An epic USA Road Trip
We took an epic USA road trip across the West Coast, taking just over one month that saw us visit 8 National Parks, 1 State Park, Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam and two trips to Las Vegas, Nevada. All we did was hire a car with only a few ideas in mind, we let the road take us on an adventure of a lifetime.
During our USA road trip of the West, we crossed 7 states, walked through rivers and waterfalls, hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), picked up a couple of hitch hikers in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, encountered bears, bison, elk, wolves, coyotes, hyenas, kangaroo rats, scorpions and managed to survive wilderness camping on top of the most violent volcano on earth. It was by far one of the best road trips of our entire lives.
What we did along the way
Whilst on our USA road trip, we saw many beautiful sights and we experienced life changing moments. Here are the highlights that we have tried to put into words:
Our accommodation compromised of sleeping in a tent, numerous motels and the car at gas stations in the middle of nowhere.
The destinations we visited on our USA road trip (in order)
Joshua Tree park was the first National Park in the USA that we visited. July was a great month to go to Joshua Tree as it was fairly quiet and not crowded with lots of visitors. It was very hot so we made sure we stocked the car up with bottled water. We eased ourselves into this National Park camping adventure, by visiting Joshua Tree for the day and stayed in nearby Palm Springs for the night instead of camping.
We headed to Wadsworth from Palm Springs to visit family and it was a 9 hour drive, so we split the drive up with an overnight stay in Bishop. It is a lovely little place that sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Bishop is situated close to Yosemite National Park, Sequioa National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Death Valley National Park and the Sierra National Forest.
Reno was our next stop, to visit more family. For those wondering what to do in Reno, this place is filled with lots of fun activities. Reno is situated between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe, making it a great location for ski lovers as it is in close proximity to many ski resorts. This place is known as “the biggest little city in the world” and it is home to many casinos such as the Eldorado Casino, the Grand Sierra Resort, the Silver Legacy Resort & Casino, the Atlantis Casino and Dotty’s Casino to name a few. Be sure to check out the Reno Arch at night when it lights up and brings this city to life.
Virginia City is a short drive away from Reno so it is a great place to visit for day trip. It is a fun historic city which still has a feeling of the wild wild West. There are various clubs, bars and saloons that have a country and western feel and play live music including, the Bucket of Blood Saloon, The Red Dog Saloon and the Ponderosa Saloon. Other things to do in Virginia City are The Washoe Club Haunted Museum, Virginia City Visitor Center, Fourth Ward School Museum, Virginia City Outlaws, The Way it Was Museum, The Ponderosa Mine Tour and there are rail tours that take you on a journey around Virginia City whilst telling you stories of its history.
It is around an 11 hour drive from Reno to Yellowstone National Park, so a night in a motel at Twin Falls was well needed on this USA road trip.
Yellowstone National Park is a magnificent place where you can see the raw earth come to life. We arrived to the park late afternoon with no camp spot pre-booked so our only option was to go backcountry camping in Yellowstone. This was an unforgettable experience and one of our best moments of travelling. We would recommend backcountry camping in Yellowstone National Park to anyone, especially those who are more adventurous and searching for off the beaten path experiences.
After spending 5 nights in Yellowstone National Park, it was time to move on. Next, we decided to go camping in Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce was a hidden gem, a National Park that we hadn’t heard of but it was full of natural beauty. We spent 2 nights camping in Bryce Canyon and we could easily have spent longer there.
No USA road trip would be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. We chose to stop off at the North rim as it was most convenient for our road trip route. We didn’t stay overnight, although there were camp spots and lodges near by. After we spent the day in the Grand Canyon, we pulled over at a gas station and spent the night in the car.
After crossing the state boarder we arrived in UTAH. We went camping in Zion National Park for one night and could have spent longer there because there was so much to do. Lucky for us, we got one of the best camp spots in Zion National Park South Campground. It was really hot during the night in July so if we were to return, we would consider going in a cooler month. If you are thinking of things to do in Zion National Park, you won’t be disappointed. There is the Angels Landing hike, Zion’s Main Canyon, the Zion Canyon scenic drive, the Narrows hike, Observation Point, the Canyon Overlook Trail, the Zion Shuttle, the Weeping Rock Trail or visit the Zion Canyon Visitor Center for more inspiration.
We spent one short night in UTAH then headed to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. The beauty of this place immediately struck us during our drive towards the visitor’s centre, fire red coloured formations of rock surrounded us in all directions. We enjoyed reading about the history and examined the exhibits in the Valley of Fire’s visitors centre before heading back out into the blistering heat to explore the park. It was far too hot in the peak of summer to go on long hikes or stay overnight in a tent, so we opted to spend the day and admired the beauty of the state park’s grounds. Points of interest here include, Arch Rock, Atlatl Rock, Beehives, Petrified Logs, Balanced Rock, Mouse’s Tank, Rainbow Vista, Fire Canyon/Silica Dome, White Domes, Seven Sisters, The Cabins, Clark Memorial and Elephant Rock.
We spent a few hours admiring the spectacular rock formations in the Valley of Fire State Park, then headed to the Hoover Dam. We happened to pass through Lake Mead on the way. There was free parking available at the Hoover Dam and we managed to have a walk around to check out the surrounding area before heading off to Las Vegas. The Hoover Dam is worth a visit, especially if you are on a USA road trip to or from Las Vegas since it is so close.
This was our third time visiting Las Vegas and it was just as fun as the first. There is never a dull moment in Vegas, there is enough to keep you entertained for days. The majority of the hotels on the strip have their own casino and resort. Some of the top Las Vegas hotels include, The ARIA Sky Suites, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, The Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, The Bellagio Las Vegas, ARIA Resort & Casino, SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand, The Palazzo Las Vegas, The Venetian Las Vegas and the Vdara Hotel & Spa. We stayed at the Americas Best Value Inn Motel, which was perfectly situated just off the Las Vegas strip and it was super cheap.
After spending a week in Las Vegas we were all partied and gambled out. It was time to hit the road again on this USA road trip and head to another National Park. In Death Valley National Park, we camped out in Wildrose campground for 2 nights and it turned out to be one of our favourite camp grounds during our world trip. What made this camp ground so special, was that it was off the beaten path. Wildrose campground is situated on the Western edge of Death Valley and it has an elevation level of just over 4k, making it an ideal camp spot in the hot summer months. We encountered some unforgettable moments here, we saw kangaroo rats up close, heard a pack of Coyotes howling at night and we saw the milky way light up the sky.
Things to do in Death Valley National Park include, Zabriskie Point, Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin (the salt flats), Dante’s View, Ubehebe Crater, Titus Canyon, Telescope Peak, Artist’s Palette and the Natural Bridge Trail to name a few.
A very scenic 4.5 hour drive from Death Valley lead us to Yosemite National Park, a place where nature lovers and climbers dream of visiting. On our way to the park, we stopped to pick up 2 hitch hikers who told us their fascinating story of the past 15 day hike they had just completed of the John Muir Trail. Yosemite is a hikers heaven, it is a land full of exciting nature trails including the mighty Pacific Crest Trail, the famous Half Dome hike, Glacier Point, Bridalveil Fall Trail, Valley Loop Trail and the Yosemite Falls Trail.
Sequoia National Park is home to the enormous and unique sequoia trees There is no better feeling than wondering through the forest and getting lost among these ginormous trees. This National Park is situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains and is adjacent to Kings Canyon National Park. The notable things to see in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon are the General Grant Tree, the General Sherman tree, Grizzly Falls, Road’s End, Boyden Cavern, Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Climb the Steps of Moro Rock, High Sierra Trail, Crescent Meadow, Hume Lake, Buck Rock Lookout, Mineral King, Crystal Cave, Mount Whitney and you can even drive or walk through the Tunnel Log. We spent a total of 3 nights camping in Sequoia and that was enough to explore parts of both National Parks.
It is around a 6 hour drive from Sequoia passing through Bakersfield, the Mojave National Preserve and ending in Las Vegas. Half way through the journey, we stopped off in Barstow, a perfect stopover on Route 66 for those wanting food, drink, a restroom break or a night in a motel.
We ended this unforgettable USA Road Trip in Las Vegas because it was fun, convenient for dropping off the hire car and the hotels were super cheap. The hotels in Las Vegas are such good value for money and it is the perfect place to get luxurious accommodation for a budget backpacker. We paid £40 per night including taxes and resort fees to stay in the Excalibur hotel, which is located on the Las Vegas strip and has its own casino, fitness center, spa and swimming pools.
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