Road trips are our thing. We love long drives, the expanse of the open road, the literal and metaphorical space to just think. We needed this road trip for our mental health. Feeling stuck for two months in places that were not our own while our travel plans for the next four months crumbled apart left us in pieces. We were both feeling incredibly depressed and at a loss for what should be the next step. I hadn’t seen my family in many months since we had been traveling prior to COVID starting and I needed some sense of the familiar. We tried our hardest to be responsible travelers during this crazy time to limit our interactions with people to the absolute minimum. We slept in the back of the Jeep every night and packed all of our food. The only stops we made were to get gas and we hand sanitized for each stop. Because the park visitor centers were closed, we didn’t have to come face to face with anyone. We drove the scenic drives of the parks and took short hikes where we didn’t actually see anyone along the way. The only exposure we had were with my family, and we started with my parents first to limit potentially exposing them after seeing my brothers. All in all, I think it was a success.
Whitney made this awesome shelf in the back of the Jeep to store our stuff so we didn’t have to move it to the front seat every night when we stopped to sleep. We didn’t get photos of the newer set up that doesn’t use the vertical wood piece. It now has a horizontal brace and looks a little more professional.
Our route was a giant loop. We began in Missoula, Montana and headed east to North Dakota. We stopped first in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
We then headed south to South Dakota and visited the Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We drove through the scenic Black Hills along the way.
Because I had never visited Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, I wanted to drive through these states. We spent hours on the open road among corn and wheat fields.
We took a detour to southeastern Colorado to visit the last park in Colorado we hadn’t visited: Great Sand Dunes National Park.
We then stayed with my parents for a few days before heading south to see my younger brother and sister-in-law. Afterwards, we had a very long drive across the entire state of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to get to Saguaro National Park. Our oddest sleeping arrangement was definitely in Las Cruces, New Mexico where we slept in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. Walmart and Cracker Barrels have free overnight camping for anyone who wants to know!
We then continued west to Joshua Tree National Park before heading to the coast to Channel Islands National Park. We drove through Palm Springs before crossing the huge metropolis of Los Angeles and decided a weekend getaway to Palm Springs is a definite must-do!
We then headed northeast to more central California to see Pinnacles National Park. We took the scenic drive through the mountains along the way.
We then had a wonderful day in Pacific Grove before heading to my older brother’s house in the Bay Area.
Next up, we drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park which began our journey through rural Northern California.
Then, we went further north to Redwoods National Park where we fell in love with the mystical giants of the forest.
We drove the coastal Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast all the way north to Olympic National Park in Washington.
We headed southeast to Mount Rainier National Park, taking the famous scenic Highway 410 through the park.
After Mount Rainier, we headed north to our last park of the trip: North Cascades National Park. This was such a highlight and my favorite park of the trip. It reminded me so much of my absolute favorite national park: Glacier National Park. The dramatic views were incredible.
The final day of our road trip was driving back home to Missoula. It was an epic road trip filled to the brim with stunning scenery and the incredible beauty of Mother Nature. Seeing my family re-centered me and helped me shift my mindset. It was just what our soul needed.