How To Road Trip Around The United States in a Month

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Going on a road trip around the United States is hands down one of the coolest adventures you will ever experience. The US has so much to offer. From the Mountains of the Rockies to the desert oases of Utah and Arizona. To the lakes of Minnesota, to the Green Mountains of Vermont, and so much more, every state has something new and breathtaking to offer.


In this post, we'll lay out exactly how we did our road trip around the United States in a month. What we packed, where went, and what you should expect. If you're considering taking the journey of a lifetime, this post will help guide your path.


30 Days. 112 Hours. 7,100 Miles, 20 Stops


Road Trip Map of the Unites States
Road Trip Map from West to East

Road Trip Map of the Unites States
Road Trip Route from East to West

That's the outline of our trip. 30 Days. One hundred twelve hours in the car. 7,100 Miles of highways and backroads, 20 unforgettable stops.


As you can see from the map, our starting and ending point was Lake Tahoe, Nevada. My girlfriend and I had just graduated from college, and we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate than seeing the country.


Of course, you likely won't follow our exact route, but this should give you a general idea of where to stop, what to see, and roads to take during your road trip around the United States.


The Planning Stage


Start by making a plan of how long you want to make your trip, and where you want to go (scroll down to get some good ideas). Then map it all out on Google Maps. You can only add 10 locations to one map, so you may have to open up several tabs like I had to in the plans above. Once you have this, print it off, or take a screenshot of it and keep it on your phone, this is your outline. Now, you can plan the full trip around this.


One of the most critical aspects of planning is where you are going to sleep. It's the worst thing to arrive at your destination as the sun is setting, and you have no idea where you're going to catch some shut-eye for the night. Not planning is planning to fail. In our case, we camped the majority of the time. If you don't currently have a tent, it's worth the small investment upfront to save on the hotels' costs every night. We invested in a Yakima Skyrise Rooftop Tent, and it worked wonders for us, but more on that later.



Camping underneath a star filled sky
Camping underneath a star filled sky

Anytime you're planning on camping in a National or State Park, you need to look ahead on the park website and reserve a camping spot well in advance, especially in the summertime, as they fill up fast. A night at a federally or state-regulated campsite will typically cost you anywhere from $15.00-$20.00 bucks. However, if you want to save some money, you can always check out freecampsites.net. The site looks a little outdated, but it's an excellent tool for finding free campsites worldwide. Just make sure you're reading the reviews as they're usually a good indicator of whether or not the campground is in good shape.

Most regulated campsites will have bathrooms, but it's rare to find any with showers, and 30 days on the road without showering is pretty gnarly. You might be okay with it, but your travel buddy sure isn't! Make sure you bring along some biodegradable soap that you can use to rinse off and freshen up in a lake for this reason. If bathing in a lake isn't for you, then It's important to factor in a few nights in hotels, or try to find some old friends that can host you for a night along the way. It's probably about time you had a beer with them!


The Packing Stage


Packing gear for a road trip
Packing for the trip

The part that everyone dreads, packing. For starters, you're going to want a car that offers plenty of space. Did I mention we spent 112 hours driving in the car? In our case, with it just being the two of us, my Subaru Forester worked perfectly. Ensure you have enough space, plan out what you're going to pack, and how you're going to optimize the space you have. Start by writing down a list of things you need. Here are a few of the things that were on my list.

  • Cooler

  • Ice

  • Propane Grill

  • Jet Boil

  • Spatula for grill

  • Pots and pans for the grill

  • Large water jug

  • Utensils- we have the plastic set

  • Cups. Mugs

  • French press

  • Blankets

  • Pillows

  • Bear spray

  • A container or two for organization

  • Tent rainfly

  • Hiking shoes

  • Swimsuit

  • Rain gear

  • Flashlight(s) or headlamp

  • Lantern

  • Knife

  • Propane

  • Lighter

  • Map to be safe

  • Dish soap, sponge

  • Ibuprofen and aspirin

  • First aid kit

  • Camera, charger, tripod, lenses

  • Hiking backpack

  • Speaker

  • Small Fold out table

  • Sunscreen

  • NPS pass- pick up at the first park

  • Wet naps/ Hand Sanni

  • Oil - you're going to put a lot of mileage on your car

  • National Parks Pass - Can pick up at the first national park you stop at for $80.00

You can grab a full packing list in a pdf here.

The list goes on. As you can see, it's no small feat to gather the gear you need for the trip, but once you have everything together, you'll be thankful for the work you put in. One thing to note, it's a very, very good idea to grab a couple of plastic storage containers and label each one for specific materials. You can use one for utensils, one for food, and another for essentials like flashlights, lighters, and first aid.

Subaru Forester going on a road trip
Our Subaru Forester equipped with the Rooftop Tent

Once you have all of this, you're just about ready to go! Make sure you get your car into the shop before to ensure everything is good to go. It's probably a good idea to get an oil change before you leave as well.


Now, into the details of our trip. Read on to see places you need to visit, and our best suggestions for sleeping, hiking, and sightseeing.


Stop 1 - Craters of the Moon National Park, Idaho

Total Time Spent Here: 3 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 5/10

Our Suggestion: If you're near Central Idaho, it is certainly worth a stop, but I wouldn't go more than 2 hours out of your way to see it.

Caves in Carters of the Moon National Park
Caves in Carters of the Moon National Park

The first stop on our trip was Craters of the Moon National Park in Central Idaho. It's not hard to see where the park gets its name from, as the terrain is unique. Big boulders, caverns, and lava stone looking rocks surround the area.


Lava Stone and Rocks in Craters of the Moon National Park
Lava Stone and Rocks in Craters of the Moon National Park

While at the park, we were able to walk amongst the cave, climb a few of the viewpoints, and learn some history behind the lava fields. It was undoubtedly a refreshing first stop but didn't warrant more than a 3 hour stop.


A Man sitting above a cave in Craters of the Moon National Park
Sitting above one of the caves in Craters of the Moon National Park


Stop 2 - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 10/10

Our Suggestion: A Must See. Mountains, Wildlife, Beautiful Views. It's a surreal experience.

Where to Camp: Jenny Lake (Very Busy Site). Gros Ventre if Jenny Lake is not available.


After Craters of the Moon National Park, we made the drive over to Grand Teton National Park to set up camp for the next two days. We planned to camp out at the Gros Ventre campground in the Southeast corner of the park. Jenny Lake campground was in the preferred camping location but is only first come first serve. Since we arrived late, we decided to reserve a spot at Gros Ventre, which was more than sufficient for our needs.


Camping with a rooftop tent
Our campsite in Grand Tetons National Park

On our first full day in Jackson, we got up with the sunrise and set out to do a hike up to Delta Lake. It was only about a 10-minute drive from Gros Ventre, and the fresh morning mountain air flowing into the car was all too refreshing on the way there.


The hike itself was 9 miles in total, with about 2400 feet of elevation gain. You can find the trail to Delta Lake by starting on Amphitheater Lake Trail. It can be a little challenging to find, as the path to Delta Lake is technically not maintained by the park's service, but it is a very popular trail, and there are usually locals in the area to help you spot the turn-off. I've laid out everything you need to know about getting to Delta Lake in another post here.


The hike took us about 4 or 5 hours in total, including the hour we spent hanging around and eating lunch at the Lake. After we got back to the car, we drove around a bit more to explore the park. There are only two main roads through the park, so it is pretty easy to find your way around.


We drove North by Jenny Lake, and up to a spot called Oxbow Bend - a beautiful viewpoint where the Snake River weaves around the landscape and is host to all sorts of wildlife looking to quench their thirst. If you're lucky, you might see some moose, eagles, or even bears, especially during sunset.


Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park
Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park

After exploring the park, we made our way back to camp. Along the way, we stopped to catch the Sunset at Mormon Row, a historic spot within the park lined with barns that offer some fantastic photo opportunities. Once we arrived at Mormon Row, we pulled out our Yakima SkyRise Rooftop Tent to get cozy and watch the sun disappear behind the mountains.


Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park
Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park


Buffalo frequent the areas surrounding Mormon row, so it would not be surprising if you see some of these friendly giants. Just don't get too close, they aren't always friendly giants.


Buffalo in Grand Teton National Park
Friendly Buffalo

During our second full day in the park, we felt the effects of the hike the day before, so we decided to keep it low key. We went and explored Jackson Hole Ski Resort, which offers tons of fun summer activities. After some shopping and playing some disc golf on the mountain, we grabbed some refreshments at the Mangy Moose.


After exploring Jackson Hole, we set out with the goal to see a Moose. We drove around Moose Wilson road - a narrow road appropriately named for common Moose sitings. However, as it was mid-day, we didn't have much luck (the best times to see them is morning and evening).


We ended the day by catching the Sunset at Oxbow bend, again hoping to see a moose. Although the sunset was beautiful and we did see a beaver, we didn't see any moose.



Sun setting behind mountains over a river
Oxbow Bend at Sunset

It wasn't until we were driving back to our camp spot that a Moose darted out of the woods right in front of our car. Holy ironic. Keep your eyes out for wildlife whenever driving in the park!


A moose running away
This guy almost killed us. But we saw a moose!

Stop 3 - Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Total Time Spent Here: 3 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 6/10

Our Suggestion: If you're near South Dakota, it is certainly worth a stop, but I wouldn't go more than 3 hours out of your way to see it.


People looking over Badlands National Park
Looking out over the Badlands Spires

After Grand Tetons, we continued to make our way east towards Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The Badlands consists of crazy rock formations, spires, and canyons. It is a mind-blowing sight to see, and it makes you wonder how the terrain can be so different from state to state.

The main thing to do in the Badlands is drive-through and stop at some of the overlooks. The image above is from the many viewpoints. There are only a few main roads that weave around the park, so it is pretty easy to find your way around.

There are some hiking trails, but with minimum shade and some scorching temperatures, we decided to stay in our air-conditioned car. Instead, we continued the sightseeing journey by driving along the Badlands Loop Scenic State Scenic Byway throughout the park.

Spending about 3 hours here sightseeing and driving around was enough time for us to feel like we got to take in a reasonable amount of the scenery and experience the park.

**If you haven't seen Mount Rushmore, it is not very far out of the way from Grand Tetons to the Badlands and is worth a quick stop**


Stop 4 - Minneapolis, Minnesota

Total Time Spent Here: 3 Days

Rating (out of 10): 6/10

Our Suggestion: It is a good spot to find a hotel or friend's house where you can crash on the couch and use a shower.

Downtown Minneapolis
Downtown Minneapolis

Ahh, the land of 10,000 Lakes. Who wouldn't want to stop at a place with 10,000 Lakes? We have some family in Minnesota, so our stop here likely looks different from yours, but we'll lay out some good ideas.


First things first, shower! After spending a few days in the woods, Minneapolis is an excellent time to find a hotel, or track down an old friend, and take advantage of the access to showers before you're in the woods again unless you went the alpine lakes bathing route already!


If you haven't seen Mall of America, you should probably add that onto your list. Whether you're a fan of malls or not, it's a sight to see. Waterparks, Aquariums, Roller Coasters, and so much more all combined into one giant mall. If that doesn't scream America, well then I just don't know what does.


Next, find a lake to hang out and kickback. Did I mention there are 10,000 lakes? Enjoy some downtime and recharge before you hit the road again.


If you've got some extra budget, you could always check to see if the Twins are playing and good catch a ball game, walk the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River, Stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, or check out the Minnehaha Falls.


Stop 5 - The Windy City, Chicago

Total Time Spent Here: 3 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 6/10

Our Suggestion: Check out Cloud Gate and try some famous Deep Dish Pizza.



Cloud Gate Chicago Bean
Reflections off of The Chicago Bean

Just a 6-hour ride from Minneapolis, Chicago, was a quick stop on our list. As we made our way around Lake Michigan, it was not too far out of the way, so we figured why not.


We ran into some initial traffic heading into the city, as expected. Once we made it into the city, it was pretty easy to navigate to Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, otherwise known as the famous Chicago Bean. There were tons of tourists and pedestrians alike, but we still managed to snap some good photos and admire the sunset gleaming off of the reflective sculpture and surrounding buildings.


After seeing the bean, we walked a few blocks over to Giordano's to indulge in some deep dish pizza that we have heard so much about. All we can say is holy filling. No need to get a large size!


Once we got our pizza fix, we continued our travels up to Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan, where we had reserved a camping spot for the night.


Stop 6 - Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan

Total Time Spent Here: 1 Night

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: An excellent spot if you are planning on camping in Michigan.



two people eating breakfast on a beach
Breakfast on a beach to ourselves

After camping in Warren Dunes State Park for the night, we woke up to pleasantly find that we're camping right on Lake Michigan. We packed up the car and drove not 5 minutes before we reached a vast empty beach. We grabbed some berries and water from the vehicle and enjoyed breakfast with a view. It was great.


After lounging on the beach for about an hour, it was time to head to the great white north.


Stop 7 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Total Time Spent Here: 3 Days

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: An impressive Canadian City. Definitely worth a stop if you can spare the detour.


Kayaking on Lake Ontario
Kayaking on Lake Ontario

Okay, so the title of this post is slightly misleading, technically a Road Trip around the US and one-stop in Canada. Sorry! But Toronto is not too far outside of Michigan, and we also have family here, so it was a mandatory stop on the list.


There are tons of things to do in Toronto. Start by going to the CN tower - the giant looming tower that you can see in the photo above. If you've got the budget and patience to wait in a line, you can go up to the top to see some breathtaking views, stand on the revolving glass floor, and enjoy some food at the restaurant. If you're feeling adventures, you can even sign up to walk outside of the tower - did I mention it's the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere?


After seeing the CN tower, you can quench your thirst at the Distillery District or one of the many downtown breweries. Amsterdam Brew-House right on Lake Ontario is a great spot to enjoy a beverage and watch the ships come in.


Other notable and fun things to do in and around Toronto would be renting a paddle-board or kayak and getting out on Lake Ontario. Catching a Blue Jays game, going to Ripley's Aquarium, taking a brewery tour at Steam-Whistle Brewing, or walk amongst the Cherry Blossoms at High Park.


Stop 8 - Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 8/10

Our Suggestion: A quick stop, but a must-see if it works with your route.



Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

On our way back into the states, we had to make a stop at Niagara Falls. Although it is not the tallest waterfall in the world, the falls reach an impressive height of 176 feet at it's highest point, and the sheer volume of water makes Niagara Falls a breathtaking sight. During peak periods of water flow, more than 700,000 gallons of water per second pour over the falls. Wild.


Stop 9 - Mount Snow, Vermont

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 8/10

Our Suggestion: Worth a stop to experience the Green Mountains. Do some day hikes and cool off in a hidden lake.



Green Vermont Mountains
Hiking in the Green Mountains

The beauty of Vermont is a sight to see. We have some friends that live near Mount Snow, Vermont, so we could crash on their couch and enjoy a few days in the Green Mountains. If you're planning on traveling anywhere near Mount Snow, here are some ideas for you.

  • Hike Mount Snow - A relatively easy, but steep trail that will reward you with beautiful views.

  • Take the BlueBird Express Chairlift down - It's not always running in the summer, but if the chair lift at the summit is running, take it down the mountain for a relaxing ride.

  • Jump in Lake Raponda - A small lake nestled away in the woods about 15 minutes from mount snow, there's a small beach area that you can cool off and lounge at.

  • Hike the Haystack Mountain Trail - another easily accessible hike in the area that rewards you with amazing green mountain views.

  • Catch the sunset at the top of Whites Road - not far from Lake Raponda, you'll find a dirt road that gives unobstructed views of the valley. Here, you can watch the sun dip behind the mountains.


Stop 10 - Belmar, New Jersey

Total Time Spent Here: 1 Day

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: A great spot to jump in the Atlantic Ocean.


Ocean Waves on the Jersey Shore
Swells along the Jersey Shore

A great spot to go for a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, Belmar is a cute little town with plenty to do for the day. An extensive boardwalk provides plenty of real estate to walk along the coastline the take in the salty ocean air. A vast beach offers plenty of room for lounging, tanning, and playing beach games. There are plenty of shops and restaurants nearby, and even some bars where Jersey Shore took place if you're into that kind of stuff. After getting in your beach fix for the day, head back to your reserved camping spot at Allaire State Park.


Stop 11 - Washington DC, Virginia

Total Time Spent Here: 3 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 8/10

Our Suggestion: See the White House, Capitol, and Monuments. You can do it all pretty quickly.


The Washington Monument
Washington Monument

You can't make a road trip around the Nation without seeing the Nation's Capitol, right? After Belmar, we drove on over to DC for some touristy sightseeing. If you haven't been to DC before, it is worth a quick stop. You can see all of the main attractions just by walking around for 2 or 3 hours. It can be hot here in the summer, so make sure you bring some water while walking around.


After seeing the sights of DC, fuel up on some food, and continue the journey!


Stop 12 - Nashville, Tennessee

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: Grab some drinks on Broadway Street, and learn some Southern history about the battle of Franklin.


Nashville Tennessee Skyline
Nashville, Tennessee

After DC, we made a quick stop at the Creekside Campground in West Virginia to grab some shut-eye, then we continued west to Nashville. While in Nashville, we experienced a night out on Broadway street, which was full of country bars. Caution, if you don't like country, you're probably going to have a bad time here.

After our night out on the town, we crashed at a friend's house. There are a few campgrounds around Nashville, but nothing too close. It is probably best to grab a hotel or find a friend's house to crash if you plan to spend multiple days here.

For our second day in Tennessee, we ventured over to Franklin, where we took a guided tour of the Carter House - the house in the Center of the Battle of Franklin, the battle that accumulated the most blood-shed in the entire civil war. The house still had blood stains and remnants from the struggle in some spots; it was a very cool experience.

After learning about the Battle of Franklin, we needed a drink. So we made out way out to Arrington Vineyards to taste test some wins and walk amongst the vineyard. Then we made our way to Leiper's Fork Distillery to take a tour and learn about how whiskey is created and sample some whiskey while we were at it. Finally, we finished off our drinking binge at the blank brewery.


I'd say we did Tennessee the right way.


Stop 13 -St. Louis, Missouri

Total Time Spent Here: 4 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: See the Gateway Arch and the Anheuser Busch Brewery.



Walking towards the gateway arch
The Gateway Arch

After Tennessee, we continued our trip west. When you're traveling from the east coast to the west coast, you kind of have to stop at the Gateway to the West, right? The Gateway Arch is a wildly impressive 630-foot structure. It is the world's tallest Arch and the largest human-made structure in the western hemisphere. Pretty neat.


After seeing the Arch, we ventured over to the other attraction that St. Louis is known for, the Anheuser Busch Brewery. If you have the time, you can take a free tour of the brewery to see where all of the magic happens. Unfortunately, we were short on time, but we were able to grab a bite and a beer at the restaurant before hitting the road again.


We drove out a St. Louis for a few hours before arriving at Pomona State Park, our campground.


Stop 14 -Denver, Colorado

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 9/10

Our Suggestion: Red Rocks, Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder Flatirons, RINO District.

Girl overlooking a view from the flatirons
Hiking the Flatirons

And back to the Rocky Mountains, we go! There is so much to do in Colorado, especially within a 2 hours drive from Denver. While here, we stayed with a family member, but you can easily find camping spots in places like Rocky Mountain National Park. Here are some of our favorite things we did.

  • Climb the stairs at Red Rocks. Or better yet, catch a show!

  • Venture out to Boulder and hike the Flatirons - a group of easily accessible mountains that are very hiker friendly. The photo you see above is from the top of Royal Arch, one of the many Flatiron hikes.

  • Drive out to Rocky Mountain National Park. This park is fantastic. With giant mountain peaks looming above and rivers and alpine lakes down below, you could spend days here. Find a camping spot and spend a few days hiking and exploring, or just do the scenic drive throughout the park, whatever your preference. Keep your eyes out for Moose and Bears while in the park.

  • RINO District - the River North Art District in Denver is a great spot to grab a beverage and see some unique parts of Denver. Companies like 10 Barrel Brewing, New Belgium, and Great Divide all have breweries within the district.

  • Paddle-board at Cherry Creek Reservoir. An excellent spot to cool off, you can easily rent a few paddle-boards for cheap at the reservoir and get out on the water.



Mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park
Exploring Rocky Mountain National Park

After using Denver as our base for a few days, we continued driving West up into the mountains of Colorado. Along the way, we drove up to Mt. Evans, the only 14,000-foot tall mountain in North America where you can drive up. Just be prepared to white knuckle it on the road up and back down.


As we continued west after Evans, we drove through scenic Loveland Pass and by ski resorts Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper, and Vail. If you're a skier, any of these mountains might warrant a quick stop to explore some more.


Stop 15 -Moab, Utah

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 10/10

Our Suggestion: Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point, Canyonlands National Park


Sun Setting at Delicate Arch
Sunset at Delicate Arch

After making the 5-hour drive from Denver to Utah, with some scenic stops along the way, we arrived at our campsite in Dead Horse Point State Park. Don't let the name fool you; the spot is beautiful. Located just down to the road from Dead Horse Point that overlooks a vast canyon, as seen in the photo below, you won't be disappointed camping here. Just remember, you are in the desert, so pack A LOT of fluids to stay hydrated. It was hot when we were there in July, like sweltering.



Looking over dead horse point
Dead Horse Point Viewpoint

After making sure our camping spot was all set, we set out towards Arches National Park. The drive was about 30 minutes from Dead Horse Point to the entrance of Arches, but the views along the trip were endless.


In Arches National Park, we set our sights on hiking up to the famed Delicate Arch. Perhaps the most popular and impressive Arch in the entire park, Delicate looks 52 feet high and 32 feet wide. The trail up to see it is only about 3 miles round trip, making it very accessible to most travelers. It is the sight to see, but it is best to time your trip to it in the early morning or evening to avoid the crazy mid-day crowds.


We hiked up just before the sunset and enjoyed the sun disappearing behind the desert horizon from the viewpoint of the Arch. We had to hike back in the dark, but the trail is relatively simple, so it wasn't too tricky - just make sure you have headlamps and a good flashlight.



Dusk at Delicate Arch
Dusk at Delicate Arch

If crowds aren't your thing, there are more than 2,000 Sandstone Arches within the National Park; you can find some spots that aren't full of people.


Upon returning to our campground under cover of darkness, we were treated to an insanely clear and star-filled sky. With no light pollution anywhere nearby, we could see the Milky Way. It was an unforgettable sight.


The milky way over a tent
Star Filled Skies

The next morning we rose with the sun and watched it rise above Dead Horse Point. The skies were a little smoky due to nearby fires in Colorado and California, but it made for some pretty amazing colors radiating throughout the air.


Two people watching the sun rise over Moab
Sunrise at Dead Horse Point

Stop 16 -Zion National Park, Utah

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 9/10

Our Suggestion: The Narrows, Angels Landing, Emerald Pools



Girl walking in water in the Zion National Park
Hiking the Narrows

Zion National Park was amazing, but also a little strange for us. The park had recently seen a pretty bad mudslide, which took out a good portion of the famed Angels Landing Trail along with the Emerald Pools trail, so our options were a bit limited.


The first thing that caught us off guard about Zion was that you have to take a shuttle to each exhibit/ trailhead. You park in one lot at the beginning of the park and grab the shuttle from there. The shuttle stops at each attraction within the park to on and offload passengers. It is a pretty good system, as the park only has one main road in and out and could easily get jammed with traffic. Just make sure you get to the main parking lot early so that you can easily find a spot.


If Emerald Pools and Angels Landing are open for your trip, we recommend hiking those trails. Angels Landing is a famous 5-mile round trip hike known for its thin sections high above the canyon. It is not for the faint of heart.



A man looking over Zion Canyon
Overlooking Zion Canyon

The main hike we tacked was the Zion Narrows. Appropriately named, the Narrows is the narrowest part of the Zion Canyon. Ranging from spots 20-30 feet wide, you'll walk amongst canyons towers thousands of feet above you. Oh, and did I mention you're wading through the water the whole time? You quite literally walk through the Virgin River that flows through the canyon. The water doesn't get above waist level, and if you stay close to the edges, you'll typically only find your feet getting wet.

The 'trail' is uneven, especially since you can't see your footing. For some people, a walking stick can be useful to have to keep yourself stable. And make sure you have appropriate footwear. North Face trail shoes worked just fine for me.


One important thing to note before venturing into the Narrows is the weather forecast. Flash Flooding can happen throughout Zion, and the Narrows is not where you want to be if that happens. Check the weather forecast and flash flood warnings before you go.


a man wading through water in Zion National Park
The Narrows can get about waist deep

After soaking our feet all day long, we took the shuttle back to the car and made our way to our campsite for the night. Using the Freecampsites.net website, we found a free campground about 25 minutes east of the park's entrance. It was a perfect spot to dry off and bask in the hot desert sun. Again, make sure you have plenty of fluids. We went through like ten cans of seltzer a day - we're somewhat obsessed with the Seltz.


two people camping in the desert
Camping in the Desert. It was hot.

Stop 17 -Page, Arizona

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Days

Rating (out of 10): 10/10

Our Suggestion: Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend


a girl overlooking horseshoe bend
Horseshoe Bend

Page, Arizona was probably one the coolest stops on our trip. It was pretty hard to be disappointed with three amazing attractions except for maybe the heat.


We reserved a campsite at the Wahweap Campground right next to Lake Powell. It was a great spot to post up camp and head down to the Lake to hang out at the beach and cool off with a swim. We took a nice little lake bath with our biodegradable shampoo, as we both needed it at this point.



Aerial Shot of Lake Powell
Lake Powell

The next day we set off to see Antelope Canyon. A fantastic slot canyon that radiates with colorful, smooth rocks and provides unreal lighting as the sun glistens off the sandstone is a must-see sight. The canyon is located on Navajo land and is only accessible with guided tours. You can book a trip on https://www.antelopecanyon.com/ but will want to do so well in advance of your arrival as the tours fill up very quickly. Tickets usually range from 50-70 bucks. At this point in our trip, we were starting to run low on funds, but this is a once in a lifetime experience. Definitely worth the tour if you can spare it. The views are priceless.




Next up on our list was Horseshoe Bend. Less than a 30-minute drive from our campsite, Horseshoe Bend is mainly a unique viewpoint of the Colorado River bending around the land, but it is still a must-see. A small 1.5 round trip trail (feels like a lot longer when it's 100 degrees), leads you to the overlooks where you will see a 1,000-foot canyon where the Colorado River flows about 270° around the land, forming a horseshoe shape.



Horseshoe Bend Viewpoint
The Horseshoe Bend Overlook


Stop 18 -Grand Canyon, Arizona

Total Time Spent Here: 4 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: Viewpoints, Hiking if you have time




A girl looking over the grand canyon
The Grand Canyon


After about a 5 hour drive from Page, Arizona, we hit the Grand Canyon. Of course, the Grand Canyon is an amazing and mind-blowing sight. It is a must-see at some point in your lifetime.


Unless you're planning on hiking down in the canyon, we found that we didn't need to spend more than a few hours here. We drove around the edge, stopped at most of the viewpoints, and took in the sights and views. After doing this for about 4 hours, we felt content that we had experienced the Grand Canyon. Onward!


Stop 19 -Hot Springs, Mammoth Lakes

Total Time Spent Here: 2 Hours

Rating (out of 10): 7/10

Our Suggestion: Soak it all in



A road with no cars
Miles of Roads

It's the final countdown, back to California we go! Mammoth Lakes is about 7 hours from the Grand Canyon. Therefore, we drove most of the way before finding a free campsite, again using the free campsite's website. The campground was literally in the middle of nowhere, and we arrived in the dark, so it was a little freaky, but it did the job for the night.



A car parked with a rooftop tent
Our middle of nowhere campsite near Mammoth Lakes

There are many hot springs near Mammoth, and we ended up going to Wild Willy's Hot Springs. A beautiful boardwalk will lead you directly to the natural hot tub. Sometimes it can be filled with people, so be prepared to make friends.


If that hot spring doesn't work out for you, there is another called Travertine Hot Springs just another hour or two down the road.


A girl standing in hot springs
Wild Willy's Hot Springs

Another notable stop would be stopping at Mammoth Ski Resort itself, just a small detour off of the highway. A cute village and massive mountain await you if you decide to go this route. Take the Gondola up to the top and take in the views.


Stop 20 -Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Total Time Spent Here: N/A

Rating (out of 10): 10/10

Our Suggestion: Check out things to do in Tahoe here.



Clear blue water in lake tahoe
Lake Tahoe


30 Days, 112 hours in the car, 7,100 miles driven, and 20 stops later and we made it back to Lake Tahoe. It felt great to be home finally, but WOW, what a trip that was!


We'll spare you the Tahoe details here; you can read more about what to do in Tahoe here. If you haven't been, it is 100% a place you need to add to your list.


If you made it this far in this post, thanks for reading! I hope you found some helpful advice for your next cross country road trip. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment down below. Happy travels!


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Sierra Lifestyle

Hi, I'm Connor - a big skier who's had his share of life-altering injuries. I've turned my passion for the mountains into a lifestyle blog where I talk about outdoor adventures, injury prevention and recovery, and life hacks. Let me inspire you with stories, photos, and advice.