Our honeymoon was a national parks road trip itinerary took us to seven national parks, six states, and four cities. It was a vacation of epic proportions - and I want to help YOU plan a trip just like it!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information. Thanks!
If you love the national parks, hiking, road trips, or just getting to see more of this magnificent country that we call home, this is for you. This itinerary can be customized and changed to fit whatever you want to see. You can spend more or less time in certain places depending on what suits you.
I highly recommend checking out this National Parks Guide from Moon Guides. It has information, hikes, activities, lodging, and resources for 59 of the national parks! You can use this to help you customize your own trip and add on more parks, or just stick to a few favorites. Many of the hikes I mention here are right from this book!
The pace we kept was pretty quick, so if that doesn’t work, choose what you like! Stay longer, or stay for less time. You can extend this to be a whole month, or shorten it to just a few days based on where you’d prefer to visit. You may find there are even MORE national parks in the vicinity of some of these destinations. Go for it, add them too! I only mention the places we visited, but don’t limit yourself. Feel free to use this as a starting point to make your own ultimate national park road trip. We rented a car and drove it over 3,000 miles on this entire journey!
If you don’t have a National Parks pass, I highly recommend you get one. The cost is $80 and lasts for one year from the month you purchase it. For our honeymoon, it saved us almost $300 in entrance fees! It’s also how we also get into Acadia every year for our annual camping trip.
Here’s a look at how to plan a National Parks Road Trip!
National Parks Road Trip For Two
- National Parks Road Trip For Two
- Road Trip Days 1-3: San Francisco, California
- Road Trip Days 4-6: Yosemite National Park
- Road Trip Days 7-8: Death Valley, Las Vegas & Hoover Dam
- Road Trip Days 9-10: Zion National Park
- Road Trip Days 11-12: Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Road Trip Days 13-14: Bryce Canyon National Park
- Road Trip Days 15 - 21: Jackson, Wyoming
- Final Thoughts On the National Parks Road Trip
Road Trip Days 1-3: San Francisco, California
We flew to San Francisco from Boston as our starting point for our road trip to the national parks. From here it was only a three-hour drive to our first national park of Yosemite. San Francisco was a great introduction to California’s coastline, history, local products, and ever-changing weather! The streets of San Francisco are no joke. The number of hills was crazy! It helped get our legs ready for all the hiking we would be doing in the weeks to come.
Accommodations in San Francisco: Green Tortoise Hostel
For the first leg of our honeymoon, we actually stayed in a hostel. We had a private room at Green Tortoise Hostel in the Telegraph Hill/Embarcadero neighborhood. It was ideally located close to Pier 39 and Little Italy. They provided breakfast each morning and were much cheaper than other lodging and hotels nearby.
Activities in San Francisco
Pier 39 & Fisherman’s Wharf
Whether it was watching the sea lions sunbathing and playing, spotting the Golden Gate Bridge in and out of the fog, or just enjoying the shops in the wharf, this area was a lot of fun. Make sure you stop at In-N-Out! From this spot, you can also see Alcatraz across San Francisco Bay. If you have the time, you can go across and explore it! We chose to watch the entertaining sea lions instead.
The Presidio is a park of San Francisco comprised of 1,500 acres of land. There’s are walking trails, enormous trees, beautiful views, and the area leads to the Walt Disney Family Museum, Chrissy Field, and Fort Point. From here you can continue on to the Golden Gate Park & walk the bridge if you are feeling brave.
This tower on a hill offers excellent panoramic views of San Francisco. It was built in the early 1930s in the Art Deco style. It includes a park and walking paths. The tower was later dedicated to the volunteer firemen who have died in San Francisco’s fires. You can spot Coit Tower from other parts of the city as well, it’s easy to locate!
Famously featured in the opening credits of Full House, these five painted houses are adorable. The style, trim, and colors are beautifully decorated, and they are a very popular tourist attraction in San Francisco. The people who live in these homes must have zero privacy!
Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour
One of our excursions in San Francisco was a wine tour of Napa and Sonoma. We visited three wineries and did tastings at each, explored the vineyards and wine caves of one of them, plus wandered around the old town of Sonoma. It included lunch (they had gluten-free options) and we were shuttled in a small coach bus.
More information on the Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour can be found here.
Road Trip Days 4-6: Yosemite National Park
Yosemite was our favorite place out of the entire honeymoon. To this day, Dylan and I still speak about Yosemite with stars in our eyes. It was filled with green fields, lush meadows, waterfalls, rainbows, stunning night skies, and views so spectacular it made you catch your breath. We spent three days here exploring Yosemite and cannot wait to go back. Three days wasn’t nearly enough time for how much we love this magical park - be sure to make it longer!
Accommodations in Yosemite: Restful Nest B&B and Mammoth Mountain Resort
Upon leaving San Francisco, we picked up our rental car and drove to Yosemite. We stayed at Restful Nest B&B in Mariposa, California. Lois and John are wonderful hosts that serve an enormous breakfast every morning. They are very friendly and run an organized, clean, and wonderful bed and breakfast. Later we stayed at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort as we continued to journey further east into the park. For more information on where to stay in the Yosemite area, click here.
Activities in Yosemite National Park
Our main activity in Yosemite was of course, to hike! Yosemite is HUGE so be mindful of that when planning your time. We spent two days exploring the Yosemite Valley area before heading to Eastern Yosemite. Within the park, there is a free shuttle system to help you navigate to different hiking trails, sights, and mountains.
I’ll never forget the first time we entered Yosemite Valley. Dylan’s face was sheer joy as he exclaimed: “I want to hike ALL OF IT!”
The valley is a great place to begin exploring Yosemite. From here you can see the granite forms of El Capitan and Half Dome in all their glory, observe the waterfalls of Bridalveil Falls and Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, and look for wildlife.
Take the Mist Trail up to Vernal Falls for an excellent day hike. The hike is about 2.5 miles round trip from Shuttle Stop 16 to Vernall Falls. You can combine with a trip further to Nevada Fall, making the trip about twice as long. We spent the day exploring the area around Vernall Falls and took the John Muir Trail back toward the valley. There were tons of rainbows, mist to cool us off from the waterfall, and gorgeous scenery all around.
Sentinel Dome & Glacier Point
The just over 2-mile round-trip hike to Sentinel Dome was a sight that brought tears to my eyes. At the top, we were granted 360-degree views of the High Sierra of Yosemite, and I was speechless. We watched as the sun started to sink behind the mountains with our jaws almost on the floor.
Later that evening, we drove to Glacier Point for more views and the full sunset. We stayed after dark, using our headlamps to guide the way, and saw an outrageous night sky, shooting stars with tails so big they looked fake, and spotted campfires in the valley below. At over 7,000 feet, you get a special look at this beautiful place.
Tioga Road takes you east in Yosemite, to the area of Tuolumne Meadows. It's an alpine meadow not to be missed for its unique landscape that looks almost opposite of the valley. Make sure to try the Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge hike, which is relatively flat and about 1.5 miles round trip. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.
From here you can stop at Tenaya Lake and explore the small beach with crystal clear water.
Mono Lake is just east of the Tioga Pass and worth a stop on your way out of eastern Yosemite. Mono Lake is a saline soda lake with high levels of salt. There are limestone columns that rise up above the water’s surface, making it one of the stranges lakes you'll ever see. It’s such a rare sight and almost haunting, to be honest.
If you are heading this way, make sure to stop at the Mobil Gas Station on Highway 120. They serve incredible fish tacos which Dylan said were some of the best he’s ever had!
Road Trip Days 7-8: Death Valley, Las Vegas & Hoover Dam
The next stop on our national parks road trip was through Death Valley National Park - one of the hottest places in the USA. Death Valley strongly resembles the desert and also looks a bit like Mars. You have to be really careful with the temperatures here, for yourself, your loved ones, and your car! Cars can easily overheat in Death Valley, so while you might be dying of heat, refrain from putting your AC on full blast.
Accommodations in Death Valley National Park
We did not stay in Death Valley but rather continued driving to Las Vegas. For information on accommodations within the park, click here.
Activities in Death Valley National Park
Our primary purpose of visiting Death Valley was because it was on our route south/southeast to Nevada and Utah. The temperatures inside Death Valley during our visit varied from 108 - 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, our hikes were very minimal, and we mostly drove through the park and stopped at a few key sites.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
These sand dunes give you the feeling of being on a beach, but without the water. Quickly, it felt like a desert at 108 degrees Fahrenheit! As we continued south toward Badwater Basin, I watched the thermometer on the rental car dashboard continue to spike upward.
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, and holy moly, was it HOT! The basin sits at 282 feet below sea level and there are salt flats as far as the eye can see. You can walk out onto the flats, but beware, the heat is intense. When the wind would blow, it was like knives hitting your skin.
The Black Mountains in the distance make this entire landscape like something from outer space. It was a bizarre scene. The temperature at Badwater Basin was 124 degrees - and though as they say it's a "dry heat", that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable!
Zabriskie Point is a famous sight in Death Valley National Park. From a higher vantage point, you can see the valley’s curvature, eerie mountains, and dunes. Try seeing Zabriskie Point at sunrise or sunset for an even better view!
Vegas, baby! The next stop on our national parks road trip was one night in Las Vegas. One night in Las Vegas was enough time to check out the city of sin. It was a sensory overload - the lights, the sounds, the city itself can be a lot to take in, so adjust accordingly based on your preferences.
Accommodations in Las Vegas: Mirage Hotel
The Mirage was the most reasonable hotel on the strip for when we visited. Las Vegas is very expensive, which is why we chose to add only the night to our road trip itinerary. The breakfast buffet is HUGE with gluten-free options and bottomless mimosas. Definitely worth the price!
Activities in Las Vegas
The Strip & Casinos
What else do you do in Vegas? Gamble!
After our long and very hot drive through Death Valley, we grabbed a quick dinner before exploring the Strip and trying our luck at the penny slots! Explore the different themed hotels, watch the fountain show at the Bellagio at night, and grab some late-night snacks before trying your luck at the slots once more.
Hoover Dam was a great stop before continuing into Utah. Tours sell out quickly, so if you decide to go, get there early! We ended up doing a smaller tour later in the day as the morning tours had sold out. Seeing the turbines up close was really neat, and learning more about the history of this place and its purpose was fascinating! Dylan, as an engineer, found it to be one of the most interesting stops on our national parks road trip.
Road Trip Days 9-10: Zion National Park
Zion National Park will be your first park in Utah. The juxtaposition of the green grass, trees, and flowers alongside the red rock formations made Utah one of my favorite states out west.
We only had one day in Zion National park, but I would highly recommend you spend more time here. Between the canyon itself, river hikes through The Narrows, and epic hikes like Angel’s Landing (see below), there’s a lot to do here. We will definitely be back to Zion to enjoy more of it int he future.
The free shuttle bus system here runs quickly and efficiently for getting throughout the park.
Accommodations in Zion: Quality Inn
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in this area, but we were looking for the cheapest option! We chose Quality Inn Zion in Hurricane, Utah, which put us fairly close to the park (within 30 minutes) and provided free breakfast as well. For more information on places to stay within or around Zion, click here.
Curious about more ways to save money for your next vacation, and grab hotel stays completely free? Get the 101 on travel hacking and save hundreds of dollars on this road trip!
Activities in Zion National Park
The hike along the west rim trail to Angel's Landing is not for the faint of heart or anyone with a fear of heights. Even I had a hard time during parts of the hike, due to the sheer drop off of the cliff edge. It was, however, incredibly rewarding to conquer my fears and do this breathtaking hike with Dylan by my side. The 360-degree views at the top really make you feel as if you are on top of the world!
For anyone interested in hiking Angel's Landing, check out the information here. It’s roughly 5 and a half miles round trip and if you are iffy about heights, maybe skip it.
Road Trip Days 11-12: Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is so big, you can't even wrap your head around it. To this day, I still have a hard time comprehending it’s size. Grand Canyon National Park is an extremely popular destination year-round. Located in Arizona, it’s also very close to the border of Utah, making the North Rim the perfect spot for this national parks road trip. The North Rim provided amazing views and a spectacular sunset, as well as some wonderful stargazing.
Accommodations in Grand Canyon: Jacob Lake
We stayed at Jacob Lake Inn, about 45 minutes away from the North Rim Entrance, and really enjoyed our day excursion at the Canyon. They had comfortable rooms, delicious breakfasts with gluten-free options, and were reasonably priced.
Activities in Grand Canyon National Park
If you are brave enough to hike down into the canyon, awesome. Just be prepared, pack enough water and supplies, and be careful! Most visitors to the park choose to drive around the area and marvel at the one mile deep, eighteen-mile wide canyon in front of you from different viewpoints.
We especially loved relaxing at Grand Canyon Lodge for a picnic lunch during the day as well as stargazing later that night. We hiked around the area of the Lodge and also visited Roosevelt Point. It offered some of the best views during our scenic drive along the North Rim.
There are also plenty of epic hikes to enjoy at Grand Canyon’s North Rim too! For more information on hikes in the Grand Canyon, click here.
Road Trip Days 13-14: Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is filled with orange hoodoos, and they are everywhere! Hoodoos, the limestone structures standing tall in the canyon, are reminiscent of architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi. It’s another landscape straight out of a fairytale.
Accommodations in Bryce Canyon: Hampton Inn
We spent a day in Bryce Canyon exploring before continuing north to Salt Lake City. This was in part a stopping point for us before continuing all the way to our final stop of Jackson, Wyoming - that drive is the longest portion of the road trip.
In Salt Lake City we chose to stay at a Hampton Inn right by the university area. Hampton Inn and Hilton hotels are our preferred choice for hotels due to their great breakfasts with gluten-free choices, comfortable rooms, and benefits for Hilton honors members.
I've saved over $750 as a Hilton Honors member, redeeming my credit card points for hotel stays, staying for FREE at hotels all over the world. If you're interested in using this travel hack to start earning free nights at Hilton Hotels, sign up for the Hilton American Express card and get 75,000 points to use toward your first free stay!
Activities in Bryce Canyon National Park
The maze of Bryce Canyon is mesmerizing and filled with hikes, walkways, paths, and viewpoints. We spent one full day here but you could easily find plenty to do and stay longer! There’s another free shuttle system here which we utilized to get from the visitor’s center to hiking trails. You can also arrange to do a horseback ride down into the canyon, which looks like a lot of fun!
This pathway that connects Sunrise and Sunset Point was my favorite part of Bryce! It’s a short half mile walk that allows you to get some of the best vistas of the hoodoos and this wild place. Be prepared if you hike down farther into the amphitheaters that you will have to eventually hike back out, which is ten times harder.
The Navajo loop is 1.5 miles round trip and allows you to go down more than 500 feet into a few narrow canyons. It was like a giant corn maze except with hoodoos! Seeing Bryce Canyon from up top at Sunrise and Sunset Point, and then from below here on the Navajo Loop provided unique viewpoints.
Road Trip Days 15 - 21: Jackson, Wyoming
Our final stop on the national parks road trip was Jackson, Wyoming! We spent an entire week here. This allowed us easy access to Grand Teton National Park — only a ten-minute drive away, and Yellowstone National Park - about an hour and a half drive away.
Accommodations in Jackson: Inn On the Creek
We stayed at Inn on the Creek, which was a wonderful B&B with fresh breakfast, a wine/cheese hour every afternoon, and cozy furnishings.
Activities in Jackson
Jackson was such a romantic, adorable town. For more information on Jackson, check out my post all about the town, Inn on the Creek, activities, hikes, and more!
Below you’ll find some general information on the two national parks closest to Jackson- Grand Teton & Yellowstone!
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is jam-packed with activities for nature lovers, hikers, families, couples, solo, travelers, and thrill-seekers.The Teton Mountains dominate the landscape while various species of wildlife roam freely all over the open space. From bison, elk, moose, deer, and bears, you’ll have no shortage of opportunity to spot something.
The entrances to Grand Teton National Park are only a 10 minute drive from Jackson's downtown, making it a perfect place to stay to enjoy this area.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is comprised of over 2 million acres of land. It stretches from Wyoming into parts of Idaho and Montana. With geysers, mud pots, bison traffic jams, canyons, waterfalls, and so much more, there’s a lot to see here!
We took several day trips to Yellowstone from Jackson, Wyoming. Some of our favorite spots were watching the bison in Hayden Valley, exploring the boardwalks around Yellowstone Lake, and seeing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with rainbows and waterfalls.
Final Thoughts On the National Parks Road Trip
Our national parks road trip honeymoon was where our desire to travel more truly began. We came home from that trip with a new determination to explore and see as much of the world as possible. I hope you can use this itinerary to build your own ultimate national parks road trip too!
Do you have a favorite national park?
Let me know in the comments below so I can start planning our next road trip adventure!