This article on the perfect family road trip is brought to you by Inno, whose cargo roof box is a must-buy for your next family adventure.
As the weather gets warmer, families all around the country take to their maps, their calendars, and their kids’ sports schedules to squeeze in the all-American camping trips they managed to avoid all winter long. Whether it’s for a weekend, a week, or a month-long adventure, planning the ideal family road trip can be harder than picking the perfect campsite for you and your loved ones.
Luckily, we’ve had our fair share of chances to pick out some of the best road trip routes in the country, all of which can be adapted into smaller day trips or extended multi-day family road trip vacations.
The Six Best Family Road Trips To Take This Summer
Eager to get on the road? Our dedicated trekkers have picked the six best road trips to showcase some of the country’s most diverse and spectacular wilderness. From the Pacific Northwest to the Florida Keys to the grand vistas of Glacier National Park, there’s something for everyone when it comes to finding the perfect family trip to take this summer. Just don’t forget to bring the audiobooks!
1. The Pacific Northwest Getaway—Oregon and Washington
Whether you start from the very south end of the state in Brookings, or you begin from the Olympic Peninsula, this 462-mile family road trip doubles as a coastal getaway and National Park adventure. Starting from the south end of Oregon, families can work their way up the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at any number of coastal towns to whale-watch, drink local brews (parents only!), and visit old lighthouses that dot the rocky Oregon coast.
Visit Newport, home to the Oregon Coast aquarium and Yaquina Head State Park, where seals and other wildlife flock the quiet bay. In addition to taking in the coastal scenery, an hour’s detour inland from Cannon Beach will take you to Portland, where you can take in the eclectic vibes of Powell’s Books and spring for new outdoor gear at the new and used equipment haven Next Adventure.
Up the coast, take a stop in Astoria before proceeding into Washington, just an hour and a half south of Olympic National Park. Once you’ve arrived at Olympic, take a load off at the Sol Duc River hot springs, or enjoy alpine views from the shores of Lake Crescent. Don’t forget to take a stroll through the dense rainforest, and watch out for elk, mountain goats, black bears, and sea otters!
Camping along this family road trip should be a breeze, with a variety of coastal campgrounds available along the Oregon coastline. Consider staying at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, the second-largest campground in the state (185 tent sites, 165 RV sites), or Sunset Bay State Park, located southwest of Coos Bay with excellent views of the rocky cliffs and a sandy beach just below the campground. Further north, camp at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington, just northwest of Astoria.
There are a plethora of options for families hoping to camp while in Olympic National Park as well, including Kalaloch campground, which offers sites that overlook the water as well as direct access to the beach. Sol Duc campground offers spacious campsites in close proximity to the Sol Duc hot springs. Visitors to Olympic should note that Kalaloch and Sol Duc are the only two reservable campgrounds within the park. All other campgrounds are operated on a first-come, first-served basis.
2. The Overseas Highway—Florida Keys
For those looking for a trip that could be done in a week or a day, the Overseas Highway is an excellent option as a standalone day trip or as part of a multi-day family road trip. At 113 miles, the Overseas highway is a unique coastal highway that spans the length of the Florida Keys, and provides access to some of Florida’s best coastal landmarks. The roadway takes visitors from the Miami to Key West, and includes views of the Atlantic ocean as well as the largest area of coral reefs on the U.S. mainland.
Since the entire chain of islands has been designated as a National Marine Sanctuary, there are an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities, including alligators, crocodiles, and the infamous Key Deer, the native deer population to the islands of the Florida Keys.
For bookish tourists, the Hemingway Festival in Key West is hosted over 10 days each summer (typically in the month of July), and includes a look-alike contest, a short story contest, and a writer’s workshop.
Camping along the Overseas Highway is doable and family-friendly, with campgrounds like Boyd’s Key West Campground and RV Park offering excellent accommodations mixed with tropical-style amenities, including a swimming pool and waterfront sites.
3. The Blue Ridge Parkway—Virginia and North Carolina
For the wilderness seeking family, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an almost 500-mile journey from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Few road trips in the country capture as much natural beauty as the Blue Ridge Parkway, and with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour, you’re guaranteed to catch as many views from the car as you will outside of it. The parkway has been designed and perfected over the last several decades to allow visitors to feel connected to the land around the parkway even as they drive through it.
Along with access to two national parks on either end of the parkway, the road itself meanders through mountainous regions of North Carolina and more rural scenery at the border of Virginia. For families interested in a diverse wilderness experience, the parkway is a can’t miss opportunity. Wildlife and scenery in this diverse region is protected as part of the Parkway Foundation’s commitment to sustaining the natural resources of the Appalachian Mountains, and visitors commonly see elk, white tailed deer, wild turkey, and even black bears along the way.
Camping along the parkway is abundant and available in some capacity on a year-round basis. There are certain campgrounds located the closest to the parkway, and are oriented around enhancing the parkway experience. These campgrounds include Otter Creek campground, Peaks of Otter, Rocky Knob Campground, Doughton Park, Linville Falls, and Crabtree Falls. Families hoping to RV camp along the Blue Ridge Parkway should note that the central campgrounds offer RV-size sites, but do not include full hookups.
While the campgrounds closest to the parkway are open on a seasonal basis, some of the privately-owned campgrounds just off the parkway are open year-round. Many of the private campgrounds also offer hookups for RVers. A list of the privately held campgrounds can be found at the Blue Ridge Parkway website.
4. Northeastern Tour—Cape Cod, Massachusetts
For a brief yet expansive tour of some of the Northeast’s best landscapes, try the 160-mile trip along the well-traveled Cape Cod of Massachusetts. There, you can not only spy the iconic lighthouses jutting up from the rocky shoreline, but also take in the rich history of the region, which includes everything from the whaling history of the US to the landing of the pilgrims on Plymouth point.
Traveling across Cape Cod, families can visit any of the towns along the Northeastern peninsula, including Provincetown, Hyannis, Falmouth, and Wellfleet. This iconic New England family road trip includes a lengthy drive down the Cape Cod National Seashore, which is home to 44,600 acres of rich marine and freshwater life. The seashore itself includes over 450 species of amphibians, reptiles, fish, and other wildlife, most of which can be seen all year long.
Camping on Cape Cod is as easy as the drive down the seashore, and includes both RV parks and campgrounds that are family friendly. Options include Nickerson State Park, Shady Knoll campground, and Cape Cod Camp Resort.
5. The Golden Coast—California
On the opposite side of the United States, California’s coast is a family road trip waiting to happen. While there are a plethora of different trips to take along the pacific coastline, we recommend the 188-mile journey from Big Sur to Point Reyes. Starting at Big Sur, families can take in the sights at Pfeiffer Beach before hiking through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall the plummets into the Pacific. For more adventurous families, a hike down into Partington Cove is a short but steep journey into the history of Big Sur, including a secret cove once used for smuggling moonshine!
The middle part of this roadtrip winds through Silicon Valley, giving families with a taste for city life to explore the Bay Area, including the iconic beaches of San Jose and the urban beauty of Golden Gate Park. This short family road trip concludes at the majestic Point Reyes National Seashore, which features over 70,000 acres of protected land, and is home to a vast number of wildlife species, including whales, elk, raptors, and shorebirds. The 308-step downhill hike to the historic Point Reyes lighthouse (built closer to sea level to get light below the fog that blankets the area) is the perfect photo op to commemorate the conclusion of this epic road trip.
Camping along this family road trip is a breeze, as campgrounds are available in and around Big Sur, including the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground and Kirk Creek campground. For a slight detour, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a must-do campground and hiking destination just shy of an hour from San Jose.
Point Reyes also features four hike-in campgrounds, each of which offers a different view and perspective of the national seashore area. Coast campground is located 1.8 miles in on the Laguna and Firelane trails. Glen campground is a 4.6 mile hike in along the Bear Valley Glen Trails (accessible by mountain bike as well). Sky campground is 1.4 miles in and offers the best views of Point Reyes in clear weather. Wildcat campground is a 6.3 mile hike from Bear Valley, but pays off in easy access to the beach.
6. Glacier to Yellowstone—Wyoming and Montana
For the family looking to hit the road for a serious amount of time, the almost 400-mile road trip from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park showcases some of America’s best wilderness, while also giving families the chance to take in the small towns spread between Montana and Wyoming. Given the length of this trip, families can make this a one-way trip or a massive, 900-mile loop.
Starting at Yellowstone, spend a few days exploring everything the park has to offer, from the classic geysers to the epic Geyser Whitewater. Take a guided rafting trip, hike through the hydrothermal basin, or go for a quiet fishing trip in some of the park’s upper streams. Just outside of the West Entrance of Yellowstone, head to Big Sky, Montana, where the wilderness is just as bountiful and the adrenaline runs as high as you can afford.
In between Big Sky and Glacier, the towns of Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula offer their own range of family activities, including museums, a variety of hiking destinations including Mount Sentinel and Mount Jumbo, and more fly fishing waters than one family can imagine.
Upon finally reaching Glacier, families will find themselves in prime country for hiking, driving, camping, and wildlife-viewing. In the summer, take in the stars from Logan Pass, and relish the fact that Glacier is a designated International Dark Sky Park.
Camping along this family road trip should be relatively easy, as most of the cities along the way offer easy access to nearby national forests and state-run campgrounds. Camp at high altitudes (7,800 feet) at Bridge Bay Campground right next to the iconic Yellowstone Lake, or at one of the 30 campgrounds in and around the park, including Madison Campground, Norris Campground, and Grant Village Campground. In the Big Sky area, families can find camping at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park or just outside the west gate of Yellowstone at the West Gate KOA. Further north, camp at Holland Lake, just outside of Missoula in the Flathead National Forest.
Within Glacier, check out Bowman Lake or Rising Sun for two phenomenal waterfront campgrounds, or stay by smaller water at Avalanche Creek Campground, located in West Glacier, with premier access to both Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake.
Looking for the ideal soundtrack for your next family road trip? Check out our article on the perfect podcast pairings while you camp your way around the country.
This article on the perfect family road trip was brought to you by Inno
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