Immerse yourself in the splendor of the great American outdoors with a road trip through some of the nation’s best national parks. From the awe-inspiring mountain ranges of the east to the brilliant red rock canyons of the west, America’s national parks offer refuge and retreat for travelers seeking respite from the ordinary. Read on and map out your wilderness escape for your next national park road trip with RCI.
1. Mid-Atlantic Must-Sees
Your Appalachian Mountain getaway begins at Shenandoah National Park. Located just 75-miles outside of Washington, D.C., this Mid-Atlantic park features sloping ridges, lush valley floors, and dense woods. While there, experience the Skyline Drive, a 105-mile stretch through the ancient Appalachian sierra.
Continue 5 ½ hours southwest to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Enjoy picnicking, fishing, hiking, and more in the nation’s most visited park. Be sure to drive through the Newfound Gap, a 31-mile route that includes the lowest drivable pass in the park.
Travel 4 hours southeast to Congaree National Park in South Carolina. Take in the natural beauty of the Congaree Wilderness on more than 25-miles of hiking trails and 2.4-miles of boardwalk. The preserve is also home to the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.
2. Follow The Rocky Mountains
Montana is the backdrop for your first stop at Glacier National Park. Nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent,” this expansive park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Take the fabled Going-to-the-Sun-Road scenic drive over the Continental Divide. This magnificent stretch offers jaw-dropping views of glacier-capped mountains, fields of wildflowers, and majestic lakes.
Next, head 6 hours south to the world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park. Established in 1872, the more than 2.2-million-acre preserve is home to a diverse ecosystem, abundant wildlife, and hydrothermal wonders. Marvel at the hot springs and geysers, hike along the pink and yellow walls of Yellowstone’s canyons, or go rafting down one of the park’s exciting rivers.
Just 1 hour south of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. The peaks of the Teton Range tower over more than 310,000 acres of remarkable Wyoming landscape. Visitors can enjoy backcountry camping, climbing and mountaineering, horseback riding, and more across the alpine terrain.
3. Southwest Geologic Wonders
Your adventurous road trip in the southwest starts at Canyonlands National Park in Utah. This primitive desert preserve spans more than 337,000 acres and is split up into four districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon Unit. You can spend days or weeks in the Canyonlands due to its sheer size. The park’s bouldering cliffs and colorful canyons are the perfect backdrop for four-wheeling, scenic drives, boating, rafting, and more. The park is also a designated International Dark Sky Park offering extraordinary nighttime views of the stars and skies above.
Head 4 ½ hours southwest to Bryce Canyon National Park. This breathtaking parkland serves up some of Utah’s most surreal geologic vistas. The park is famous for hoodoos, pillars of rocks of fantastic shapes, which you can hike through or gaze at from scenic vantage points. The park also features a 38-mile scenic drive with 13 expansive viewpoints along the way.
Hit the road to Utah’s first national park, Zion National Park, about 1 ½ hours southwest of Bryce Canyon. The rich plant life, vibrant colors, and unique landforms of Zion make it one of the most visited parks in the state. The park’s main attractions are the sites along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Sunset and stargazing, river trips, and mountain climbing round out just some of the park’s many year-round activities and offerings.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.