2 Week National Park Road Trip Ideas
Are you trying to figure out the perfect 2 week national park road trip itinerary? National parks are beautiful and totally worthy of being bucket list items. But there are so many that it can be hard to see them all! I’ve put together a list of options for spending 2 weeks on the road as you explore multiple national parks in one trip.
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We have been to a lot of national parks lately, so it’s easy to understand the yearning to see more and more. Every time we come home from one, we want to get back in the car and see the next one. Each is so unique that it’s a new experience every time.
These 2 week national park road trip itineraries are around the US so you’ll have plenty of options for seeing multiple parks with so much time.
Decide which region is easiest for you to begin your journey, and then start your adventure!
“Total Drive Time” is calculated on how much driving/transferring from the first park to the last park, including any parks in between. It does not include driving IN the park for anything you do inside.
Table of Contents
🤩 Check out the Mighty 5 Small Group Tour– 5 different National Parks in Utah
Southern Utah Mighty 5 Two week itinerary
Parks Visited: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef
Drive Time: about 7 hours
Best Time for This Trip: Fall or Spring
This 2 week national park road trip will take you through the 5 national parks of southern Utah. They include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef. Depending on how much hiking / exploring in each park you want to do, 2 weeks may be tight. Especially if you plan to do long, all-day hikes.
But, for a typical family vacation, 2-3 days per park is plenty to see the highlights and some nice, easy hikes.
Days 1-3: Zion National Park
Zion is known for its awesome hikes and slot canyons. It also has some great archaeological features. You also might see a few (or many) climbers throughout the park amid the giant sandstone cliffs.
Here are a few easy hikes and great things to see during your 3 days.
Check out Kolob Arch, the second largest arch (just behind Landscape Arch at Arches national park).
You can also opt to drive through Kolob Canyons and find a few pull overs for viewpoints of Kolob Arch. And make sure to go to the viewpoint for Court of the Patriarchs.
Hike to the Lower Emerald Pool, a fairly family-friendly hike under two miles that includes a waterfall along the way or try Pa’rus Trail which is very easy for all ages.. Check out Weeping Rock Trail for the incredible views of the popular Great White Throne.
For a more unique experience, take a Canyon Hike and UTV Ride- This tour is open to all ages, making it perfect for families. Hop in the offroad utv and be taken to lesser-seen places in east Zion (with less crowds). You’ll get a chance to hike through slot canyons with the assitance of a guide. (This tour is highly rated and fills quickly!)
You can also take a gentle, floating raft trip down the Virgin River.
Days 4-6 Bryce Canyon
Next on the 2 week national parks itinerary of Utah’s mighty 5 is Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is knows for its forest of rock which includes the hoodoos, spires, and towers. These formations are prevalent throughout the park and make for an incredible few days.
Perhaps you haven’t heard of Bryce Canyon, but it is worth every moment of your time, as well as 2.7 million people who visit each year.
Since it is so popular, visitors are strongly encouraged to park outside the park and then ride the free Bryce Canyon shuttle in and throughout the park.
Once you’re in, try out the Rim Trail, a popular place to walk through the park.
The Navajo and Queen’s Garden Loop is just about 3 miles of a moderate hike, which will take you through famous formations of Bryce Canyon. This breathtaking hike will give you views for days, which is why it’s one of the most popular places to explore Bryce Canyon.
And don’t miss Mossy Cave Trail where you’ll pass by a scenic waterfall and back to a cave.
Other easier, shorter hikes for families include Sunset and Sunrise Point, the trails at Rainbow Point, or Yovimpa Point.
🤩 Take out the planning stress with a Private Full Day Tour of Bryce Canyon
Day 7 and 8 Capitol Reef
Probably the lesser popular of all the Mighty 5 parks, Capitol Reef actually has quite a unique feature that attracts visitors. The park is known for having a 100-mile wrinkle in the Earth’s crust that runs through, specifically called a “water pocket fold.”
In this 5 week National Parks itinerary, you’ll spend 2 days exploring Capitol Reef.
Make sure to visit the North District, also known as Cathedral Valley. You can simply drive the loop here (which is not quick!) and make some pullovers for hiking and easy roadside attraction opportunities. There are a few overlooks as well for anytime you need to get out and stretch during the 50+ mile drive.
The top hike in Capitol Reef is the Hickman Bridge trail. While it’s rated moderate, it is under 2 miles. You’ll get to witness canyons, domes, and bridges along this shorter route.
You should, of course, also check out the water pocket district. Here you’ll find unique features, like the Oyster Shell Reef which houses fossilized oyster shells in its walls.
🤩 Grab a Capitol Reef Map to help plan your trip
California Parks- 2 Week National Parks Road Trip
Parks Visited: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Death Valley National Park
Drive Time: 8-9 hours
Best time for this trip: Fall or Spring
This road trip is actually just 12 days, so feel free to adjust to add an extra day in the park that sounds best to you. Parks are fairly close together, really cutting down travel time.
While there are 9 national parks in California, you’ll get to see 4 of them on this route. This 2 week National Parks Road Trip will take you through Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Death Valley National Parks.
Yosemite: Day 1-6
Fly into Fresno and begin your 2 week national park road trip route at Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is huge, so there are plenty of family-friendly hikes and activities to choose from.
Visit lower Yosemite Falls, walk through giant tree groves, and relax with a picnic by the meadow. Yosemite is quite grand, so plan for about 3 days to really discover different parts of the park.
Kids will love seeing the Grizzly Giant Tree or walking to Mirror Lake. Bridalveil Falls is another popular spot with an amazing waterfall.
There is an abundance of things to do in Yosemite
and things to do with kids. It’s really easy to spend a week in Yosemite and still not see everything.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia: Days 7-10
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are pretty closer together, so it’s easy to visit both in a few days.
This is the place to go if you really want to witness those giant trees that seem a bit unbelievable. General Sherman is the world’s largest tree and can be found in the groves at Sequoia. General Grant can be founds in Kings Canyon and is known as the Nation’s Christmas tree, and one of the fastest growing giant trees thanks to its position in the sun.
Besides these two marvels, families can also try some of the many easy trails within the parks. In Sequoia, try Crescent Meadow Loop or Big Trees Trail (both under 2 miles each).
At Kings Canyon, families can try the short walk to Roaring River Falls, a half-mile hike to the incredible Panorama Point, or spend just under 2 miles hiking through the North Grove Loop to be surrounded by giants.
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Death Valley: Days 10-12
Death Valley is famous for being the lowest point in all of North America. It’s also known as the hottest place on Earth, and it’s dry. If you plan to visit Death Valley, make sure you are not visiting during the summer months when temperatures can reach 120 (even in the shade).
But if the time is right, it’s cool to visit the lowest, hottest place in the country. Head to Badwater Basin, the actual lowest spot at 282 feet below sea level. And with temperatures so hot, what you see is not snow, but rather a decent layer of salt on the floor.
Zabriski Point is another great spot that’s easy for families to get to. This are has some colorful badlands, making it one of the best views in the park.
For less than 3 miles of hiking, you can also visit the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in the park. There’s no specific trail on the dunes, so you are free to roam around and explore.
For a more refreshing view, head to Darwin Falls, which is roughly 2 r/t miles to hike. You’ll get not only waterfalls and pools, but lush green scenery, a rarity within the park.
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Washington 2 Week National Park Road Trip
Parks Visited: Olympic, Mount Rainier, North Cascades
Total Drive Time on Route: About 7 hours
Best Time for Trip: Summer
The Pacific Northwest is so gorgeous and really worth a slower pace to really enjoy everything. We visited a few of these parks recently and truly enjoyed our time. Everything was so green!
When we visited, we had a full week. We only visited two parks, and really hustled through so that we could see everything possible. While it worked great, it would have been great to been able to slow down a little. So I think this little loop will be perfect for a 2 week national parks road trip.
Olympic National Park: Days 1-5
This is easily one of my favorite national parks. It’s just gorgeous. But it’s also so diverse. On one end you have Hurricane Ridge at under 7,000 feet in elevation. You’ll get incredible views, hikes, and more.
The middle of the park is lush rainforest (yes, truly. It’s the only rainforest on the mainland USA). There are so many waterfalls, forest hikes, and even hot springs that the whole family will love the variety of activities.
And then on the western side are all the beautiful Pacific beaches to roam around on. Look for tide pools or just enjoy the waves crashing on the rocks.
Expect a bit of drive time while in the park. Getting from one side to the other can take a while. But there is so much to do along the way that it’s easy to break the drive up.
🤩 Check out the COOLEST Cabins Near Olympic National Park
Mount Rainier: Days 6-10
This is another national park that is just gorgeous. Waterfalls, lakes, flowers, views, and a variety of hikes makes this the perfect place to spend a few days or more.
Check out the Grove of Patriarchs where huge trees demand respect. These can grow anywhere between 500 and 1,000 years.
Reflection Lake is situated in front of Mount Rainier, making a clear, beautiful picture in the water on clear days.
Myrtle Falls is another favorite. This paved trail will lead you to a gorgeous waterfall. You’ll be able to snap a picture in front of the falls or even walk up the trail to stand at the top.
Really there are so many great waterfalls, hikes, and so many views to try and catch during your visit to Mount Rainier that it will be easy to spend a few days here.
🤩 Check out all the easy, fun things to do at Mount Rainier
North Cascades: Days 11-14
North Cascades is another great park full of lush, green foliage and waterfalls. You’ll get incredible mountain views and vast mountain ranges.
Easy hikes could include the short walk along the Trail of Cedars. This trail gives you beautiful views along the Skagit River.
Gorge Creek Falls is amid the greenery and rewards you with only a half-mile hike.
The Rock Shelter Trail along takes you near the river and provides signs along the way to read about the area. It’s just over 2 miles, keeping it short and beautiful.
There are, of course, longer hikes as well for those wanting some more activity. Each will take you into the depths of the park with gorgeous views.
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Colorado Plus: 2 Week National Parks Road Trip
Parks Visited: Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon, Mesa Verde, Arches
Drive Time: Around 15 hours
Best Time to Go: Spring or Early Summer
Colorado is home to 4 national parks, making it a great destination to take that 2 week national parks road trip. And each park is so different, assuring you’ll feel like you are actually taking 4 different vacations! You’ll visit these parks, plus Arches National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park: Days 1-4
Rocky Mountain National Park is so big that it has a few entrances. The main entrance is on the east side through Estes Park, with a few smaller entrances nearby. The other entrance is on the west side in Grand Lake.
Both have a lot to offer, and you can drive Trail Ridge Road through from one side to the other during the summer months.
While visiting on the Estes Park side, make sure to see Bear Lake, which is just about the most popular spot to visit in the park. This trail is easy and short, but full on value.
While at Bear Lake, you can catch one of the many trailheads that begin there. Hike up to Lake Hiyaha, Emerald Lake, or Dream Lake. All are quite dreamy despite only one being named so.
Other easy strolls in the park include Lily Lake or Sprague Lake. Though easy, moose sightings are frequent, giving you a little bonus to your walk (but keep your distance).
The west side has the beautiful Beaver Meadows or Lake Irene. You can even take the easy hike to Adams Falls which is technically part of the park, but just outside Grand Lake.
A few days in RMNP will really give you a chance to see and enjoy many beauties. And then you’ll understand why it is one of the most visited national parks in the US.
Check out the YMCA of the Rockies (super fun and family-friendly lodging)
Great Sand Dunes: Days 5-6
While Great Sand Dunes can be done in 1 day, it’s a bit of a drive from Rocky Mountain. So make the drive and then give yourself a full day to enjoy it.
At Great Sand Dunes National Park, you’ll need to rent a sled at a local retailer (like Kristi Sport in Alamosa). After that, spend the day playing!
While you can hike around the dunes all day, Great Sand Dunes is less about hiking and more about having a blast. Find an open dune and spend the day sledding or boarding down. The hike back up is quite tiring, but totally worth the fun ride down.
If you visit in late spring or early summer, Medano Creek will be full, giving you a great place to cool down. The sand temps can reach burning temperatures during the summer, making Medano Creek a welcome visit.
Even if you don’t want to play at the creek, you’ll have to cross it to reach the dunes, so make sure to bring a towel for your feet.
If you’d like an easy hike on your way out, check out Zapata Falls
Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Days 7-8
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is often called the Grand Canyon of Colorado. This amazing geographical feature is quite picturesque.
There are a few answers as to how Black Canyon of the Gunnison got its name. First, it gets its name from the tall, steep canyon walls that seem to always block the light of the sun from getting in. Therefore, it’s always dark or black inside.
It’s also thought to have been named such because of the the black stained walls inside.
The last part of is name is because the Gunnison River flows at the bottom, having cut through the walls and forming the canyon.
There are many hikes around the park and pretty much all of them have the goal of giving you amazing views of the canyon.
Mesa Verde: Days 9-10
Mesa Verde is another really unique place to visit. The draw of this park is the cliff dwellings that were made by the Ancestral Puebloan people.
You’ll be amazed at seeing how high up the side of the mountain these dwellings were carved out.
Use a day to drive around the park and make all the pull overs. You’ll be able to get up close to pit houses and even make a little self-tour out of the provided info signs.
After touring on your own, make sure to take a day to go on a guided hike. These hikes are a few miles long with a park ranger, but they will take you right up to the dwellings that you otherwise can only see at a distance.
These hikes are seasonal and they must be reserved.
Read more details about visiting Mesa Verde
Arches: Days 11-14
Arches is a pretty easy park to navigate around. There is basically one main road with a few off shoots.
Just driving around the park is beautiful, but hiking into some of the arches is really what will amaze you.
There are plenty of easy, family-friendly hikes within the park. Try the viewpoint for the famous Delicate Arch, or if kids are older (or more experienced hikers) try hiking right to the arch.
Windows Arch is another popular, easy one to get to that features a few arches within the same area.
Our favorite arch was Sand Dune Arch. Here, we felt like we stepped into another world to find this arch.
>> Find my full guide to Arches National Park
Check out the popular 4×4 tour into Arches (from Moab)
Eastern US 2 Week National Parks Road Trip itinerary
Parks Visited: Congaree, Great Smoky Mountains, New River Gorge, Shenandoah
Drive Time: about 11 hours
Best Time to Go: Fall or Summer
It seems like most of the national parks are in the west… probably because most of them are in the west. But there are some really beautiful parks on the eastern side of the USA as well that are not to be missed.
Congaree: Day 1-2
Reptiles, trees, hiking, boardwalks, and more make Congaree a gem to visit. It is one of the smaller and less-visited national parks, which makes it more of a hidden gem. Nearly 160,000 people visited Congaree in 2019. To put it in perspective, Rocky Mountain National Park sees about 4.5 million visitors a year.
So if crowds aren’t your thing, this is your place.
There’s plenty to impress you with. Congaree is home to one of the highest forest canopies on Earth. It’s also home to a floodplain forest, which provide great growth to trees like Hickories and Bald Cyprus.
Besides its beautiful landscapes, Congaree holds a history as well. It has been home to many groups in the past, from Native Americans, to Revolutionary War men to escaped slaves.
Whether you want to kayak, fish, or hike, there is plenty to do in this beautiful park.
The most popular hike is the Boardwalk Loop Trail. This is over 2 miles of walking on a boardwalk, making it very accessible for chairs and strollers. However, it’s not accessible when it floods, so make sure to check ahead for trail closures.
Another popular trail is the Oakridge Trail. This longer hike (over 6 miles) is still easy if you don’t mind the distance. You’ll go on boardwalks and on the forest floor. This is a great trail for both scenery (giant old trees and lakes) and wildlife.
Great Smoky Mountains: Days 2-7
While Congaree isn’t as well known, Great Smoky Mountains, by contrast, is the top visited national park in the US. It sees roughly 13 million visitors each year (according to USA Today).
Great Smoky Mountains NP is especially popular during the fall when all the colors across the range turn to vibrant yellow, oranges, and red.
A few days of hiking will suffice to really enjoy your trip. I have added a few extra days because chances are good you’ll be staying in Gatlinburg, a nearby and super fun town. It’s definitely worth a few days to see some great shows and attractions in Gatlinburg.
But back to Great Smoky Mountains…
While there is technically no fee to enter Great Smoky Mountains (you can just drive through and sight-see), there is a new fee in effect for parking. The fee is very affordable ($5 a day or $15 for a week, as of 2023) and allows you to park within the boundaries of the park and enjoy your stay.
If you do not have a parking tag, you must just drive through, or park for less that 15 minutes. So basically, it’s fine for pulling over to catch a view really quick, and then move on.
Note: America the Beautiful passes do not cover the parking tags.
I suggest getting the tag and really enjoying your time in the park. Here are a few fun things to fill your days.
Laurel Falls is just about the most popular and beautiful place to hike to in the park. At just over a mile to get to the waterfall, you’ll be gifted a gorgeous cascade that steps down a few levels to the river below.
Cataract Falls is another great one if you need a shorter hike, as it only takes about a half-mile to arrive.
For an even shorter hike with big payoff, try Juney Whank Falls trail. While an easy trail, it does get a little narrow and steep at some points.
For a longer, but still easy, hike, you must hike on Big Creek Trail over to see Mouse Creek Falls. This route is about 4 miles round trip, but will present plenty of waterfalls to keep you happy along the way.
Besides waterfalls, you can also fish, hike other trails, bike, or even try to catch the Synchronous Firefly show that happens every summer (lottery tickets required)
Great Smoky Mountains was on my list of Top 10 National Parks with Kids!
New River Gorge: Days 8-11
New River Gorge in West Virginia is the newest member of the US National Parks. This 70,000 acre park was made official in December of 2020.
While the whole park is gorgeous, it’s really known for it’s 3,000 foot-long bridge across New River.
This new park houses one of the oldest rivers (dating back at least 65 million years ago), which is ironically named New River.
Bridge Day is celebrated on the 3rd Saturday of October. On this day, the bridge is closed to motor traffic and open to pedestrians. They’ll get to witness a few base jumpers jump from the bridge into the gorge.
Some of the best things to do at New River Gorge are to go white water rafting, rock climbing, biking, and of course hiking.
Long Point Trail is one of the easier hikes at the park. While it is about 3 miles total, it will take you to some of the best views in the park, including an incredible view of the bridge.
Sandstone Falls is an easy, half-mile walk on the boardwalk that will take you to to a short but stunning falls area in the river.
Shenandoah: Days 12-14
Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful park to spend some of your 2 week national park road trip. This beautiful park is home to 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail and is filled with all the beauty you expect in a national park.
Located at about 2 hours outside of Washington DC, there is plenty to enjoy at this park. Whether you are into hiking, camping, rafting, horseback riding, or just scenic drives, this is the place.
There is over 500 miles of hiking trails in the park. And, if you are bringing the dog along, good news. While many national parks do not allow dogs outside the parking areas, there are a few trails at Shenandoah that do allow the dog to come along (on a leash, of course).
Kids (and dogs) will love the short trails like Fort Windham Rocks, which is just a mile along the lively forest floor. Bring both along on Blackrock Summit as well. It’s not as hard as it sounds, it’s just a 1 mile easy loop. Doyle River Falls is gorgeous and comes it a bit longer and little harder, but the payoff is beautiful.
For other hikes just for humans, try Dark Hollow Falls. This leads to a gorgeous waterfall after only about 1.5 miles.
There are views and waterfalls all over the park, so you really can’t go wrong. And with so much mileage in the park, it is easy to spend a few days.
Teton to Glacier 2 Week National Park Road Trip
Parks Visited: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier
Drive Time: 9+ hours
Best Time to Visit: Summer
This itinerary will take you through what I believe to be some of the most beautiful mountain National Parks in the country.
Grand Teton: Days 1-5
The first stop on this trip is Grand Teton National Park. This park is known for its stunning mountain views. It has been a filming location for various movies over the decades (like Brokeback Mountain, Rocky IV, and more) and plenty of stars have homes in nearby Jackson Hole.
There is no reservation required for entering Grand Teton (2023). So you can drive right over and begin your adventures.
Consider hiking to some of the most scenic areas of the park. One easy hike is Taggart Lake Loop. This 3.8 miles is some of the most popular ground to hike on, thanks to its view of the Tetons across the lake.
Jenny Lake is another popular spot for gorgeous views. It is about 7+ miles to loop around the whole lake, but if you have young kids, you can just wander the trail and turn around when the time is right. It’s definitely worth a stop for this gem.
For a much shorter hike, get your waterfall fix at Hidden Falls. This is just over a mile round trip, but doesn’t disappoint!
String Lake is another trail that isn’t too long (just over 4 miles round trip). But it’s another of those gorgeous views that includes both lake and mountains.
Spend a few days hiking in the park, and make sure to take some time to visit Jackson Hole as well. The town has the famous Antler Arches, dining, and great luxury mountain feels.
Yellowstone: Days 6-9
Yellowstone is just a quick drive over from Grant Teton, so you shouldn’t need to spend an entire day driving. That gives you more time to explore the park.
Yellowstone is famous for many things, but definitely most unique for over 500 geysers within the park. Check out Upper Geyser Basin where you can witness plenty of geysers, hot springs, and mu pots. This area includes Old Faithful, which is famous for being on a reliable schedule of erupting.
You can also try to catch Lone Star geyser, which erupts around every 3 hours. The hike to get there is easy, though just under 5 miles round trip.
Then try Fairy Falls Trail. Hike just over 1.5 miles to this popular waterfall. If you’d like, you can continue just over a half-mile to another geyser area.
Make sure to also see the main waterfall of the park, Yellowstone Falls.
Glacier: Days 9-14
Most of the first day will actually be spent driving, as Glacier is about 6 hours from Yellowstone.
Once you’re there, you’ll still have a good 4 or 5 days to explore this alpine park.
Glacier is commonly called “the crown of the continent”. It’s located in northern Montana and full of beauty. According to Montana Discovered, such beauty includes 26 glaciers, 200 waterfalls, over 700 lakes, and over 150 trails. There is plenty to see during this stop.
To spend a few days in Glacier, make sure to see the famous Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park.
Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road is another popular thing to do. This road is the only road that goes all the way across the park over 50 miles. This scenic drive is one of the best in the whole country, but you have to time it just right as it is only open (typically) from mid-July to October.
Note: For summer months, reservations are required for different parts of the park.
For the best hike in the park, you can make the 6 mile round-trip trek to Avalanche Lake. These turquoise waters is surrounded by views on all sides.
For an easier hike just under a mile, take Trail of the Cedars through the thick forest.
And for a waterfall (or rather, waterfalls) you’ve never seen anything like, take the easy hike to Redrock Falls.
With over 700 miles of trails, there are endless amounts of things to see in this beautiful park.
How to Plan a National Parks Road Trip?
The First step in planning a national parks road trip is to decide which region you’d like to visit. Then, use one of the above itineraries to get in as many parks as you’d like with the amount of time you have!
How Much Does a National Parks Road Trip Cost?
That can depend on a lot of factors like gas, hotels, and if you eat out every meals. The parks themselves are incredibly affordable compared to a standard vacation. You can pay per each park you visit, or you can buy the America the Beautiful Pass for under $100 and gain entrance into all National Parks and Federal Lands!
Final Thoughts: 2 Week National Park Road Trip itineraries
There are so many great itineraries for visiting multiple national parks in one road trip. Hopefully the above post gave you lots of ideas for how to plan for a 2 week National Park road trip for your family. And if you don’t have two weeks, just adjust your time or pick just one or 2 parks on each itinerary.
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