Last Updated June 20, 2022 6/20/2022

9 Iconic National Parks Road Trips

In Partnership with: Enterprise Rent-A-Car
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The U.S. is in the midst of a full-blown road trip renaissance, with unprecedented workplace flexibility that makes taking to the streets more appealing than ever before. In fact, 55% percent of Americans were “extremely” or “very interested” in taking a trip that is within driving distance, according to a 2021 Airbnb report. With people still seeking out trips in remote destinations that allow for outdoor activity, there’s never been a better time to explore the United States National Parks System—one of the largest and most renowned in the world.

Essential to making a trip like this a happy reality, of course, is a car in which you’ll want to spend the many hours in between parks. When you rent a car through Enterprise, you can reach even the farthest-flung parts of America, enjoying the journey all the way. Whether you’re flying into a bucket list destination and then exploring on the road, or looking to explore closer to home without putting excess miles on your personal vehicle, Enterprise, with its many convenient locations, simple booking options and award-winning customer service, makes it easy to rent at the airport or right in your own neighborhood. Book a car today to make one of these dream trips a reality.

1. Grand Circle Tour

Utah

You’ll see sandstone cliffs, sky-high hoodoos, delicate arches, and vivid sunsets from the Grand Circle Tour, a 1,500-mile road trip through six of Utah’s national parks. Start from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City—where you’ll want to score an SUV with flexible seating for the whole fam and plenty of room for luggage and camping supplies—and take your time meandering through the American Southwest. Pro tip: Skip the hot summer months, which bring the most tourists. Instead, opt for moderate temps and crowds in April through May, or September through October.

2. Majestic Mountain Loop

California

Hit three of California’s most iconic parks—Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite—on the Majestic Mountain Loop. The whole journey only requires five hours of driving, so you can knock out all three parks in a long weekend. There’s no wrong season to visit: In the spring, waterfalls flow with fresh snowmelt and the dogwoods unfurl their petals; summer is prime for hiking, camping, and other outdoor pursuits; fall is known for its vibrant foliage; and the snow-covered vistas in winter are truly stunning.

3. Rockies Road Trip

Colorado

Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, there’s no shortage of scenic drives through “Colorful Colorado”—a nickname inspired by the state’s epic scenery. Book yourself a ride with four-wheel drive and plenty of clearance to navigate CO’s terrain like a pro. The Rockies Road Trip takes you from the pine forests of Rocky Mountain National Park in the north to the flat-topped cliffs of Mesa Verde National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the south, as well as Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park out west.

4. The Hot Springs Road Trip

Arkansas

Head down south—a mere hour outside of Little Rock—to explore one of the oldest areas in the National Park System: Hot Springs National Park. After you soak in any number of the 47 geothermal springs scattered across nine square miles, drive along the 150-mile Buffalo National River towards Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, which offer 1.2-million acres for horseback riding, mountain biking, floating, boating, hunting, fishing, and more.

5. Olympic, Rainier, and Mount St. Helens Road Trip

Washington and Oregon

You could spend days exploring the glacier-capped mountains and temperate rainforests that make up Olympic National Park on its own, but considering it’s only 115 miles from the old-growth forests and wildflower fields of Mount Rainier National Park, you might as well check off two Pacific Northwest destinations in one unforgettable trip. Include a stop at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic National Monument, where you can drive to Windy Ridge, just a few miles from the crater.

6. Park Loop Road through Acadia National Park

Maine

For outdoor enthusiasts visiting Acadia National Park—35,000 acres of Maine’s Mt. Desert Island—Park Loop Road can be a welcome way to travel beyond the woods and get a sense of the whole area. This 27-mile route can be done in 45 minutes if all you want to do is take in the views (think: rocky shores, pristine lakes, glacier-carved mountains), but budgeting three to four hours allows you to stop and explore some of the most breathtaking sites, including Sand Beach, with an easy out-and-back trail along the coastline; Thunder Hole, a cleft in the cliffs that can create 40-foot waves; and Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard.

7. South Dakota and Badlands National Park

South Dakota

Sure, you could fly over the Midwestern states, but driving through them gives you an opportunity to explore a truly unique part of the country. If you start from Rapid City, South Dakota’s largest city, you can drive a 400ish-mile loop that shows you Black Hills National Forest, home to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial; the wild buffalo in Custer State Park; the prairie grass covering the cave system in Wind Cave National Park; and the buttes and spires of Badlands National Park. Or you can make Rapid City your home base, and do day trips to any combo of the above (they’re all 30 minutes to an hour away).

8. Joshua Tree and Grand Canyon Road Trip

Arizona and California

For those craving that dry summer heat, it can be found nearly year-round in the southwest (although the best time to visit is November through March). Death Valley National Park is one of the hottest places on earth and the driest place in North America, while the Colorado Desert meets the Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree National Park. The two are only a four-hour drive apart, but if you take the long way around on this road trip (do yourself a favor and make sure your car has a powerful AC), you can visit the oasis of Lake Mead National Recreation Area before venturing out to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

9. East Coast and Great Smokies Road Trip

Washington D.C., Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee

Give yourself a week to explore this loop, which hits seven states, two national parks, and more awe-inspiring spots (like the Assateague Island and Cape Hatteras National Seashores). Pick up Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park just 75 miles from D.C., then head south through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (it’s the most visited national park in the country, but timing your trip for early spring—March to May—generally means less crowds). Wrap up your trip at Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park, which features more than 400 explored miles underground.

In Partnership with: Enterprise Rent-A-Car
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