Gone Rogue Travel

USA road trip itinerary: 6 weeks, 12 states and 11 national parks

The USA was built for road tripping. With over 4 million miles of roads stretching from sea to shining sea, a drive through the country gives you a look at mountains, deserts, forests, prairies, and the diversity of food, people and cultures that make up this massive landscape.

This summer, five friends and I plan to spend six weeks driving along several of the US’s iconic highways and camping in 11 of its glorious national parks, starting in Nashville, TN and finishing in Seattle, WA.

The itinerary so far:

Nashville, TN

The country music capital of the United States — and where Elvis recorded over 200 of his songs — a quick dip into Nashville means live music and karaoke by night and eating Goo Goo candies while visiting the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame by day.

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7 hours, 22 minutes
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Hot Springs National Park, AR

Therapeutic thermal springs feed over 700,000 gallons of water per day to commercial bathhouses and fountains.

Even before the founding of the park, people have flocked to the springs for fresh, chemical-free water and to soak their sore muscles and worries away in the healing baths fed by the springs.

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9 hours, 14 minutes
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Amarillo, TX and Route 66

Just outside of Amarillo sits one of Route 66’s most iconic sites: Cadillac Ranch. Ten Cadillac’s rise out of the dirt, covered in public art, spray paint and messages to visitors.

Heading toward Albuquerque, we’ll also see the midpoint of the original Route 66 that spanned from Chicago to Los Angeles outside a tiny Texas town called Adrian.

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4 hours, 17 minutes
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Albuquerque & Santa Fe, NM

In the heart of Albuquerque resides the longest avenue in the world, at 30 miles long. Route 66 follows it east to west, and though barren now, still boasts remnants of the era, including 66 Diner — an iconic example of rounded, 40s architecture.

Santa Fe, the oldest city in the West, protects its historic adobe buildings and city center, making it a great stopping point in the New Mexican desert.

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8 hours
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Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

The Rockies are stunning, biodiverse and expansive — everything you’d expect from North America’s largest mountain range.

By camping near Estes Park, Colorado, and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking, river rafting and climbing are all on the itinerary.

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10 hours, 45 minutes
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Yellowstone National Park, WY

The oldest and most well-known national park in the United States, Yellowstone encompasses the Rockies, prairie lands, geothermal ponds and active geysers (like notable Old Faithful).

A bit out of the way, it’s well worth the extra drive time for the 900 miles of hiking and walking trails and chances to glimpse wildlife.

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6 hours, 15 minutes
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Bonneville Salt Flats, UT

The barren, beautiful expanse of the Salt Flats create a great backdrop for a stop in northern Utah. Famous for its speed limit-less Bonneville Speedway, it’s a sight to behold. Seeing is probably all we’ll do, as I don’t think our old minivan can tackle the terrain at speed.

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5 hours, 30 minutes
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Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Utah is packed with national parks. As you travel toward the southern border, a stop in Bryce Canyon is worth your time to see its collection of protruding hoodoos — the largest like it in the world.

Hoodoos are tall (up to 60 yards high) rocks spiking into the sky… if you look closely, you can see them at the bottom of the picture above reaching toward the Milky Way. Together, they form a giant amphitheater of rock, also known as Bryce Canyon.

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1 hours, 30 minutes
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Zion National Park, UT

Just a hop, skip, and jump away (in road trip terms) sits Zion National Park near Utah’s southern border.

Full of sheer rock faces, rewarding hiking trails, and plenty of natural beauty, it’s also only 35 minutes from The Wave — the famous rock formation in Northern Arizona.

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3 hours, 30 minutes
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Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

What is a road trip through the United States without a stop at the Grand Canyon?

The Colorado River etched these stunning canyons over millions of years, forming what is now considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World alongside the likes of The Great Barrier Reef and Mt. Everest.

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4 hours
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Las Vegas, NV

Just hours from one of the most magnificent nature-made landscapes in the world is one of the planet’s top man-made masterpieces.

Sin City sits as a juxtaposition to the barren desert surrounding it, full of bright lights, flashy shows, wasteful consumption, and big nights. While not a fan of the city myself, the sheer magnitude of extravagance is also a must-see while in Nevada.

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2 hours, 10 minutes
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Death Valley National Park, CA

Death Valley is a place of extremes. As the hottest spot in North America, it’s record high rings in at a scorching 134°F (57°C).

There will be no camping for us in Death Valley, just a very hot drive through the lowest basin on the continent (282 feet below sea level).

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5 hours, 40 minutes
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Sequoia National Park, CA

Exiting the dry floor of Death Valley leaves us in the lush, giant sequoias of southern California.

Hosting the largest tree in the world — coined General Sherman — and plenty of its cousins, Sequoia National Park makes visitors feel miniature while providing miles of walking trails and plenty of shade; some Sequoias stretch as high as 276 feet into the air.

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2 hours, 56 minutes
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Drive up Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco

After our time in the forest, we’re making a break for the coast and California’s iconic Highway 1.

Winding up the entire west coast of California, it’s views and rock faces on one side, and beautiful Pacific waters stretching to the horizon on the other. It doesn’t get more classic road trip than this.

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10 hours, 30 minutes
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San Francisco, CA

The city by the bay entices travelers from around the world with its multitude of sites — from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Riding a streetcar or climbing a steep hill for views of the city are just a few of the things in store, though I’m most excited for meals of clam chowder and chili dished up in delicious sourdough bread bowls.

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3 hours, 15 minutes
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Yosemite National Park, CA

Everyone who knows California has told me that we absolutely cannot miss Yosemite (pronounced yoh-SEM-i-tee) National Park. So, here it is on the official itinerary.

20% of Cali’s plant life resides here, as do thundering waterfalls, sheer granite monoliths and towering Sequoias, which all contribute to the park’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

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8 hours, 6 minutes
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Crater Lake National Park, OR

A violent eruption some 7,700 years ago triggered the collapse of a tall peak in this spot. Now, it’s the deepest lake in the United States, and one of the most pristine on earth, fed only by rain and snow.

During the long drive from San Francisco to Portland, it’s a great rest stop for a night under the stars.

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4 hours, 6 minutes
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Portland, OR

Portland has made a name for itself as a cycle, eco, vegetarian, and alternative-lifestyle friendly city on the upper west coast.

Voodoo Doughnuts is a can’t miss eatery (they’re even licensed to marry you, if your treat inspires you to tie the knot), Powell’s Books is the largest independently owned bookstore in the world, and the largest Naked Bike Ride on the planet happens here annually, among other strange and wonderful things.

In other words, it’s a quirky place, and one well worth a couple of days.

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2 hours, 50 minutes
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Olympic National Park, WA

After a few days in the city, a quick drive into Washington takes you to Olympic National Park.

Stretching along Washington’s western coast, it covers everything from beach to alpine areas to temperate rainforests to evergreen forests.

A perfect respite from bustling city streets, it’s a great way to experience Washington’s drearier weather and fantastic hiking routes.

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2 hours, 10 minutes
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Seattle, WA

Just a few hours from Olympic National Park, you’ll find the Seattle metropolis rising beside the notable peak of Mt. Rainier.

Ride to the top of the Space Needle, visit the original Starbucks coffee shop, and peruse the goods at Pike Place Market. After all the hiking, camping and outdoors, we’ll definitely relish in this northern city’s civilized style as we look back at our six-week adventure.


In total, we’ll be driving for 102 hours (4.25 days), hitting 11 national parks, 12 US states, and visiting 6 major cities in the western United States.

Stay tuned for posts about budgets, packing, and destinations along the way!

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