Discover Parks & Wildlife contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of the Amazon links (or other affiliate links), we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See our disclosure policy for more information.

4 Unforgettable National Park Road Trips For Your Summer Adventure

There’s nothing like hitting the open road with a playlist of classic jams, a car full of snacks, and the promise of unfettered adventure—believe us, we’ve clocked more miles than your average long-haul trucker.

Especially when that destination includes the jaw-dropping landscapes of America’s national parks. We’ve been there, done that, and got the souvenir magnets to prove it.

So, for those of you itching to hit the road but can’t decide where to aim the GPS, fear not. We’ve curated a list of road trips so epic, they’ll make your eyes pop.

From towering red rocks to the deepest canyons, we’re here to guide you through the ultimate summer adventure!

1. California Coast To Desert Bliss

12-14+ days recommended, parks included:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
zumwalt meadow in kings canyon national park shows large trees in a green meadow with a rocky mountain in the background under a blue sky
© Depositphotos

Kicking off in the fog-laden, tech-loving city of San Francisco, forget about chasing cable cars.

Instead, we’re chasing waterfalls and cliffs in Yosemite National Park.

You’ll gaze up at El Capitan and Half Dome, which aren’t just massive chunks of granite, but bona fide rock stars of the geological world.

Did you know El Capitan is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations globally, mainly because climbers love to hang by their fingertips thousands of feet in the air? Thrilling, right?!

Now that you’ve almost sprained your neck from looking up so much in Yosemite, it’s time to shift the adventure south to the land of the giants, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

These parks are home to some of the oldest and largest living things on Earth.

Here’s a fact to chew on while you digest your trail mix: The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia is considered the largest living tree by volume on the planet. Take that, your neighbor’s overhyped Christmas tree.

And the grand finale? Joshua Tree National Park.

Ever wanted to know what a rock star feels like in the middle of a desert? This is your spot. With its stark desert beauty and surreal landscapes, it’s like walking onto the set of every indie music video ever.

Plus, the night sky. It’s not stargazing; it’s like the universe decided to put on a light show just for you.

From the misty coast of San Francisco to the desert twilight of Joshua Tree, this road trip is a reminder that the most epic adventures require no Wi-Fi.

2. Utah’s Mighty Five

10-14+ days recommended, parks included:

  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
dramatic cliffs and red rocks of capital reef national park, red and tan layers of rock show in the dramatic scene
© Depositphotos

Starting off in the charming town of Moab, which might as well be the lesser-known cousin of Mars with its red rock landscapes, you’re at the gateway to some of the most out-there geological wonders this side of the Milky Way.

First stop, Arches National Park.

Here’s a fun fact to drop at your next trivia night: Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural stone arches. Talk about nature’s version of a sculpture garden!

And Delicate Arch might just be the most famous rock star here, no autographs please.

Then, scoot over to Canyonlands National Park, where you can marvel at a textbook example of what happens when rivers decide to get creative with erosion.

The park is a sprawling canvas of deep canyons and towering mesas, showcasing layers of Earth’s history. If you thought your family tree was old, try the rock layers in Canyonlands, which tell stories millions of years in the making.

Next up, Capitol Reef National Park will make you question your navigation skills, wondering if you’ve accidentally teleported to another planet.

This park is less crowded, so you can whisper sweet nothings to the rocks without judgment.

And Capitol Reef is also famed for its Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline that resembles a massive wrinkle on the planet’s surface.

Then, drive to Bryce Canyon and prepare for a plot twist worthy of a telenovela.

Bryce Canyon? Yeah, that’s a bit of a misnomer. You might as well call me an Olympic athlete because neither of us is what we claim to be.

Turns out, Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon at all – it’s more like nature’s own coliseum, a grand assembly of amphitheaters packed with quirky rock spires called hoodoos.

Finally, Zion National Park waits to cap off this epic road trip.

It’s a park where you can walk in narrow canyons and look up to see a sliver of sky, reminding you of the Instagram filter aptly named “Naturally Awesome.”

Each park on this road trip offers a unique vibe, from sky-high arches to deep amphitheaters, inviting you not just to visit but to immerse yourself in the vast, breathtaking landscapes that define America’s great outdoors.

3. Southwest Circuit

7-10+ days recommended, parks included:

  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
grand canyon national park at sunset with the canyon appearing orange under the perfect light
© Depositphotos

You’re starting your grand adventure in Las Vegas, the city where sleep is for the weak and the lights never dim.

But guess what? The real magic happens when you swap the neon for natural wonders.

First up is Zion National Park, where the sandstone cliffs are not just cliffs; they’re nature’s cathedrals rising high with a majesty that no casino can match.

Did you know Zion’s tallest sandstone cliffs tower over 2,000 feet above the valley floor? That’s like stacking over 6 Eiffel Towers on top of each other!

After staring up inside Zion, it’s time to jaw-drop and look down at Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, which—fun fact—are the world’s largest collection of these spiky natural wonders.

Picture thousands of these whimsical rock spires, carved by the hands of frost and rainwater, standing like an army of nature’s soldiers.

The grand finale of this road trip is the Grand Canyon, the OG of awe-inspiring views, boasting a gorge so vast it can be seen from space.

The canyon exposes an incredible sequence of rock layers that represent about two billion years of geological history. Can you imagine?

There you have it, our would-be explorers. From the neon lights of Vegas to the natural wonders of Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon, this trip is a reminder that sometimes, the best treasures are found off the beaten path and involve more hiking boots than high heels.

  • Discover More: Craving some insider tips for Zion but feeling too lazy to scour the internet? Fear not; we’ve got the cheat sheet that’s sure to save your day (and, quite possibly, your trip).

4. Rocky Mountain Journey

10-12+ days recommended, parks included:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
grand teton national park with the mountain range with snow in the background with a green valley and river in the foreground
© Depositphotos

This final road trip begins in Denver, Colorado, which means you’re starting things off at the “Mile High City.” A city where your adventurous spirit is immediately awakened by the blend of urban charm and easy access to the great outdoors.

But your first real stop? Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here, mountains aren’t just mountains; they’re like Earth’s way of showing off.

The park spans over 415 square miles of pure wilderness bliss, featuring over 300 miles of hiking trails. Yeah, good luck covering that in a weekend.

Next, shift gears and head north to Wyoming for Yellowstone National Park.

This spot isn’t just a national park; it’s the granddaddy of them all, the first national park in the world, established back in 1872.

And here’s a spicy fact to impress your friends: Yellowstone is sitting atop a supervolcano. That’s right, when you’re watching Old Faithful erupt, you’re literally chilling on a colossal volcano. How’s that for a natural thrill?

The park is also an oasis for wildlife fans, boasting the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 states, including wolves, bison, and grizzlies.

Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, enter Grand Teton National Park.

Those mountains? They’re not messing around. They rise straight out of the Jackson Hole Valley like nature’s skyscrapers, no elevator needed.

The Grand Teton peaks reach a sky-piercing height of over 13,000 feet, making them some of the most photographed mountains in North America, probably because every angle is their good side.

This road trip is the ultimate “out of office” reply. You’re not just sightseeing; you’re stepping into the pages of a nature magazine, except it’s all 3D, and no subscription is required.

Please Share If You Enjoyed!

Similar Posts