The Colorado Rockies Road Trip

As you could probably guess from the title of this article, this revitalizing road trip occurs across the graceful state of Colorado, taking you from elegant and scenic mountain ranges to archaic dwellings and sizable sand dunes. The Colorado Rockies Road Trip takes you across several parks in the state, including the Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and many others.

This road trip is accessible from large cities such as Colorado Springs and Denver, so don’t shy away from embarking on this trip as you may just be one plane ride away from an adventure of a lifetime!

Now onto why you really need to take this trip.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Never has there been such an influx of visitors coming to experience the splendor of Rocky Mountain National Park. During 2019 alone, this national park has recorded over 4.7 million visitors, the third most visited national park in the country. The 415 square miles of Rocky Mountain National Park encompass and protect a stellar mountain range along with other breathtaking natural features. While visiting the park, be sure to enjoy the tranquility of the Trail Ridge Road, which peaks at 12,000 feet and includes multiple overlooks for the ultimate snowcapped mountain viewing experience. Along with 300 miles of hiking trails, peaceful starry nights, wildlife, and adventure, you’re in for a seriously great time at Rocky Mountain National Park!

Though not uncommon to travel through a national park and not catch sight of any wildlife, it’s highly unlikely at Rocky Mountain National Park. From daily sightings of mule deer and chipmunks to rare elk viewing opportunities during the mating season, the wildlife in this park is immersive and makes you feel you’re a part of something wonderful.

Apart from the stunning landscape, Rocky Mountain National Park also offers a multitude of opportunities for relaxing and enlivening experiences. If you’re up to it, the park offers a variety of activities to do with friends and family, which include:

  • Hiking
  • Whitewater rafting and kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Backcountry skiing
  • Horseback riding
  • Attending a ranger program
  • Visiting waterfalls
  • Bird watching
  • Picnicking

Make sure to review the visitor information and seek out a visitor center for all the important details like where to go, what to do there, and how to prepare for a fun and safe experience at the park.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Dive right into the tallest mountains of sand in North America. Yes, you heard that right, sand mountains, in Colorado. This goes to show how truly diverse the landscape is in this country. Enclosed where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains converge inwards, the dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve have been growing for many years. A marvel of Goliath proportions, the entirety of the dunes only take up 30 square miles, though the tallest dune stands at over 750 feet high.

Your inner child will love sledding down the dunes all year round and digging into the smooth sand tracks of those who have climbed before you.

The park also offers several camping options. The Piñon Flats Campground, which is managed by the National Park Service, can be booked in advance. However, there are only 44 sites available and they’re distributed on a first come, first serve basis. For the more adventurous, free (mandatory) backcountry permits are also available at the park’s visitor center. Once you obtain the permit, you will be able to set up your tent anywhere in the 30-square-foot dune field situated outside the “day-only use” area. Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on the type of person you are), you must hike a minimum of 1.5 miles across the dunes, but it will definitely be worth it. Backpacking (again, with permission) is also possible within the foothills.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Steering in a different direction, you’ll find the Black Canyon of The Gunnison. The power of mother nature is evident here, as this terrain characterized by steep, ancient rocks has been in the making for millions of years.

Just like any other park, you can take part in a variety of adventurous activities within the borders of the Gunnison’s Black Canyon. If you’re not afraid of heights, feel free to explore the inner parts of the canyon, but be careful, some parts of the hike may be a little tricky! If you’re not feeling up for a challenge during your visit, opt for a scenic drive along the rim of the river which will take you all the way down into it. Visitors can also go kayaking in the lake.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your calendar and set a date for your trip today, you will not regret it. Each season provides you with a whole new array of opportunities, making any time ideal to take this road trip!

Before your trip, plan a route using the map guide at the US-Parks website. However, you’ll want to plot your route using either Google Maps or any other GPS provider to ensure that you are aware of any potential road closures or construction work that may delay your road trip. This will help you optimize your time for all the fun activities along the way!

The Yosemite and Big Sur Road Trip

The Yosemite and Big Sur road trip can be started from San Francisco or Los Angeles, but the route is easy to map in your favorite navigation app.

Yosemite National Park

The Yosemite National Park was initially protected in 1864 and is now renowned worldwide for its waterfalls. However, within the 1,200 square miles of area, you can observe an entire array of landscapes, ranging from grand meadows and deep valleys to ancient sequoias and vast forests. While exploring this National Park, you should visit the Mariposa Grove to view over 500 undisturbed mature sequoias. Hiking, like in many other parks, is one of the most common activities for visitors.

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park offer hiking trails, dense forests, and seasonal wildlife.

Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks

The Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are home to diverse habitats due to their wide elevation ranges, resulting in a lot of variation in the weather throughout the year. Do not forget to bring the appropriate gear when you come here to visit.

A drive through Big Sur offers stunning views.

Pheiffer Big Sur State Park

Through the western slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the Big Sur State Park tower soars over the Big Sur River Gorge, the point at which the Big Sur River enters this marvelous state park. You can enjoy a calm and refreshing walk along the banks of the Big Sur river among the impressive conifers, maples, alders, cottonwoods, oaks, sycamores, and redwoods. Multiple campgrounds are located along the Big Sur River. The wildlife includes black-tail deer, gray squirrels, skunks, racoons, and birds, such as kingfishers and dippers. Hikers can enjoy many scenic trails, including Buzzard’s Roost, Liewald Flats, Mt. Manuel, Valley View, River Path, and many more.

Deer roam freely at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Point Reyes National Seashore

The Point Reyes National Seashore is a diverse landscape with over 1,500 species of plants and animals. Depending on the amount of time you have available to spend on the Seashore, you have a variety of activities available. For example, if you are only willing to spend a few hours, you can plan a trip to the lighthouse or visit the Bear Valley Visitor Center that showcases multiple ecological and historical exhibits. If you are accompanied by children, they may enjoy visiting the Morgan Horse Ranch to view horses. For a longer planned visit, you can go biking, kayaking, birding, tide pooling, backpacking, whale watching and yes, you can also see elephant seals.

The Canyon Quest Road Trip

The Canyon Quest road trip will take you across Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, where you will visit the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, and Glen Canyon!

If you are looking for a retreat from Spring through Fall, this road trip can be the perfect itinerary. Although the trip traditionally takes about two weeks to complete, we recommend more time if you want to camp and hike in every park. If you’re flying in, we recommend booking flights through Las Vegas in Nevada, Salt Lake City in Utah, or Phoenix in Arizona.

Grand Canyon National Park

If you have not heard about this National park, then you might well have been living under a rock. The Grand Canyon National Park is the most iconic natural treasures of the United States.

The Grand Canyon is widely admired for the extensive range of colorful rocks that vary in shape, size and depth. The lookout points across the park provide you with stellar views. We recommend hiking on your own or joining a ranger-led tour, which will often detail the full natural history of the Canyon.

Zion National Park

Follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Hoodoos, yes you read that correctly, are what make this national park a site to see. The national park is home to the largest cluster of hoodoos or more descriptively, irregular columns of rock, that are situated across the high plateau of the Grand Staircase. During your visit, explore one of the countless trails that exist in the park to discover the true beauty of the location. Like the Grand Canyon National Park, you can take part in ranger programs and camp in the outdoors. You can also take guided horseback rides or book ahead for a private horsing experience within the park.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is famous for its renowned orchards that stem over 2,000 trees including apricots, cherries, apples, peaches, mulberries, pears, walnuts, and almonds.

This park provides you with the unique experience of harvesting fruit. The staff at the park thoroughly maintain the large variety of orchard trees using traditional farming practices so that you can have the ideal fruit picking session during your visit. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the park so you can help preserve the orchards in the same manner they have been for decades.

Arches National Park

This park boasts vivid, abstract, and contrasting landscapes with formations that include massive balanced rocks and colossal fins. The most recognizable features of this park are stone arches that have been photographed countless times during the edge of dawn and dusk.

Canyonlands National Park

Although we have been discussing about the many daytime activities and places to go, the Canyonlands National Park has something for you during the night: stargazing. Canyonlands has preserved the night sky by keeping the light pollution levels low and the great air quality ensures that the stars are vibrantly on display during the night.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Three majestic natural bridges invite you to ponder the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. View them from an overlook, or hit the trails and experience their grandeur from below. Declared a National Monument in 1908, the bridges are named “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu” in honor of the ancestral Puebloans who once made this place their home.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon has many sights, but perhaps the most iconic is Horseshoe Bend. Below the rim, the Colorado River makes a wide sweep around a sandstone escarpment. On its long downward journey to the sea, the river meandered, sometimes making wide bends, but always seeking the path of least resistance. Over 5 million years the unique twists of Glen Canyon are poignantly summarized by photos of Horseshoe Bend.

The Grand Circle Road Trip can be enjoyed throughout the year. Ideally, it is better to experience these parks during Spring or Fall. The summertime heat may be overwhelming, especially when you are doing physically straining activities such as hiking. Springtime also provides you with the opportunity to harvest certain fruits, such as apricots and cherries, in Capitol Reef National Park.

Skyline and Seashore Road Trip

Hills and valleys by the Great Smoky Mountains

The Skyline and Seashore Road Trip spans several National Parks Service sites including Shenandoah National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and others.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most protected areas in the eastern parts of the United States and there is no doubt why. This park is abundant with plant and animal life of several different kinds and the serenity of its ancient mountains will leave you dumb founded. This national park was established in 1934 and now, it receives more than 9 million visitors annually. If you find yourself in this park, do not forget to venture out into its abyss, as hiking is one of the most fun and common activities to do there all year long. The most common hiking spots include the Alum Cave Bluffs, Rainbow Falls, Charlies Bunion, Andrews Bald and Chimney Tops. However, always remember to carry the appropriate bear pepper spray with you as the park does have wild bears that have unpredictable behavioural patterns.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most visited areas in America’s National Park System due to the stunning views of the southern Appalachian Mountains that the drive through it provides. The northernmost part of the Parkway starts where the Shenandoah National Park ends. Most of the Parkway in Virginia goes through Jefferson and George Washington National Forests. The scenes across the Virginia part of the Parkway additionally incorporate excellent rolling fields with both olden agrarian sites and of those sites that are still active. The reproduced mountain ranches toward the start of the Parkway gives a brief look at conventional early American establishments. Aside the trip down memory lane, the Parkway also boasts a range of other activities such as bicycling, eco-tourism, fishing, camping, and hiking. Also, to avoid missing out on the blossoming of the flora in the Parkway, it is best to visit the Parkway during summer or early fall.

Shenandoah National Park

If you find yourself reminiscing the rarity of the Appalachian Mountains, you have found yourself in the right place. The Shenandoah National Park lies in an irresistible part of the Blue Ridge Mountain, covered with stunning wildlife and charming flora that will never cease to amaze you at every step of the way. Just like most other National Parks in the country, this park is also known for the hiking adventures that visitors embark on. For those looking to take a relaxing swim during the magnificent sunrise, you will be pleased to know that the Shenandoah River flows through the valley to the west, eclipsed by the Massanutten Mountains.

National Mall

For more than 200 years, the National Mall has symbolized our nation and its democratic values, which have inspired the world. The National Mall – the great swath of green in the middle of our capital city and stretching from the foot of the United States Capitol to the Potomac River – is the premiere civic and symbolic space in our nation. National Mall and Memorial Parks protects the National Mall and its iconic monuments and memorials and over 1,000 acres of greenspace in Washington, D.C.. Come to visit the National Mall and stay to explore all that National Mall and Memorial Parks has to offer.

Assateague Island National Seashore

When visiting the island, there is a high probability you are going to run into a group of wild horses that have learned to live synonymously with their vast surroundings. Other than just admiring the sheer beauty of these horses, you can also ride them in the Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) Zone. This 48,000-acre island situated off the coast of Maryland and Virginia is also ideal for camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, shell fishing, swimming, surfing and yes, shell collecting. Setting aside these traditional activities, you can also get a permit to ride your vehicle in the OSV Zone for a fun and adventurous road trip experience.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Like the Assateague Island National Seashore, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers breathtaking beach experiences for you and your family. If you are up for an adventure, you can set up camp along the beaches and enjoy the unlimited fun that the beach life provides, from going swimming and fishing to getting the perfect summer tan. Watch out for the wildlife on the island because you may just find yourself sunbathing with a seal by your side. Apart from your blubbery friends, the island is also a common visiting spot for sea turtles during the summer as the adult females look to lay their eggs in the sand, thereby make sure you keep a respectable distance and keep the beaches clean!

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, a city and vacation resort on South Carolina’s Atlantic coast, is the hub of the Grand Strand, a 60-mile string of beaches. It’s also known for its celebrity-designed golf courses. Along its beachfront boardwalk are arcades, souvenir stands and restaurants, as well as the old-fashioned Family Kingdom amusement park and the SkyWheel, one of the country’s tallest Ferris wheels.

Congaree National Park

Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees.

Now that we have glanced through what is in store for you when you seek to take part in this amazing road trip, you may be wondering about the when and how?

The best time to enjoy this road trip is during the late spring, summer, and early autumn seasons due to the fact the nature is more alive during this time as the flowers are blossoming and the wildlife is active. This time of year is also ideal for any beach related activity because lets just admit it, nobody enjoys the beach when it is cold outside. You can enjoy the trip in any way you want and therefore the amount of days it takes to complete is completely up to you. Realistically, you can enjoy the experience in a week or two, but it will surely take longer if you are really looking to explore and venture out more.

There is always something for everyone in the great outdoors and if this trip sounds like something you want to do with the ones you love, use the self-guided route at the US-Parks website to help you plan your trip.