A National Park Road Trip

A National Park Road Trip

Hi guys! Thank you so much for being patient on this post! I know it is long overdue. I have been on the road nonstop for work flying to multiple countries this last month and honestly, I have just had no time to sit down and write. I actually leave for another trip tomorrow out of the country, but I wanted to get this post in. So, thank you again so much and I hope you enjoy this read! 🙂

After I finished my goal of hitting all 50 states by the age of 25, I decided to create a new goal: going to all the National Parks in the US by the age of 30! So last summer once I got back from my deployment, a friend and I decided we were going to do a cross country road trip and hit as many National Parks as we could in just 12 days. Well, we did just that haha! In that time, we managed to go to 13 National Parks, a National Lake Shore, a National Monument, attend a wedding and do a 70s theme bar crawl with friends. We drove over 7,500 miles in my Nissan Altima with my pup Kona sitting on our laps in the passenger seat for the majority of the time. We spent over 114 hours in the car and drove through 18 states! My car definitely needed some TLC after this trip.

This was my 8th cross country road trip and the first one I didn’t do with just Kona. Together we made multiple plans and routes for where we wanted to go and what days we needed to be in certain spots and of course we did not follow it exactly, but it worked out perfectly that way. We decided for day one we were going to head up to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan and camp somewhere (we originally were going to camp everywhere we went but that did not end up happening haha.). We drove 8.5 hours from Ohio to the UP where I found this awesome spot to camp on the app Hipcamp. It was right on the beach of Lake Superior. We pitched up our tents, built a fire and drank some beers under the breathtaking starlit sky! It was an amazing first night.

Day 2: We drove to Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore where we hiked the chapel rock trail. It was intended to be a short hike and it turned into an 8-mile hike. But it was so worth it, and I highly recommend going here if you are up this way! The water was this wild aqua green color and there were so many cool rocks on the beach! We also saw a few waterfalls and Kona loved laying in the sunshine on the rocks. Once we got back to the car, we drove another 8 hours to the middle of nowhere Minnesota and this was when we realized there was no way we were camping every night. Luckily for us we both have racked up hotel points over the years of military travel and we both were able to use points to get free stays throughout the trip!

Day 3: This was not on our agenda, but we decided to spontaneously go to the only National Park in Minnesota, Voyagers National Park. This was the first one we hit, and we did not even expect it so that made the adventure even more fun! To be honest, I had never even heard of this National Park and I kind of understand why. Nothing against it at all, there really just wasn’t anything that made it super special. It reminded we a lot of Ohio hiking really. But we still did a 3-mile hike on Blind Ash Bay Trail and caught some pretty views of the lake. Kona also managed to get in a little tussle with a squirrel who thought he was a lot bigger and stronger than him, so once that happened, we rushed out of there! From there we headed off to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I love this park because it is so unexpectedly awesome! This was my second time there and I finally got my stamp for it in my little passport book. There is so much wildlife in this park including bison, wild horses, prairie dogs and much more! After we did our hike here, we realized we were actually a day early on our travels (the one thing we had to do was be in Montana for my friend’s wedding). When we realized we were early we decided to find a place in Wyoming and hit some National Parks there the next day!

Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Once again Hipcamp came in clutch, and I found this super cute little teepee and dome campsite. We stayed in the dome on cots and slept under the stars. The next morning, Day 4, we woke up and saw we were surrounded by mountains! It was such a cool surprise because when we drove in that previous night, we could not see them there at all. We woke up very early and watched the sunrise and drove to our next park, which ended up being one of my favorites on the trip, Grand Teton National Park! I had done some quick research on the car drive there and found a hike I was convinced we had to do. It was called the Delta Lake Hike, and it is actually not recognized by the National Park as one of their trails because it veers off and gets kind of dicey at times. It ended up being an 8.2-mile hike with a 2,400-foot elevation gain with some pretty rocky terrain where I literally had to carry Kona over, but we conquered it! At the top of this hike is an insanely beautiful glacier lake surrounded by the Tetons. It truly looked like something out of a fairy tale! We ate some lunch at the top, relaxed, got some great shots and then we headed back down. The thrill didn’t stop at the top because on our way down we managed to see a baby bear. I managed to keep Kona from seeing the baby and we ran down the rest of the way just in case a momma bear was nearby. On our way to Montana, we stopped at Yellowstone National Park and got to watch Old Faithful erupt as well. (Yellowstone is personally not one of my favorite parks because of how overcrowded it is.)

Our HipCamp stay
Delta Lake in the Grand Teton National Park

Day 5: Finally, we had a more relaxed day and got to sleep in a little in our Airbnb. I walked Kona in the morning and then we got all dressed up and set off for my longtime friend from loadmaster tech school, Cedar’s, wedding. It was a true Montana cowboy wedding, and it was so good to see my friend again on another one of my road trips! After the wedding we walked around and did a little sunset Montana photoshoot since we were all dressed up and we rocked out to some country music and headed back to the airbnb for one more night.

Day 6: Off we went early the next morning to go to one of the National Parks I had been dying to go to for years, Glacier National Park! And we would not have been able to go if it weren’t for my friend Allyson! I had not realized that because of Covid they started limiting certain parks numbers and you needed a pass to get onto certain roads. She conveniently had just been there the day before and let me use her QR code to enter the park! So, make sure you do your research about what parks do this and if they still do before going! The day started off super gloomy and the weather looked horrible as we were driving through the clouds but then all of a sudden it turned into the most beautiful day! We hiked Avalanche Lake Trail and went to Lake McDonald. The views were just incredible, and everything looked like a painting! It is understandable why this park is one of the most popular in the country! After we finished our hiking, we got in the car and drove 9 more hours to get to our next location!

Glacier National Park

Continuing on a bit with the night of Day 6, we did not book any stays in advance, I booked them as we were driving. I used the apps hipcamp and Airbnb mostly and if there was nothing in the area, we were going I tried finding the nearest hotel. Well, I stumbled upon this Airbnb that happened to have natural hot springs with it in Oregon. We both thought that sounded awesome, so I went and booked it for us. When we arrived, we both felt like something was really off. First of all, it was an extremely old hotel and not your normal Airbnb. Secondly, there were cars in the parking lot, but no one was around. I mean no one. There wasn’t even a receptionist at the desk, just an envelope with my name on it, a map of the place and a skeleton key inside. On the map there were locations of the building that were “off limits” for unknown reasons and they were just blocked off with the old velvet movie theatre guards. When we got to our room, we of course did research on the place and drank some wine and what do you know? The place just happened to be one of the most haunted places in the world! (At least according to an ABC documentary and Google.) It apparently used to be an old insane asylum years ago and the number of deaths and suicides that occurred in there was crazy. But of course, we had to explore and check out the hot springs, I mean that was the whole appeal to going there anyways. It was definitely an insane experience and whether you believe in ghosts or not this place had some serious bad juju attached to it. We heard noises all night, but saw no one, we locked both doors of our room the night before and the next morning my hallway door deadbolt was unlocked and opened from the inside and when we were downstairs my friend found a piano and played it and we both swore someone walked behind us while he was playing but when we looked no one was there. Needless to say, we got the hell out of there that next morning haha!

Day 7: After leaving the haunted hot springs hotel we headed to our 6th national park of the trip, Crater Lake! The views around this lake were breathtaking and just so serene! We walked around got some pictures on the cliff overhangs and then we decided to do a hike that took us down to the lake itself! We weren’t expecting to swim but at that point we had to. So, we jumped in the freezing water and had a blast just acting like a bunch of kids! Once we hiked back up, we got set up in the car and hit the road to California!

Crater Lake National Park

Day 8: This was another one of my favorite days of the trip because we went to Redwood National Park, which was one, I had been looking forward to forever! And it did not disappoint! I felt like I was in a fairytale walking through this magical forest surrounded by these beautiful ginormous trees! We hiked the Cathedral loop trail, and we were both on a mission to hug the biggest tree we could find (We ended up hugging almost all the trees haha). If there is one National Park you are dying to go to, I would say this one is a must! It goes on my personal list for one of my favorites and I for sure will be back in the future! We also went to the beach there and drove my car through a tree (the most popular one no longer exists but there are still a few smaller ones you can go to and pay a small fee to drive through.)

Redwood National Park

Day 9: Our original plan after Redwood was to hit more parks in Cali but due to forest fires that stopped us so we re-routed and made our way back east. We went to Nevada next and hit up Great Basin National Park. We joked all day that it should have been named “Alright Basin” because there really wasn’t anything too exciting about it. Granted the road that was supposed to take us to the trail we wanted to do was closed because of construction so we ended up just finding a small one and making it a light day. It was insanely hot there and we were pretty tired after driving another 6 hours to get there so after our small hike we hopped back in the car, I found us a cool hipcamp location and we made our way to Utah!

Great (Alright) Basin National Park

Day 10: On this day we hit two national parks! Our first stop was Bryce Canyon National Park. This was a totally different type of park I had ever been in before. The colors and formations of these rocks were so insane! We hiked the Queens Garden trail, attached to Navajo loop and Wall Street! It was another hot day, so we made sure to stay super hydrated. This was easily another one of my favorite parks just because of how fun and unique the trails were! From there we drove to Capitol Reef National Park, and it was one of the most beautiful drives we had through any of the parks. We also did a small hike to this giant natural rock bridge! Kona found any spot he could to sit in the shade and my poor friend joined him due to his horrible hangover, but we all powered through and had a great day and got some amazing shots!

Bryce Canyon National Park
Capital Reef National Park

Day 11: We thought the previous day was hot and it was nothing to the insane heat we experienced on this day! This was our last day out west and we were determined to hit two more national parks. Our first one we went to was Arches National Park. We drove around the park and stopped along for small walks, but it was so scorching hot I was really nervous about Kona getting a heat stroke, so we would leave the car running with the AC blowing on him and just go out for some quick shots and go back. I’ll definitely be going back another time to do some more hiking there when it is not in the middle of the summer. The next park we went to was Canyonlands National Park and the goal here was to freak my friend out by climbing to the edge of every overhanging rock I could find in the canyon haha. It was a great park to end our western portion of the trip on and it was so beautiful! It reminded me a lot of the Grand Canyon!

Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park

Day 12: Because we wanted to do so much out west, we did not really leave ourselves much wiggle room for time on the way home. We drove over 18 hours from Utah to St. Louis Missouri so we could meet up with my friends Brian and Kelly and join them for a bar crawl! We were officially done with hiking, and we partied the night away! It was an absolute blast, and it was a great way to end the trip, living it up with friends! Of course on our way out of Missouri we had to stop at the Arch (since its now considered a National Park which I do not understand) and check off one more for the whole trip! From there we drove our last 7 hours home!

Friends Kelly and Brian in St. Louis Missouri
The Arch

All in all, it was an amazing trip! I am the type of traveler that likes to see as much as possible in a short span of time. I realize that a lot of people are not this way, but this way I can find the places I love so I can go back to them and cross off the ones I do not like so I can say I saw them and then never return haha. I hope you enjoyed this post and got some useful info out of it! As always, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to reach out to me on my socials or leave a comment! And if any of my photos interest you or you’d like to see more from a specific place I can always print and sell them:) Till next time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: