Top U.S. national park road trip ideas

By Eric Wright

Over two hundred years ago, a courageous group of 48 pioneers set out on an epic journey, battling through a severe winter, rugged mountains, and vast wilderness to cut a new trail westward from Massachusetts to Ohio. These bold American heroes started the expansion of the modern day United States, opening up new routes through the Northwest Territory. They were the bravest of the brave, and now it's your turn to follow in their footsteps and carve your own route through the unknown.

Release the adventurer inside you with one of our remarkable road trip ideas through a U.S. national park!

1. The Grand Circle Tour

With its awe-inspiring canyons and seemingly endless skies, the Grand Circle Tour in Utah offers 1,500 miles of incredibly scenic highways, six national parks, and huge lakes in the desert—meaning it's no wonder that this stunning region is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the states.

Start your tour by visiting Zion National Park, hiking Canyon Overlook Trail and watching the sunset light the entire canyon. On the second day, explore the spectacular Zion Canyon by taking the handy shuttle bus. Bryce Canyon National Park is then just an hour's drive away and boasts more majestic overlooks from Sunrise Point and Bryce Point.

The famous All-American Road, Scenic Byway 12, will then lead you through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into Capitol Reef National Park and its unique rock formations. Be sure to add Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point, and Canyonlands National Park to the itinerary, too.

To end the vacation on a high, soak up the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon's mile-high cliffs from the South Rim, while wondering how on earth four Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other could fit within its monumental walls!

2. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

As the world's first National Park, Yellowstone contains more than 290 waterfalls, over 500 active geysers, and 67 species of mammals amid its sprawling 2.2 million acres. The vibrant and bizarre scenery at this one-of-a-kind spot means a road trip here is sure to evoke the senses.

Grand Teton National Park makes a great starting point for the road trip and the vistas of Phelps Lake from Death Canyon Trailhead are simply astounding. Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, and Inspiration Point should also all make the list before getting back on the road to Yellowstone for terrain that seems like it could be from another planet.

Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Mammoth Hot Springs are all a must-see while on a scenic drive through Lamar Valley, where you'll see the bison at their watering hole for the ideal end to the road trip.

3. Yosemite National Park

The iconic valley of Yosemite is a photographer's dream, as well a paradise for rock climbers. With its towering waterfalls, giant Sequoia trees, and thousands of plant species, the area is a true natural wonder steeped in dramatic scenery.

Driving through the Wawona Tunnel to Tunnel View, the unrivaled beauty of the valley makes its instant and unforgettable impression on all its visitors. The majestic granite rock formation of the famous Half Dome and the panoramic views of the distant horizon at Glacier Point are the perfect way to start the vacation while the Four Mile Trail, which makes its way up to a 3,200-foot peak, is the ideal way to take in the diverse ecosystems and wildlife habitats in the park.

The Yosemite Valley Loop lets you burn some rubber while taking in the landscape and make some well-earned pit stops for more breathtaking sights, like climber's obsession and adversary El Capitan, Vernal Falls, and the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls. As the Scottish-American influential naturalist John Muir once so aptly put it, this area really is "one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples."

4. The Great Smoky Mountains

Generally regarded as one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, with rock formations dating back over 200 million years, the rolling valleys and dense forests of the Smoky Mountains are home to more native trees than the whole of Europe combined.

Encompassing 244,000 acres in Tennessee, 276,000 acres in North Carolina, and a 70-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, this region is an outdoor adventurer's playground that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Cades Cove offers a scenic 11-mile loop road, where travelers can embrace the rich wildlife, historic buildings, and access to trails to delve deeper into the enchanting terrain.

The popular Newfound Gap Road also winds its way from Cherokee to the center of the park, crossing the 5,000-foot mountain pass of Newfound Gap and ending in Gatlinburg. The 66-mile round trip offers visitors a 3,000-foot ascent up through the backbone of the Smokies, with extraordinary mountain and forest views. Balsam Mountain Heintooga Ridge Road, accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway, gives drivers even more sweeping vistas, while Cataloochee Valley gets you up close to majestic elk grazing, all from the comfort of your car.

5. Joshua Tree National Park

Covering 1,235 square miles, Joshua Tree National Park is an ecological crossover, in which the Mojave Desert and the low Colorado Desert meet, resulting in two distinctly different ecosystems. The rugged mountains and broad valleys covered in twisted Joshua trees create an unfamiliar and extraterrestrial landscape.

Having previously lay hidden deep underwater for 250 million years, the area now offers a paranormal expanse that is perfect for an unforgettable road trip with friends and family. Starting off in the town of Joshua Tree and heading south on Park Boulevard will lead to mythical Hidden Valley, with its iconic massive boulders, and a short trip back on the road will leave you at Keys View. The 5,185-foot lookout point has panoramic views of the Coachella Valley below, as well as San Jacinto Peak and San Gorgonio Mountain.

Jumping back in the car for a short cruise through the desert gives you the chance for some photo ops at famed Skull Rock and Arch Rock, while driving south on Pinto Basin Road places you in the intriguing Cholla Cactus Garden, with its unusual strands of cacti sprawling across the barrens for as far as the eye can see.

Looking to head further afield? Check out these national parks around the globe!

World's best national parks to go glamping

By Jackie Dreyer

While the U.S. is home to an impressive 58 national parks for a single country, it would be remiss of us to not acknowledge the stunning natural landscapes that exist all across the rest of the world—from South America up to Europe down to Africa and over to Australia. In order to get the most out of your national park of choice, the perfect place for you to set up your home base is most certainly a glamping site—even better if the accommodation is inside of the park itself. Without further ado, let us take you on a trip around the globe to some of our favorites of the world's best national parks.

North America

Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada

The peaks of Banff National Park, located near Calgary in Alberta, Canada, form part of the well-known Rocky Mountains—could you ask for a more beautiful backdrop for your vacation? Throughout this vast National Park, which spans 2,564 square miles, you'll be able to wonder about what it must have been like before the glaciers came through and formed the park that you see before you as you wander. In fact, Banff National Park is home to the largest uninterrupted glacial mass in the Rockies, the Columbia Icefield.

Where to stay: Come nightfall, you'll most certainly have worn yourselves out enough that nothing will sound better than curling up in this mountain cottage in the town of Nordegg, just an hour away from the park.

Central America

Arenal National Park in Costa Rica

The Arenal volcano in Arenal National Park.
Photo sourced from Beautiful World.

Hiking goes hand-in-hand with any getaway where you plan to be outdoors as much as humanly possible, and a trip to Arenal National Park in Costa Rica is no exception. Home to one of Costa Rica's five active volcanoes of the same name, there are two main hiking trails in the National Park, and the two meet to form a perfect loop that is only 2.5 miles in total—meaning doing both trails in the same day is more than feasible. Be sure not to miss La Peninsula, an area of the park that just opened in 2017 and boasts incredible views of Lake Arenal.

Where to stay: If you happen to be hiking with your significant other—perhaps on your honeymoon?—a stay at one of these romantic elevated cabins is both cozy and convenient, at less than 30 minutes by car from the park.

South America

Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

In Chile's southernmost tip, those looking for a great adventure will find the Patagonia region—home to Torres del Paine National Park. Averaging 252,000 visitors a year, over half of which are international tourists, this National Park is a grab bag of all the best nature has to offer, from mountains and glaciers to lakes and rivers. The pièce de résistance is the Cordillera del Paine, which is formed by a group of three granite peaks—Torres d'Agostini, Torres Central, and Torres Monzino—throughout which you'll find all of the aforementioned natural elements...and then some!

Where to stay: You won't find a more authentic glamping experience anywhere after a stay at this eco-friendly dome inside the National Park's borders, where the hosts will guide you on an action-packed, six-day mountain getaway.


Snowdonia National Park in Wales, U.K.

The stunning Snowdonia National Park is home to Wales' highest peak.
Photo sourced from Orange Smile.

Outside of Scotland, Snowdonia National Park has the highest mountain you'll find in the U.K., but that's not the only thing that makes it so unique. This National Park is actually a living and working area for over 26,000 Welsh citizens! Throughout Snowdonia, you'll find find a treasure chest of natural landscapes, including Wales' largest lake, 37 miles of coastline, and a number of beautiful villages to explore. Mount Snowdon, the aforementioned mountain, is the most popular among tourists who come to hike, but the trek can get crowded, so be sure to plan accordingly, and don't forget about the other peaks that are perfect for climbing, such as Tryfan, Y Garn, Mynydd Tal-y-Mignedd, and Moelwyn Mawr.

Where to stay: Given how special this National Park is, why not sleep directly in it? This riverside cabin will put you at the heart of the action and allow you to enjoy lovely views of the cabin's private garden, the nearby river and waterfall, and the mountains off in the distance.

Added bonus: The fastest zip-line in the world—and the longest in Europe!—is right next to Snowdonia at a local adventure park called Zip World. There are also unique caverns to be explored and a ride called the Fforest Coaster, which is a one-of-a-kind woodland rollercoaster. We highly recommend factoring it into your travel plans!


Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

Best known for the yearly migration of 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra, Serengeti National Park boasts 5,700 square miles in northern Tanzania and is situated close to the Kenyan border, where you'll find another famous national park, the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The Serengeti is characterized largely by its seemingly never-ending plains, smattered with kopjes, which are granite formations often used by predators as an observation point. There are two other main landscapes inside the National Park, however, that are not to be missed: the Western corridor, with its black clay soil and the Grumeti River, and the Northern Serengeti, where you'll find woodlands and hills, as well as have your best shot at seeing an elephant or giraffe.

Where to stay: What could be better than the opportunity to sleep at the nearby Maswa Game Reserve in a spacious safari tent? It doesn't get more luxurious than having your own personal attendant to make your vacation as comfortable as possible.


Fiordland National Park on South Island, New Zealand

At a whopping 1.2 million hectares in size, there's space in Fiordland National Park for a whole lot of variety when it comes to natural landscapes, including mountains, lakes, rainforests, valleys, and, of course, fiords. Doubtful and Milford Sounds are the most famous of the park's glacier-carved fiords and are a must-see while visiting, in addition to Lake Te Anau—the second biggest lake in all of New Zealand. Avid hikers will be keen to focus at least part of the trip on the famed Milford Track; this three-day hike is roughly 33.5 miles in total and requires plenty of advance planning, as camping is not allowed and you must book one of the specified Milford Track huts.

Where to stay: If you don't opt for one of the multiple-day hiking trails, you'll have no qualms about getting your hands dirty exploring the park all day knowing you have this modern cottage to come home to.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Queensland, Australia

An underwater view of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia.
Photo sourced from Business Destinations.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park doesn't just protect the majority of the Great Barrier Reef from harm; it also has a myriad of other uses, including tourism, fishing, and scientific research. The Great Barrier Reef is best known for its large coral reef ecosystem—in fact, it represents roughly 10% of the world's coral reefs. As such, you'll have a unique opportunity to see a wide range of biodiversity, including over 1,500 different types of fish and over 30 distinct types of marine mammals, as you plan your snorkeling and scuba diving adventures.

Where to stay: The coastal town of Port Douglas will give you prime access to the Great Barrier Reef, and from this luxury villa, you'll be able to relax like royalty after spending all day in the water.


Khao Yai National Park in Thailand

A sheltered view of one of the Khao Yai National Park's many waterfalls.
Photo sourced from Ithaka.

Head to central Thailand to find the country's first national park, Khao Yai National Park, which is also the most-visited. At two hours and 30 minutes from Bangkok, it's a reasonable and worthwhile trip for all who seek outdoor exploration and natural beauty—from its rainforests and waterfalls to the plethora of fauna that call the park home. Those with a passion for birdwatching will be in heaven at Khao Yai National Park; there are roughly 300 different types of birds, both migratory and resident, as well as the largest population in Thailand of hornbills.

Where to stay: We've got your accommodation covered with this cozy cabin—complete with a hammock on the front porch for optimum relaxation—but be sure to plan your park activities in advance to ensure the visit of a lifetime. (Travelfish has some great tips!)

Keep on exploring your personal wanderlust with our portal for all the best of the United States' national parks!

The Best of the Islands: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

By Elizabeth Young

Are you headed to Hawaii any time soon? While you may be thinking surfing, beaches, and sunsets, there is so much more to the islands than their stunning shores. The interior of each island is filled with verdant green rainforests and teeming with adventure. Every island has its charm, that's for sure, but today we're going to focus on the Big Island of Hawaii and Volcanoes National Park. Get ready to get up close and personal with some of Hawaii's famous volcanoes, and take a look at what there is to do and where we recommend to stay!

The Property

You can really disconnect when you stay at this yurt. It's even hidden in the rainforest!

To visit the National Park, we recommend booking this family-friendly yurt, found in Fern Forest, about 15 minutes by car from the park entrance. The yurt can sleep four people and has parking for two cars, so you don't need to worry about where to park the rental. The hosts, Don and Gypsy, will welcome you for your 3 p.m. check-in and show you around.

You'll notice not only does the yurt have the basics—linens, towels, and a full kitchen—there is also Wi-Fi, a Roku for evening entertainment, and a barbecue on the lanai out back. Don and Gypsy even provide snacks! And did we mention the yurt is solar-powered? Really, what more could you need?

Take a peek inside!

Visiting the Park

A photo of the Kilauea Crater from a lookout point.

After you wake up refreshed and are ready to go, you can head out for Volcanoes National Park. When planning your trip to the park, make sure to check the hours and which parts of the park are open. Due to lava flows and repairs, certain parts of the park may be closed to the public throughout the year.

At night, you can see the lava even better.

To enter the park, every visitor must pay a fee. Each pass is valid for seven days; it is $25 per car, $12 per pedestrian or bicycle, and $20 per motorcycle. There are also certain days throughout the year that the park is free! Click here for more information.

The craters help you get a feel for how large the volcanoes truly are.

At the heart of the park lie Kilauea and Mauna Loa, both active volcanoes. The Crater Rim is a popular drive and hike in the park, allowing visitors to see several steam vent and craters, and it overlooks as the skirt the edge of the Kilauea Caldera, too. Visitors can head below ground and even walk through the Thurston Lava Tubes—get there early to avoid crowds and congestion—or go high and stop for a photo-op at the Kilauea Overlook, which spans two miles and drops 400 feet! Apart from the Crater Rim Trail, other popular hikes include Halema'uma'u Trail, the Devastation Trail, and the Kilauea Iki hike.

Out and about

After a day exploring the National Park, take a break and check out the town!

When you're not exploring Volcanoes National Park and the rainforest, the surrounding towns are home to some cool landmarks and delicious restaurants and cafés. Feel like eating breakfast out one day? Head over to Ohelo Cafe in Volcano Village or try the pancakes at the Kilauea Lodge, which are sure to be a hit. Other guests favorites include Kaleo's Bar & Grill in Pahoa, the malasadas at Tex Drive-In, Eagles Lighthouse Cafe, and Papa'aloa Country Store & Cafe.

Make sure to check out any one of the local farmers' markets.

After you've eaten your fill, take some time to see what else the island holds. There's a scenic drive down into Waipi'o Valley and beach; you can visit Akaka Falls, the Black or Green Sand Beaches, Rainbow Falls; and so much more!

The hike to Akaka Falls is the perfect way to spend a day!

Volcanoes, rainforests, waterfall hikes, delicious foods and even more beautiful beaches...what are you waiting for? Don't miss the chance to book a trip to the Big Island!

Planning another trip? Head over to Glamping Hub to take a look at our full inventory.

Where to Go Tent and Tipi Camping near Yellowstone National Park

By Clara Zajde

The seemingly endless winter is finally coming to a close, and lovers of the outdoors are emerging from hibernation with a renewed itch to embark on an adventure. Airline websites are being browsed, tour companies called, and overnight accommodations perused with vigor. Everyone is hunting for the best travel deals for their next memorable holidays. Buckle in because we are here to offer you the ultimate vacation inspo.

We wouldn't repeat it if we didn't love it wholeheartedly: camping! You're probably here because you want to step into nature and enjoy a reprieve from a routine that may not offer you access to the world's natural beauty. What better way to fill your lungs—and your vacation days—with some fresh air and luxurious, yet authentic, outdoor living? You may be tuning out thinking that you've heard the camping spiel before, but hang tight, we've got something special up our sleeves.

Destination: Yellowstone National Park

As many seasoned glampers and travelers may already know, Yellowstone National Park is the first National Park in the United States and, arguably, the world, with abundant amounts of history, unique sights, and activities that attract travelers from all over the world every year.

The park spans over 3,000 square miles and is home to countless natural wonders such as rivers, lakes, canyons, and mountain ranges. The park's impressive expanse, which encompasses three different states, makes it a destination virtually impossible to visit in just one weekend.

Yellowstone’s vibrant ecosystem plays a huge role in attracting travelers to its gates. Many glampers choose to visit this National Park not only for its beauty, but also for the chance to lay eyes on North America’s largest supervolcano, the Yellowstone Caldera. The volcanic earth on which the park sits produces geothermal features, such as the Old Faithful geyser, that are difficult to find in other places of the world.

Of course, we must not forget to note the park's wild inhabitants when considering a visit. Yellowstone is famously known for being home to large bison herds, wolf packs, elk, and grizzly bears that are quite rare in other areas of North America. Needless to say, Yellowstone National Park offers a range of unforgettable experiences and breathtaking sights that cannot be missed by lovers of the outdoors.

Most of us select travel accommodations based on their proximity to the activities we want to enjoy while on our holidays. A trip to the beach will probably mean looking for a bed and breakfast with ocean views, while a stay in the Smoky Mountains will be more enjoyable from the comforts of a hillside cabin. So where should you stay to fully enjoy your immersion into the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park?

Hotels are busy and, let's be honest, you won't get the direct access to nature that you've traveled so long and far for. We believe that you'll be much better off getting comfortable in a unique tipi or a glamping tent, where you can enjoy the luxuries of being on vacation while also remaining in touch with the landscape and wildlife that you came for.

Where to Camp in Yellowstone National Park

Where does one go to encounter a luxury camping experience in the heart of Yellowstone National Park? Today is your lucky day because we have a collection of tipi and tent accommodations that are deluxe enough to make any glamper swoon on the spot. We don't mean to brag, but these tent and tipi camping locations are ideal for creating the best possible experience in Yellowstone National Park.

Jackson, Wyoming

The town of Jackson, Wyoming, has become increasingly popular amongst travelers, thanks to its proximity to Yellowstone National Park. Located within the Jackson Hole Valley, Jackson has made its mark as home to the largest elk herd in the country, an attribute that has both boosted the local economy and placed the town on the map for lovers of wildlife.

Your trip to Yellowstone National Park will be wildly enriched if enjoyed from the luxurious comforts of a tipi or tent in this charming town. You'll be proud to have chosen a camping accommodation that sits in the thick of Yellowstone National Park and exposes you to cool local cultural activities and industries at the same time.

Dubois, Wyoming

Okay, so maybe elk aren't quite your thing, or you're looking for something a little more historically enriching for your stay in this destination bursting with local culture. Not a problem—we have more options to offer you for a perfect camping accommodation in a tent. If we can recommend a unique and charming location, it's the town of Dubois, Wyoming.

This small town is ripe with history, due to its close connection to local Shoshone tribes that continue to influence the native culture today. Many relics, such as stone tipi circles, hunting traps, and other artifacts, can be found in Dubois and its surrounding areas, making this destination a truly enriching one for glampers looking to connect with Yellowstone's more authentic side.

What do you say? Are you ready to head off on an unforgettable adventure to one of North America's most stunning destinations?

Want to stay in your own luxurious tipi or tent in Yellowstone National Park? Take a look at these glamping accommodations or visit Glamping Hub to let us inspire your next getaway in nature!