The Ultimate Road Trip Plan

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A road trip is the best way to see a whole lot for very little ($$$). Here is the ultimate road trip route and itinerary, featuring several national parks and a few other awesome stops on the way!

The Logistics and Some Tips to get you Started

In total, this trip took us roughly 16 days but you could easily extend it if you have the time! There were so many other National Parks and sights to see if we had had more time. You could also start/end this road trip from anywhere else along the way and modify it to fit you. Most nights, we camped which was SUPER cheap and really fun. We used a really light and easy-to-assemble tent (literally takes less than 5 minutes) like this one here. It is rather pricey but if you are into backing/camping, it might be worth the investment!

We cooked most of our meals ourselves over the fire (again cheap and good fun). Below, I have listed the major stops of our trip. I have not listed ALL of the stops however; a few longer stretches of driving were broken up with a one night stay in the nearest city, for example.

Be sure to download loads of good podcasts and have a LONG playlist at the ready. There will be many stretches of driving without cell service/radio so you’ll want that entertainment ready to go. There will also be long stretches without gas stations so try to keep your tank full whenever possible!

Keep a cooler in the back seat so the person in the passenger seat can reach back for snacks and drinks! It gets expensive and unhealthy eating out or having fast food all the time. Make a few pit stops at grocery stores and stock up.

If you do wish to do a road trip involving more than one national park, I would highly recommend buying an annual pass. You can do so online and although it seems a hefty fee, it will save you loads of money over all. Plus, it lasts a year so it’s a good excuse to take more than one trip!

My last recommendation to you is to purchase a decent selfie stick for your trip (not joking!). There are so many incredible sights and it’s a bit of shame to only get pictures of one of you at a time. A regular selfie will not cut it as it won’t capture the stunning backgrounds. So, swallow your pride and whip out that selfie stick! Do it for the insta!

1. Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado, although not technically a national park, is well worth a visit!

Pictured here are my husband and cousin. Admittedly, I am not pictured because I had a {rather large} alcoholic beverage prior to this hike and drinking at higher altitudes really effects you quickly! Thus, I chose to stay away from the edge.

2. Arches National Park

This was one of my favourite stops for sure! We didn’t stay over night; we just drove in, chose two hikes (one short, one medium length) and it was AMAZING!

You will drive into the park and will be given a map as you enter with many choices of hikes of varying lengths. It is super easy to just park nearest your hike of choice and take off!

3. The Grand Canyon

Do not miss this incredible place of natural beauty! The whole of the national park is set up in such a convenient way. There are buses that you can jump on and off that just go all along the canyon.

I highly recommend hiking the Bright Angel trail. It allows you to hike down into the canyon and the views are second to none. It’s easily marked and super easy to get to. But plan ahead! We went at the end of May and did not start our hike until mid-morning. It was HOT and rather crowded, albeit still WELL WORTH IT. Get an early start to avoid the heat and crowds, and bring PLENTY of water and snacks! Also, dress in light, comfortable clothing, sturdy hiking boots, and layer on that sunscreen. Lastly, and most importantly, do not forget that the way down will be easier than your return back UP. As the signs say on the way down:

Going down is optional, coming up is MANDATORY!

To break up the drive between The Grand Canyon and our next big stop (VEGAS, BABY!), we made a pit stop at Bearizona. It is like a zoo, but you drive through it and the animals are free to roam around! So cool!

4. Las Vegas

After so many nights of camping, we were VERY ready for a couple of nights in a hotel. Even better, we got there before peak season and the hotels were SUPER cheap! Our hotel had loads of outdoor pools and was very near ‘the strip.’ It was also felt great to wear a dress rather than hiking clothes!

As we were travelling on a budget, we skipped the gambling scene and opted for a small burlesque and comedy show, then got a few drinks and wandered the streets. Honestly, the whole city is a spectacle so no need to spend a fortune!

5. Zion National Park

Zion was not even on our itinerary but a friend suggested it just days before and it wasn’t too far out of the way so we went for it. And, oh my gosh, it was worth it!

Zion is BEAUTIFUL! I actually wish we would have spent more time there as we did not actually camp there. We went for a really easy hike (completely flat!) and the views were breathtaking. I hardly have any pictures as I think I was just so captivated in real life. The bright red rock against the icey blue water – wowow! We walked along the river and even took a little dip. We definitely want to go back!

6. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is HUGE. There are so many things to see and do there. Waterfalls, springs, geysers, mountains, BEARS, and SO. MUCH. MORE. The views and the wildlife are well worth your time. Bison literally walked right through our campsite.

Side note, the ice cream shops there have this amazing flavour called huckleberry. You may want to look into that.

7. Mount Rushmore

Not going to lie, I am not massively into history. But Mount Rushmore was on our way and it is so iconic that I had to check it out!

It was so impressive to see this in real life and super interesting to learn about how it was made. They used dynamite! How crazy is that?

It was also rather entertaining to bring my British boyfriend to the most patriotic place in all of America. USA! USA! USA!

8. Badlands National Park

The landscape was so unique and so fun to explore. However, we camped at the Badlands and, as it was so dry there and the fire risk so high, we were not allowed to start a campfire. Thus, our plans for dinner fell through and there was not really an easy back up option! So, I suggest you plan ahead in terms of food if you are spending a night or two here.

Then, finally, we drove home. We were exhausted but in the best way.

Happy travels!

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