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10 US National Park Road Trips With Breathtaking Stops

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What are some of the best national park road trips in the US?

The national parks of the US are some of the most stunning and popular attractions in the country. Particularly with several free-entrance days offered at all national parks across the US throughout the year, these destinations are also some of the most affordable places to go.

From tropical coral reefs to quiet rolling plains to steep granite cliffs, nearly every type of natural setting imaginable is protected in one of the US national parks. With so much beauty to explore, it’s no surprise that many visitors don’t want to stop at just one park.

Given the often remote location of each of the national parks and their size, national park road trips are the ultimate way to see and enjoy multiple destinations in a single go.

Whether you’re looking for a one-week getaway or a month-long adventure, these US national parks and breathtaking stops along each route highlight some of the most spellbinding scenery in America.

national park road trips
Photo by Pat Tr from Shutterstock

1. Arizona’s big three national park road trip

Arizona is home to three national parks, each with its trademark attractions and distinctive appearance. While Grand Canyon National Park is by far the most popular stop on this national park road trip, both Saguaro National Park and Petrified Forest National Park are hidden gems that are well worth visiting and exploring.

By starting this trip in Las Vegas and ending in Phoenix, you’ll also have lots of opportunities to spontaneously take in the scenic open spaces of Arizona. The views are amazing, and you’ll get the chance to marvel at the wonderful things nature does.

As one of the best national park road trips, it’s recommended to allocate between four and six days for this whole adventure so you can have enough time to enjoy everything this getaway has to offer.

2. Alaska parks road trip

When it comes to national park road trips, Alaska tends to fall under the radar, though it has more national parks than nearly any other US state. In fact, its parks are among the most inaccessible and least visited national parks in the country (for instance, you can only go to Katmai National Park and Preserve by float plane).

However, those more accessible parks are within proximity to make a magnificent and uncrowded road trip adventure. As one of the best national park road trips, this one gives you the chance to visit three different national parks in Alaska: Kenai Fjord National Park, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, and Denali National Park.

While these will take some effort to drive to, the views are beautifully scenic and full of mountains, forests, and wildlife, so the adventure is worth the work.

3. Central California road trip

California boasts nine national parks within its bounds, and while a big trip through all nine is considered by many travel enthusiasts to be a bucket-list item, a national road trip through just a bunch of them can be just as marvelous and far more manageable.

Several are located right in the central part of the state, making them easier to visit in one loop when starting the journey from San Francisco. As one of the most breathtaking national park road trips, it gives you the chance to take in the mountains and trees of Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks before moving towards Pinnacles National Park and its stunning, rocky coast.

The narrower scope of this road trip also allows for more spontaneous detours, like Santa Cruz and Monterey. Not only have these coastal cities lots of activities to enjoy, but they also offer even more breathtaking views along this Central California road trip.

4. Yellowstone and the Dakotas National Park road trip

Yellowstone National Park is undoubtedly the main attraction of Wyoming’s national parks, but other nearby national parks are equally worthy of attention. Wind Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, and Grand Teton National Park are all within perfect driving distance of one another, making it one of the best national park road trips.

These destinations are especially exciting for those seeking places where they can spot some of the largest mammals in the country, as wolves, moose, elk, and bison are all common in this range.

To truly take in what this road trip has to offer, the recommended time for this adventure is between five and seven days.

Read on to discover other stunning national park road trips!

Photo by Eric Urquhart from Shutterstock

5. Maine to Florida road trip

Thanks to the iconic Highway 1, the West Coast receives most of the attention when it comes to seaside road trips in the US. For national park lovers, however, the East Coast is just as marvelous.

Starting in Maine with Acadia National Park, you’ll have the chance to stop in Congaree National Park, Shenandoah National Park, and Everglades National Park on the southernmost tip of Florida.

As one of the most breathtaking national park road trips, there’s a full day of driving between each of the destinations, but as the routes pass through some of the most famous tourist spots in the US, including Miami and New York, there will be lots of things to do in between the major attractions.

Since there are so many places to see and explore, the recommended time you should allocate for this road trip is between seven and 10 days.

6. Newest national parks road trip

The Midwest is home to many different national parks, including some of the newest ones in the US. If you visit five different states in both the Midwest and towards the East Coast, making a stop at the national parks in each, you can get a unique look at these often overlooked states.

Looping through Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and West Virginia, this is one of the most amazing national park road trips in the US, and the journey is full of time on the open road.

While the long stretches of flatlands may make some travelers lose their enthusiasm at first sight, this isn’t the case. There are lots of opportunities to visit the big cities, especially at Gateway Arches National Park, which is located right in the heart of St. Louis.

7. West Coast National Parks road trip

There are lots of coastal cities to visit on a West Coast road trip, but the bad news is that they are far from the only way to travel over the coast. Stretching from Washington to Southern California, a bunch of national parks along the western shores combine to create one of the most scenic national park road trips.

Starting in Seattle, you’ll be able to stop in four official national parks: Redwoods National and State Parks, Olympic National Park, Channel Islands National Park, and Pinnacles National Park, as you make your way down to Los Angeles.

What makes this adventure one of the best national park road trips is the opportunity to visit additional national and state park sites, including the California Coastal National Monument and Muir Woods National Monument.

8. Utah’s mighty 5 road trip

Utah boasts five national parks, the third most of any US state, and they are perfectly spaced for a spellbinding Utah road trip route. All five destinations are in the southern part of the state, and none are more than two hours and a half apart.

With reasonable driving times and many great places to explore, this getaway is one of the most unique national park road trips. There’s plenty of opportunity to focus on the stunning sights of these park destinations, including Thor’s Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park, the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, and Zion Canyon in Zion National Park.

If you don’t have a backpack for national park road trips, here’s one that you’ll love!

route 89
Photo by Gibson Outdoor Photo from Shutterstock

9. Route 89, or America’s most scenic road trip

Spectacular along every mile from border to border, Route 89 is considered one of the most, if not the most, scenic national park road trips. Considering it’s also the gateway road for no less than seven national parks (and plenty of other national park sites), it’s clear that there’s something unique about this breathtaking route.

Starting in Montana, the adventure kicks off with one of the most-visited national parks in the country, Glacier National Park. Going south, you’ll stop at more of the most popular natural destinations, including Zion National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

The southern tip of this road trip is Saguaro National Park, located in Arizona. Running the full spectrum of scenery, climates, plant life, and animal life, Route 89 is definitely one of the most unique national park road trips you can experience.

10. Four Corners national parks road trip

The states that comprise the Four Corners—New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah—have fourteen national parks between them. While visiting so many spots is a month-long adventure, the variety of destinations in this corner of the country is worth the time, and you’ll be impressed by how otherworldly the views are.

Despite not being part of the Four Corners, Las Vegas is probably going to be the best major city to start this adventure in. Less than three hours from Zion National Park, Sin City is within convenient reach of all the services one needs to begin such a massive undertaking.

From there, you can move clockwise through the four states and their parks. This route is perfect for ending at Grand Canyon National Park and then going back to Las Vegas.

If you liked our article on national park road trips, you may also want to read 13 Remarkable Train Tours For Railway Fanatics.

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