Welcome back to the road trip series! Today I’ll be sharing all the things you should do or see on your road trip. Ok, not all of them, but the things I’ve done and things I would like to do.
Most of these are outdoorsy things because that’s what I enjoy doing. I’ll let you know which I’ve done and which I haven’t, as well. You’ll probably want to add some of the USA bucket list destinations to your trip while you’re at it.
You can see all of my USA bucket lists here (and a few other countries)!
Just keep in mind, this is all my opinion and things I like doing. You may prefer other things, but that’s what’s awesome about people, we like different things and can always try new things. Check out some of these up and coming US destinations for ideas, too.
Road trip series: Before you go
Road trip series: What to bring
West Coast + Montana + Wyoming
I haven’t done much of anything on the West Coast, I’ve only been to Seattle and that was sooooo long ago it probably doesn’t count. Anyways, here we go!
Hike at Snoqualamie Falls. According to 2TravelDads is the best of like, 10,000 day trips from Seattle, to the town and the falls. This is one of the few places I went. I didn’t hike down or around or anything, but it was still pretty cool.
Wander around Pike Place Market. I actually went here, too and would love to go back. Wander around the famous market, admire the fish (Do people admire fish? Let me know if you do,) or pop into the first Starbucks ever because why not? I went but the line was about two miles long so I just looked. Plus, you can see the gum wall!
All of the National Parks in the area – This includes Olympic, Glacier, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake (for the ones I haven’t been to,) Yellowstone, and the Tetons for parks I have been to.
Explore San Fransisco and the Redwoods in Northern California. You can explore Yosemite and Napa Valley in the area, too. Drive Highway 1. While some of it, maybe even the best part by Big Sur, is out of commission, it still sounds like an amazing drive to get from one end of California to the other. Head down to Los Angeles and explore the Venice Canals and Venice Beach and make your way to San Diego.
Ahh, home. I honestly can’t say there’s a ton of road trip type stuff I’ve done here, but I do know there are plenty of things I still want to do. Here we go.
Check out the corn palace, hike through the Badlands, get free ice water at Wall Drug (you’ll get it if you see the signs,) see the famous Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse National Monuments, explore the Black hills, and spelunk in the Wind Cave. If caves aren’t your thing, hike some of the 30 miles above ground at the park. Head up to North Dakota to see the Theodore Rosevelt National Park, too. If you plan on going Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park is right next to it. This is a great area to see bison.
Visit Voyageurs National Park up north, then hike around Duluth and Lake Superior. Make your way down to the Twin Cities and visit Minnehaha Falls, especially in the winter to see them frozen. There are tons of state parks and lakes to explore as well, just do a quick search for the area you’ll be in.
Kayak around the Apostle Islands. Spend a weekend in Door County. Hike at Hoffman Hills and Devils Punchbowl. Gotta represent Menomonie there! Explore up and coming downtown Eau Claire on bike and admire the sculptures around town. Interstate State Park and Big Falls are both places I’d love to Visit. If you like waterparks, head to the dells and hit up all the water slides then take a boat ride to Witches Gulch. Visit Devils Lake and head down to Madison and Milwaukee for a little city life.
Head to the great Chicago and explore Battery Park. See the bean and Navy Pier before wandering down the Magnificent Mile. Eat everything you can at the awesome restaurants, too. If you’re into racing, make a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana to see the race track and museum.
Ahh, my second home. This is what I’ve seen the most of and I’m really glad because it’s just amazing.
If you base yourself in Denver, you can do all kinds of day trips. Head to Estes Park to see the Stanley Hotel and a cute little downtown, then explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Hike Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins then eat your way around the town. I highly recommend Snooze Eatery for breakfast, Beau Jo’s Pizza, and Mary’s Mountain Cookies for some delicious cookies and cookie dough.
Head to Loveland for some delicious pizza at Origins and hike Devils Backbone for some pretty awesome views. This is on the way to Estes Park in the summer. For a full day trip, go to Colorado Springs to explore Garden of the Gods. On the western side, drive along and hike into Black Canyon of the Gunnison and climb sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Check out some ruins at Mesa Verde before heading into Utah.
Visit the Mighty 5 starting with Arches and Canyonlands in Moab. In Arches, I would highly recommend hiking to Delicate Arch and part of the Devil’s Garden Loop. If you want a cool lodging experience, check out Moab Under Canvas, especially if you like glamping. Make a stop at Deadhorse State Park, too. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you can go skydiving here. Head down towards Blanding and take Highway 95 to Bullfrog and spend a day exploring North Lake Powell.
Next up make a stop at Goblin Valley and Little Wild Horse Canyon (there is awesome camping out here) before going back towards Hanksville and making a stop at Stans Burger Shak for a heavenly peanut butter shake. Pick fruit (seasonally) and see petroglyphs in Capitol Reef before driving down Scenic Byway 12 through Escalante, where you should see Calf Creek Falls, and the Dixie national Forest. If you have a little more of a tough vehicle, take a drive down Hole-in-the-Rock Road and explore some of the Slot Canyons like Peek-a-boo, Spooky, or Zebra.
Hike among the hoodoo’s in Bryce Canyon on the Navajo Loop and enjoy a break from the desert heat. Kodachrome Basin State Park is a fun stop just outside of Bryce. Head over to Zion next to hike Angles Landing (if you’re not afraid of heights) and the Narrows. If the main part of the park is too busy for you, take a drive down Kolob Terrace Road. Or just do that anyways. Snow Canyon and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Parks are close by, too. Test your luck in Kanab and try to get a permit to hike the infamous wave in the Vermillion Cliffs. There is so much to do in this area, it’s crazy.
If you are in Salt Lake, check out the Dinosaur National monument or the Bonneville Salt Flats. There’s tons of hiking in the Uinta Mountains as well.
From St. George, Vegas is only a couple hours away, and the starting point for a lot of southwest road trips. Explore Valley of Fire State park and cool off in Lake Mead. Once you’re in Vegas, explore the strip and Fremont Street. To get a break from the strip, head to Seven Magic Mountains (until May 2018.) A little further north you can explore Great Basin National Park and Cathedral Gorge State Park. And I know it’s technically in California, but Death Valley and Joshua Tree are only a few hours from Vegas. Here are some other awesome, unique things to do in Las Vegas.
I’d say Arizona and Utah almost rival each other in the number of outdoorsy things to do. Depending on where you are, you can see either the north, west, or south rim of the Grand Canyon. Hike into it on the Kaibab Trail in the south, check out the glass overlook on the west, and hike from the north to south rim. That’s a multi-day trek, so only go if you’re experienced. I’m sure you need a permit for that, too. If you’re staying in Flagstaff, stop at Bedrock City for a little Flintstone fun.
Check out the Saguaro National Park and Petrified Wood National Park as well. There’s also the Organ Pipe National Monument, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon (upper and lower,) Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and TONS of other things.
For a little more city life, head to Sedona and get healed by crystals and check out the awesome free things to do in Phoenix or Tuscon.
I didn’t spend tons of time in New Mexico, but there’s so much to do there! I was honestly a little surprised when i was looking at everything for our drive to Florida since we were going through there.
If you like art, definitely make a stop in Santa Fe. They have some cool markets and it’s an art lovers paradise. You can also visit the Bandalier National Monument and some native ruins as well as the Tent Rocks in the area, which look awesome and wish I would have seen.
Albuquerque is another city stop and perfect for fans of Breaking Bad. You can go on a tour to filming locations in an RV and get rock candy meth. If you don’t want to do a tour, you can find most of the locations listed online. That would be the perfect activity after going for a sunrise hot air balloon ride which I would 1000% recommend! It’s super early so it gives you the rest of the day to explore.
After Albuquerque, take a drive south to explore Carlsbad Caverns and if you love everything Alien, make a stop in Roswell. These are perfect stops on your way to Texas.
Ahh Texas. Texas is giant and I hate driving across it. Not saying I don’t like Texas, but it just takes so long to get across it. Anyways, the good stuff.
There are tons of National Parks and Monuments in Texas, but coming from New Mexico, especially Roswell, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is only a 2 hour 8-minute drive. Hike and camp here before heading to Big Bend farther south.
If you’re passing through Amarillo, check out Cadillac Ranch. To see a Ghost Town, pay a visit to the Medicine Mound area. And for a little city life, check out Dallas, San Antonio, or Austin.
This last fall was my first time in the Southeast, but I’ll be back next fall to explore and add onto this a lot more, but for now, here is what I have. I apologize for how sparse the next two sections are, I just haven’t looked into them much yet.
If you love water activities, check out the springs near Gainesville. There are tons of them and they are a perfect 72 degrees year round. While you’re in the area check out a few of the state parks like O’leno, Payne’s Prairie, Ichetucknee Springs, and Big Talbot. If you like charming little towns, head to St. Augustine and Anastasia Island on the east coast.
Of course, there is Disneyworld and Universal Studios and all that good stuff. Head on down south to explore the Keys and the national parks. Gator spot in the Everglades then get in some beach time and snorkeling in Biscayne and Dry Tortugas. Explore Big Cypress, visit the Fakahatchee Hilton, go shelling on Marco Island, Sanibel, or Cape San Blas. There is so much more, but I’ll be able to go a little more into it all this fall.
One of my favorite national parks was in Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park. It’s an awesome mix of history (with the bathhouses still up) and hiking. Take a drive through the Ozarks if you’re in the area, too.
Definitely New Orleans. Time your trip to make it for Mardi Gras if that interests you at all. Explore Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. I can’t tell you much about it, but Amanda Williams from A Dangerous Business has an awesome guide.
I started planning a trip to Myrtle Beach a few years ago, so I’ll start with that. Go to Myrtle Beach and do Myrtle Beach things (whatever those are.) For a little more nature, head to Congaree National Park. To get back to a little city life, head to Charleston to get a little taste of history, too.
Explore historic Gatlinburg before getting into the Great Smoky Mountains and diving the Blue Ridge Parkway to North Carolina. Make sure you go to Asheville while you’re there. For a little bit of cave action head to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. Tennessee is super pretty to drive through. Visit Rocky Fork State Park for a little hidden gem hiking.
Alright, I know even less about the northeast than the southeast. So bear with me here, it’ll be short.
Acadia National Park is one of the parks I’m dying to visit. For some reason, I just have a draw to Maine.
I went to New York City back in high school, but I’d love to go back to explore a lot more of it. Tess Christine has some awesome video guides for the different neighborhoods of NYC. I’d definitely check them out. Montauk sounds like an awesome little beach town by the Hamptons, too. I’d love to see both.
Well, that took forever. Like, I’ve been working on this for at least a month and I finished it two days before you got to see it. I’ll keep updating it as I go new places and if you have anywhere you would recommend adding to this, leave a comment or send me an email with suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Have you been to any of these places? Do you want to go? What is your favorite road trip you’ve been on?