The Great American Road Trip

67 Days.  10,000 Miles.  18 States +1 Canada.

As a senior in high school, I planned out a dream road trip from North Carolina to New York City – by way of California. I revisited the idea multiple times over the years, planning routes, setting destinations, calculating budgets, but I never found myself in a place where I had the time, resources or guts to actually follow through and take the trip until now. In 24 hours I will finally embark on a journey that I’ve been planning for close to ten years of my life.

My  home for the next 2 months...
My home for the next 2 months…

The Plan

While plotting out this trip I had one main goal in mind: Spend as much time in as many of the US National Parks as possible. In order to complete the trip for as little money as possible, I purchased an America The Beautiful Pass to save on park entrance fees and intend to camp for the majority of the trip, backpacking and hiking in whenever possible. I’m breaking up the hiking and camping with regular stops in some large cities along the way to get a taste of civilization (and much needed showers) before heading back out into the wilderness. I’ve planned an average 3-6 hours of driving between each location with an average of 2 nights at each stop, but my itinerary is flexible and I intend to make adjustments as I go. It’s likely impossible to see everything this country has to offer in an entire lifetime, much less one summer, but I hope to get a good taste.

Here’s the full list of planned destinations:

  • Tallulah Falls, GA
  • Athens, GA
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Perdido Key, FL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Houston, TX
  • Austin, TX
  • Midland, TX
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
  • Denver, CO
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
  • Dinosaur National Monument, CO/UT
  • Arches National Park, UT
  • Canyonlands National Park, UT
  • Grand Canyon, AZ
  • Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Sequoia National Park, CA
  • Yosemite National Park, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Redwoods National Park, CA
  • Crater Lake National Park, OR
  • Portland, OR
  • Seattle, WA
  • Olympic National Park, WA
  • Glacier National Park, MO
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY
  • Grand Teton National Park, WY
  • Badlands National Park, SD
  • Madison, WI
  • Sault Ste. Marie, CA
  • Toronto, CA
  • Niagara Falls, CA
  • New York, NY
The Great American Road Trip
The Great American Road Trip! 67 Days, 10,000 Miles, 186 Hours of Driving.

I’ll be updating this blog as much as I can (when I have internet access, of course) with photos, highlights, and hopefully some new artwork produced along the way.  I’m nervous and excited, but I can’t wait to get out there and find out what adventures lie in store.

Please post your suggestions for any great restaurants, museums, galleries, trails, campsites, breweries or epic road trip songs in the comments below!


3 thoughts on “The Great American Road Trip

  1. This sounds awesome! I can’t wait to see pictures! If you ever want to backpack through Europe and need a home base (with free bed, shower, & plenty of beer), find me in Brussels!


  2. Sounds like an adventure! I’m in the midst of my own right now. It’s day 63 on the road for me and I’m at Sparks Lake, Oregon. Surprisingly it’s the first campsite that I’ve found to actually have a signal. My sister decided to quit her job and I’m a freelance filmmaker so we’ve had the time to travel. The national park pass is a must because it’ll pay for itself within the first 3 parks you visit. We had a loose plan but we’ve veered off it quite a bit because the beautiful sites have drawn us off course in such a good way. The main piece of advice for saving money I’d say is stumbling across the website Out west there’s a bunch of awesome free campsites that will save you a bunch of money if you’re willing to go without running water for a bit. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too much but we found out that you can camp anywhere in a national forest for free as long as you’re 1 car length off of the main road. There’s a number of dirt roads that have fire pits where people have camped before. Ask local park rangers and they’ll tell you it’s okay but you usually have to pry it out of them. They look at you like you’re crazy but they know it’s allowed. I’d recommend getting 3 gallons of water per person per day. I brought along my backpacking water filter and it’s been a life saver many times. All of the national parks have potable water so when you’re around them fill up your gallon jugs of water. You’ll need them for drinking as well as cleaning dishes and all sorts of random things. We kept ice in our cooler for the first week but it becomes a hassle to maintain it long term so we found powdered eggs and dehydrated veggie chicken to be good substitutes for the protein you’ll need to keep you going. Of course every once in a while you’ll have to treat yourself to showers and all the civilized amenities of modern living but you can save a bunch of money the more you rough it. Of course your diet preferences will differ from ours so generally pick what makes you happy.
    You have a solid plan for places to visit however some of the most beautiful stuff we’ve found isn’t in the national parks. South western Colorado speaks to me in a profound way and it will to you if you’re willing to deal with the cold of the altitude. There’s hot springs in a town called Ouray (pronounced your-ay) so you can get out of the cold for a bit. Ouray, Silverton, and Telluride and a vortex of beautiful that could suck you in for a while but they’re right across the border from arches and canyonlands near Moab. It’s quite the contrast but both spots are beautiful in their own right. I noticed that you’re skipping Bryce and Zion national parks in south western Utah but I’d take a little time to research them. Bryce is nice but Zion is a true gem. They have a spot at the top of the river called the narrows where you walk 5 miles up the river while in the river. It’s not to be missed if you have the time. You can rent shoes but my chacos did me just fine. There’s also kolob reservoir that’s about an hour drive from the main part of the park but still in the park if you’re trying to get away from the heat and hang out at a beautiful lake with free camping on the water. We went to the north rim of the Grand Canyon from there and it’s significantly quieter than the south rim but the views aren’t quite as nice as the south rim. If you’re going in the summer the south rim is overrun with people who mostly don’t really even want to be there. The real gem of the Grand Canyon isn’t in the national park though. You have to travel about 3 hours from the south rim to get to the Havasu Indian reservation. It’s paradise in the middle of Arizona. The only drawback is that you kind of have to hike 10 miles down into the town to get to the clear blue waterfalls and the camping fee is a little steep compared to what you’ll be used to (about $40 a night per person) but it is one of the most beautiful places on earth and after the south rim fiasco of people it’s the perfect getaway. There’s a helicopter that can take you out for $85 and my sister decided to take it because it’s quite steep on the way out. The key is getting out before the sun gets on you and you’ll be fine. I could go on for days about that but I’d say just take a look for yourself online. Depending on when you do the trip California is a total mess being overrun by people. Sequoia/kings canyon and Yosemite are undeniably beautiful but I’d say you have to go on the hikes to get away from people and really enjoy those parks. Once you get to Oregon you’re in the clear. Crater lake is a nice surprise but it’s a little small. The rest of the trip I can’t really comment on because we have to loop back down to California and Reno because my sister is going to Burning Man. I’m taking a train back to Atlanta where I live now but from one NC boy to another I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions. I’m going to post a bunch of pictures when I get back home but I’ll have to sort through them first. I hope some of this helps. Best of luck!


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