There are so many great national parks out West. It’s easy to take a national park road trip that allows you to see a few in one trip.
National Park Road Trip Itinerary
Grand Canyon National Park Road Trip
The Grand Canyon Railway is the way to see the Grand Canyon! If you are driving, the driver misses so much of the scenery. Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel has been taking passengers on a fabled journey to the heart of one of the Grand Canyon.
The easiest option is to purchase the 2-night package from The Grand Canyon Railway, which gives you one night in Williams, AZ, and one night in Grand Canyon National Park. This option not only includes your lodging and transportation, but also a proper tour of the Grand Canyon.
If you opt for some extra nights at the Grand Canyon, you can add some extraordinary trips that you will never forget. Consider the following:
- North Canyon Tour Helicopter Flights: This Grand Canyon helicopter tour sets off from the South Rim and flies over the national park’s most astonishing rock formations and features—including the oldest and deepest region of the canyon.
- Grand Discovery South Rim Airplane Tour: Marvel at the immensity of the canyon with the Colorado River nearly a mile below. Enjoy additional views of the Kaibab National Forest, confluence of the Little Colorado River, Imperial Point and Zuni Corridor.
Read More: 4 Arizona Landmarks You Have To See
Zion National Park & Bryce National Park Road Trip
You can visit two National Parks in one day if you want. Using trams is the easiest way to tour the Zion National Park, if you want to break up the trip into two days. You can board the tram outside Zion National Park Lodge. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Alternatively, if you stay in Springdale, you can ride the Springdale Shuttle which has nine stops in the town of Springdale. The Springdale Shuttle will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. The best part about these shuttles is that they are free.
If you decide to visit both parks in one day, you should start as early as possible to ensure you have enough time to properly appreciate what you are about to see. Utah Highway 9 cuts straight through the park and you can see much of the overlooks and scenic spots by following this route. You will see the Weeping Rocks, Temple of Simawava, Canyon Overlook trail, Mt Carmel Tunnel, Watchman’s, Hidden Arch trail and Arch Trail.
Once you are exiting the East gate of Zion on Highway 9, you will travel until you hit Highway 89, where you will turn north. Eventually, you will see the cliffs that make up the western slopes of Bryce Canyon. Keep traveling north until you reach Highway 12, where you will turn east and head through the famous Red Canyon, which is a collection of red rock formations and tunnels.
Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its unique geology. Erosion has caused the limestone to form into abnormal shapes, most notably hoodoos—the distinctive rock formations at Bryce.
While visiting Bryce, make sure to see Fairyland Point, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Swap Canyon, Piracy Point, Farview Point, Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon and Rainbow Point. If you can not fit it in during this afternoon, you can see a few more things before you leave the next morning. It is recommended you stay inside the park.
Salt Lake City
For purposes of this National Park road trip, we are simply using Salt Lake City as a stopover between Bryce Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. This is your only urban stop outside of your arrival airport, so there will be plenty to do curtailed to your tastes. An obvious choice would be to learn more about Mormon culture in the largest population spot for the religion.
Yellowstone National Park Road Trip
Yellowstone is worthy of its own post, so we are just going to touch on the highlights here. Yellowstone is about 2.2 million acres which makes it larger than the state of Rhode Island. There are 5 entrances so figuring out which one to take to get you to what you really want to see is important!
This morning, you will make the 4.5-hour trek from Salt Lake City to either a hotel in West Yellowstone, or one of the lodges near the West entrance of Yellowstone.
The West entrance is the heart of the park’s geyser country, including Old Faithful. It is also the busiest entrance to the park.
Once you drop your bags off, spend your afternoon staring at Old Faithful, as it can take up to 120 minutes to erupt. Do not worry though, it is not a “don’t blink or you might miss it” type of occurrence. Old Faithful erupts from 1.5 to 5 minutes each time, so you’ll get to watch a good show.
The next morning, pack your bags and head toward your last hotel of the trip in Jackson, Wyoming. You can take your time meandering through Yellowstone, eventually making your way towards the South entrance. There is no rush though, you can try to see whatever may interest you including West Thumb Geyser Basin, the shores of Yellowstone Lake and or even as far north as the Lamar Valley, which stretches to the Montana border and is known for animals such as wolves, bison, and bears. It really depends on how much more driving you want to do today because eventually, you will head towards Jackson, Wyoming.
Grand Teton National Park Road Trip
Today you will be visiting park number five on this ambitious National Park road trip. The Grand Teton National Park is named after the stunning Teton mountain range with the highest peak, the Grand Teton, rising 13,770 feet above sea level. The stunning scenery of this range, coupled with the wildlife in this area including elk and buffalo herds, moose, coyotes, foxes, bald eagles, and, of course, bears and wolves, make it a must-see on our National Park road trip.
While ambitious, it is possible to see five National Parks in about a week. It is absolutely worth the effort to see the stunning landscape of some of America’s magnificent sights on your National Park Road Trip.
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