As travel habits have shifted in light of the COVID pandemic, many vacationers are looking to hit the open road. Whether renting an RV or hopping between campgrounds, road trips offer a good way to vacation while maintaining social distance.
RV camping is one of the most exciting and rewarding ways to explore the United States. Few modes of transport allow travelers to cover so much distance for little money while coming face-to-face with the nation's natural treasures.
We've come up with five route suggestions for folks looking to hit the road and tour America's most beautiful natural preserves.
Distance: 2,226 miles
California offers a cornucopia of natural beauty, from towering redwood forests to dusty deserts to breathtaking seascapes and shorelines. This 14-destination loop will take RV travelers across the entire state. While we start our journey just northeast of San Diego and go in a clockwise loop, you can use any location as your starting point. We've highlighted some of the top nature and camping destinations across California, but feel free to improvise as there is no shortage of parks and preserves in the Golden State.
A. Anza-Borrego State Park
B. Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park.
C. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
D. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
E. Point Reyes.
F. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
G. Klamath National Forest.
H. Shasta National Forest.
I. Lake Tahoe.
J. Grover Hot Springs.
K. Yosemite National Park.
L. John Muir Wilderness.
M. Death Valley.
N. Joshua Tree National Park.
Distance: 2,826 miles
The Rocky Mountains stretch over 3,000 miles from New Mexico to British Columbia and offer a life's worth of exploration opportunities. You could spend weeks at Yellowstone and Grand Teton alone. We've chosen just a few of the more popular destinations and suggest you set aside a hefty chunk of time for this trip. Again, the locations are ordered clockwise, but you can jump in at the most convenient destination. We begin in southern Idaho.
A. Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho.
B. Craters of the Moon Monument, Idaho.
C. National Elk Refuge, Wyo.
D. Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.
E. Yellowstone National Park, Mont.
F. Glacier National Park, Mont.
G. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Mont.
H. Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyo.
I. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo.
J. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colo.
K. Mesa Verde National Park, Colo.
L. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colo.
Distance: 2,332 miles
The classic American road trip, Route 66 spans from Chicago to Los Angeles. Unlike the other trips we list here, Route 66 is less a nature excursion and more a nostalgic cruise along a collection of museums, diners and roadside attractions. Route 66 has hundreds of potential stops; we've chosen just a few. If you plan on taking Route 66 both away from home and back toward it, remember to leave plenty of attractions for the return trip.
A. Chicago, Ill.
B. Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum, Ill.
C. Lincoln's Tomb, Ill.
D. St. Louis, Mo.
E. Mark Twain National Forest, Mo.
F. Galena Mining and Historical Museum, Kan.
G. Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum, Okla.
H. Oklahoma Route 66 Museum, Okla.
I. Palo Duro State Park, Texas
J. Cadillac Ranch, Texas
K. Route 66 Auto Museum, N.M.
L. Red Rock State Park, N.M.
M. Petrified Forest National Park, Ariz.
N. Meteor Crater, Ariz.
O. The Grand Canyon, Ariz.
P. Los Angeles, Calif.
New England loop
Distance: 1,515 miles
A road trip around New England offers a balanced blend of verdant forests, rocky seascapes, colonial history and gorgeous seaside towns. We start our loop in upstate New York, heading east and north into the parks of upper New England. After Acadia, head south along the coast for breathtaking ocean views. A collection of historic New England towns (Salem, Cape Cod and more) will provide a break from the greenery and a lesson in American history. Pick up the route at the location closest to you.
A. Adirondack State Park, N.Y.
B. Green Mountain National Forest, Vt.
C. White Mountain National Forest, N.H.
D. Allagash Wilderness Waterway State Park, Maine
E. Acadia National Park, Maine
F. Minute Man National Historic Park, Mass.
G. Salem, Mass.
H. Boston, Mass.
I. Cape Cod, Mass.
J. Jamestown, R.I.
K. Fort Adams State Park, R.I.
L. Mystic Seaport, Conn.
M. Hammonasset State Park, Conn.
N. Fort Hale Park, Conn.
O. Ferris Lake, N.Y.
Distance: 5,776 miles
The Southern states have plenty to offer in terms of nature, culture and relaxation. A satisfying southern RV expedition will sample forests, beaches and everything in between. This loop starts in historic Savannah, drops down into Florida and meanders along the Southern coast before launching back east into Tennessee and Virginia. The last leg of the journey comprises a series of beaches for a proper cool down at the end of a long journey. Of course, you can begin anywhere along the route and eventually end up back where you started.
A. Savannah, Ga. B. Ocala National Forest, Fla. C. Big Cypress National Preserve, Fla. D. Everglades National Park, Fla. E. Apalachicola National Forest, Fla. F. Blackwater River State Park, Fla. G. De Soto National Forest, Fla. H. New Orleans, La. I. Kisatchie National Forest, La. J. Houston, Texas K. Sam Houston National Forest, Texas L. Ouachita National Forest, Ark. M. Ozark National Forest, Ark. N. Memphis, Tenn. O. Nashville, Tenn. P. Cherokee National Forest, Tenn. Q. Chattahoochee National Forest, Ga. R. George Washington National Forest, Va. S. Virginia Beach, Va. T. Myrtle Beach, S.C. U. Hilton Head, S.C.
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About the author: Stephen Vanderpool is a former writer for NerdWallet. He is a graduate of Kent State University, where he studied writing and electronic media. Read more