There’s something about road trips that just screams “adventure.” And what could be more adventurous than visiting some of the most beautiful national parks in the country?
If you’re looking to hit up some of the best national parks on the West Coast of the United States, we’ve got just the road trip route for you. This jam-packed national park tour will take you to some of the region’s most popular and stunning parks, giving you plenty to see and do along the way.
Visit the ones you want and skip the ones you don’t. So pack your bags, hop in your car, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!
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Where To Start Your West Coast National Park Trip
Almost all of the western states in the USA have at least 1 national park, so there is no wrong place to start your national park road trip.
But because there will inevitably be a starting and an ending point, it makes sense to start at one end (the farthest end) and end at another. This way, you’re driving in one direction in the most efficient way possible, no backtracking–no wasting unnecessary gas!
The furthest two ends of my itinerary are Olympic National Park in Washington and Arches National Park in Utah. In terms of airports you’d fly into, here’s what I recommend:
- Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to start/end your road trip in Olympic National Park
- Fly into either Moab (CNY) or Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) to start/end your road trip in Arches National Park
- I suggest getting to Moab via Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) where you can easily rent a car and get on the road.
West Coast National Park Road Trip: Suggested Routes
You can start this road trip from wherever you’d like, but I recommend one of the following routes:
- Route 1 – START: Washington – Oregon – California – Arizona – Utah – END
- With this route, you’ll start your trip in Washington and gradually drive in the southwestern direction to ultimately end your national park road trip in Utah.
- Route 2 – START: Utah – Arizona – California – Oregon – Washington – END
- With this route, you’ll start your trip in Utah and gradually drive in the northwest direction to end your national park road trip in the Pacific Northwest!
For the list below, I’ll be listing the national parks out by starting with the most northwestern state–Washington. Again, feel free to map out your own itinerary depending on where you want to start and end your trip.
Here’s an overall map of what national parks we’ll cover in my version of the ultimate west coast national park road trip:
West Coast National Park Road Trip: Logistics
For our national park road trips, we typically like to pick up rental cars from the nearest international airport (there’s often more availability at the airports compared to rental car shops in town).
We typically like to rent from Hertz. Their Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program is awesome (and completely free to join). You’ll get counter-free pickup at select locations, and even mobile alerts with your exact rental car and its location before you arrive. Check out rental car pricing and availability here.
American The Beautiful National Parks Pass
For most of the National Parks, you’ll need to pay a $25-35 entrance fee. This pass lasts for 7 days per park.
If you plan on visiting multiple National Parks or National Monuments throughout a one-year time span, I’d highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass.
This pass will cost you $80 and will get you into any of the 2,000 National Parks, National Monuments, or National Forests for an entire year.
I buy this pass every year. It’s the best bang for your buck if you plan on visiting at least 3 national parks within a 12-month timespan!
Since you will be likely visiting at least 5 national parks on this itinerary, your park entrance fees without the pass are estimated to be around $150. With the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, you’ll be paying just $80. Plus, you’ll be able to continue using it for a whole year from the time of your purchase.
You can buy a pass online at REI or in-person at the entrance gates of any National Park.
12 Epic Stops On The Ultimate West Coast National Park Road Trip
1. OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
If you’re looking for an amazing national park to explore on your West Coast national park road trip, Olympic National Park is a great place to start.
Olympic National Park is best known for its stunningly diverse ecosystems. From the rugged pacific coastline to massive peaks and glaciers to even a temperate rainforest–Olympic is truly a national treasure. In addition to its natural beauty, Olympic National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including elk, deer, bears, and eagles.
There are so many things to do in this park, from hiking and camping to fishing and kayaking. And, of course, you can’t forget about making time just to sit there and soak in the stunning scenery. Here are just a few of the things you can do in Olympic National Park:
- Hiking: There are over 900 miles of trails in Olympic National Park, so there’s plenty of room to explore. Some of the most popular hikes include the Hurricane Ridge Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains; the Hoh Rainforest Trail, which takes you through one of the world’s largest temperate rainforests; and the Seven Lakes Basin Trail, which is a great option for those who want to explore some of the park’s beautiful lakes.
- See the beaches and waterfalls: Sol Duc Falls, Mora Beach, and Rialto Beach are not to be missed!
- Camping: Camping is a great way to experience all that Olympic National Park has to offer. There are several campgrounds located throughout the park, so you can find one that’s perfect for your needs.
- Fishing: Fishing is a popular activity in Olympic National Park. There are many rivers and lakes to choose from, so you’re sure to find the perfect spot to cast your line.
- Kayaking: Kayaking is another great way to explore the park. There are plenty of waterways to choose from, so you can paddle your way through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
Towns/Attractions Near Olympic National Park
- Port Townsend, WA
- Sequim, WA
- Port Angeles, WA
- La Push
2. MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK
No trip to Washington or Oregon is complete without a Mount Rainier National Park visit. The sights and experiences at this iconic national park are truly unforgettable. I’ve been here twice already, and I’m itching for my next trip back!
There’s so much to see and do at Mount Rainier National Park all year round, from hiking among the wildflowers, to chasing hundreds of spectacular waterfalls, to even strolling through a temperate rainforest.
Of note, Mount Rainier NP is a hiker’s paradise. Among the many, many hikes are standouts like the 6-mile roundtrip Mount Fremont Lookout Trail in the Sunrise area and the 5.5-mile Skyline Trail hike in the Paradise area (a must-do for any first-time visitor).
If you’re a waterfall chaser, head to the Ohanapecosh area to see Silver Falls, one of the best-looking waterfalls in the park and one of my absolute favorites!
Towns/Attractions Near Mount Rainier National Park
- Tacoma, WA
- Seattle, WA
- Olympia, WA
- Mount Rainier National Park Weekend Trip Adventure: 2-Day Itinerary
- 18 Best Things To Do At Mount Rainier National Park For First Timers
3. CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK
Surprisingly for such a vibrant and lush state, Crater Lake is Oregon’s only national park. Famous for its beautiful and vibrant blue color, at 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America. The vastness of the lake is a sight you need to see with your own eyes!
Once at the national park, head towards the visitor’s center, which also serves as the start of a few good hikes.
We recommend checking out the Discovery Point Trail, which is an easy 4.0-mile walk with stunning lake views the entire time. This makes for a great intro hike before exploring the rest of the park.
If you love chasing sunrises, try getting to Crater Lake National Park before sunrise. This sounds like a really early start, but having the opportunity to watch the sun ascend above the horizon and hit Crater Lake is hands-down completely worth it. Catching the sunrise at the top of Watchman Peak is even more epic!
After a picnic lunch at one of the many amazing viewpoints, head down the Cleetwood Cove Trail (1.8 miles roundtrip) to access the lake for a cold, refreshing swim and some unforgettable cliff jumping! The trail is downhill the whole way down, which means you’ll get a good workout coming back up.
For more varied scenery that doesn’t involve simply staring into the lake, check out the Pinnacles Overlook Trail and Plaikni Falls.
Towns/Attractions Near Crater Lake National Park
4. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Ah, Yosemite. Known for its majestic rushing waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, and granite cliffs more massive than one could imagine. California is so lucky to be the home of this iconic National Park!
On average, about four to five million people visit Yosemite each year, and most of them spend the majority of their time in Yosemite Valley.
It’s a no-brainer why this is. Yosemite holds many natural wonders such as Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall, Half Dome, and El Capitan. Here, you can take a hike among ancient sequoia trees, ride bikes with incredible rock formations as your backdrop, soak in the Merced River, and even catch glimpses of baby bear cubs.
I’ve been to Yosemite seven times now and I keep going back, so I know you’re going to have a wonderful time here! No matter what season it is, Yosemite makes for a great weekend destination.
However, if you have only one day to spend in the park, make the stops mentioned in this Yosemite 1-day itinerary your priority!
If you’re able to make it over to the eastern end of Yosemite (keep reading to discover what other destinations lie on the eastern side of Yosemite), you’ll be blessed with views of Tuolumne Meadows, Olmsted Point, and more.
Towns/Attractions Near Yosemite National Park
- Columbia State Historic Park
- Railtown 1897 in Jamestown
- Sonora and Murphys, CA – gold rush towns)
- Bodie State Historic Park – the largest ghost town in the West, located just 45-minutes northeast of Lee Vining and the eastern end of Yosemite National Park.
- Travertine Hot Spring – boasting some of the best views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This is located in Bridgeport, CA
- Mono Lake – a super-salty lake with cool tufas rising out of the water that began to form around 750,000 years ago.
- June Lake – an awesome place to take a dip, have a lakeside picnic, or get out onto the water on a SUP or kayak.
- Mammoth Lakes – An alpine town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that features many cool sites like Devil’s Postpile, Rainbow Falls, Minaret Vista, Hot Creek Geological Site, Earthquake Fault, and Wild Willy’s Hot Spring.
Where To Stay: Camping within the park or Sierra Sky Lodge in Oakhurst, CA
- Yosemite National Park Day Trip: 13 Unmissable Things To See
- Where To Stay At Yosemite National Park: 7 Affordable Lodging Options
- 15+ Fun Things To Do In Gold Country, CA Near Yosemite
- 13 Best Things To Do Between San Francisco And Yosemite NP
5. SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are two parks that are separate and adjacent but administered as one by the National Parks Service.
At these national parks, you can easily spend your days taking photos, enjoying waterfalls, hiking mountains, taking scenic drives, and picnicking in one of the many wildflower meadows.
At Sequoia National Park, aptly named for its giant sequoia trees, some of the best things to do include gazing at the General Sherman Tree, hiking on trails including Big Trees Trail and Tokopah Falls Trail, and taking in spectacular views atop Moro Rock.
Kings Canyon National Park, named for the deepest canyon in North America, features terrain similar to Yosemite Valley and is home to the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world (Redwood Canyon).
At Kings Canyon, explore the sequoias at Grant Grove, feel the mist of powerful waterfalls on your skin including Roaring River Falls, Mist Falls, and Grizzly Falls and hike on the Big Stump Trail.
Towns/Attractions Near Sequoia and Kings Canyon
- Bishop, CA
- Mount Whitney
- Mammoth Lakes, CA
6. DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States. The national park spans more than three million acres and includes mountains, canyons, badlands, and desert.
Death Valley National Park is a really unique place that’ll have you thinking you’re on another planet. It’s home to the lowest point of elevation in North America, and it’s also the site of the hottest temperature recorded on the continent.
Explore the park’s beautiful salt pans, sand dunes, Artist’s Palette, Badwater Basin, and more during your day trip to Death Valley.
Death Valley National Park is only a 2-hour drive from Las Vegas, making it the perfect day trip before spending the night (and maybe even an extra day or two) in Vegas!
And if you would rather not drive or worry about planning out what sites to see, there are many tours from Las Vegas that can take you out there:
- Death Valley Day Trip from Las Vegas
- Small Group Guide Tour: Death Valley Day Tour with Evening Milky Way Viewing
Towns/Attractions Near Death Valley National Park
Where To Stay: The Inn at Death Valley
7. JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its unique terrain, covered with whimsical Joshua Trees as well as its massive boulder formations.
Where do these trees get their names, you might ask? Well, the name came to be when Mormon settlers first laid their eyes on these trees back in the day. They were reminded of the biblical story of Joshua reaching his hands to the sky, and so the name of the tree was born.
Joshua Tree National Park is actually made up of two deserts, the Colorado and Mojave Deserts. This “hybrid” desert feature paves the way to the park’s diversity in flora and terrain.
There are plenty of things to do in Joshua Tree National Park, including visiting the Jumbo Rocks, Oasis of Mara and Keys View!
You may have also heard that Joshua Tree is a rock climber’s paradise, and with good reason. Once you lay your eyes on the jumbo rocks dotted across the park, you’ll easily understand why.
Aside from climbing, there are many other features of the park to enjoy, including beautiful desert vistas, epic camping and stargazing, wildflowers in the springtime, educational walks, and family-friendly hiking.
Towns/Attractions Near Joshua Tree National Park
- Best Time to Visit Joshua Tree National Park for Stargazing
- 12 Best Things To Do During A Visit To Joshua Tree National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park: How To Prepare For Your First Trip
8. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
The Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. The national park spans more than one million acres and includes the Grand Canyon itself, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The canyon is over 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. HUGE!
Between the North and South Rim, The South Rim is the more visited of the pair, with a wider range of viewpoints and things to do. It is home to many of the best activities in the Grand Canyon, which are open all year round. (The North Rim is closed during the wintertime.)
The vastness of the canyon may be seen from a series of viewpoints on Desert View Drive and Hermit Road. On your visit to the Grand Canyon, be sure to stop by a few of them during sunrise and sunset too!
Another South Rim bucket list item for hikers is to take on the South Kaibab Trail where you actually get to hike inside the canyon.
Highlights of the North Rim include Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal and Roosevelt Point.
Because this national park is so popular, you’ll easily find lots of tour operators that offer day trips to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, which saves you the effort of having to plan out the driving logistics in order to see this majestic wonder of a place!
These tours will take you to the Grand Canyon West Rim, where the iconic Skywalk and the helicopter tours are. Interesting fact– this part of the canyon is actually not an official part of the Grand Canyon National Park, and is instead owned by the Hualapai Tribe.
If you’re short on time, the Grand Canyon is best seen on a guided tour (especially if you don’t want to spend your precious time driving). Some Grand Canyon tours to consider:
- Explore the magnificent landmarks of Arizona with a 14-hour day trip to the Grand Canyon National Park South Rim on this luxury bus tour. Your professional bus driver will be trained to provide you with interesting facts about the history, flora, and fauna of this natural wonder.
- Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tour & Hoover Dam Photo Stop – This 10.5-hour full-day tour allows you to enjoy a hot, sit-down breakfast at a restaurant en route to the West Rim. This tour also includes a bonus stop at the Hoover Dam Memorial Bridge where you can capture incredible photos of the Dam! Once at the Grand Canyon, a BBQ lunch on the canyon rim is included.
Towns/Attractions Near Grand Canyon National Park
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Williams, AZ
- Sedona, AZ
- Prescott, AZ
- Jerome, AZ
9. ZION NATIONAL PARK
Utah is home to five amazing national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce Canyon NP. These are often referred as “The Mighty Five.” and they attract millions of visitors every year.
For an extended West Coast national park road trip, start at Zion National Park in Utah. I’ve taken two previous road trips to Zion National Park and am dying to hop back in the car for my third!
Zion National Park is located just less than 3 hours away from Las Vegas. The national park spans more than 150,000 acres and includes canyons, cliffs, rivers, and forests.
Be sure to visit the Emerald Pools, do the Narrows hike, Observation Point hike, and Angel’s Landing hike when you are at the park!
Pro Tip: Zion can easily be paired with a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in a multi-day road trip. Here’s my 5-day road trip itinerary to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
Don’t have time for a 5-day road trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks? There are group tours that make visiting both parks in one day possible.
Specifically, this Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks small-group tour makes it possible. Transportation (hotel pick up and drop-off), lunch, snacks, and beverages are included on this 14-hour tour.
Towns/Attractions Near Grand Canyon National Park
- Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
- Virgin Trading Post
- Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
- Monument Valley
- The Perfect 5-Day Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Road Trip From Las Vegas
- Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, Utah: In Photos
10. BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Bryce Canyon National Park is located about 4 hours away from Las Vegas and relatively close to Zion NP. This national park spans more than 35,000 acres and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
Bryce Canyon is home to a number of incredible natural features, including the adorable hoodoos that can be found all over the park!
Bryce Canyon is also home to a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, as well as a variety of birds.
Be sure to visit the Bryce Amphitheater and Sunset Point when you are at the national park!
Whether you’re looking to hike, camp, or just take in the incredible views, Bryce Canyon National Park is sure to delight all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts.
11. CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Canyonlands National Park is a great addition to your national park road trip if you’re interested in… canyons of course! The national park spans more than 337,000 acres and features expansive canyons, rivers, and mesas.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the park, and for good reason! There are plenty of trails to explore, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging hikes. One of the most popular trails is the Mesa Arch Trail, which offers stunning views of the unique Canyonlands landscape.
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, try the Syncline Loop Trail. This trail takes you through some of the most scenic areas of the park and is considered one of the best hikes in Canyonlands.
For those who want to explore the park without hiking, there are plenty of other options. One popular activity is taking a scenic drive through the park. The Island in the Sky Scenic Drive offers stunning views of the canyons and mesas, and is a great way to see the park without doing any strenuous activity.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to explore the park, try rafting or kayaking down the Colorado River. This is a great way to see the park from a different perspective and get some exercise at the same time.
Short on time? Be sure to visit the Island in the Sky and White Rim Road when you are at the national park!
Pro Tip: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are both easily accessible from the town of Moab, Utah. Visiting both on the same road trip is what most travelers do. You can base yourself in Moab for a few nights and visit both these national parks before heading back to Las Vegas. If you’ve got more time, add in a visit to Dead Horse Point State Park.
12. ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
This drop-dead gorgeous national park is located in Utah and it is known for its beautiful red rock formations. The park spans more than 76,000 acres and includes more than two thousand natural sandstone arches.
Arches National Park definitely appeals to the more adventurous travelers as it’s a great place to visit if you are looking to hike, camp, and rock climb!
Having said that, it’s also a very family-friendly park because of the fact that most of its trails can be done by kids and elderly parents.
Visitors of all ages can also take advantage of the many scenic viewpoints. Here are my four favorites:
- Delicate Arch Viewpoint: this is probably the most popular viewpoint at Arches National Park. The trail to get here is only about a mile long, but it is fairly steep in sections. From this viewpoint, you get a great view of Delicate Arch and the surrounding area.
- Fiery Furnace Viewpoint: this is a great viewpoint if you are up for a bit of a hike. The trail is about two miles long and is quite rocky with some steeper sections. From the top, you get unbeatable views of the Fiery Furnace area.
- Balanced Rock Viewpoint: this is a short, easy hike to a great viewpoint. The trail is only about 0.25 miles long, and it is mostly flat. This one is great for the whole family!
- Double Arch Viewpoint: this is another short, easy hike to an iconic viewpoint. The trail is only about 0.25 miles long, and it is mostly flat. From this viewpoint, the star of the show is Double Arch, of course!
If you’re short on time, be sure to visit the Delicate Arch and Double Arch!
Whether you are looking for an adventure or just want to relax, Arches National Park is the perfect destination. Don’t forget your camera because this park and all its majestic arches are sure to create lasting memories.
Towns/Attractions Near Arches National Park
- Moab, UT
- Hovenweep National Monument
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Colorado National Monument
Other Attractions For Your National Park Road Trip
- San Diego, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Catalina Island, CA
- Big Sur / Pacific Coast Highway
- San Francisco, CA
- San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip
- Great Basin National Park, Nevada
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
- Rocket Mountain National Park, CO
- Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
- Continue extending your trip through the state of Colorado!
West Coast National Park Road Trip: Essential Packing List
- America the Beautiful National Parks Pass | Yosemite National Park costs $35 for a 7-day pass. However, the national parks annual pass is a great way to save on entrance fees. If you intend to visit three or more NPS parks or sites in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will more than pay for itself. This pass can be purchased at the park entrances or online here. [Example: 3 National Parks x $30 parking each = $90. Savings with the annual pass = $10. Any more parks you go to thereafter = FREE!]
- License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
- Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.
- Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
- Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
- Flashlight | You never know when you’re going to be stranded on the road at night, out hiking late, or even exploring a dark cave. Leaving a flashlight in your car can really come in handy when you’re faced with unexpected situations.
- Umbrella | An umbrella, particularly a wind-proof umbrella, is crucial when traveling to destinations with varying/unpredictable weather. If you have an umbrella with you, then it means the rain can’t stop you from enjoying your trip and exploring the outdoors.
- Travel Pillow | If you have room in the car for a regular pillow, I find that they are the most comfortable for long car trips. If you need a more portable option, this memory foam travel pillow works well not only for car travel but also for camping!
- Travel Blanket | For all your napping needs–especially if the driver likes AC and you’re trying to snuggle up for a nap. This one is packable so it won’t take up very much in your car.
- Slip-on Sandals | Slip-on/slip-off sandals are a must for that extra comfort while sitting in the car. This allows you to make lots of stops without having to go through the process of putting your sneakers/boots back on.
- Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. This means you can actually eat well on the road instead of opting for fast-food every time! A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more. If you’re looking for the best cooler technology out there, the Yeti Portable Cooler is top of the line, with ColdCell Insulation that offers superior cold-holding compared to other soft coolers.
- Swiss Army Knife | A multi-tool is great to have in any car, regardless of if you’re going on a road trip or not. It can be useful in so many situations! There have been so many instances where I’ve needed to cut something or open up hard-to-open packaging while away from home, and this has been a lifesaver.
- First Aid Kit | It’s always good to carry a first aid kit around with you when traveling. Road trips make it easier to do this since all you need to do is toss it in the trunk! Note: This is not the same as the roadside emergency kit.
- Garbage Bags | Because you don’t want the inside of your car to resemble a dumpster can. Plastic bags (or garbage bags) can also be used to hold wet clothes if you get caught in the rain, go for a swim, etc.
- Hiking Boots | If you plan on hiking, bring well broken-in boots with good ankle support and good traction. My all-time favorites are the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Boots. They’re one of the lightest boots in its class, very durable, and provide out-of-the-box comfort, which is extremely important if you want to prevent blisters from the start.
- Hiking Socks | Make sure you have a good pair of cushioned wool hiking socks. For extra toe protection and to prevent blisters from developing from skin-to-skin contact, go with a pair of Injinji toe socks.
- Adventure Sandals | Tevas and Chacos are my go-to brands for multipurpose summer sandals. If you’re planning on spending some time on the river or at the Cascade Lakes, you should definitely consider getting adventure sandals — they’re comfortable for long-distance walking, safe for submerging in water, and super durable.
- Waterproof Rain Jacket | A lightweight waterproof rain jacket is critical for any outdoor adventure. Since these weigh virtually nothing and are so easily packable, I recommend you carry one with you whenever you head outdoors. Depending on the weather forecast and chance of precipitation, I’ll either go with a rain shell or a puffier windbreaker. Despite the options I have here, one thing is for sure— I’m never without some sort of outer layer. My top recommendations are Marmot Men’s PreCip (for men) and The North Face Women’s Venture 2 Jacket (for women).
- Puffy Jacket | You’re going to need layers in Northern California and Oregon. The coastal, forested, and high desert climates of the west coast brings chilly evenings year-round, even on warm summer days. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of outdoor adventuring!
- Daypack | I’m a fan of the Osprey Daylite Daypack. It has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
- Laundry Bag | Summer and/or outdoor activities = lots of sweaty, smelly, dirty, and worn clothes. Don’t soil your entire travel bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes! Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
- Hat, Bandana, or Buff | Sun protection is key for any outdoor destination. Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, bandana, or a Buff. All three can be used to shield your neck or forehead from the sun. As a bonus, bandanas and Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your bandana or Buff then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down.
- Travel Towel | These are light and quick-drying, which is exactly what you need when you’re hopping from a river or lake to a car. This one here is a great option.
- Travel Clothesline | This is a small and portable clothesline that allows you to hang up your wet clothes almost anywhere. I’ve found that it’s really handy whenever I have wet bathing suits or towels that need to be air-dried. I love it for its multi-purpose functionality!
- Dry Bag | Another multi-purpose item on the list! Dry bags are completely necessary for keeping your dry belongings (clothes, electronics, money, etc)… dry. Don’t set foot on a kayak, boat or canoe without putting your stuff in a dry bag. Trust me, it’s better than ending up with a phone or camera submerged in water in the case where the boat tips or something. It’s also super handy for carrying around wet bathing suits and towels. Or even doubling as your laundry bag!
- Insect Repellent Lotion | Mosquitos love hot and wet climates, so I would definitely recommend packing insect repellent with a high DEET percentage if you’re traveling in the summer and plan to be on the water. Sawyer makes some really great bug repellent products, and they’re travel-friendly too!
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Headlamp / Flashlight | Being able to find your way through the wilderness or through lava caves in darkness is essential, so you should always carry a light source with you, even if you don’t plan on staying out past sunset. An LED headlamp allows you to hike hands-free and is my preferred source of light. FYI, the flashlight on your smartphone is not an adequate substitute– the light is not bright enough, plus it’ll drain your battery life, which may be critical in an emergency. Always carry extra batteries.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures, GPSing to all the great breweries and eateries… the last thing you want is to be stranded with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
- Medications | Motion sickness pills for those windy roads, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, etc.
Can You Use The Same Park Entrance Fee For Multiple National Parks?
The short answer is no. If you plan on paying $35 for the 7-day pass at one National Park and expecting free entrance to another National Park, think again.
For example: You can’t pay to get into Yosemite National Park, and then use your 7-day entrance pass to get into nearby Sequoia National Park or Kings Canyon National Park.
Each national park sets its own entrance fee. If you’re visiting two National Parks, the total one-time admission to both these parks will cost $70. I would not recommend paying the one-time entrance fees at all.
Instead, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, which costs $80 and will get you into any of the 2,000+ National Parks, National Monuments, or National Forests for an entire year.
As long as you visit 2 additional national parks, the pass will more than pay for itself and save you so much money on park admission fees. You can buy a pass online at REI or in-person at the entrance gates of any National Park.
With this post, I hope you were able to better plan out your perfect national park road trip. Happy adventuring!
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