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This action packed 2 week National Park Road Trip in the USA covers some of the biggest and the best National Parks in the country. From glacial carved valleys to desert landscapes, get ready to see some of the best scenery on the planet. It is the ultimate National Park road trip of a lifetime.
We had planned this incredible holiday over several months, and spent even longer saving every cent we had toward it. It is the perfect vacation for those on a budget. – See – How to Save Money to Travel.
Our original starting point was in Alaska. We spent a week checking out as much as possible, including Denali National Park. We then made our way to Vancouver with a 7 night cruise through the Inside Passage. From here, we crossed into Seattle , rented a car and headed for the Canadian Rockies on a 7 day road trip. We entered back into the US via Calgary.
This carefully planned trip was fairly fast paced but you could take extra time at each location.
2 week Road Trip USA itinerary
14 nights / 15 days
Glacier National Park / Yellowstone National Park
Grand Teton National Park / Arches National Park
Monument Valley / Colored Canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park / Zion National Park
Time of year September(Fall)
Note; Some of these areas are closed or have limited access during the winter months. A revised trip plan may be needed.
DAY 1 – 3 : Calgary to Glacier National Park
( 2 nights accommodation)
Distance: 182 miles/ 294 km / Drive time : 3.20 hrs.
Our 2 week National Park Road Trip starts in the Canadian city of Calgary. We picked up some friends who flew in from the US and began our Calgary to Las Vegas road trip.
The drive down to Glacier National Park was smooth sailing, nothing but wide open road. Crossing the border took minutes as we were the only ones there at the time. We entered from the east side and made our way to Swift Current Lake.
Glacier NP is simply outstanding. Miles and miles of glorious mountain peaks and endless hiking possibilities. There are 25 “active” glaciers here.
Glacier National Park Highlights
Going to the Sun Road
Going to the Sun Road is not to be missed.
This narrow and scenic passage is your window to the parks monumental scenery.
It takes around 2 hours without stopping and is the highlight for most visiting. Be sure to stop at the highest point, Logan’s Pass and set out on a short hike. The views are breath taking.
Swift Current Lake
Gorgeous view and well worth a stop. The Many glacier hotel is perched on the waters edge and commands some of the best views you’ll find.
We took a relaxing two lakes cruise from here which included some walking. If you are not keen to set out on foot by yourself you can book other activities here.
Swift Current Inn: a basic and cheaper option. Cabins with or without bathroom were clean and comfortable. Restaurant had basic low cost meals on location. 1 night.
Many Glacier Hotel: this 5 story Swiss style hotel has a range of rooms and suites. Cafe, gift shop and up scale restaurant on site. 1 night.
Day 3 – 4: Glacier National Park to Bozeman
(1 nights accommodation)
Distance: 315 miles / 507 km / Drive time : 5.36 hrs.
Heading off after lunch, the drive would take us within an hour and a half from our next destination, Yellowstone National Park.
It would work out much cheaper to stay here and there was no need to push on any further. It meant we could get up early and be in the park mid morning.
My Place Bozeman had nice new rooms and a kitchen. A good stop for a nights rest. During the evening we stopped into the White Dog Brewery for some pre dinner drinks.
Days 4 – 6 : Bozeman to Yellowstone National Park
(2 nights accommodation)
Distance: 78 miles / 125 km / Drive time: 1.19 hrs
The magnificent Yellowstone was always on top of my bucket list for our 2 week National park road trip.
We entered Yellowstone through the north entrance via Gardiner and were at Mammoth Hot Springs within 90 minutes. The speed limit within the park is only 45 miles on the Grand Loop but you may be going much slower during times of heavy traffic and animal crossings.
Yellowstone National Park Highlights
While there are MANY highlights here, these were some of my favorites.
Mammoth Hot Springs
What an opening scene it was. Totally mesmerizing. The steaming hot springs and limestone terraces are like nothing on earth. The boardwalks allow visitors to enjoy plenty of great vantage points from all different levels.
This was where we had the most unobstructed view of wild life. The wide open valley was some of the best back country I have driven through. We saw so many herds of buffalo roaming the land, it was paradise.
Noris Geyser Basin
This geothermal area is expansive and requires a couple of hours to explore. There are plenty of board walks here. Be sure to stop by Steamboat Geyser.
Grand Prismatic Spring
You’ve probably seen the photos as it’s the most photographed thing in all the park. Don’t miss it.
The most famous geyser in the world erupts on average every 74 minutes. It’s truly a wonder and doesn’t disappoint.
Old Faithful Lodge and cabins: great budget cabins located next to Old Faithful himself. Basic rooms with shared bathrooms.
Day 6 – 7 Yellowstone to Jackson Hole via Grand Teton
(1 nights accommodation)
Distance: 88 miles / 142 km / Drive time: 2.14 hrs.
Leaving early morning we headed toward Yellowstone Lake and came across the first snow fall for the season. This is where sudden road closures can occur but we were lucky to make it through.
Grand Teton Highlights
The drive provided the most epic and mighty views of the rising mountains. At this stage of the trip we were gob smacked by what had seen so far.
A stop by Colter Village will allow you some time to grab a bite to eat and browse some local stores. Down at the lake we took the time to just soak up “that” view. It was like having front row seats to the best show on earth.
The town of Jackson is like driving into the wild west. Saloons and cowboys it is. When you come from a world away, it’s pretty cool.
Head tot he famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for drinks, dinner and live entertainment. It’s located right in the heart of town.
The Lexington: located right on the main road and with breakfast provided. The hotel rates very highly and provides plenty of comfort.
Day 7 – 9 Jackson to Moab (Arches National Park)
( 2 nights accommodation)
Distance: 495 miles / 796 km / Drive time: 8.26 hrs.
This was the half way mark of our amazing 2 week National Park Road Trip.
It’s time to hit the famous Grand Circle circuit. Our biggest day yet on the road as we made our way toward Moab and Arches National park. The scenery certainly changed immensely from here on in. Farm land turned to dry arid landscape pretty quickly. Be sure to set off early, it’s a big day but if you don’t mind driving and taking turns, you’ll have no issues.
Stop at Dead Horse Point State Park for epic scenery and not to be missed.
Arches National Park Highlights
Arches National Park
What a contrast to what we had seen so far. There is so much more here than just a series of stone arches. The formations and colors of the rock are ever changing as you move around the park. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to grab a map of highlights. Parking can be limited at some stops.
The big highlights include Delicate Arch, Devils Garden, Balanced Rock and the Windows.
Four wheel driving
Oh my goodness, what a blast. We hired a jeep and took off in search of adventure. Some of the tracks were easy and it was just fun to be off road and away from the crowds. But then we went extreme up one track that required some 4 X 4 rock climbing. It was a bit scary but absolute exhilarating. Make sure when choosing which tracks to take to check the conditions and grading.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Featuring expansive views overlooking the Colorado River and Canyonlands. The main viewing area near the visitor center offered an unbelievable panorama.
Moab has a great range of hotels, apartments and Bed and breakfasts.
Day 10 Moab to Monument Valley
(1 nights accommodation)
Distance: 148 miles / 238 km / drive time 1.39 hrs
A short drive takes us into Navajo territory. Located on the borders of Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is truly iconic .It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park.
Monument Valley Highlights
The absolute star of the show. These sandstone towers rise above the desert floor in what has to be one of the most photographed places in the USA.There presence is commanding and when you actually get to see them for the first time in all their glory it’s an incredible moment.
The View Hotel
One of the reasons we stayed overnight was to stay here. It’s pretty clever that when you enter your room the curtains are closed. Open up and behold the view of all views. Just magic. While the price is high it’s the scene out front that you have paid for. And it’s so worth it.
We sat back on our private balcony and watched as the light changed and the sun set over the desert. We took hundreds of photos. The final reward was the thousands of sparkling stars that lit up the night sky.
Day 11 Monument Valley to Page – Arizona
( 1 nights accommodation)
Distance: 125 miles / 201 km / drive time: 2.01 hrs.
Another short distance and we arrived into Page early morning ready for an exciting day ahead.
It’s amazing what nature can do. America’s most beautiful slot canyon is easily accessed but only by guided tour as it’s on Indian reservation
It was easy to be wowed by the beautiful colors within the rock. As you move through the narrow chambers your eyes are drawn to every angle. During midday in the summer time, the sun is able to penetrate the canyon walls which is by far the best time to visit.
Horse Shoe Bend
The famous stop that many visitors come for. The viewing area down into the Colorado River is located within a few miles out of the town of Page.
We headed down to Marina Village late afternoon and had a wonderful dinner overlooking the lake. A casual affair with drinks was really relaxing.
Sleep Inn and Suites had well appointed modern rooms for a good nights sleep. Breakfast was included.
Day 12 Page Arizona to Bryce Canyon
( 1 nights accommodation)
Distance: 151 miles / 243 km / drive time: 2.35 hrs.
The drive up to Bryce Canyon is quite enjoyable as it’s very scenic.
Bryce Canyon Highlights
Bryce Canyon Scenic Points
Simply a unique place to visit. I loved that you could visit Bryce Canyon comfortably in one day, as all scenic stops are on the one road. There is one way in and out and the distance is only 18 miles with 13 main viewing stops.
Lookouts such as Inspiration, Rainbow, Sunrise and Sunset point as just a few. But the biggest draw card in the famous Hoodoos at the Amphitheater. These spires of eroded rock have formed something truly amazing.
We took around 5 hours to see everything comfortably.
Accommodation can be limited close to the park so be sure to check early for the best deals.
Day 13 Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park
(1 nights accommodation)
Distance: 72.3 miles / 116 km / 1.19 hrs
Today we back tracked and made our way toward Zion National Park, entering through the east entrance. .
Zion National Park Highlights
Mount Carmel HWY
The drive along this particular route was one of my favorite.It connects the east entrance to the south entrance. Every turn along this winding road was awe-inspiring. Looking outward to those incredible sandstone mountains and lush vegetation along the Virgin River is as good as it gets for breathtaking scenery.
Canyon Scenic Drive
You’ll need to park the car as entering from here can only be done via the parks buses from March to November.
The road is 54 miles and takes around 1.5 hours. There are many stops and getting a map from the starting point (visitors center) will help you decide when to get off.
Is a greatest past time and there is a range of easy to moderate walks. My favorite was the Lower Emerald Pool trail. You can read my in article on Zion here – One Day in Zion.
Suites at LaFave Gallery was nicely located on the main road in the town of Springdale. It also backed onto Zion NP.
A beautiful apartment with full kitchen and BBQ area out back. As there is only 2 on site it was peaceful and quiet though right in the heart of town.
Day 14 Zion to Las Vegas
Distance: 159 miles / 255 km / drive time: 2.36 hrs.
Sadly our 2 week National Park Road Trip was coming to an end. After three nights in Las Vegas it was time to fly home to Australia.
Ultimate National Park Road Trip
In all we had been away for 6 weeks, starting in Alaska and finally finishing in the city of lights.
This trip was made possible due to the fact we carefully budgeted the entire trip (see- A cheats guide to saving money while traveling) and looked for savvy ways to save (see- how to save money to travel) before booking this trip of a lifetime.
Alaska Road Trip – 6 days – click here
Vancouver to Banff Road Trip – 7 days – click here
Glacier National Park – 3 days – click here
Yellowstone National Park – 3 days – click here
Grand Teton & Jackson Hole – 1 day – click here
Antelope Canyon- 1 day click here
Bryce Canyon – 1 day – click here
Zion Nation Park – 1 day – click here
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