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12 Epic Western Road Trip Ideas You Can’t Miss

Road trips never go according to plans, do they? It is a long process, from choosing the destination to deciding who will drive. Isn’t it hard to choose one place from all the beautiful places?

How about going with the trends and visiting the most famous sites in the western United States? These road trip ideas are a pack of those places that can meet your aesthetic expectations.

Maybe you will discover some exciting hidden places. Grab your keys, pack your stuff, get company and you are ready for an epic road trip

12 Exciting Road Trip Ideas

Add these exciting places to your bucket list for your next road trip.

Western Road Trip
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1. Capitol Reef National Park

This national park is situated in Utah, United States. Spread over an area of 241,904 acres, it was opened to the public on December 18, 1971. Here one can see colorful canyons, buttes, monoliths, and ridges. 

It preserves the Waterpocket Fold, extending from Lake Powell to Thousand Lake Mountain. This fold is the most giant exposed warp in Northern America. Here, older and newer layers of land are folded over each other, forming an S-shape. 

Waterpocket Fold was formed by continental plates colliding with each other. They created the Rocky Mountains, eroded over millennia to expose layers of fossils and rocks. 

Capitol Reef National Park area is filled with brightly colored sandstone cliffs, white domes, and layers of stone and earth contrasting each other. It was named after the United Reef Building, as one of its parts resembles the building. 

The Capitol Reef National Park’s administration is under the control of Zion National Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration took the road network construction into hands. 

As per the Köppen Geiger Climate Classification, Capitol Reef National Park has a cold semi-arid climate. Most of the tourists visit the park between May and December. June and July are the hottest months here, with the temperature rising to 40°C, while December and January have the lowest temperature recordings (nearly 21°C). 

Western Road Trip
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2. Grand Canyon National Park

Situated in the northwestern part of Arizona, Grand Canyon is a National Park in the United States. It is spread over 1217262 acres in the Mohave and Coconino counties. The park was opened to visitors on February 26, 1919. In 2019, the park celebrated its 100th Establishment Anniversary on the same date. 

The park’s formation was a success of the conservation movement. The construction of Glen Canyon Dam was later approved because of the success of this park. In 1932, the Grand Canyon National Monument to the west was created.

 Later in 1972, Marble Canyon National Monument and the second monument along with the Colorado River were made a part of the Grand Canyon National Park. This park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

Grand Canyon stores a combination of colorful rock formations in different sizes and depths. This dates back to the Precambrian times. Southern and Northern Rims are the primary public areas of this national park. 

These rims are situated adjacent to the canyon. The rest of the area is extremely remote. These areas are easily accessible through backcountry roads. Near the southern entrance of Grand Canyon Village is located the park headquarters.

As per the Köppen Geiger Climate Classification, Grand Canyon National Park experiences five climate types. These are Humid Continental Dry Cool Summer, Cold Semi-Arid, Humid Continental Dry Warm Summer, Hot Summer Mediterranean, and Warm Summer Mediterranean.

Most visits to the park are recorded in summers between May and August.

Western Road Trip
Photo by Ben Vaughn on Unsplash

3. Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge is a National Scenic Area located near the Pacific Northwest of the USA. This area shared borders with Washington in the North and Oregon in the South. 

To the west of the area lies the temperate rainforest. These forests are marked by bigleaf maples, western hemlock, and Douglas fir. All are covered in epiphytes. 

Between the Hood River and The Dalles, one can find the vegetation of Ponderosa Pine, Cottonwood, and Oregon white oak. In the eastern end are located the grasslands covered with lodgepoles.

Hiking, sightseeing, biking, water rides, and fishing are the most common activities performed by people who visit the Gorge. Columbia River Gorge is known for its high concentration of waterfalls, with over 90 falls situated near the Oregon border of the Gorge.

The 620-foot-high Multnomah Falls are a significant point of attraction in this area. Trails and the sites visited in the morning are managed by the US Forest Service and many state parks of Oregon and Washington.

The warmest month is the Columbia River Gorge in early August, where the highest temperature is recorded at around 34.4°C. The temperature generally drops to 16.8°C during the night. If you want to visit the Columbia River Gorge during warm times, you should consider July, August, and June.

Western Road Trip
Image By: Mike Ver Sprill/Shutterstock

4. Olympic National Park

This national park is located on Mt Angeles Road in Port Angeles, Washington. It was established on June 29, 1938, and is spread over 2499177 acres with a set of hiking trails applied all over for visitors.

This park is divided into four different regions. These are the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west side temperate rainforest, and the drier east side forest. Inside the park lies the three distinct ecosystems

  1. Subalpine Forest
  1. Temperate forest, and 
  1. The Rugged Pacific Coast

As stated in the Foundation document, The Olympic National Park was established to preserve for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. It is a large wilderness park with the most exemplary sample of the ancient forest of western hemlock, Sitka Spruce, Douglas fir, and western red cedar in the entire USA;

The park provides suitable permanent protection for the native herds of Roosevelt elk and other wildlife residing in the area; 

It shall conserve and render available resources to the people for recreational use. This outstanding mountainous park contains numerous glaciers and perpetual snowfields and holds together a portion of the surrounding verdant forests and a narrow strip along the beautiful coast of Washington. 

As per the Köppen Geiger Climate Classification, the park experiences two climatic conditions on its two different sides. The temperate oceanic climate in the western area, and the Warm Summer Mediterranean climate in the eastern side.

5. Glacier National Park

The Glacier National Park combines two mountain ranges spread over 1,013,322 acres. It is an American national park located on the United States and Canada border in Northwest Montana. It was established on May 11, 1910. 

It houses 130 lakes, 1,000 different species of plants, and more than 100 species of animals. This National Park with a vast pristine ecosystem is referred to as the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.

Flathead, Kootenai, Shoshone, and Cheyenne were the earliest tribes to establish themselves in this area. The Blackfeet tribe used to live on the eastern slopes of the park. The Great Plains were immediately set to the east. 

The park provided shelter to the Blackfeet tribe from the harsh winter winds. Today, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is situated on the park’s east border, and the Flathead Indian Reservation is located on the west and south borders of the park.

Glacier National Park is bordered by Waterton Lakes National Park in the north and Flathead Provincial Forest and Akamina Kishinena Provincial Park in British Columbia.

You can find a variety of trees here, such as Douglas fir, Engelmann Spruce, Limber Pine, Subalpine fir, Western Larch, Cottonwood, Aspen, and Timberline. If you are into Botany, this park will surely make a place in your Western Road Trip Ideas list.

The best time for one to visit Glacier National Park is in winter. Experience the chilled environment and beauty of mountains.

Western Road Trip
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6. Death Valley

Haven’t you heard about the name Death Valley before?

Death Valley is a deserted valley in the northern part of California. It is located in the Mojave Desert and borders the Great Basin Desert. The valley covers an area of 3000 square miles with an elevation of 14505 meters.

The Furnace Creek River and Amargosa River are two major rivers in Death Valley. As per the Köppen Geiger Climate Classification, Death Valley has a subtropical and hot desert climate.

The surface of this valley experiences intense heating due to solar radiation. The clean and dry air and dark and sparsely vegetated land is the reason behind extensive solar heating. One can notice such weather in midsummer.

Near the western edge of Death Valley, the beautiful Darwin Falls falls from a height of 100 feet into a large pond. This pond is surrounded by willows and cottonwood trees and serves as a water spot for over 80 species.

Another natural beauty that can be seen here is Efflorescence. These are also known as salt flowers. It is a rare occurrence where rain soaks into the soil and dissolves the salt beneath the ground’s surface. This makes a light dusting of snow appear on the floor. 

This place should get a spot on your bucket list. 

Western Road Trip
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7. Canyonlands National Park

This park is famous for its colorful landscape filled with beautiful canyons, mesas, and buttes. These are located near the Colorado River and the Green River. It is a national park in the San Juan of America, located in Southeastern Utah. 

Canyonlands National Park was formed on September 19, 1964, and established its territory of over 337598 acres. This park is divided into four areas: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the combined rivers.

This park is home to black bears, pronghorns, coyotes, elk, skunks, bats, badgers, foxes, bobcats, ring-tailed cats, desert bighorn sheep, cougars, desert cottontails, mule deer, and kangaroo rats.

You can also find a variety of hawks in this park, such as Cooper’s hawk, northern goshawk, sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed hawk, golden eagles, rough-legged hawk, Swainson’s hawk, and northern harriers.

The variety of flora found here includes net leaf hackberry, Utah juniper, Russian Olive, pinyon pine, Fremont’s cottonwood, and tamarisk. Shrubs found here have Mormon tea, four-wing saltbush, and cliffrose.

As per the Köppen Geiger Climate Classification, Canyonlands National Park experiences a cold semi-arid climate. During winters, the minimum temperature reaches a low of -16°C. Maybe this national park can be added to your Summer list.

8. Bears Ears National Monument

Located in Southeastern Utah of America, this national monument falls inside the boundary of San Juan County. Bears Ears National Monument was established by the Former President of the USA, Barack Obama, on December 28, 2016.

This monument initially covered an area of 1360000 acres, which was later reduced by 85% with the orders of President Obama. The area of the monument preserves numerous historical and natural resources. 

Bears Ears National Monument management was given to the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service. 

Inside this monument’s boundaries reside 5 local tribes, namely, the Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain, Ute Indian Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni.

Some of the places that fall under the boundaries of this monument include the Newspaper Rock Petroglyph Panel, the Quail Rock Art Panel, the Butler Wash Archaeological District National Register Site, the Big Westwater Ruin, and the Hole in the Rock Trail. 

Thousands of people visit this monument every year to take a glimpse of these breathtaking sites. You should surely add this to your bucket list to have the best outdoor adventure. 

Western Road Trip
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9. Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension built for the Golden Gate. It is located in the Marin County of San Francisco California. The bridge has a total of 6 lanes and two bicycle routes. 

The bridge is 4200 feet long and has a height of 746 feet. It was opened for public use on May 27, 1937, and is maintained by Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. 

It is said that the bridge’s color was officially selected as orange vermilion as it fits perfectly with the surroundings of the bridge and enhances its visibility even on extremely foggy mornings. 

Before the bridge was constructed, the only way to travel from San Francisco to Marin County was via boat. In the late 1910s, the project of building a bridge was proposed to the government. 

The project was first given to Engineer Joseph Strauss, who was later rejected as the structure he proposed was not up to the aesthetic requirements. This project was later passed on to Architect Irving Morrow, and the construction began on January 5, 1933. 

If you like the aesthetic view of rivers from the bridge, this place in our Road Trip Ideas will fit your taste. 

10. Mojave National Preserve

This American National Preserve is located in the San Bernardino County of California, USA, situated in the Mojave Desert between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. 

It was established on October 31, 1994, under the California Desert Protection Act and covered an area of 1542776 acres. This preserve is considered the third-largest national park unit in the United States.

Some breathtaking features of this park are the Kelso Dunes, the Cima Dome, the Marl Mountain, and the Cinder Cone Lava Beds. It is near the Providence Mountains State Reservation Area and the Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve. 

The highest temperature here is recorded at 40°C to 43°C during summers, while the record low temperature in winters was recorded at -16°C. The snowfall in the area is experienced during late December, and it adds to the preserve’s beauty. 

plitvice lake national park croatia aug 21 2016 unidentified
Source: Shutterstock

Some areas inside the preserve you should visit if this made a place in your list: 

  • Beale Mountains
  • Cima Dome
  • Devil’s Playground
  • Granite Mountains
  • Ghost Town
  • Ivanpah Mountains
  • Lanfair Valley
  • Mojave Road
  • Old Dad Mountain
  • Vintrigger Hills
  • Mid Hills
  • Kelso Mountain
  • Volcanic Field National Natural Landmark

11. Monument Valley

Monument Valley, often referred to as the Valley of rocks, is located near the Colorado Plateau in the Utah, Arizona line of the USA. It is a sacred area and lies in the Navajo Nation Reservation territory. 

This valley is famous for the large stone structures found here, including the sun’s Eye. The land of the valley is made of three layers of rock formations. The top layer is Moenkopi Formation, the middle layer is Chelly Sandstone, and the bottom layer is Organ Rock Shale.

According to the Köppen Geiger Climate Classification, Monument Valley has a desert climate. The area receives light to moderate snowfall during the winter which forms a light dusting on the rocks. 

This valley was once featured in computer games and numerous motion pictures and movies. It was also featured in John Ford’s work, including Stagecoach, Clementine, My Darling, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Searchers, released around the 1950s and 1960s.

Is it added to your bucket list? Or are you going to do it now?

waterfalls in yosemite
Image By: Mike Ver Sprill/Shutterstock

12. Chugach State Park

Chugach State Park is located in the city of Anchorage in South Central Alaska. This state park was established on August 6, 1970, under the legislation passed by the governor of Alaska, Keith Miller.

Chugach State Park covers an area of 495,270 acres, and within its boundaries lies the Chugach Mountains. This park was established to secure that area’s geographic features and act as a primary water supply source for Anchorage. 

It is managed by the Alaska State Parks Corporation and is the third-largest state park in the United States. It is home to geographical areas, each with various features and attractions. 

Tourists who visit Eklutna Lake get the opportunity to experience a wide variety of flora at different elevations. At the lower elevations, one can see white spruce (Picea glauca), Betula papyrifera, and Populus tremuloides. 

Ferns, mushrooms, and wildflowers cover the forest floor, including dwarf dogwood, Epilobium angustifolium, and the Boschniakia rossica of the broomrape family. 

The area’s higher elevations are mainly covered with wildflowers such as Dryas octopetala, Alaska state flower, and Myosotis alpestris are found here. 

On the banks of Eagle River lies the species of bears. Brown and Grizzly bears are often found near the river feeding the salmon. The majority of black bears live inside the forest surrounding the river. 

These two rivers add up to 85% of the visitors to the park throughout the year. Wildlife or the forests, everything can be seen in this last place of our Western Road Trip.

Closing Thoughts

If you are looking for a recommended park near both the West Coast and Pacific Coast Highway are;

  • arches national park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Yosemite national park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • rainier national park

We hope you are now ready to explore the United States with our 12 exciting Road Trip Ideas. See you next time!

Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by ritukhare

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