Visit 12 National Parks Along the National Park to Park Highway

In 1920 the National Park to Park Highway association traveled 5,600 miles on mostly dirt trails to visit the national parks of the west. Their goal? Improve road conditions to and through the nation's playgrounds.

Back then it took these travelers 76 days to visit these iconic national parks. They weren't able to spend much time in each park (Lassen Volcanic didn't even have a road into it), but their efforts paid off. Paved, well-maintained roads are available for all of the original National Park to Park Highway destinations and many more national parks and monuments that have come about since.

Now you can travel the National Park to Park Highway in just three to four weeks and still have time to actually see the sights. Check out the itinerary below and start planning your own epic road trip today! Days include driving time to the next park.

National Parks Map

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: 2-3 days

  • Drive the Trail Ridge Road (one of ten of America's Byways in Colorado) over the Continental Divide at Milner Pass.

  • Hike to a waterfall or glacier lake. Adams Falls and Bear Lake are both under three miles.

  • View the wildlife. More than sixty species of mammals and 280 species of birds call Rocky Mountain National Park home.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: 3-4 days

Yellowstone National Parks

  • Hike to an elevation of 10,243 feet and see the view from the top of Mt. Washburn.

  • Enjoy the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River as it travels through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Artist's Point is a great lookout.

  • Swim in the Firehole Falls near Madison Junction.

  • Visit the historic Old Faithful Inn and enjoy the iconic geyser's eruption.
    Explore the Midway Geyser Basin and hike above the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring.

Glacier National Park, Montana: 2-3 days

  • Drive the Going-to-the-Sun road.

  • Go rafting, boating or fishing on your own or on a guided tour. Rent a boat or bring your own. You can even go on a river camping adventure.

  • Plan a backcountry camping trip.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington: 2-3 days

  • Enjoy wildflower season with a short hike in the Paradise and Sunrise areas of the park.

  • Hike the Naches Peak Loop trail to say you've hiked on the Pacific Crest Trail.

  • Climb a mountain glacier on Mount Rainier (experience essential).

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: 2-3 days

  • Swim at Cleetwood Cove or Wizard Island (arrive by boat). Beware of very cold water.

  • Take a ranger led boat tour.

  • Ride the Rim on your bicycle on one of two vehicle-free days: September 17 and 24, 2016.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California: 1-2 days

  • See the effects of the 1914-1917 Lassen Peak eruptions. Take a short 0.5 mile hike on the paved Devastated Area Interpretive Trail.

  • Explore active hydrothermal areas of the park on Bumpass Hell Trail (check current conditions) or Boiling Springs Lake.

  • See the stars at the annual Dark Sky Festival August 12-14, 2016 or enjoy ranger Astronomy Talks throughout the summer months.

Yosemite National Park, California: 2-3 days

Yosemite National Parks

  • Drive the Tioga Road from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass.

  • Hike in Tuolumne Meadows or Hetch Hetchy area of the park.

  • See Yosemite Valley on bike with over 12 miles of paved bike paths (bicycles available for rent).

  • Make lodging and camping reservations early. Yosemite is very popular in summer months.

Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks, California: 2-3 days

  • Tour Crystal Cave with the whole family.

  • Hike to see the giant trees in Grant Grove or Sherman areas.

  • Take a scenic drive from Minkler to Cedar Grove or drive through a 2,000 year old Sequoia at Tunnel Log.

Zion National Park, Utah: 3-4 days

Zion National Parks

  • Swim in the Virgin River.

  • Bike the Pa'rus Trail and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

  • Drive the Zion to Mt. Carmel Highway Tunnel.

  • Hike Angel's Landing or the Riverside Walk to the Narrows.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: 2-3 days

  • Bike along Hermit Road.

  • See the sunset over the Grand Canyon on the North Rim Lodge patio or at Desert

  • View on the South Rim.

  • Plan ahead and raft the Colorado River or ride a mule into the canyon.

  • Take an early morning or evening hike along Bright Angel Trail or Grandview

  • Trail or take a Ranger Led Hike.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: 1-2 days

  • Bike the five mile Long House Loop on Wetherill Mesa.

  • Tour ancient Native American cliff dwellings at Cliff Palace or Balcony House.

  • Hike two miles along the old Knife Edge Road or explore Petroglyph Point Trail.

Have you visited any of these national parks? Which is your favorite? What would you recommend doing?
posted by
Susan Strayer
Susan Strayer from is all about getting families into nature. She and Mountain Dad live with their three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, UT. They hike, bike, ski and camp as often as they can. Summer of 2016 they're road tripping the US National Park to Park Highway.
Comments (2)
5/26/2017 at 9:04 AM
While visiting Zion you should see Arches, Canyonland, and Bryce. They are too close not to go to.
12/7/2017 at 9:27 AM
I loved Yellowstone! But make sure you take at least 2 days to visit everything!
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