Bryce Canyon

The Ultimate Western USA Road Trip Itinerary: The Best 11 Destinations

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Looking to plan your next adventure on wheels, but are unsure which route to take? This road trip throughout the Western USA checks off seven states, 11 national parks, and a dozen unforgettable views! Pack your bags because you’re in for a trip of a lifetime!

Map of destinations to see on your western usa road trip

11 Destinations To See On Your Western USA Road Trip: An Overview

Before diving deeper into what some of these destinations have to offer, here is a brief overview of all the cool places you’ll be stopping!

  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Glacier National Park

11 Destination Western USA Road Trip

Now that you know which national parks we’ll be going over, we can discuss the parks more in-depth. We’ll discuss potential attractions, hiking trails, camping options, and more!

Let’s get to it! Our itinerary went as follows…

Destination 1: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone map

Our first destination for this Western USA road trip was Yellowstone National Park. We were coming from West Yellowstone, so we took HWY 20 to the West Park entrance.

(By no means do you have to start in Yellowstone, but this is where we were closest to on the loop!)

Attractions in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is a huge park, and unfortunately, since we had limited time, we only got to see the southwest corner of it. We decided with the time that we had, we would go towards Old Faithful, and exit at the south exit.

If you take this route, there are plenty of great places to stop for photo ops. We saw plenty of bison on the side of the road minding their business while they grazed. The fall season is when you’re most likely to see wildlife – anything from bison, bears, elk, bighorn, and moose.

Shortly before Old Faithful, you’ll find the Midway Geyser Basin. It is home to the largest single hot spring in Yellowstone – The Grand Prismatic Spring. A wooden pathway stretches across multiple geysers for your viewing, and it certainly does not disappoint. We did the walk during sunset, and it was an experience of a lifetime.

After admiring all of the breathtaking geysers at Midway Geyser Basin, we decided to continue with our journey. Our next suggested spot is Old Faithful. This historic site is one of the most visited in the park and for good reason. Its eruptions are highly predictable, and since 2000, it has gone off every 44 minutes – 2 hours.

Dylan and I had already seen Old Faithful and decided to skip it this time. We continued on the route towards West Thumb. If you have more time than we did, we highly recommend stopping to take in the views at Yellowstone Lake. It’s a completely different view than the rest of the park, and it truly is astounding – especially with the fall leaves in the background. Unfortunately, we had to swing a right at the junction onto HWY 89.

Campgrounds in Yellowstone

If you’re planning on camping, there are two campsites on this route. The first is Grant Village campground which is close to Yellowstone Lake. The second campsite – Lewis Lake – is further south on HWY 89. Either way, you’ll take HWY 89 to your second destination… The Grand Tetons.

Entering Yellowstone

Access to Yellowstone Park is prohibited in the Winter. If you’d like to explore the park, the only way is by guided tour. Mammoth Hot Springs is the only exception and is open year-round. You can access it through the north entrance. Make sure to plan so that you’ll be able to see the park while it’s still open!

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    Destination 2: Grand Teton National Park

    One thing that we found super convenient about this western USA road trip is that the southern exit of Yellowstone is the same road that enters the northern entrance of Grand Teton National Park. It doesn’t take long to make the transition, either!

    Grand Tetons is a must see on this western USA road trip!

    As the highway transitions from 89 to 191 / 287, the landscape begins to change. The mountain landscape paired with aspen and pine trees makes this an adventurer’s dream.

    Attractions in Grand Tetons

    Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend too much time in this park, but we did take Teton Park Road down to Jenny Lake. A stroll around the lake gave us a taste of what this National Park was all about!

    During the summertime, Jenny Lake Visitor Center has a river launch where visitors can take a boat shuttle to the base of Mount Teewinot. There you can find a handful of trailheads that hike around the famous Teton peaks.

    Trails near Jenny Falls

    • Cascade Canyon Trail – 9.1 miles, moderately challenging, out & back, average time of 3 hours 45 minutes to complete, 1,102 ft elevation gain.
    • Inspiration Point – 1.8 miles, moderately challenging, out & back, average time of 57 minutes to complete, 410 ft elevation gain.
    • Hidden Falls – 1.1 miles, moderately challenging, out & back, average time of 31 minutes to complete, 187 ft elevation gain.

    Technically, you can make the two-mile walk around the lake to access the trailheads at the base of Mount Teewinot. However, if you want to save some energy and time, the boat shuttle is a great option!

    It’s important to note that they do not take reservations – you will need to physically go to the river launch site to purchase your fare. The shuttle runs every 10-15 minutes. More information can be found here.

    Campgrounds in Grand Tetons

    Campgrounds are by RSVP only, and car camping is not allowed anywhere other than designated camping spots. Luckily, most campgrounds are on this road trip route. Jenny Lake offers camping, but there are plenty of campsites before the lake. From north to south they are 1) Headwaters, 2) Lizard Creek, 3) Colter Bay (RV sites available), and 4) Signal Mountain.

    Entering Grand Tetons

    Grand Teton National Park is open year-round, but a handful of vicinities are closed. When we visited, many of the visitor centers weren’t open to the public. Skiing Grand Teton is open during the winter months, usually from late November to the beginning of April.

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    Destination 3: Bryce Canyon

    Destination 3 of your western road trip across the USA is by far the most underrated National Park. This neck of the drive takes up to nine hours, so I’d suggest taking a driving day. Don’t worry – the view on the way is worth it!

    Utah mountains are one of a kind. However, if you don’t want to drive that long of a stretch, Salt Lake City is right on the route.

    Bryce Canyon map

    Bryce Canyon might be out of the way, but it’s worth it to visit this National Park. Bryce Canyon has the largest concentration of Hoodoos (sporadic rock columns) on Earth. The red rocks and irregular shapes make you feel like you’re on a different planet.

    After HWY 12, you’ll turn off on HWY 63, and into the only entrance to Bryce Canyon. It’s a smaller national park, but every inch is breathtaking.

    Right at the entrance you’ll find the Visitor Center, dump station, and general store. Shortly after, you have plenty of trails to choose from.

    Attractions in Bryce Canyon

    We decided to stop at Sunset Point and explore Thors Hammer, one of the park’s main attractions. There are plenty of hikes, but remember to bring shoes with a good grip! It can get steep!

    After exploring the “heart” of the park, we drove to Inspiration Point to catch the sunset. It was by far my favorite national park on this road trip! We will be back to explore more of it!

    Popular hikes in Bryce Canyon

    • Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail – 3.1 miles, moderately challenging, loop, average time of 1 hour 34 minutes to complete, 649 ft elevation gain.
    • Rim Trail – 10.7 miles, moderately challenging, out & back, average time of 4 hours 43 minutes to complete, 1,587 ft elevation gain.
    • Fairyland Loop Trail – 7.6 miles, moderately challenging, loop, average time of 3 hours 51 minutes to complete, 1,545 elevation gain.
    • Sunrise to Sunset Point – 1.1 miles, easy, out & back, average time of 24 minutes to complete, 82 ft elevation gain.

    The trails around Thors Hammer are breathtaking. Walking through the sandy trails while being surrounded by towering rock formations was a dream. We spent most of the daylight we had around that area.

    Campgrounds in Bryce Canyon

    There are two camping grounds in Bryce Canyon. The North campground (near the entrance) and the Sunset campground (near Sunset Point). If you want more of a “cabin” stay, there are the cutest log cabins a few miles outside of the park! Check out Bryce Canyon Log Cabins for more information! Book online in advance for cheaper prices!

    Entering Bryce Canyon

    Bryce Canyon is open 24 hours throughout the year, and no reservations are required to camp. Look out for alerts on the national park website though, because during the winter months, some areas may be closed.

    Destination 4. Zion National Park

    After watching the sunset over the Hoodoos, we decided to drive close to Zion National Park so that we could do a morning hike. We ended up driving to Cedar City and rented a hotel for the night. In the morning, we ended up at our fourth destination: Zion!

    After our overnight stay, we headed to the west entrance of Zion National Park, where we checked in at the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center. There are plenty of hiking options from the western entrance, but if you’re planning on driving through the park, you’re out of luck.

    Zion - Destination 5 on this Western USA Road Trip

    Trails in Zion (West Entrance)

    Dylan and I hiked Taylor Creek Trail and fell in love. This 4.9 miles out and back led us to the double arch alcoves… a real-life artistic masterpiece. Considered moderately challenging (probably because walking on red sand does a number on the calves), it took us about 2 and a half hours to complete.

    Entering Zion from the south or east entrance offers a variety of hiking opportunities, however, the views from the west entrance didn’t disappoint. Plus, our morning hike in the west entrance allowed us some seclusion from the crowd and had the trail to (mostly) ourselves!

    Attractions in Zion

    You can drive up to the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint to overlook the beautiful bright red, sandy mountains. We appreciated Zion for the small portion we saw of it, but we know that there is so much more to see!

    Zion has always been hyped up and for good reason. We hope to go back one day – The Narrows is on my bucket list!

    Campgrounds in Zion

    The campgrounds in Zion include:

    If you want to camp overnight, we wouldn’t recommend the west entrance.

    Entering Zion

    Zion is open year-round. However, vicinity operating hours and shuttle schedules change depending on which season you visit. Check the websites before you leave to check for any weather alerts! Also – be careful of Mountain Lions on the Taylor Creek Trailhead!

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    Destination 5: The Grand Canyon

    I shouldn’t have to explain why the Grand Canyon is the last destination on this road trip. Known for its natural geological formation of layered rocks, this is arguably one of the USA’s top western road trip destinations. It spans almost 10 miles wide, 277 miles long, and is about a mile deep.

    Map of the Grand Canyon - destination 5 on this western usa road trip

    We took HWY 89 South, turned onto HWY 64, and entered the Grand Canyon from the west entrance which is considered the canyon’s “south rim.”

    Trails in the Grand Canyon (South Rim)

    We arrived close to sunset once again and decided to end the day near Bright Angels Trail. The trail goes from the top of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and is a total of 9.9 miles long. We didn’t get to hike the entirety of the trail – far from it, but we would like to, eventually. It’s another bucket list item!

    Other trails in the south rim:

    • Rim Trail Mules to Mather Point – 6 miles, easy, out & back, average time of 2 hours 8 minutes to complete, 413 ft elevation gain.
    • South Kaibab Trail – There are multiple destinations on this out & back trail. Roundtrips can range from 1 hour – 2 days depending on how far you choose to go. You must use the free shuttle bus to access the trailhead from the Bright Angel Lodge. Permit required for backcountry camping.

    Campgrounds in the Grand Canyon (South Rim)

    There is a campground – Phantom Ranch – located at the bottom of Bright Angels Trail, but a permit is required. You can apply online or request a permit at the Information Center. There are plenty of camping options depending on if you choose the north or south rim.

    Grand Canyon Visitor Centers

    The Grand Canyon is a huge national park, and there is no way I would be able to cover it all in one blog post. However, I do know that there are only 3 visitor centers.

    The North Rim Visitor Center is – obviously – located by the north entrance coming from Lake Powell. The Grand Canyon & Verkamp’s Visitor Center are both located on the south rim.

    Entering the Grand Canyon

    South Rim is open 365 days a year, including the Grand Canyon Village and Desert View. Most, but not all services are available year-round – some close during the winter. Reservations are strongly recommended in every season except in the fall. The North rim is open for the season – usually between May and October. Check the dates before leaving!

    NOTE: Dylan and I ended our road trip here, but to make it a loop, continue with the destinations below!

    Destination 6: Death Valley National Park

    Our sixth destination is going to be Death Valley National Park, which spans across Nevada and eastern California. To reach Death Valley from the Grand Canyon, you’ll take I-40 W for 400 miles. To break up the drive, you could stop at Las Vegas on the way!

    Death Valley map

    Attractions in Death Valley

    Death Valley is an extremely popular destination not only for its record-breaking temperatures but also because it’s one of the largest national parks in the US. The national park is below the sea-level basin, so it is a land of extremes in every season! We highly recommend visiting this mysterious national park!

    Since Death Valley is over 3.4 million acres, it’s impossible to talk about every cool thing to see during your trip. However, we recommend picking up a map and stopping at Zabriskie Point, Artists Palette, and Badwater Basin.

    Campgrounds in Death Valley

    There are many different ways to camp in Death Valley, including primitive, developed, private, and backcountry camping. It’s advised to camp in the higher elevation campgrounds during the summer to escape the heat. The campgrounds fill up fast during the summer holidays, so make sure to prepare in advance!

    You can make reservations for the Furnace Campground on, however, the Sunset Campground, Stovepipe Wells Campground, and Texas Springs Campground are first come first serve. There are two primitive areas: Eureka Dunes and Saline Valley.

    Entering Death Valley

    There is a required entrance fee to enter the park, but an Interagency Pass will work. Check the Death Valley NPS website for more information on road closures and weather conditions.

    Destination 7: Yosemite National Park

    After your experience in Death Valley, it’s time to head over to Yosemite National Park, one of my all-time favorites! It’s a little less than 400 miles if you take CA-99N, leaving you with a little under a 7-hour drive. If you want a taste of the coast, consider heading a few hours west to San Francisco!

    Yosemite is one of the national parks you should stop at on your Western USA road trip!

    Attractions in Yosemite

    Yosemite is a fantastic national park to visit due to its breathtaking waterfalls, ancient sequoia trees, deep valleys, and 1,200 miles of pure beauty. Some of the most popular places to visit in the park are Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove, and Glacier Point. Some of the popular hikes available throughout the park are:

    Another great way to experience Yosemite is their scenic drive on Tioga Road. It’s 46 miles long and goes from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass. Make sure to check their website for more information on seasonal road closures.

    Campgrounds in Yosemite

    Since Yosemite is such a huge national park, there are many different camping options for you to choose from. They offer RV and Trailer Camping, Group Camping, and Horse Camping. There are thirteen different campgrounds for you to choose from with more information on reservations and fees on their website!

    NOTE: My step-sister and I stayed at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in their canvas-sided tent cabins and had a fantastic experience! Our stay came with free firewood and comfortable beds, a shower, restroom, and store on-site, and a free shuttle. We’d recommend it for a secluded “glamping” trip!

    Entering Yosemite

    Check Yosemite’s website for information on upcoming dates when reservations are required to enter the park in 2024. The park remains open year-round, however, some road closures will occur during the winter months, including Tioga Pass.

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    Destination 8: Lassen Volcanic National Park

    Destination 8 is the classic but underrated Lassen Volcanic National Park! It’s around 340 miles from Yosemite if you take I-5 N. There is so much to see in Lassen Volcanic National Park – its numerous volcanoes and hydrothermal sites of course, but also its beautiful mountainside lakes, elegant wildflower meadows, and dramatic mountains. This is a national park worth visiting!

    Lassen Volcanic National Park exhibit map

    Attractions in Lassen

    There are many beautiful places to explore in this national park! The park is separated by region, so the attractions will vary by where you decide to go. Here’s an idea of what you can expect in each region:

    • Manzanita Lake Area – This area is geared towards families who are looking for camping and lake access!
    • Southwest Area – This area is the best for hiking and experiencing the hydrothermal areas in the park. Hike up Lassen Peak, or visit Sulphur Works and Bumpass Hell. There are two waterfalls here including Kings Creek and Mills Creek
    • Butte Lake Area – Check out Cinder Cone – the youngest volcano at Lassen! If you’re up for a challenge, Cinder Cone Trail is the hardest hike in the park but it is worth it for the views. 
    • Warner Valley – This area is great for outdoor recreation opportunities with thriving meadows and access to hydrothermal areas such as Boiling Springs Lake and Devil’s Kitchen.
    • Juniper Lake – This is the largest lake in the park and is perfect for summer recreation activities. Check out the oldest fire lookout on Mount Harness

    Additionally, take the scenic route on the 30-mile park highway through the park’s east side. The route closes during the winter months, so check the website for updated information.

    Campgrounds in Lassen

    There are eight campgrounds in the national park. You can find out more information on which region, current status, fee, and other information online. Additionally, consider staying at Drakesbad Guest Ranch at their lodge, cabins, or bungalows!

    Entering Lassen

    Lassen Volcanic National Park is open year-round and a reservation is not required to enter the park. Access, services, and activities will vary by season. Check the NPS website for more information on road and area closures.

    Destination 9: Crater Lake National Park

    Your ninth destination will be a much shorter drive to Crater Lake National Park! This drive is only about 200 miles from Lassen and takes a little over three and a half hours via CA-139N. However, we recommend taking the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway – it doesn’t add additional time or miles and provides spectacular views!

    Crater Lake Topography Map

    Attractions in Crater Lake

    Crater Lake is awe-inspiring in the fact that it is the deepest lake in the USA, sustained by rain and snow, located in a sleeping volcano. It’s known for its untouched and pure waters and the surrounding Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon. Crater Lake is a sight to behold, and we hope you get the chance to add this stop to your Western USA road trip!

    Some of the most visited attractions in the park are Sinnott Memorial Overlook, Crater Lake, and Rim Village. Additionally, you can take the 33-mile-long scenic drive along HWY 62 for fantastic overlooks and pullouts. It’s one of the best ways to experience the park as you wind along the lake!

    Campgrounds in Crater Lake

    There are a few places you can stay within the park, including the Crater Lake Lodge, cabins at Mazama Village, camping at the Mazama or Lost Creek Campgrounds, or in the backcountry. Additionally, you can check their website for some recommended places to stay outside of the park!

    Entering Crater Lake

    This national park is open year-round and no reservations are required to enter, although some roads are closed during the snowy season. An entrance fee is required. Check the NPS website for road closures and other alerts.

    Destination 10: Olympic National Park

    At this point in the road trip, we’re gonna head north up to Washington state! The next destination on the list is Olympic National Park – about 400 miles north of Crater Lake National Park. It’s about a 7-hour drive, so if you’d like to break it up, Portland is around the halfway point!

    The ginormous map of Olympic National Park

    Attractions in Olympic

    Olympic National Park is a ginormous national park that spans almost a million acres, so it’s recognized for its diverse ecosystems throughout the park! Experience the dramatic Olympic Mountains, 70 miles of natural coastline, and old-growth temperate rainforests! It’s also an extremely popular place for backpackers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts!

    Check out some of these cool spots by region!

    • On The Pacific Coast – Some favored beaches include Kalaloch Beach, Rialto Beach, and Ozette Beach and Lake. 
    • Temperate Rain Forests – Check out the Hoh Rainforest, Queets Rain Forest, or Quinault Rainforest
    • Mountains and Old Growth Forests – There are many places to explore within this ecosystem, but a few include Sol Duc Valley, Hurricane Ridge, Deer Park, and Staircase.

    Campgrounds in Olympic

    To no surprise, there are over ten campsites dispersed throughout Olympic National Park! The rules and regulations for each site vary, so make sure to check the NPS website for more information on campground status’. 

    They also offer different lodging options inside the park, including Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, a Log Cabin Resort, the Lake Cresent Lodge, and the Kalach Lodge. Since the park is so big, you may want to stay at a campsite, resort, or lodge near some of the attractions you hope to explore!

    Entering Olympic

    Olympic National Park is open year-round, although some campgrounds, routes, and visitor facilities will be closed seasonally. Check their website for more information. An entrance fee is required to enter the park.

    Destination 11: Glacier National Park

    Last but not least, Glacier National Park is our final destination on this Western US road trip! This stretch is a pretty far stretch between national parks, so it’s advised to stop in Spokane for a break! It’s over 600 miles via I-90 E.

    Add Glacier National Park to your Western USA Road trip - you won't regret it!

    Attractions in Glacier

    Heading back to Montana, Glacier National Park is widely known for its glacier peaks, deep and winding valleys, and photogenic lakes. The park spans over 1,500 miles, so a popular way of experiencing it is by driving Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is the only direct way through the park. However, the road closes during the winter months, and you can drive the park boundary to an entrance near an attraction you hope to visit.

    Here are some attractions along Going-to-the-Sun Road:

    • Lake McDonald
    • Jackson Glacier Overlook
    • Sunrift Gorge
    • Weeping Wall
    • Triple Arches

    Here are some attractions located near the park boundary:

    • Bowman Lake (West)
    • Kintla Lake (West)
    • Goat Lick Overlook (South)
    • Belly River (East)

    Campgrounds in Glacier

    There are four different lodges (in many different sites) in Glacier you can choose from: Glacier National Park Lodges/Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Glacier Park Collection, Sperry Chalet, or Granite Park Chalet. Additionally, there are thirteen different campgrounds in the park with over a thousand sites, so there is an abundance to choose from! Check their website for more information.

    Entering Glacier

    Glacier is open year-round, although accessibility is limited during winter months and you cannot access the Going-to-the-Sun road. Many businesses are only open during the summer which roughly runs from May to September. A fee is required to enter the park.

    NOTE: After this, you’ll drive back to Yellowstone to complete your Western USA road trip loop! You don’t have to do it in the same order, and you can add or skip stops as you please!

    Before You Leave

    Before heading out, we strongly recommend buying the “America The Beautiful” Annual pass. It only costs about $80 and gives you access to all the National Parks and Lands for a year! It’s hands down the best purchase Dylan and I have made. If you use it more than four times, you’re getting your money’s worth and you’ll be saving money for this road trip!

    Of a distance of about 3,700 miles give or take, you can start your Western USA road trip in whichever national park and make this Western US road trip loop. Along the way, you’ll stop at eleven national parks. Take as much time as you need, but we recommend giving yourself a month to complete it.

    The best times to make this Western USA road trip would be summer or early fall. The sweet spot lands in late September to early October. During this time, the summer rush has died down and the fall leaves are gorgeous. Go anytime after the second week of October and you’re at risk for road and park closures due to snow.

    Canyon in Bryce Canyon

    Western USA Road Trip: FAQ’s

    Now that we’ve gone over an epic road trip itinerary for your adventure out west, let’s go over some frequently asked questions about the matter!

    Where can I go on a road trip out west?

    The western US is a fantastic place to road trip, because the landmarks, destinations, and national parks are endless! In this blog post, our Western USA road trip itinerary covers eleven national parks at stops in seven different states.

    How many days do you need for a West Coast road trip?

    In this blog post, we covered a Western USA national park destination road trip that covers almost 4,000 miles, seven states, and eleven national parks. We recommend taking four weeks to complete it.

    What was the most popular route out west?

    One of the most popular routes for a Western USA road trip to hit all the best national parks is to make a loop from Montana down to Arizona, west to California, up to Washington, and back to Montana. Check out this blog post for eleven of the best destinations!

    Wrapping Up: The Ultimate Western USA Road Trip Itinerary

    There you have it! A western USA road trip that hits eleven unique National Parks! Add any stops or route modifications as you please. There are many cute little towns along the way that are great for stretching the legs!

    No matter what route you take, remember to be respectful of native lands and practice Leave No Trace principles wherever you go!

    Happy Trails!