Road Trip: 15 Stop-Worthy Destinations Out West

Imagine this: cruising down the highway, a warm breeze wafting through the car windows, tunes cranked up, sunshine bouncing of the mirrors and towering red sandstone looming through the windshield.

Is there anything more iconic than a classic Western American road trip?

These days, extended vacations are the norm. In fact, younger generations are vetoing a direct jump from university to career in favor of a mini-break for travel. But where should you go on your months of adventure? Depending on how much time you've got, we may have the perfect Western itinerary for you.

One-Month Road Trip

In one month, we'd suggest focusing on a smaller area and catching the highlight reel: some of the country's most beautiful national parks.

1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Packed with iconic landmarks and a plethora of wildlife, Yellowstone should be on the must-see list for any American roadtrip.

2. Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, Utah

Arches and Canyonlands are a twofer: they are located within mere minutes of each other. Sightsee Arches by car or via day hikes, but save your backcountry trips for Canyonlands where it's easy to get away from the crowds if you're willing to put in a little sweat equity.

3. Zion National Park, Utah

Depending on when you visit, the main canyon will likely be a zoo of people, but trust us: the scenery is worth it. If you only have time for the highlights, definitely check out the hike to Angel's Landing and The Narrows of Zion Canyon.

4. Yosemite National Park, California

Like Zion above, Yosemite can be overwhelming if you never leave the main valley. Here's a tip: get a backcountry permit and spend your time wandering through the backcountry. You won't regret it.

U.S. Road Trip Yosemite National Park. Photo by Will Rochfort.

5. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

This epic ditch is truly a sight to see, regardless of whether you have the gumption to hike into the base. If you're willing to try, we suggest getting a permit so you can camp overnight at the Bright Angel or Cottonwood Campground.

Three-Month Road Trip

Now you're talking! With three months, you can truly see some of the wondrous beauty of the American West. In addition to the iconic parks above, think about adding the following locations to your itinerary.

1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Rising almost 7,000 feet above the valley floor, the Tetons are easily one of the most striking portions of the American Rockies. Spend some time exploring the area by foot, but don't forget to check out the quintessential mountain town of Jackson, Wyoming.

2. Chicago Basin, Colorado

Catch the historical train and hike the rest of the way into this picturesque basin. Filled with towering peaks and three 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet), you'll have a hard time deciding whether you want to spend your time on the trail or hanging out at camp with the mountain goats.

U.S. Road Trip Chicago Basin. Photo by Will Rochfort.

3. Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Be sure to get an overnight permit as the backcountry in Ansel Adams in California is a must see! Glittering blue lakes and towering majestic peaks cover the topography of this wilderness area, ensuring eye-catching photos in every direction.

4. Redwood National Park, California

Home to the tallest trees on earth, this park will leave you gaping in wonder at these majestic giants. Spend a few days wandering through the dense forests while hiding under the shade of the Giants' thick canopies.

Jedidiah Smith Wilderness, near Redwood National Park. Photo by Will Rochfort. Redwood National Park. Photo by Will Rochfort.

5. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Begin venturing into the Pacific Northwest with the ridiculously colorful Crater Lake. Enjoy some scenic day hikes while marveling in the clearest blue you'll ever see in a body of water.

Six-Month Road Trip

With six months, you'll be able to see a large portion of the Rockies, but here are a few more favorites you should keep in mind.

1. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Home to the famed Longs Peak, the park boasts one of the most scenic roads: Trail Ridge Road. With 11 of the road's 48 miles above treeline, drivers are sure to catch some amazing vistas from the front seat of the vehicle. The highlight: the peak elevation is 12,183 feet, so it won't only be the scenery that takes your breath away.

2. Glacier National Park, Montana

Located in northern Montana, this park is definitely off-the-beaten path; just the way locals like it! With over 700 miles of trails, you'll have plenty of dirt to choose from, but don't forget your bear spray; grizzlies are plentiful up this way!

3. Death Valley National Park, California

Located in eastern California, it is the lowest, driest and hottest spot in North America. Additionally, its 3.4 million acres make this toasty spot the largest national park in the contiguous United States.

4. Big Sur/Highway 1, California

This scenic 85-mile stretch of road along the California coast is must-drive for any road trip. Take your time, accept the crowds of people, and don't be afraid to get off the beaten path. The natural colors of Big Sur will make it worth your while.

Road Trip Muir Beach Overlook off Highway 1 near San Francisco, California. Photo by Will Rochfort.

5. Bend, Oregon

Filled with microbreweries and singletrack, Bend is a hub for dirtbaggers and outdoor enthusiasts. Spend your time exploring Mt. Bachelor by day, and poke around the numerous breweries at night.

Where do you recommend stopping for an epic Western road trip?

Team Sierra blogger
posted by
Heather Balogh
Blogger at Just a Colorado Gal
Heather is a Colorado gal who believes adventure is part of her soul. She seeks adrenaline whenever possible, and can be found peak bagging high altitude summits, backpacking into off-the-grid locales with her pup, skiing powder stashes so deep the snow stings her face, or exploring new cultures in developing countries. (Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.) Will Rochfort is a Colorado-based writer and photographer who just happens to be married to A Colorado Gal, Heather Balogh. He is a contributing editor for Backpacker Magazine. See more of his work on Instagram.
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