How To Plan A National Park Road Trip + What Parks To Visit

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Want to know how to plan a national park road trip? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

How To Plan A National Park Road Trip

If any country in the world is associated with driving it is definitely the United States.

In the U.S., without a car, you are almost like being without an arm.

However, car travel in the United States is an adventure in itself.

And what if you added to that the beauty of the National Parks?

The aim of this article is to provide a comprehensive guide for planning an unforgettable road trip and visit some of the best national parks in the US.


Let’s begin!

How To Prepare For A National Park Road Trip

Properly planning your trip, making a list of things to pack and deciding on your must-see items is the foundation of a successful road trip.

By doing so, you will make sure you are well-prepared and secure yourself for possible changes in plans. 

Embarking on a road trip is an adventure that promises unforgettable memories.

A few years ago, my friends and I took a cross-country journey, planning meticulously with a list of must-see locations and a well-packed car.

But as we hit the open road, we embraced the unexpected twists— a funny hitch-hiker, that transformed our trip and become our best friend.

We realized that the true beauty of a road trip lies in the flexibility and spontaneity, forging lasting bonds and creating cherished memories that go far beyond any planned itinerary.

So, pack your enthusiasm, curiosity, and a sprinkle of spontaneity, and let the road lead you to remarkable experiences.

When You Should Book Your Accommodation

If you do not want to book everything on the spot, because you have the fear of not finding any accommodation, then I think a good solution is to book accommodation in the most important places.

The kind that you are sure from your road trip will not disappear and even in the most emergency situations.

I think that during road trips it is not worth booking all accommodations, because as I wrote earlier – we never know what will fall out and whether we will make it in time.

But I always imagine that you can get tired on the road and have a need to take a break earlier than expected.

In fact, people do up to 500 miles (804.6 km) in one go!

Unless the reservation does not require payment then I think you can book even all of them without a problem.

However, if you have to pay while reserving – it may be better to pay even a bit more for an accommodation later on the road than to loose the whole sum and pay another one because of your plans change.

According to a recent study, more than 65% American travelers made a mistake of booking non-refundable tickets/hotel reservations and then regret it.

?? Click Here To Book Your Road Trip Accommodations Today!

What Parks To Visit And When

Here’s a list of national parks that offer a diverse range of experiences,while being easily accessible by road.

Of course, each of them has their best season to visit (which would be hard to do on a road trip).

But you can still take a look and take it into consideration when planning your trip. 

1. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

This park is a geothermal wonderland, boasting geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots.

It’s best to visit during late spring or early summer to witness vibrant wildflowers and wildlife, including bison, elk, and bears.

However, many people also say that fall is magical too, with stunning foliage, and fewer crowds make it a peaceful experience.

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park

2. Yosemite National Park (California)

Famous for its iconic granite cliffs, waterfalls, and ancient sequoia trees, Yosemite is considered a must-visit and a true life-time experience.

Spring is the ideal time to witness thundering waterfalls at their peak flow.

For rock climbers, the cooler temperatures in fall make it the perfect season to scale the granite faces.

Yosemite National Park

3. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

 One of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights, the Grand Canyon offers breathtaking vistas carved by the Colorado River over millions of years.

Spring and fall offer pleasant weather for hiking and exploring the various rim trails.

Avoid the intense summer heat and crowded conditions.

Grand Canyon National Park sunrise

4. Acadia National Park (Maine)

This coastal gem boasts a unique blend of rugged shoreline, granite peaks, and dense forests.

Fall is the best time to visit, with stunning foliage and fewer tourists.

Enjoy scenic drives along the Park Loop Road and sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee, North Carolina)

Known for its misty mountains and diverse wildlife, the Smokies are a year-round destination.

Spring brings blooming wildflowers, while fall showcases a mesmerizing tapestry of autumn colors.

Winter offers peaceful snowy landscapes, and summer is perfect for wildlife viewing.

6. Zion National Park (Utah)

A paradise for hikers, Zion features stunning slot canyons, red rock cliffs, and the Virgin River.

Spring is optimal when the wildflowers bloom, and the temperatures are pleasant.

For a cooler experience, visit in the fall, avoiding the summer heat and monsoon season.

The Narrows - Zion National Park
The Narrows – Zion National Park – Utah

7. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

 A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, this park offers majestic peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife.

Summer is the prime time for hiking and camping, but consider early fall for vibrant foliage and fewer tourists.

8. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Stretching along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah is a hiker’s paradise with scenic overlooks and waterfalls.

Spring brings blossoming redbuds and dogwoods, while fall offers a dazzling display of autumn colors.

Shenandoah National Park

9. Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Famous for its otherworldly hoodoos, Bryce Canyon is best visited in late spring or early fall.

The cooler temperatures make hiking more enjoyable, and the clear skies are perfect for stargazing.

And many more…

Bryce Canyon National Park

Conclusion: How To Plan A National Park Road Trip

From the misty mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the red rock cliffs of Zion National Park, each place has something unique to offer year-round.

Roadtripping gives you a fantastic ability to explore just the best of the country.

So, are you ready to embark on the road trip of a lifetime?

It’s time to hit the open road and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime!

About the author: Magdalena Sadowska, the Community Manager of ePassportPhoto.

With a background in psychology, she is fascinated by how people interact and create their reality.

As a travel enthusiast, given a choice of sea or mountains, she chooses both.