lakes and the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior. Some of the oldest exposed rock formations in the world can be found here, and the bedrock has been shaped by at least four periods of glaciation.
Stop 10: Hot Springs NP
Established in 1832, Hot Springs NP is actually 40 years older than Yellowstone! For more than 200 years, people have used the hot spring water to treat various ailments. It has developed into a well-known resort area called “The American Spa,” because it attracts health-seekers all over the world. Arkansas actually has quite a National Park system, with the Buffalo River nearby as well.
Stop 11: Shenandoah NP, Assateague Island, Blue Ridge Parkway
This area between Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington D.C. and Maryland is chock-full of things to see. Shenandoah lies beside the Blue Ridge Mountains, Assateague is a gorgeous island that will take you back and the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited unit of America’s National Park system (plan accordingly).
Stop 12: Acadia NP
We’ve made it! Our final stop is at Acadia NP in Maine. Here you can hike up Cadillac Mountain, the Atlantic Coast’s highest point, or drive/cycle the 27-mile Park Loop Road, which has numerous scenic stops. Check out Otter Cliff, a precipice dropping into the Atlantic Ocean.
Well, there you have it! Coast-to-coast, there’s an unbelievable amount to see in the U.S. Obviously, we haven’t covered everything, and we’d be happy to have you let us know what we missed in the comments. If you haven’t seen any of these majestic places, get out and travel - you won’t regret it. Happy exploring!