Colorado National Park Road Trip

This Colorado road trip takes you to all four national parks inside the state as well as other scenic and beautiful destinations in the area. Along your way, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit and learn about destinations with significant cultural importance.

Denver

Your road trip will start in Denver, the capital and largest city in Colorado and the ideal starting point for any road trip around the state. Resting near the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is an enormous economic hotbed of the U.S. mountain time zone. The urban Front Range area is home to around 80 percent of Colorado’s population, and the Denver metro area has grown into one of the 20 largest in America.

Settled in the mid-19th century at the height of the Gold Rush, Denver now features a diverse cultural and gastronomic scene. Institutions include the Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the Center for Colorado Women’s History. The city boasts dozens of neighborhoods with distinct flair such as the Art District on Santa Fe and the hip Five Points District. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s a popular base for nature lovers wishing to spend time in the outdoors.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Next you will cross the Continental Divide into Rocky Mountain National Park which provides awe-inspiring glimpses of the snow-capped Rockies. Visitors can explore numerous alpine and subalpine environments to grasp the diversity of the mountain range. Reaching elevations of over 12,000 feet, Trail Ridge Road is the primary transport network coursing through the park. The All-American Road opens your eyes to evergreen forests, alpine meadows, and unforgiving tundra. Connecting Estes Park and Grand Lake, the 48-mile byway is an unforgettable journey through the heart of the Rockies.

There are more than 300 miles of hiking trails that delve deeper into the interior wilderness of the Rockies. Longs Peak is one of Colorado’s beloved fourteeners that gives daring climbers a challenging expedition. Alpine lakes dot the landscape, and the Bear Lake Trailhead gives you access to Bear Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. Shadow Mountain lake lies just outside the park and attracts boaters, jet skiers, and kayakers. Craggy spires form an unbelievable backdrop at Sky Pond, and the rock scramble to Chasm Lake brings you face to face with rugged peaks.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The next stop on your road trip will bring you to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The sheer drop of the Precambrian rock in Black Canyon of the Gunnison continues to win the admiration of trekkers and rock climbers. Looking downward at the steep gorge feels like you’re staring straight into the abyss. Carved by the Gunnison River, the canyon has one of the most dramatic drops anywhere in North America. Drive along the north or south rim for breathtaking views of the striated black cliffs towering above the canyon floor.

Hiking trails that follow the rims are tame, but experienced trekkers will find grueling challenges deep in the canyon. Voyages into the depths of the Gunnison wilderness should not be taken lightly, and you should pack the necessities to survive any emergency. If you prefer the comfort of your vehicle, the scenic South Rim Drive and North Rim Road provide stunning overlooks of the vertical canyon walls.

You’ll find all sorts of wildlife that thrive in the rocky outcrops, juniper woodlands, and wetlands hugging the Gunnison River. The waterways provide world-class trout fishing, and camping in the depths of the Black Canyon creates an otherworldly stargazing experience.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Continue on to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. For thousands of years, sediments from the Sangre de Cristo Range filled the San Luis Valley to create the tallest sand dunes in North America. Ancient Native American tribes lived in the valley for centuries and the mountain watershed supports incredibly diverse ecosystems. In addition to the rolling dunes, you’ll find alpine woodlands, riparian zones, and tundra. Intense woods in higher elevation zones form crooked trees, and wildflowers thrive above the treeline.

The versatile ecosystem creates a whirlwind of outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the year. Sandboarding and sand sledding are allowed anywhere there’s no vegetation, and gear is available to rent just outside the park. The 30 square mile dune field doesn’t have hiking trails but can be explored by intrepid trekkers. However, there’s a warning about sand surface temperatures reaching dangerous levels and the possibility of dangerous weather. To reach the dunes, you’ll have to cross the Medano Creek, and the stream is an enjoyable place to swim during peak flow.

Mesa Verde National Park

The next stop on your journey is Mesa Verde National Park which is situated in southwest Colorado. Mesa Verde National Park preserves one of America’s greatest archaeological discoveries. The ancient Pueblo groups that thrived in the region for hundreds of years and their cliff dwellings offer insight into Native American culture. For an explanation about the Pueblo way of life, visit the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum to view lots of intriguing exhibits.

To explore the archaeological sites, take the Mesa Top Loop Road to find accessible trails to the historic homes and villages. In total, discover a dozen sites that include overlooks of cliff dwellings that supported the Pueblo people for centuries. Wander the Petroglyph Point Trail to view rock carvings or climb to the Sun Point Overlook for sweeping canyon vistas. Continue your journey through time by hiking the Farming Terrace Loop to see how the Pueblo cultivated the land.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Continue on to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Protected by the Bureau of Land Management, Canyons of the Ancients preserves America’s most extensive collection of archaeological sites. Located in southwest Colorado, the monument has more than 6,000 sites of cultural and historical value. Remnants of the ancient civilizations showcase the way of life and unique heritage of numerous native tribes. You’ll find cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, religious shrines, rustic villages, and other aspects of Puebloan culture. The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum consists of exhibits, artifacts, and historical records of the Four Corners region to educate visitors on the cultures that once inhabited the area.

Colorado National Monument

Finally, your road trip will end at the Colorado National Monument. The arid plateau in western Colorado presents some of the grandest landscapes within the state. Embark on the 23-mile Rim Rock Drive for stunning images of towering monoliths, rocky cliffs, and red rock canyons. As you course along the Colorado River, you’ll climb from the Grand Valley floor to uninterrupted views of the western sky.

Cars and bicycles share the roadway, and you should drive with caution due to the sharp hairpin turns. Hiking trails cut through the sheer canyon walls and offer glorious vistas of sandstone cliffs and craggy spires. The Monument Canyon Trail is one of the numerous paths that show you the geologic wonders of the diverse ecosystem.

When to Go

While Colorado offers thrilling activities all four seasons, the best time to visit will depend on your preferences. Summers are dry and hot, while winters produce cold, snowy weather. Spring and fall produce mild temperatures, but you’ll find lots of fluctuations due to elevation changes. Since many byways will be closed from November until April, May-October is the ideal time for your road trip.

Wyoming Hidden Gems Road Trip

You’re likely familiar with Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but what about other beautiful areas of Wyoming? Our hidden gems road trip takes you on an unbelievable journey to places that tourists rarely visit in Wyoming. Get ready to be amazed by the remarkable diversity across the state’s landscapes.

Where to Go

Bighorn National Forest

Your road trip begins at Bighorn National Forest. Two scenic byways coursing through Bighorn National Forest treat you to unbelievable images of rocky canyons, plunging waterfalls, red-rock cliffs, and snow-capped peaks. Starting from the town of Greybull, take the Hwy 14 Scenic Byway to drive through the majestic Bighorn Canyon. Sandstone cliffs and Ponderosa pine forests tower above the roadway as you drive alongside beautiful creeks. When you reach the high elevations of the Bighorn Mountains, you’ll be astonished by the vistas overlooking the rolling prairies. The Hwy 16 Scenic Byway takes you back into the mountains and through the evergreen forests before opening up to jaw-dropping canyon vistas. Along these two breathtaking byways, you’ll find some of Wyoming’s most diverse ecosystems that include crystal-clear lakes, alpine meadows, high desert, and sharp canyon walls.

Devil’s Tower National Monument

The next stop on your road trip is the Devil’s Tower National Monument. The Devil’s Tower remains one of the bizarre landmarks of the remarkably versatile Wyoming landscape. Rising over 1,200 feet into the air, the igneous rock monument has captivated curious minds for centuries. The Black Hills engulf the landscape around the structure, and the geologic marvel intrigues all those who lay eyes on it. Northern Plains Native Americans hold the cracked tower sacred, and the first American settlers used it as a gathering point. The monument continues to have a wide range of meanings to different cultures, but its common ground is to preserve the unique structure for future generations.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

Continue on to Briger-Teton National Forest. With over 3 million acres of unspoiled wilderness, Bridger-Teton National Forest provides some of Wyoming’s best outdoor recreation. It’s one of the largest forests in the contiguous United States, stretching from Yellowstone National Park and along the Continental Divide to the Wind River Range. Hikers will find many exhilarating backcountry trails only explored by intrepid trekkers. The granite peaks of the Wind River Range include half of the 10 tallest mountains in Wyoming, and hundreds of alpine lakes dot the landscape. Just outside of Pinedale, Fremont Lake is among the most accessible for swimming, boating, and sunbathing during warm summer days. Standing at 13,809 ft, Gannett Peak is the tallest peak of the forest, and tree species include lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir, and white pines.

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest

As you continue to travel farther away from the national parks on the opposite end of Wyoming, Medicine Bow is one of the state’s best-kept secrets. The Snowy Range Scenic Byway cuts through the Medicine Bow Mountains and offers a bevy of outdoor activities for nature lovers. Driving through the Snowy Range Pass takes you to alpine forests, lodgepole pine forests, and snow-lined peaks. Many Wyoming travelers overlook this beautiful mountain range for more popular quests but hiking trails to the rugged peaks offer unmatched solitude. Whether staring at the jagged mountaintops perched over Lake Marie or climbing the Medicine Bow Peak summit, you’ll feel like you have Wyoming’s untouched scenery to yourself.

Wind River Country

Before making the final pursuit into Yellowstone Country, make sure you save a few days to delve into Wind River Country. From red-rock canyons to snow-capped peaks, Wind River lets you escape the crowds and experience the real Wyoming. The Wind River Range is the ideal place to begin your adventures, but there’s unlimited outdoor recreation at your fingertips. Camping in the wild backcountry helps you unplug from reality and wake up to the crisp mountain air every morning. Tackle the Absaroka Mountains for rugged pursuits such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. Ride through the desert and stop by Boysen State Park for a cooling swim on a scorching afternoon. Afterward, cruise through the rocky cliffs of the Wind River Canyon on your way to Thermopolis for the revitalizing waters of Hot Springs State Park. Before you leave, drive through the pastures for an encounter with one of Wyoming’s herds of bison.

Flaming Gorge Recreation Area

The final stop on your road trip is Flaming Gorge Recreation Area. Cruising through the Red Desert of Wyoming is a long, dreary voyage on I-80 to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks for most visitors. However, the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area tucked into the southwest corner of Wyoming is a fascinating region of piercing red canyon walls and surreal waterways. You’ll find lots of fishermen along the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Green River to cast their lines for trout, salmon, and bass. The waterways offer an abundance of aquatic activities such as boating, rafting, jet skiing, and float trips. With hundreds of campsites and numerous hiking trails, Flaming Gorge also provides exciting land adventures through sharp canyons, high desert, and evergreen forests.

When to Go

Several of the roadways on this road trip are only open seasonally and visiting outside of summer can be difficult. While part of your itinerary is doable in spring or fall, we suggest driving the route during summer. This ensures all byways will be clear of snow, and you’ll get the complete experience in these parts of Wyoming. Make sure to wear layers since the daytime heat can be brutal, but nightly temperatures are often chilly.

American Southeast Road Trip

This southeast road trip takes you on a scenic journey to several of the cherished national parks, natural wonders, and historic sites of the American Southeast. From the Great Smoky Mountains to Hot Springs National Park, you’ll surely be amazed by all that this eclectic region has to offer!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Begin your road trip at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains features one of the country’s most diverse ecosystems. The Appalachian Mountain range houses an incredible range of plant and animal species, and you can delve into the historic settlements deep within the valleys. Coasting through Cades Cove lets you explore preserved cabins and churches of wayward travelers and stunning images of the forested peaks. Drive slowly along the roadway to watch for deer, black bears, and other wildlife hiding in the woodlands. Visiting during the spring reveals beautiful wildflowers and fall enchants you with a kaleidoscope of colorful foliage. There are endless hiking trails inside the park that take you to popular sights like Sugarland Mountain, Rainbow Falls, and the Alum Cave Bluffs.

Natchez Trace Parkway

The next stop on your road trip brings you to Natchez Trace Parkway. Spanning over 400 miles from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi, the Natchez Trace Parkway courses through ancient trails used by Native Americans and European settlers. Native Americans maintained settlements for thousands of years and followed the wild game that created paths through the dense forests. Once Europeans settled the area, the footpaths improved to enable pioneers to venture into unexplored terrain. Further development of the trails led to the creation of the scenic drive and cycling paths that follow the historic route. Traveling the Natchez Trace Parkway lets you visit many cherished sites that enabled the development of the region.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

Continue on to the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area which transports you into the heart of the Bayou and the mysterious swamplands of Louisiana. Here there are incredible wildlife species and there is a unique cultural tradition surrounding the Atchafalaya River. The waterways offer an abundance of outdoor recreation. From bird watching and kayaking to camping and swamp tours, you’ll connect with nature like never before. While touring the swamplands and cypress forests, make sure to sample Cajun cuisine and listen to traditional Bayou music.

Vicksburg National Military Park

The next stop on your road trip is Vicksburg National Military Park. Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg hosted one of the most strategic battles in the American Civil War. Both sides recognized the importance of controlling the riverside city, and the rolling hills allow you to imagine the veracity of the 47-day siege. Over a thousand monuments decorate the landscape that commemorates the sacrifice of the soldiers who perished on the battlefield. Brilliant architects laid the foundation to make the Vicksburg National Military Park one of the finest artistic masterpieces in the country. Stop by the USS Cairo for a glimpse of the ironclads that patrolled the waterways during the mid-19th century.

Hot Springs National Park

Continuing along your journey, you’l come to Hot Springs National Park. The revitalizing hot springs located in Garland County, Arkansas were preserved by the federal government long before the concept of national parks existed. For centuries, humans have congregated at the healing waters flowing from Hot Springs Mountain into the spa town. Native American tribes utilized the natural springs for thousands of years, and European settlers created therapeutic spa baths for visitors seeking treatment. Established in 1921, parts of the national park run through town which allows residents to have convenient access to the historic bathhouses. The spectacular architectural works are among the most beautiful spa baths anywhere in the United States. Around the bathhouses, tackle the forested hiking trails to marvel at geologic treasures and peaceful creeks flowing around Hot Springs.

Congaree National Park

The next stop on your road trip brings you to Congaree National Park. The temperate forests in central South Carolina are among the most awe-inspiring anywhere east of the Mississippi River. Walking along the boardwalk and staring at the forest canopy lets you gaze at some of America’s tallest trees. The old-growth forest includes species such as cherrybark oaks, chestnut oaks, and American elms that soar well over 100 feet. You’ll find all sorts of wildlife inside the park, including bobcats, coyotes, turkeys, turtles, and snakes. The Boardwalk Loop is one of the park’s most popular trails that provides a detailed look at the bottomland hardwood forest.

Little River Canyon

Continue on to Little River Canyon. Although the state of Alabama doesn’t have a national park, Little River Canyon might be its most incredible natural wonder. Driving through the Little River Canyon Rim gives you 16 miles of sensational views of rocky cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, and beautiful foliage. The roadway passes numerous lookout points of steep ridges and lush forests as you climb Lookout Mountain. Woodland trails take you deeper into the canyon rim and let you explore the Southern Appalachians. 

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

Finally, you’ll arrive at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. This small trip in Atlanta lets you pay tribute to one of the nation’s iconic Civil Rights leaders of the 20th century. The group of buildings consists of King’s childhood home and the church where he was a pastor. Touring the grounds and reading historic markers provide insight into Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and his upbringing to become the champion of nonviolent change. Throughout the museum, you’ll see other famous moments from the Civil Rights movement and get to see the lasting impact on American society.

When to Go

The states included on this trip can be brutally hot and humid during the summer months. Although temperatures can still be uncomfortable during fall and spring, they are much better options than visiting in summer. Unless you thrive in scorching climates, arrange your trip for spring (March-April) or fall (October-November). Winter isn’t a bad option either, but some areas in the region can still experience chilly temperatures and snowy forecasts.

Las Vegas to San Francisco Road Trip

The drive from Las Vegas to San Francisco takes you through awe-inspiring landscapes and nature preserves. There are several national parks between the two urban areas and it’s incredible how much the scenery changes along the journey.

Where to Go

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Begin your road trip at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. You don’t have to travel far outside of Las Vegas to find desert canyons, painted cliffs, and interesting wildlife. The 13-mile scenic drive features piercing bands of red rock and provides access to exciting hiking paths, cycling routes, and camping spots. As you venture deeper into the Mojave Desert, you’ll notice the Native American petroglyphs decorating the canyon walls. Depending on the time of year, you might find a pristine waterfall amid the desert.

Death Valley National Park

The next stop on your road trip is Death Valley National Park. The lowest elevation point in North America produces a land of extremes that bewilders explorers who cross its boundaries. Summers produce unbearable heat, and winter nights create numbingly cold temperatures on the valley floor. Hiking in Death Valley is not for inexperienced trekkers, but hardy travelers come across incredibly diverse natural features. Zabriskie Point is a photographer’s dream with its vantage of the sunset dipping below the Amargosa Range. Badwater Basin descends nearly 300 ft below sea level and reveals striking salt flats on the valley floor. Admire the craggy walls of Titus Canyon and keep your eyes peeled for petroglyphs and wildlife within the gorge. Telescope Peak is the highest point in the park, and the snow-lined summit gives you uninterrupted views overlooking the horizon. Death Valley’s land of contrasts will also take you to barren lake beds, tumbling waterfalls, and volcanic craters.

Sequoia National Park

Continue on to Sequoia National Park. As you leave the depths of the desert, get ready to be astonished by nature’s skyscrapers. Sequoia National Park’s star attractions are the enormous sequoia trees that tower above the forest. When you stare in awe at the General Sherman Tree, you realize the majesty of the natural world. The sequoia is the largest known living tree anywhere on the planet, and benches around the trunk let you stare high into the treetops. Not all the sequoias are standing, and you can drive right through a fallen tree at the Tunnel Log. Mountaineers can embark on a thrilling climb through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. If underground adventures are your preference, Crystal Cave displays beautiful calcite formations.

Kings Canyon National Park

Next, your road trip will bring you to Kings Canyon National Park, which sits beside Sequoia National Park and is famous for its rugged granite cliffs. Giant sequoias can be found throughout the park, with the highest concentration located at General Grant Grove. The grove’s namesake tree is the world’s third tallest and over 1,500 years old. Hikers can explore the wilderness by trekking through the Zumwalt Meadows and gazing at the granite canyon walls. The John Muir Trail courses through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and challenges trekkers with intense elevation gain. Other hiking trails let you chase waterfalls such as the Roaring River Falls, and Mist Falls on your way to Paradise Valley.

Yosemite National Park

Continue your journey to Yosemite National Park. One of America’s most cherished national parks, Yosemite is renowned for its plunging waterfalls, granite cliffs, and glacial valleys. The glorious vista of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View has graced postcards for generations. Ancient sequoia trees dot the landscape, and sharp canyon walls attract daredevils from around the world. Half Dome is the park’s legendary granite rock formation that challenges the hardiest of rock climbers. Adventurers also gravitate to El Capitan for its sheer cliff face that soars upwards of 3,000 ft. Yosemite Falls drops more than 2,400 ft from the cliffside and has inspired civilizations since the Ahwahneechee established their village beneath the falls. There are three sections of Yosemite Falls, and fierce hiking trails give you thrilling vantages of Upper Yosemite Fall, the Middle Cascades, and Lower Yosemite Fall. 

Tahoe National Forest

From Yosemite, make your way over to Tahoe National Forest. Before making the final push towards San Francisco, you’ll admire the crystal-clear waters of North America’s largest alpine lake. The lake straddles the border of California and Nevada and greets visitors with stunning mountain vistas. Hiking, boating, parasailing, and fishing are among the popular summer activities, and it’s a ski resort haven by winter. The surrounding wilderness engulfs the shoreline and stretches along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Within the forest, you’ll find the legendary Donner Pass that opened the westward path for 19th-century pioneers.

Muir Woods National Monument

Finally, you’ll come to Muir Woods National Monument, just north of San Francisco. Muir Woods is home to coastal redwood forests that tower above the Pacific Ocean. Walking amongst nature’s giants gives you a sense of solitude that’s hard to match elsewhere. The redwoods nestled inside the forest are thousands of years old and inspired conservationists upon first discovery. Peaceful trails coursing through Cathedral and Bohemian Grove provide enchanting views of coastal redwoods, Douglas-fir, and other large trees of the old-growth forest. Many of the hiking paths are paved or on boardwalks to make them accessible for all skill levels.

When to Go

Selecting the best time for this road trip can get a little tricky due to the incredible diversity of environments you encounter. Spring is a fantastic time to visit Death Valley due to more suitable temperatures and desert wildflowers, but the weather can be unpredictable in Sequoia. Crowds can be unbearable at Yosemite during the summer, and spring or fall provide better alternatives. Some parts of Kings Canyon remain closed well into April, and the weather during fall is sublime. While you can surely complete this road trip anytime between mid-April to October, spring and fall will likely give you the best combination of lighter crowds and comfortable temperatures.

American Midwest Road Trip

The American Midwest road trip takes you across much of the country’s heartland and to several underrated national parks. Find out what makes these natural treasures among the most interesting places to explore in America.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Begin your road trip just 20 miles south of Cleveland at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a verdant oasis compared to city life. The Cuyahoga River cuts through the valley, and the park encompasses around 33,000 acres of pristine forests and fertile farmlands. Ohio residents are rewarded with endless outdoor recreation that includes hiking, fishing, kayaking, skiing, and more. The park also reveals the foundations of the Ohio & Erie Canal and its importance to America’s growth and expansion. You can trace the canal’s original 19th-century path by venturing down the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for glimpses of the lush forest or watch Brandywine Falls plunge against the cliffside.

Mammoth Cave National Park

The next stop along your road trip is Mammoth Cave National Park. Kentucky doesn’t always fall into the Midwest category, but Mammoth Cave was worth adding to the itinerary. Featuring the largest known cave network in the world, this park opens your eyes to the geological wonders beneath the surface. The immense network contains more than 400 miles of caves, and more passageways are discovered every year. Guided cave tours reveal striking limestone formations in passageways like Diamond Caverns and Crystal Onyx Cave. Above ground, Mammoth Cave houses a diverse variety of plants and wildlife residing in the lush woodlands. Hikers can wander through 80 miles of trails, and the park’s waterways give you access to kayaking and boating excursions.

Gateway Arch National Park

Continue on to Gateway Arch National Park. This engineering feat is one of the rare national parks located smack dab in the middle of a bustling metropolis. The memorial honors the Lewis & Clark Expedition and the duo’s quest to map the uncharted territories acquired with the Louisiana Purchase. In addition to honoring American pioneers, the gateway arch remembers the controversial Dred Scott case that sparked the debate over slavery. Perched along the Mississippi River, the arch is unquestionably the most recognizable symbol of St. Louis, Missouri. Make sure to stop by the visitor center beneath the arch to view the exhibits on westward expansion and the arch’s creation. For the grand finale, ride the elevator to the top of the 630-ft arch for remarkable views of the Old Courthouse.

Indiana Dunes National Park

The next stop on your road trip is Indiana Dunes National Park. One of America’s newest national parks, Indiana Dunes sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Wander the sandy beaches to find incredible wildlife, hike the steep dunes, and fish on its scenic waterways. The Little Calumet River is the ideal place to begin your adventure with its top-notch fishing spots and enchanting forests along the water. Bikers have access to the Calumet and Porter Brickyard Trails for exhilarating runs through temperate forests. Mount Baldy is among the park’s more challenging treks, but a swimmable beach provides a refreshing way to cool off. Glenwood Dunes Trails welcomes horseback riders, and snowshoeing comes alive during winter.

Isle Royale National Park

From Indiana Dunes, head to Isle Royale National Park in Northern Michigan. Isle Royale ranks as the least visited national park in the United States due to its remote location. The island is roughly 45 miles long, 9 miles wide, and is the largest in Lake Superior. Ferries are available to reach the island, and you can park your car at Hat Point Marina. Once you reach Isle Royale, rugged wilderness and complete solitude awaits. The park includes more than 160 miles of hiking trails, and there are hundreds of smaller islands to explore. Renting a canoe, kayak, or motorboat is the best way to navigate the waterways at your pace. There are no cars allowed inside the park which increases the odds of encountering wild animals.

Voyageurs National Park

Finally, you’ll arrive at Voyageurs National Park. Prepare to trade your car for a boat or kayak once again as you meander along the waterways of this park. This complex water-based transport system guided French-Canadian fur traders who traversed the paths centuries ago. There are only a few public access roads within the park and renting a boat or kayak will be essential to getting around. The park encompasses thousands of lakes and islands that are connected by the vast water highways. Rainy Lake, Kabetogama Lake, Namakan Lake, and Sand Point Lake are the primary bodies of water, and several sit on the United States-Canada border. The interconnected lakes attract anglers and boaters, hikers head to the interior peninsula, and some visitors camp within the boreal forests dotting the islands.

When to Go

If crowds don’t bother you, then summer provides suitable weather conditions for each park on your itinerary. You’ll have an easier time getting around in spring and fall due to the shoulder seasons’ thinner crowds. The winter can be brutal at each park, and you face the possibility of adverse road conditions in sub-freezing temperatures. Overall, spring or fall offers the best combination of gorgeous scenery, fewer crowds, and comfortable temperatures.