The long days and balmy weather of Summer unleash the spirit of wanderlust in many people. Endless lines at airports and relatively inexpensive gas prices make a road trip an attractive option. If you want to hit the road, here are three North American road trip ideas.
Chicago to the Badlands
Chicago, a major air travel hub centrally located in the United States, is a convenient place to begin your road trip. From Chicago, drive north on Interstate 90 for two and a half hours to Madison, Wisconsin. A lively college town, Madison makes a good pit stop for lunch or an overnight visit. From Madison, continue west on Interstate 90 through Minnesota and into South Dakota.
The drive from Madison to the Badlands is over 700 miles long and crosses through some of America’s signature heartland country. There are plenty of quirky diversions along the way, from the Corn Palace in Mitchell to the Wall Drug store, a world-famous landmark with a kitschy “Old West” atmosphere, in the town of Wall. This drive can be made in one long day or broken up with an overnight stay in one of South Dakota’s many small towns.
Badlands National Park provides the grand finale to your trip, with its vast artist’s palette of strangely shaped and brightly colored rock formations. The loop road through the park showcases many of its highlights and can be done in a few hours, but if you have extra time, take a full day or more to explore the Badlands. Extend your trip by a day or two with a visit to two additional American icons, Mount Rushmore National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Denver to Yellowstone National Park
On this trip, you’ll experience some of North America’s most scenic national parks and mountain landscapes. Bring your camera, camping gear, and hiking boots. While this itinerary could be rushed through in a week, you should allow two or more weeks to experience all that this area has to offer.
Begin your journey in Denver, where you can spend a day or two acclimating to Colorado’s high altitude and enjoying some city life before heading into the mountains. From Denver, take a short drive to the free-spirited town of Boulder. Fill an afternoon or a day exploring its funky boutiques and diverse array of restaurants. When you’re ready for more mountain adventures, drive an hour on scenic Highway 36 to the small town of Estes Park, which makes a good base for exploring nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. In this park, remarkable hiking, rock climbing, and endless mountain vistas await. Take at least two days to visit the park to experience all it has to offer.
From Rocky Mountain National Park, head about three hours west to Steamboat Springs. A quintessential ski town, Steamboat Springs also offers plenty of Summer diversions such as gondola rides, fishing, mountain biking, and hot springs. There are enough activities in Steamboat Springs to warrant a stay of at least three days.
Head north to Yellowstone National Park via Highway 40, Interstate 80 and Highway 287. This drive will take approximately eight hours on a combination of mountain roads and interstates. If you don’t want to complete the drive in a single day, stay overnight in Rawlins, Wyoming, a small historic town about six hours from Yellowstone.
Yellowstone’s multitude of natural attractions and outdoor activities make it one of America’s most popular national parks. While it could take months, if not years, to explore the entire area, you can experience a lot of the park in a few days to a week.
A drive across Canada contains all the elements of an epic road trip. On a cross-Canada journey, you’ll take in an incredible array of scenic and cultural attractions. Many of these can be found along the Trans-Canada Highway, which crosses the country from east to west. This itinerary will give you a taste of the many highlights along the way. Plan to spend a few weeks to a month exploring this giant country.
Begin in Vancouver, taking a day or two to check out its restaurants, beaches, and diverse mix of cultures. Then, follow the Trans-Canada Highway east to Banff National Park, where you can hike or kayak through jaw-dropping mountain scenery. When you’re ready to leave the mountains, continue east across endless rolling plains, where the wide-open spaces will give you a sense of Canada’s enormous scale. In Ontario, enjoy water sports in Lake Superior, check out the vast locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and experience First Nations culture on Manitoulin Island. If time allows, detour to Toronto, one of Canada’s most dynamic cities. End your trip in Francophone Montreal or extend your travels with a visit to Canada’s Maritime provinces.
*All aforementioned itineraries are one-way, and driving times are estimates which do not include delays due to road work, traffic, bad weather, or other conditions. Use the driving times and distances as general guidelines and allow flexibility in your travel plans for unforeseen delays.
*As Summer is the peak travel season in many areas, some attractions might sell out. If possible, book tours and other organized activities ahead of time, and make hotel or camping reservations in advance.