These National Parks are road trip worthy 

School’s out and the open road beckons, inviting you to embark on an unforgettable summer adventure. While California boasts remarkable natural wonders, venturing beyond state lines to explore US National Parks unveils a whole new world of breathtaking landscapes. Whether you embark on a solo journey or gather the whole family, a road trip to these out-of-state gems promises an experience you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Although popular during this season, with careful planning and an open mind, discovering the wonders of out-of-state National Parks is a rewarding escapade. Here are five enticing picks to ignite your wanderlust.

Bristlecone pine trees and rock glacier. Photo by Dave Rock

Great Basin

  • Location: Nevada
  • Established: Oct 27, 1986
  • Most known for: Ancient forests and limestone caves
  • Fun fact: It’s home to the only glacier in Nevada
  • Average temps:
    • June — Avg High 76 & Avg Low 48
    • July — Avg High 86 & Avg Low 57
  • Approximate Distance and drive time:
    • San Francisco — 520 miles // 9 hours
    • Los Angeles  400 miles // 7 hours
    • Las Vegas  300 miles // 4.5 hours
    • Reno  380 miles // 6 hours

Great Basin National Park is a refreshing mountain getaway, offering respite from the Nevada desert heat. It is also one of the least visited National Parks in the US. Take a hike to the foot of Wheeler Peak Glacier, the only glacier in Nevada, and marvel at the icy formations. Adventurous families can tackle the challenge of reaching the summit of Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet. Other scenic trails like the Bristlecone-Glacier View Trail, showcase ancient bristlecone pine trees and panoramic mountain views. For beautiful alpine lakes, head to Stella Lake and Teresa Lake which are easily accessible via the Alpine Loop/Bristlecone trail. Make sure to explore the Lehman Caves, where guided tours take visitors through stunning limestone formations.

NPS tip: Great Basin National Park is located in extremely remote, east-central Nevada, five miles west of the town of Baker. This is a remote area with limited services, little to no cell coverage, no public wifi, and large stretches between gas and grocery services. Plan ahead and pack diligently in case of breakdowns, unexpected snow/dust/lightning storms, and no quick access to many conveniences.

A panoramic view of Crater Lake in Oregon. Photo: Hannah Guss

Crater Lake

  • Location: Oregon
  • Established: May 22, 1902
  • Most known for: Large deep blue lake, which was formed by the collapse of an ancient volcano
  • Fun fact: It is the deepest lake in America and clearest lake in the world
  • Average temps: 
    • June — Avg High 75 & Avg Low 45
    • July — Avg High 80 & Avg Low 53
  • Approximate Distance and drive time:
    • San Francisco — 400 miles // 6.5 hours
    • Los Angeles  800 miles // 12 hours
    • Las Vegas  740 miles // 11.5 hours
    • Reno  300 miles // 5 hours *

Crater Lake is the only National Park in Oregon . Start your adventure by embarking on a scenic drive along Rim Drive, where the whole family can marvel at the deep blue waters of Crater Lake and enjoy the various viewpoints along the way, such as Watchman Overlook, Discovery Point, and Cloudcap Overlook. Hiking trails, like the Garfield Peak Trail or Discovery Point Trail, provide opportunities to explore the park’s unique volcanic landscape and encounter diverse flora and fauna. The Cleetwood Cove Trail leads to the lake’s edge, where families can take a refreshing swim or enjoy a boat tour to Wizard Island. Parts of the rim of Crater Lake are steep and can be dangerous, especially for young children, so please make sure to keep an eye on little ones.

NPS tip: May and June are months of transition in the park, as winter slowly gives way to summer. They can also be months of frustration, as lingering snow prevents access to much of the park. The road around Crater Lake and the park’s North Entrance might be closed due to snow. Before you visit, learn about seasonal road closures and check the current conditions to find out which roads are open.

The bridge overlooking Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park. Photo: Alfred Jennett


  • Location: Washington
  • Established: June 29, 1938
  • Most known for: Incredible natural diversity
  • Fun fact: The Hoh Rainforest is one of the wettest places in the continental United States
  • Average temps:
    • June — Avg High 62 & Avg Low 46
    • July — Avg High 68 & Avg Low 51
  • Distance and drive time:
    • San Francisco — 865 miles // 14 hours 
    • Los Angeles —  1200 miles // 19 hours
    • Las Vegas —  1200 miles // 19 hours 
    • Reno — 760 miles // 13 hours *

Olympic National Park is very large, offering a diverse array of ecosystems to explore and appreciate. Home to three national wildlife refuges and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the Pacific coast’s most popular areas are Kalaloch and Ruby Beach. Four rainforests, including Hoh, one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States, are popular destinations to experience this grand lush, green environment year-round. Elwha and Sol Duc valleys provide dense, green forests and sparkling rivers. Glacially carved Lake Crescent is an alluring attraction for pristine, natural beauty.

NPS tip: Hurricane Ridge is closed indefinitely following the tragic loss of Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge due to fire on May 7. Access to Hurricane Ridge area remains closed beyond Heart of the Hills entrance station. In addition, a portion of North Shore Road (Lake Quinault) is closed due to storm damage.

Grinnell lake at Glacier National Park. Az Cat/istock


  • Location: Montana
  • Established: May 11, 1910
  • Most known for: Glaciers and diverse wildlife
  • Fun fact: Home to over 700 lakes!
  • Average temps:
    • June — Avg High 70 & Avg Low 40
    • July — Avg High 75 & Avg Low 45
  • Approximate distance and drive time:
    • San Francisco — 1,150 miles // 19 hours 
    • Los Angeles —  1,350 miles // 21 hours
    • Las Vegas —  1100 miles // 15.5 hours
    • Reno — 900 miles // 15.5 hours

Glacier National Park offers stunning mountain scenery, crystal-clear lakes, and plenty of opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing. The park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must-drive, offering spectacular views of the park’s alpine landscape. Be sure to take the time to hike to some of the park’s most popular attractions, including Hidden Lake, Trail of the Cedars, Grinnell Glacier, and Avalanche Lake. If you’re visiting with kids, consider taking a guided horseback ride or boat tour for a unique perspective on the park. With 700 lakes, there are endless opportunities for picnicking, swimming, and kayaking. Wildlife enthusiasts can go on wildlife spotting adventures to catch glimpses of bears, moose, and mountain goats.

NPS tip: In summer 2023, a vehicle reservation is required for four areas of the park: Going-to-the-Sun Road, the North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier. Each location has unique details and requires a separate reservation. Glacier has become an extremely busy park. Expect crowds on roads, at visitor centers, on popular trails, and on shuttles.

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. Photo: Daphne Zheng


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    • June — Avg High 70 & Avg Low 40
    • July — Avg High 75 & Avg Low 45 
  • Approximate distance and drive time:
    • SanFrancisco — 900 miles // 15.5 hours
    • Los Angeles — 1,000 miles // 15.5 hours
    • Las Vegas —  750 miles // 10.5 hours
    • Reno — 700 miles // 10 hours *

Yellowstone is one of the most popular National Parks in the country and for a good reason. It’s home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bison, elk, and grizzly bears, and features geysers, hot springs, and canyons. The park has an extensive trail system to explore, and you can also book a whitewater rafting trip or enjoy fishing in pristine lakes.  Old Faithful, the park’s most famous geyser, erupts every 90 minutes or so and is a must-see for anyone visiting the park. Other popular sights in Yellowstone include the Grand Prismatic Spring, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

NPS tip: Take the pledge. Tell a friend. Protect the park. The National Park Service works hard to protect Yellowstone and they need your help. The best way to start is by taking the Yellowstone Pledge. It’s a personal promise you make to yourself and the park. It can be taken anywhere: it doesn’t need to be taken out loud or in front of anyone. Tag #YellowstonePledge and encourage others to do the same. “I pledge to protect Yellowstone National Park. I will act responsibly and safely, set a good example for others, and share my love of the park and all the things that make it special.”