Road Trip USA – 23 Best places to visit on West Coast

Your Ultimate Guide to the top National Parks in the US. Make your western US road trip unforgettable! What are the best places to visit on west coast USA?

Bring your friends with you, share a car and make it one of the best experiences of your life. Honestly, we have never seen more beautiful places than on the west coast of the United States. Such a nice variety of different national parks, valleys, mountains, and seashore. Explore stunning sceneries and best spots for your road trip to the
top National Parks in the US west coast!

Yellowstone National Park

Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone
Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone

Land of geysers, hot springs, and geothermal features. Yellowstone is sometimes omitted from road trip because it is further than other places, but we think that is definitely a mistake. This place is truly unique. We spent there almost three months working and we still didn’t see everything. There is no other place in the world, where you can see such a high concentration of colorful geysers, pools and other thermal features. They are literarily everywhere, it is truly magic! There is so much wildlife in Yellowstone too.

Bison are roaming through the land and is not unusual that some “bison jam” occur because they just decided to cross the road or walk right in the middle of the road. To see a bear is not as usual as bison, but it is definitely possible.
You can read our other post about Yellowstone here: Dangers of the Yellowstone National Park

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/yell
  • Minimum time to visit: 1-2 days
  • Recommended time to visit: 3-4 days

Yellowstone Accommodation

The best way to find an accommodation is to search at Booking.com. We recommend finding a hotel or hostel in West Yellowstone, which is a small town right at the park boundary and everything is reacheble from there.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park is right next to the Yellowstone National Park. This area is great for hiking and climbing. Even if you don’t have enough time, stop over and admire beautiful sceneries of this monumental mountain range. There are amazing views right from the highway between Yellowstone and Jackson town.

If you feel like to go for a great mountain hike, we can highly recommend climbing a Middle Teton. You can climb it up and down all in one day, but you need to start very early in the morning (around 4 AM) and carry a flashlight. Another possibility is to get a permit for overnight camping and sleep in one of the campgrounds on the halfway to the peak and o it in two days. And beware of bears! We saw one close to the Amphitheater Lake. Grand Teton National Park is definitely one of the best road trip places to visit!

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/grte
  • Minimum time to visit: Just drive around
  • Recommended time to visit: 2 days
  • Accommodation: the best is to find a hotel or hostel in Jackson – the closest town to Grand Teton National Park.

Arches National Park

Double Arch, Arches National Park
Double Arch, Arches National Park

This National Park is a landscape of contrasting colors, monumental arches, and unique shaped rocks. Don’t miss this road trip stop. But actually, the most beautiful arch was for us Corona Arch, which is outside of the park. You need to drive approximately 30 minutes from the park entrance and then take a 1-mile hike up there, but it is definitely worth it! The landscape is amazing and there are no tourists at all. You can even climb up on top of that arch and fly with a drone (which is forbidden inside of the national parks).

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/arch
  • Minimum time to visit: 1 day
  • Recommended time to visit: 1 day (plus half a day for Corona Arch)
  • Accommodation: the best is to accommodate yourself in Moab, which is a starting point for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
Canyonlands

The largest national park in Utah. Breathtaking canyons, beautiful views and fantastically formed buttes. If you want to see the true wild west – this is the place! One can sit at one viewpoint many hours and it doesn’t get old. We didn’t expect much from Canyonlands, but it definitely exceeded our expectations. One of the top places of our road trip. We liked it more than Grand Canyon.

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/cany
  • Minimum time to visit: 1 day
  • Recommended time to visit: 1 day
  • Accommodation: nearby town Moab serves as a starting point for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
Monument Valley

If you are a fan of old western stories or Forest Gump. Monument Valley is a must visit place for your road trip. Many typical photos from the U.S. road trips are taken there. You don’t need much time for visiting Monument Valley, but it is definitely worth it.

  • Minimum time to visit: just drive through
  • Recommended time to visit: half a day
  • Accommodation: Drive through Monument Valley doesn’t take that much time, so you don’t really need accommodation there. Although if you need one – the closest is in towns Bluff or Kayenta.

Horseshoe Bend

The best viewpoint, Horseshoe Bend
The best viewpoint, Horseshoe Bend

The famous Colorado River and its amazing canyon in Arizona is one of the most photographed areas in the entire USA. You can combine this visit with Antelope Canyon, which is nearby. Both of these places are must stops during your road trip.

  • Official website: horseshoebend.com
  • Minimum time to visit: 2 hours
  • Recommended time to visit: 2 hours
  • Accommodation: we recommend to find a hotel or hostel in nearby town Page, it’s close to Horseshoe Bend, and to Antelope Canyon from there too.

Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon
Lower Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon belongs to Navajo Land. You can visit two individual beautiful slot canyons there – Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. Entrance fee is quite high, but its well worth the money! Beautiful light beams and shapes of this canyon won’t let you be unemotional. Many computer companies are using background pictures from the Antelope Canyon. Both canyons are quite similar, so it is fine to visit just one, but if you have time, you can go to both. Upper Antelope Canyon is wider and easier to walk through. Lower Antelope is more narrow and you need to climb many stairs by walking through. So, grab your camera and be ready to shoot amazing pictures!

  • Official website: www.antelopeslotcanyon.com
  • Minimum time to visit: 2-5 hours (1-hour tour + waiting time)
  • Recommended time to visit: 2-5 hours
  • Accommodation: we recommend to find a hotel or hostel in a nearby town Page, it’s close to both Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Zion National Park

The top of the Angels Landing trail
The top of the Angels Landing trail

If you like hiking, Zion National Park is the right place to visit for you! You can do some really amazing hikes in Zion Valley. We can highly recommend Angels Landing trail.

Angels Landing

It is really adventurous, especially if you are a fan of via ferrata routes. You don’t need any special equipment but there are metal chains along the road, which can help you to climb up. You will be rewarded with beautiful sceneries on the top and you might meet some cheeky chipmunks as well.

Hike the Narrows

The Narrows is another absolutely amazing trail. But be prepared to get wet, the trail goes directly through the river inside a steep gorge. You may rent neoprene boots for your comfort but you will love this river hike. Especially when the weather is hot it is really refreshing to walk in this stunning gorge.

The Subway

If you are into a little canyoneering don’t miss another hike – the Subway. You have to apply for a permit at visitor center though. Apply in advance online otherwise don’t forget to wake up really early in the morning to get your permit because they sell out quickly.

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/zion
  • Minimum time to visit: 1 day
  • Recommended time to visit: 3 days
  • Accommodation: small town of Springdale offers many places to stay and it’s situated right at the Zion National Park boundary.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Amazing rock formations in Bryce
Amazing rock formations in Bryce

Bryce Canyon is unique National Park. Sandstone pillars and bizarre rock formations – which were shaped by the forces of erosion. There are not enough words to describe the beauty of this place. You should come and see it. One can’t believe what nature can create. We would recommend not only to stop at all viewpoints but to take at least one hike down the canyon too. It’s an amazing experience.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks is a State Park and we would call it a little brother of Bryce Canyon. There is a couple of nice views to stop at but we would recommend visiting this par prior to Bryce Canyon NP. If you see Bryce Canyon first, you will maybe think that Cedar Breaks is not that spectacular.

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/cebr
  • Minimum time to visit: 2 hours
  • Recommended time to visit: 2 hours
  • Accommodation: Cedar Breaks is worth just a short visit, so you don’t really need accommodation, but if you want, Brian Head is the closest place

  • Ubytování: Nejbližší ubytování u Grand Canyonu se dají najít ve vesnici Tusayan. .

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon South Rim, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
Grand Canyon South Rim

I bet you have already heard a lot about Grand Canyon. This national park is the most famous and one of the most-visited attractions in the United States. I would say you can’t imagine how massive it is until you are there. Grand Canyon is a must visit for your road trip either if you have a couple of days to trek to the bottom or just a few hours for several stops on numerous viewpoints. South Rim is more famous and more beautiful, but if you have a lot of time, you should visit North Rim too. Less crowded and still spectacular.

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/grca
  • Minimum time to visit: half a day
  • Recommended time to visit: 3 days
  • Accommodation: The closest hotels and hostels can be found in Tusayan.

Las Vegas

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas
Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas

After visiting the Las Vegas we finally know, how Alice in the Wonderland felt. This is a totally crazy city. Extravagancy, kitsch, luxury, casinos, and neon. Casinos are literally everywhere and owners are trying to offer everything to get you to visit their casino. Spectacular shows, attractions, fountains or swimming pools.

Prices of hotel rooms are very inviting. You can find whatever you wish in this city. Adrenalin, fun, parties, food, hazard, photography, pyramids, Eiffel Tower, Statue of liberty, Venice gondolas and more…There are artists in the streets as well as beggars.

This is a really unique place and if you go there, don’t forget to “lose” your dollar on roulette, because who didn’t bet haven’t been in Vegas 😉 If you primarily love nature and don’t like big cities, half a day is well enough for Las Vegas. But if there is one city which is worth it to visit even for “city haters” – it is Las Vegas!

  • Official website: www.lasvegasnevada.gov
  • Minimum time to visit: half a day
  • Recommended time to visit: 1 day
  • Accommodation: It’s possible to find really cheap hotel rooms in Las Vegas sometimes. The owners just know that people will spend a lot of their money in casinos. You can search here:
Booking.com

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam is phenomenal technological masterpiece
Hoover Dam is phenomenal technological masterpiece

The famous Hoover Dam is phenomenal technological masterpiece and it’s well worth the visit. You can take excursion into the powerplant for about $15.

  • Minimum time to visit: 1 hour
  • Recommended time to visit: 3 hours
  • Accommodation: Hoover Dam is located very close to Las Vegas, so it will be the best to find a hotel there.

Death Valley National Park

One of the nice viewpoints in Death Valley
One of the nice viewpoints in Death Valley

Steady drought, the world heat record and the lowest elevation in entire North America. The real land of extremes. Even a price of gas is higher than in the rest of California. But the visit is definitely worth it! Beautiful sceneries are waiting even at this place. We can highly recommend spending some nights at one of National Park campgrounds because the night sky is spectacular! We have never seen more beautiful sky! This was definitely the best stargazing of my life!

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/deva
  • Minimum time to visit: Just drive through
  • Recommended time to visit: 1-2 days
  • Accommodation: We recommend to spend a night in one of the campsites inside the Death Valley National Park, because you can see a spectacular night sky there. Although if you don’t like camping, you can find a hotel in Panamint Springs.

Sequoia National Park

The Tunnel log in Sequoia National Park, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
The Tunnel log in Sequoia National Park

National park with mountains, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees. I bet you will meet even some bear on the way. Try to hug some of these giant trees, you will need a big group of friends to be able to hug these trees around 😉 Driving through the enormous tree log by car is a truly unique experience too.

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/seki
  • Minimum time to visit: half a day
  • Recommended time to visit: 1 day
  • Accommodation: The closest hotels to Sequoia National Park are in Three Rivers.

Yosemite National Park

The Half Dome view, on the top of the Yosemite Falls, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
The Half Dome view, on the top of the Yosemite Falls

Subalpine wilderness, climbing paradise, land of bears and stunning views of El Capitan or Half Dome – that’s only the beginning. This is a second home for every mountain lover! Come and visit this beautiful granite walls and emerald-green Valley!

Hike the Half Dome

If you want to enjoy the view from the top of Half Dome, don’t forget to apply for a permit! There is a lottery, so if you want to have a bigger chance to get the permit, send several requests from different phones.

Be also bear aware and keep everything smelly, mainly food and cosmetics in bears box (bears plunder about 130 cars per year!) If you want to enjoy waterfalls it is better to come during the spring (there was no water during September).

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/yose
  • Minimum time to visit: 1-2 days
  • Recommended time to visit: 3-4 days
  • Accommodation: Hotels and hostels near Yosemite National Park are fully booked very fast, therefore we highly recommend booking yours in advance. Good amount of possibilities is in Yosemite West. The cheapest is Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort.

The Wave, Arizona

Wonderful colors of the Wave rock formation in Arizona
Wonderful colors of the Wave rock formation in Arizona

Breathtaking and colorful sandstone rock formation located in Arizona! Make sure you have enough time and permit for this trip! The permit is not easy to get, you have to win a lottery few months in advance, but it is definitely worth to try it! Info about permits is here. A difficult hike is required to reach it, but its worth the effort. Our hike to The Wave was one of these unforgettable memories! It really is that colorful! The pictures aren’t “Photoshopped”.

  • Useful website: www.thewave.info
  • Minimum time to visit: half a day
  • Recommended time to visit: half a day
  • The Wave is very far from all civilization, therefore we recommend spending a night in the nearby campsite. The closest hotels are in Kanab and Page.

San Francisco

Sunset, Golden Gate Bridge
Sunset, Golden Gate Bridge

Famous Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, cable cars and steep roads. San Francisco is the second and last city we recommend to visit. You shouldn’t miss a photo with the Golden Gate Bridge! Its name – Golden Gate comes from its beautiful sunsets and also because boats carrying gold to San Francisco were sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a walk or ride a famous cable car on steep and beautiful streets of San Francisco city! You may also visit a legendary Alcatraz prison, don’t forget to book tickets in advance. They are usually sold out a week or two in advance.

Alcatraz TIP: If you are there without a ticket you can always try your luck and ask around the cashier, maybe you will find somebody who needs to get rid of some extra tickets (it worked for us).

  • Official website of Alcatraz: www.nps.gov/alca
  • Minimum time to visit: 1-2 days
  • Recommended time to visit: 2-3 days
  • Accommodation: Unfortunately, accommodation in San Francisco is pretty expensive. Although you have to sleep somewhere. You can search here:
Booking.com

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, Road Trip to the top National Parks in the US west coast.
Joshua Tree National Park

A fascinating variety of plants and animals, dark night skies, deserts, cactuses, coyotes, tarantulas, climbing paradise and mainly – typical “Joshua” trees. If you are passing around, Joshua Tree National Park is definitely worth to visit!

  • Official website: www.nps.gov/jotr
  • Minimum time to visit: half a day
  • Recommended time to visit: 1 day (3-4 days if you like climbing and bouldering)
  • Accommodation: Again, we recommend to sleep in a campground inside Joshua Tree National Park. The closest hotels are in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms towns.

More exciting places to visit during your west coast USA road trip!

Are you enjoying your road trip to the top national parks in the US west coast? Great! If you have some extra time or if you are passing around, see these too:

Slot canyons in Escalante NM

Spooky Gulch, Escalante
Spooky Gulch, Escalante

If you saw the movie 127 hours than Slot canyons Spooky Gulch and Peek-a-Boo in Escalante are “must see” place for you. It is truly adventurous trek, sometimes even little bit of bouldering! We enjoyed these canyons a lot. It is more like a great outdoor playground for adults.

  • Minimum time to visit: 1 day
  • Recommended time to visit: 1 day
  • Accommodation: The closest places to stay are in Escalante.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Large and shallow saline soda lake, which was formed at least 760,000 years ago! It is drying out, so visitors have a unique chance to take a “bottom” walk between unique coral formations.

  • Minimum time to visit: 1 hour
  • Recommended time to visit: 2 hours
  • Accommodation: Mono Lake is just a short stop, although if you plan to visit also Bodie (see below), you can use Virginia Creek Settlement as your starting point.

Bodie

Bodie ghost town
Bodie ghost town

An authentic Wild West ghost town and old abandoned gold mining village. Time has literally stopped there. Bodie is a State Historic Park nowadays. You can take a walk down the deserted streets to visit casino, pub, bank, or gold mine. If you like western stories, Bodie is a place you shouldn’t miss!

  • Official website: http://www.parks.ca.gov
  • Minimum time to visit: 3 hours
  • Recommended time to visit: half a day
  • Accommodation: Bodie is just a short stop, although if you plan to visit it together with Mono Lake, you can use Virginia Creek Settlement as your starting point.

Highway #1 from San Francisco to LA

Elephant Seals
Elephant Seals

The Pacific Coast Highway is well known as one of the most scenic drives in the USA. Beautiful views of the ocean, cliffs, elephant seal colonies, Big Sur State Park and much more! Even just driving this highway is a very nice experience.

  • Minimum time to visit: just drive along
  • Recommended time to visit: 2 days
  • Accommodation: It depends, where you will end up in the evening. Just find something at Booking.com.

Here is our Road trip video, to make you excited about your own USA Road trip even more!

Now it’s up to you which places you pick for your road trip. If you fly from Europe, you can usually find cheap flights to LA or San Francisco. You can visit all the places listed above in approximately 3 or 4 weeks long road trip.

Road Trip Budget

Cost of this road trip to the top national parks in the US west coast can be as low as 1200 – 1300 USD (without flight tickets).

And if you would like to know, how we made money for this road trip to the top national parks in the US west coast, check our post about Work and Travel in Yellowstone:

I want to visit Top National Parks in the US west coast!

Are you decided to go to the top national parks in the US west coast? Great, just find the cheapest flight ticket!

And you need to rent a car! The cheapest car rental options are here.

It’s time to pack your luggage! We wish you safe travels! If you have some other favorite places in the Midwest, please share them with us in comments and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask 😉


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4 thoughts on “Road Trip USA – 23 Best places to visit on West Coast”

  1. Hi,
    How did rental work for you as I a man also not a resident of the USA . We are planning on starting in San Francisco and covering many of these places , but going from Yosemite to Great Basin and up towards Yellowstone and grand Tetons, before going down towards Utah and flying out from Vegas. We were thinking of renting a camper van from escape camper vans, which was quoting around 4000 USD all in with insurance and everything (divided between 2 of us) and we are travelling from early September for 3.5/4 weeks . We would then need to pay for campsites and fuel. We have both a large suitcase and a carry on suitcase each as we are abroad for the summer so would need a car/ van big enough. Thanks

    • Hello Jason,
      we didn’t rent a camper van, so I can’t really say, how it works with these types of cars. We did rent a normal SUV from Salt Lake City and returned it to Los Angeles and it was without any problem. They even didn’t demand Credit card, Debit card was enough. Although it is better to check it with the particular rental company. It could be different. You don’t need to be resident, just an international driving license is necessary.

  2. Nádherné fotky!! Snad mi výlet do Ameriky taky brzy vyjde 🙂

    • Děkujeme a držíme palce! Je to naprosto úžasný zážitek! Rádi s čímkoliv poradíme 🙂

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