US National Park Road Trips to Take in the Summer and FallPosted by Gabby Arnaout on
The US National Park system sets out to conserve the greatest natural formations, landscapes, and views that North America has to offer. One of the most thrilling experiences while traversing any of them is to take a dedicated drive solo or with loved ones and view the beautiful wonders pass you by.
Depending on the time of year you go, many parks can offer different types of attractions whether in Fall or Summer. Snow or leaves falling, flowers blossoming, or birds flying in the sky can help to cultivate the truly natural experience in the American wilderness.
Here are the top US National Park Road trips you can take, and whether it makes sense for you to travel in the fall or summer.
Utah’s Grand Circle Tour
The American Southwest consists of many brilliant sites that one needs to visit to genuinely appreciate. The Grand Circle Tour in Utah spans around 1,500 miles and consists of six national parks that can make any passerby drop their jaw in wonder.
Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zyon are all the amazing parks in Utah that make up the Grand Circle Adventure.
In the winter, the snowy peaks of the mountains as you head more towards the west allow the sun to cascade vibrantly off all the peaks in the frigid air.
During the summer, the mountain and valleys are home to majestic wildlife variations, clear lakes and ponds, and dense foliage of alpines, flowers, and green beauty.
Glacier National Park to Grand Teton (Yellowstone in the Middle)
The Rocky Mountains were more than just the subject of a catchy John Denver song. The 3,000-mile-long mountain range encompasses four different states and takes up a majority of the western United States. The three main parks are Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton running from east to west.
The driving route is estimated at 450 miles and traverses beautiful meadows, bursting geysers, and endless acres of the vast wilderness.
If you want to get the most out of the drive, consider going through the Continental Divide that runs alongside Saint Mary Lake. It's 50 miles of a trip you will never forget.
From Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Range to Great Sand Dunes National Park
Over 1,000 miles in Colorado’s vibrant National Park System takes you on a huge loop through three distinct parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park.
This 19-hour loop across some of the best US National Parks is home to amazing views of steep dunes, alpine forests, and ancient Pueblo villages along the cliff sides.
The desert is home to so much beauty and taking this trip across Colorado’s National Park system is truly an adventure you will remember.
From Seattle to Olympic National Park
The span of almost 1 million acres of gorgeous meadows, mountain views, and vast pacific coast wilderness is nearly unparalleled when it comes to this trip.
From Seattle heading towards Enumclaw, a town just outside the Mount Rainer National Park that is worth stopping at for a few days to hike and explore.
Afterward, driving up the 115-mile trip towards Port Angeles begins to transition into the Olympic National Park in Washington State. It has plenty of glaciers, cliffside views, and breathtaking wonder.
Acadia National Park’s Park Loop Road
Acadia National Park rests on an island off main and is a 27-mile single-track drive that allows one to travel through mountain passes and cliffs in the beautiful northeastern United States.
The pinnacle of the trip is near the peak of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point of elevation for over 500-miles in any direction.
The winter months are privy to snowfall and icy roads, so be careful. The summer allows the true beauty of Acadia National Park to ring true for anyone who wishes to see nature as it should be displayed.
The road goes through different areas like Jordan Pond, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, and great scenery in between.
A Journey Through the Redwoods on Pacific Coast Highway
Highway 1 running virtually up and down the entirety of the California coast is a beautiful drive no matter where you start or end. The pure bliss remains at its peak when traveling on PCH between San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to Washington State's Olympic National Park.
Along with the mountain passes and views of the Pacific Ocean, you'll find the densest forest filled with towering Red Woods seemingly as old as the earth itself. The nearly 900-mile drive (including a few detours) goes through 3 states and has plenty to offer along the way.
Stop in Bodega Bay where Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film “The Birds” was filmed or find yourself lost in the isolating scenery of the Capitol State Forest in Washington State.
The temperate nature of California usually provides a decent drive no matter what time of year you go, but to get the most out of it try the summer months. This is especially important when you reach WA, and the cold can get bitter.
From Shenandoah through the Great Smoky Mountains and Beyond
Shenandoah National Park is one of the east coast's most desired destinations for drivers around the world. This Park spans over 200,000 acres of beautiful views of waterfalls, backcountry, and an amazing mountain range.
Although the Blue Ridge Mountain range is a little out of the way, it still is part of the park system and may be worth viewing just as much as the Great Smoky Mountains and most of the trip.
The end of the line is nothing to dust off either, as the climax of this beautiful ride ends at the Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky with over 400 explored miles of caverns.
The Bottom Line
The US National Park system is an amazing array of varying types of protected wilderness that spans from east to west. Many states have created complex and intricately woven roadways that allow any person to experience the wonder of the world as they speed down the lane.
Whether exploring the desert peaks of Colorado, admiring the sun bouncing off the Pacific Ocean on PCH, or looping around Acadia National Park in Maine’s beautiful northeastern landscape, the US National Parks across the country are amazing road trips to experience.
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