It may be hard to tell right now, but it’s not too soon to start thinking spring — and I’m guessing many RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers are doing that very thing.
But when it comes to mapping out your springtime road trips, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out where to go.
Rest-assured, there’s something for everyone, whether you prefer scenery (mountains, deserts, forests, plains, or coastal views) or historic sites, food, or wineries.
With some help from Travel+Leisure, here’s a list of 11 great road trips to consider as soon as the weather warms up.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
The scenic drive through Joshua Tree National Park covers about 70 miles if you drive straight through, but it’s recommended that you plan on spending at least four hours because you’ll want to take detours for enjoying panoramic views, climbing on massive rock formations, strolling through the cactus garden, marveling at an oasis, and finding the perfect Joshua Tree for your photos. Abundant rain can lead to a good season for wildflowers.
Drive East on I-10 for about an hour to Cottonwood Springs Road (exit 168) and the park’s south entrance. Your first stop will be the Visitor Center, and then on through the Colorado Desert environment, around sea level. You’ll see ocotillo, featuring tall branches tipped by bright red blossoms.
Of course, you must see the “tree” that gave the park its name, coined by early Mormon settlers who likened its branches to arms outstretched in prayer.
Miami to Key West, Florida
Covering about 150 miles, take US-1 south, heading through historic Coconut Grove, past University of Miami, and on along either South Dixie Highway (US-1) or Ronald Reagan Turnpike (toll road), past the farms of Homestead, to Florida City and US-1 South, which turns into the Overseas Highway. Start at Mile Marker 126 and count down the distance to Key West. Key Largo will be the northernmost of the Keys and offers a place to call your first stop.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the country, offers, among other things, snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass bottom boat tours. Islamorada begins the middle Keys, and is a favorite of fishing fans and a place to browse for souvenirs. Marathon Key, actually 13 islands, is known for loggerhead turtles and its Dolphin Research Center. South of Marathon, US-1 crosses the Seven Mile Bridge linking Marathon with the Lower Keys.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Seventy five miles from the heart of Washington, D.C. lies an oasis that’s as serene as the D.C. metro is crowded. Shenandoah National Park has more than 500 miles of trails. Many of the trails take you through miles and miles of quiet and peaceful wilderness. Other trails take you to beautiful waterfalls or stunning viewpoints overlooking the trees and Appalachian Mountains in the distance.
The park sits on 200,000 acres of protected land. It allows back-country camping for the truly adventurous . Up for a challenge, take the 8-mile hike up Old Rag Mountain, a popular route because of the stunning views at the peak. You can camp in one of four campgrounds during every season except winter. If you want to back-country camp, you’ll need to get a free permit. Be sure to check out this RV Lifestyle report for more details on RVing in the area.
Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana
Separately by a mere 100 miles, technically it’s possible to visit them both with one road trip. Of course, truly exploring the parks would require at least a few days,but still, you might want to take advantage of this two-for-one vacation. Grand Teton National Park, at about 300,000 acres, is near the Wyoming town of Jackson. Just north, Yellowstone National Park covers over two million acres. Yellowstone is a favorite destination of ours, so please be sure to check out our extensive coverage here.
Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon
After dining on seafood, strolling through Pike Place Market, and seeing the sights of Seattle, head southwest towards the Oregon coast and the town of Astoria. The trip begins on I-5 and is about 180 miles, passing enormous pine trees, green forests, and towns, taking about five hours until you cross the four-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River and enter Astoria. Set out from Astoria along US-101 heading south along Oregon’s coast, and take advantage of many stops along the way at observation points, towns, state parks, beaches, or simply to enjoy breathtaking views of rugged coastline and crashing waves.
Rapid City to Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Rapid City is a great destination with art galleries, life-size bronze sculptures of presidents, restaurants, and historic sites. It’s also the gateway to Mount Rushmore, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Badlands National Park. Among other things, fossil beds, rugged mountains, wildlife, and striking rock formations create a unique environment.
The park is 75 miles east of Rapid City, and South Dakota Route 44 is the scenic road through open prairie, farms, small towns, and ranches along Rapid Creek, a tributary of the Cheyenne River. You’ll drive through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland before reaching the entrance to Badlands National Park, two miles north of the town of Interior on Highway 377. From there, the Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway (SD-240) takes you through the park along 31 miles of stunning scenery that includes buttes, cliffs, spires, and overlooks where you’ll be amazed by the stretch of landscape before you.
Plan to spend several hours to experience the varied terrain and scenic beauty of the park. Hike one of the many trails and stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to learn more. Travel+Leisure recommends you don’t leave without a stop at Pinnacles Overlook, especially striking at sunset. For your return to Rapid City, take SD-240 north to the town of Wall and then head northwest on I-90 for a quicker route.