Top 5 Summer Road Trips

When I think of road trips, I think of the windows rolled down, hair blowing in the wind, laughing and singing to 80’s music with my friends. Maybe for you, your idea of a road trip is similar or maybe it is an SUV full of kids, on your way to give them the best summer ever. Whatever your picture-perfect road trip looks like, each recommendation on our list of the Top 5 Summer Road Trips will leave you with a summer memory you will never forget.

Lake Michigan Coastal Drive

This 3.5 hour, 236 mile scenic drive along the coast of Michigan is often overlooked for East Coast beach towns. However, along the eastern side of Lake Michigan you will find some charming beach towns that you may not have known existed.

45-minutes southwest of Grand Rapids is Holland, MI. Here you will find Holland State Park and its beautiful, sandy beaches. You’ll want to get there early as it gets packed in the hot summer months. Next make your way to Ludington, MI. It’s about an hour-and-a-half from Grand Rapids and here you will find miles of clean beaches with Stearns Park being the most popular. Great for kids, Ludington has tons of activities such as canoe trails, dune rides, and hiking.

Now my favorite stop on this drive is Traverse City. Not only does it have lots of public parks, beaches, and trails but it’s filled with award-winning craft beer breweries, picturesque vineyards, and a downtown that will keep you entertained for hours. Worth the 45-minute drive is a stop at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. From an 1871 Lighthouse to its famous dune formations, it is sure to leave you in awe that this stunning place exists along America’s North Coast.

Other stops on the drive include places like Petoskey, Manistee, and then ultimately ending up at Mackinaw City where the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge soars over 200 feet above the water where the upper and lower peninsulas meet.

Catalonia (Spain)

Looking for an unforgettable road trip in Europe? Start your journey in Barcelona and make your way through Tossa de Mar, the beaches of Costa Brava, Cadaques, and then head back to Barcelona, stopping in Girona.

Tossa de Mar is not only a beautiful beach town but, with a history dating back over 2,000 years it has a rich culture to discover. While there, be sure to tour the 12th Century Murallas de Tossa de Mar, explore the ruins of Sant Vicenç church, and swim in the warm, crystal waters of the Mediterranean sea.

Located just south of the French border is Cadaques, one of the most symbolic stops along the Catalonia drive. With its narrow cobbled streets to its tranquil coves, it’s no wonder Picasso and and other artists found their source of inspiration here. Now it has become a cultural center filled with museums and art galleries highlighting the areas history.

The Mighty Five in Utah

Utah is home to five of the country’s most magnificent National Parks: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capital Reef National Park, and Zion National Park. You’ll need at least 10 days to truly explore all this epic journey has to offer.

Arches National Park: Located north of Moab, Arches National Park is known for having over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the famous red-hued Delicate Arch in the eastern side of the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park: In southern Utah, you will find crimson-colored hoodoos made up of limestone, siltstone, dolomite, and mudstone. Exploring the trails can be an awesome family activity.

Canyonlands National Park: Carved out by the Colorado River, Canyonlands National Park is known for its Native American paintings in Horseshoe Canyon, the Island in the Sky flat-toped Mesa, and amazing whitewater rapids excursions.

Capital Reef National Park: One of the lesser-known National Parks in Utah, Capital Reef National Park is filled with cliffs, canyons, and stunning rock formations such as the Chimney Rock Pillar. While there, be sure to check out the 100 mile “wrinkle on the earth” – Waterpocket Fold, a true geologic monocline.

Zion National Park: With its famous hiking trails and Zion Narrows waterfalls, Utah’s first National Park is surely one that you do not want to miss.

Highway 395

Skip the crowded Pacific Coast Highway and head on a journey through the Golden State on the lesser-known Highway 395 drive. From hot springs to mountain trails, there is something for everyone along Highway 395. Just note that in the summer this drive can be very hot so, please take all necessary precautions.

If you start your adventure in Los Angeles, head 2 hours Northeast to Red Rock Canyon State Park. With its colorful canyons and petroglyphs left by the Kawaiisu Indians, the Red Rock Canyon State Park has been the backdrop to 100s of movies. Some super cool dino movie that came out in 1993 was filmed here…”Life finds a way”.

Next you will make your way through Death Valley. You will want to spend at least a full day exploring the hottest, driest and lowest point in the US. It does get extremely hot here in the summer – please hydrate and do not over do it.

If you find an interest in WWII history, then you will undoubtedly know Manzanar. The site of one of 10 American concentration camps where more than 10,000 Japanese people were detained between 1942 – 1945.

After stopping at Manzanar, you will want to check out the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Convict Lake, and Hot Creek Geological Site before ending your day in the town of Mammoth Lakes. Formed 100,000 years ago by volcanic remnants, Devils Postpile is 60ft tall formation of basalt columns that you will want to check out.

Once you’re ready to leave Mammoth Lakes, continue North to Yosemite National Park, passing June and Mono lakes along the way. Take Tioga Road through Ellery Lake, Pothole Dome, and the Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park. It’s about 60 miles to get to the valley from the entrance and if you have the time, definitely plan to stay at least 2 days in Yosemtie.

On the final stretch of this epic road trip, you will depart Yosemite National Park and drive 2.5 hours to Lake Tahoe. Along the way be sure to travel to the past visiting the ghost town of Bodie and relax in the tranquil waters of the Travertine Hot Springs.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Drive about 500 miles along the famous Appalachian Trail through Virginia and North Carolina on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will want to start at Shenandoah National Park, near Waynesboro, VA and end at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cherokee, NC.

Along the way you will want to stop, and spend a day or two visiting Roanoke, Boone and Asheville, NC.

Some other favorite stops along the drive are:

Mabry Mill: The most photographed spot along the parkway. Grab a bite at the Mabry Mill Restaurant.

Bowling Rock: Take in the awe-inspiring views of forests and the Johns River Gorge.

Little Switzerland: Inspired by the Swiss Alps, this town of 46 started as a mountain resort. Now, it is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Mount Mitchell: With an elevation of 6,694 ft. Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi.

Folk Art Center: Purchase and view some of the regions best arts and crafts year round.

Biltmore Estate: America’s largest home is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville. Built by George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore contains more than 11 million bricks and staggers a whopping 175,000 sq. ft. It contains 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and a 70ft high banquet hall.

So, now that you have learned our top 5 summer road trips, which one will you be taking?

Happy exploring,

xoxo Sara

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