Get a National Park Pass and Road Trip These 4 Places

National parks are some of America’s greatest treasures. Huge numbers of people flock to these outdoor meccas to soak in nature at its finest. National parks are some of the most beautiful and geologically unique places in the entire United States. For the ultimate experience, purchase a national park pass that gives you entrance to any park around the country.

There is no shortage of great options. The United States boasts over 60 national parks spread across the country. You can see waterfalls, mountains, rivers, lakes, rock formations and so much more. Take in the scenery from the comfort of your car or camp in the wilderness. Or experience a ranger-led program on stargazing or wildlife biology. In any event you can have an incredible time visiting national parks.

So grab your national park pass, load up the car, and head on a cross-country road trip to see the parks of your choosing.

Preparing for your parks visits

Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park
Keys View, Joshua Tree

Before you hit the road, you’ll want to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. You’ll enjoy peace of mind while you’re away and not have to worry about your car, home, pets or garden.

First, you’ll want to do a few things to keep your home safe in your absence. These could include:

  • Stopping delivery of your newspaper service.
  • Arranging for someone to return trash and recycling bins to your home after they have been emptied.
  • Giving a trusted neighbor a key in case of emergencies.
  • Having someone collect your mail if you have an unsecured mailbox.

After you have secured your home, you will want to focus your attention on your car. Since you’re taking a road trip, nothing is more important than making sure your car is safe and up to snuff.

No matter where you plan on driving, you should have your vehicle serviced before going on your trip. This is especially so if you plan to drive through mountains. Make sure your brakes, transmission and safety features are all in working order.

Once you have your home and car ready to go, it’s time to start planning your route. While you can’t go wrong with any national park, some areas of the country will give you the most bang for your buck.

Tour around southern Utah

Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park Sign

Southern Utah boasts one of the highest concentrations of national parks in the United States. Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef are all within a few hours of one another. This is a perfect route for your national park pass road trip. If you want to hit the most parks with the least driving, southern Utah is a great place to start.

Arches National Park is one of the more unique and therefore best national parks to visit. Huge sandstone arches make for an incredible garden of geological formations. You might feel like you’re on another planet. You’ll likely be in awe of how nature created these formations and also keeps them standing.

Speaking of other planets, perhaps nothing will seem quite as other-worldly as Bryce Canyon National Park. Irregularly shaped columns of rock called hoodoos fill a canyon in the highest concentration on earth. Sweeping vistas and interesting and accessible hiking trails make Bryce a must-visit.

If you’re interested in adrenaline, give Zion National Park a try and head for the Angel’s Landing hike. Those with a fear of heights will want to steer clear, as hikers follow a steep and narrow ridge with drop offs on both sides to a lookout point. For a less populated Zion experience, try the Kolob Canyon entrance for an equally beautiful but less trafficked visit.

Check out California’s parks

Henry Cowell Redwoods in Santa Cruz
Henry Cowell Redwoods in Santa Cruz. Photo on Flickr by Jeff Wheeler (CC BY-NC 2.0)

California is home to some of the country’s most iconic national parks. Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Channel Islands, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles, Redwood and Sequoia are all in California. If you’re looking for diversity, this is the place to go.

Plus, with California’s iconic beach life and beautiful highways, the in-between driving time will be a treat as well. If you’re looking for a different kind of experience, hop on a motorcycle and see the parks in open air. There are so many different ways to have your national parks experience. You can drive for the whole trip, drive for a bit then hop on a motorcycle or bicycle, or get out into the wilderness for backpacking and camping. You can’t go wrong.

Joshua Tree is a must-see destination on your national parks road trip. Joshua Tree National Park is full of just that — Joshua trees. These rugged, unique trees dot a desert landscape popular for climbing and hiking.

If iconic is what you’re going for, then you also must pay a visit to Redwood National Park. Redwoods are the tallest trees on earth and can grow to over 350 feet tall. In Redwood National Park, you can hike, bike, kayak, view wildlife, go horseback riding and more. It’s also a fun destination for Star Wars fans; much of “Return of the Jedi” was filmed in this location. A visit to Redwood offers a true and unique nature experience that you won’t forget anytime soon.

If for some reason you’ve tired of national parks, California also boasts lots of great state parks. It’s clear the challenge isn’t finding something to do, but choosing where to start.

Visit the Everglades

Alligator in the Everglades
Alligator in Everglades National Park

While the west may boast more national parks than the east, there are some eastern gems that must be on your cross-country road trip itinerary. Everglades National Park in Florida is one of those gems.

According to the National Park Service, the Everglades are home to 13 endangered species and 10 threatened species. On your visit, you will have a chance to see the Florida panther, American crocodile, American alligator, wood stork and more.

Wildlife is just one of many reasons to visit the Everglades. Whether you like biking, boating, kayaking, fishing, bird watching or camping, you will find plenty to do in Everglades National Park.

Check out Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park. Photo: Pixabay

Acadia is America’s easternmost national park. Located in Maine, it’s the perfect starting or ending destination to your cross-country road trip. Acadia is famous for its hiking trails, swimming opportunities, tide pooling and more.

If you want a good taste of east coast beauty at its finest, Acadia National Park will not disappoint. Autumn might be the most spectacular time to visit Acadia as fall foliage is in full swing. The sweeping vistas you can enjoy after even just a short stroll will keep you wanting more.

It’s clear that there are incredible national parks to visit from California to Maine, so why not hop in the car and get going? Before you set off on your road trip, make sure to prepare your home and vehicle so you can be fully present on your trip. To get the most out of your national park pass, consider visiting Southern Utah, California, the Everglades and Acadia to experience the best American nature has to offer.

About Jori Hamilton


Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest who covers travel, social issues, and technology. You can follow her on twitter @hamiltonjori

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