We've spent the past summer partnering with Holiday Inn to find the most epic road trip. To decide on the final route, we had travelers show us their favorite places to visit.
The Rocky Mountains provide some of the most magnificent landscapes in the entire world. From towering mountain peaks and ancient canyon cultures, to secret swimming holes and alpine valleys, there's a whole other world awaiting west of the Mississippi. According to travelers, these are the coolest road trip stops in the west!
Start your Western road trip in Montana, at Glacier National Park. The pure natural beauty of America's Alps is not to be missed! Drive Going-To-The-Sun Road; boat or swim in the cold, clear water of Lake McDonald; hike out to Grinnell Lake and bask in its electric-blue beauty; pick and eat some fresh huckleberries; and make the most of your time in this special place.
Of course, no road trip through the West is complete without a stop at the country's first (and most iconic) National Park: Yellowstone. Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Boiling River, Lamar Valley, and the Old Faithful Inn are all absolute gems that everyone should see once in their lives.
Grand Teton National Park borders Yellowstone, so it's easy to experience both parks... and they're both equally worth visiting. Grand Teton is only 484 square miles (compared to Yellowstone's 3.5 thousand square miles), but those mountains pack a serious punch. Historic buildings, lush lakes, scenic drives, and more can be found here. Definitely check out the Triangle X Dude Ranch, and explore the nearby town of Jackson for Wild West vibes.
Rocky Mountain National Park is an outdoorsperson's wonderland! Hundreds of miles of trails traverse the fields and mountains of the park, and there are some pretty epic peaks that the experienced can conquer. You'll also find scenic drives aplenty, as well as tons of fun attractions in Estes Park. For a quick but memorable experience, take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway!
Just outside Denver, you'll find Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, which is, hands down, the coolest music venue in the country. Mother Nature was the architect here: The stage is set up between tree massive sandstone slabs. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Rush, and the Grateful Dead all reportedly listed the venue among their favorites, and it still pulls in the biggest acts from across the country. Plus, when shows aren't going on, you can hike here, or pop in for a yoga lesson!
The tallest sand dunes in the country are actually nowhere near the coast... they're at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado! You can hike to the top of the dunes, go sledding or sandboarding, and swim in Medano Creek! You really need to visit these dunes to fully appreciate how massive they are.
Walk in the footsteps of the incredible Pueblo Indians at Mesa Verde National Park. The park preserves pueblo structures built into the cliffside of this mesa hundreds of years ago... and the buildings are still in good enough condition that you can go inside most of them. Learn about the people who built the homes, and about their culture, as you explore the museum and the various "houses" here.
For the most iconic view of the American West, drive through Monument Valley. The landscape of "mitten"-shaped sandstone buttes rising up from the barren desert have been featured in countless movies and TV shows, and have come to define the wide, open spaces of the Wild West. It's protected by the Navajo Nation, and if you have the time, book one of their tours through the area... but even just passing through, you'll be able to tell that this place is on sacred ground.
To understand just how rugged and stunning the West can be, head into Canyonlands National Park. It's more remote than its neighboring park, Arches, but if you're up for a hike, it's worth visiting. Canyonlands' Island in the Sky unit is home to the famed Mesa Arch, which is at the end of one of the park's easier, shorter hikes... and the view through the sculpted sandstone is absolutely breathtaking.
Arches National Park features bright sandstone formations and desert views. Here, you'll find more than 2,000 arches, hoodoos, gargoyles, goblins, spires, and fins. Delicate Arch is the park's most famous feature (it's even featured on the Utah license plate), and Double Arch is great for photo ops and rock climbing!
Capitol Reef National Park is definitely one of the more under-appreciated national parks around. Its crazy history involves intrepid Mormon settlers and notorious outlaws, and it has colorful sandstone formations and amazing scenic drives that make it just as worth checking out as Arches and Canyonlands. Hike Cathedral Valley, eat some pie at the Gifford Homestead, and tackle the tough but beautiful Burr Trail Road to make the most of an adventure here.
For a totally different way to experience the red sandstone of the West, check out Bryce Canyon National Park. The canyons, which are filled with forests of striated stone hoodoos, are perfect for viewing from overlooks above, and for hiking down into. Wall Street and Queens Garden Trail are two epic hikes, and Bryce Point and Sunset Point are two great overlooks for taking pictures!
Zion National Park's Angels Landing is an absolutely incredible, bucket list-worthy hike, but it's far from the only reason to visit yet another Utah beauty of a park. The Narrows, The Subway, and Weeping Rock are other equally famous and equally stunning hikes to try while visiting. Plus, Grafton Ghost Town is right outside the park, and there are some really great inns and lodges around Springdale as well!
End your trip right outside the neon lights of Las Vegas, at the Hoover Dam. This engineering marvel needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Drive across the top, or stop into the visitor center to get an in-depth and totally fascinating look at the construction of this absolute masterpiece of mankind's ingenuity... as you can imagine, building this behemoth was no easy feat!
The landscapes of the West, from the geothermal weirdness of Yellowstone to the mountain beauty of the Rockies, to the sandstone carvings of Arches, are varied, but all equally stunning. It's an incredible place, filled with beauty, history, and plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered!
We're searching for amazing places across America to create America’s most epic road trip. Get inspired by your fellow travelers’ journeys below, use the link above to share your favorite spots with us, and you can enter to win your next epic journey!