The Ultimate 21 Day Western U.S. Road Trip
By the VanCraft Team | January 27, 2020
Grab your friends, family, or pup and hit the road on this once in a lifetime road trip with your VanCraft campervan. The Western United States has some of the most diverse landscapes to explore and we laid out the perfect itinerary for your next adventure!
Day 1: Oceanside to Valley of Fire
Swing by our Oceanside office to pick up your home for the next two weeks, fully stocked with all of your #vanlife essentials, of course. Hit the road for the first leg of the trip, and head about 4 hours East to the fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. Make sure to stock up on groceries and grab a bite to eat on the strip before venturing out to the Valley of Fire. It’s a quick hour trip to get out of the city and into the bright red rock formations of Aztec sandstone in the Nevada desert. Set up camp at one of the two campsites in the park and enjoy stargazing in the warm
Wake up for sunrise and watch the morning light hit the top of the fiery red rocks while you make breakfast before exploring this one-of-a-kind state park. We recommend the Fire Wave Trail and Elephant Rock for the ultimate day in the Valley of Fire.
Day 2-3: Lake Powell
Wake up early, make a cup of Joe, and hit the road towards the beautiful and expansive Lake Powell. There are endless adventures and slot canyons to explore on this lake, which has almost 2,000 miles of shoreline! To put that into perspective, it’s about the same amount as the West Coast of the United States! We highly recommend getting out on the water by renting a boat, or booking a slot canyon kayaking tour during the day. Settle down for the night at Wahweap RV campground; it’s a quick walk up from the beach and the rooftop tent is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the water.
Day 4: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
Enjoy a slow morning by the lake and book a tour of the most popular slot canyon in the Southwest, Antelope Canyon. Located on Navajo land, these unique canyons were sculpted by rushing water that created curves and hollows that vary from 3-10 feet wide and up to 164 feet deep. Only a short drive down the road is one of the most popular attractions of the area, Horseshoe Bend. This famous view of the Colorado River is a natural wonder and must-see if you are exploring the area.
Day 5: Monument Valley and Moab
Get on the road early again for the 4.5 hour drive to Moab, Utah. On the way, make sure to stop in Navajo Nation’s Monument Valley. Towering rocks and buttes surround you as you drive through the winding roads of the valley for a truly unique experience. Make a quick stop to cook up some brunch with a view and then get back on the road so you have time to explore the town of Moab before sunset. Grab dinner in one of the lively restaurants on main street before checking into the Moab Valley RV Resort for the night.
Day 6: Arches National Park
Wake up just minutes away from the entrance of Arches National Park and enjoy the views of more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches spreading across this 76,000 acre park. The most famous formation is the freestanding Delicate Arch, and the 4th longest Arch in the world is the Landscape Arch, which spans 306 feet wide! Try to grab a campsite inside the park and enjoy your last night in this high desert town.
Day 7: Bryce Canyon National Park
Start heading back west again on the 4 hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. Known for its Hoodoo rock formations created by the repeated freezing and thawing of water, this unique landscape has some of the best hikes in the Southwest. Definitely hike through the popular Navajo Loop, Queens Garden Loop Trail and Wall Street for great views inside the canyon. Camp at the first come, first serve campsites inside the park, roast s’mores over the fire, and stargaze at some of the clearest skies in the U.S.
* YES THIS IS A REAL PHOTO OF THE NIGHT SKY IN THE SOUTHWEST US!!
Day 8: Zion National Park
Just a little over an hour drive away is the stunning Zion National Park. Take your time as you drive through the winding red roads of the park entrance and stop along the way to get pictures of the towering mountain walls. Make sure to book shuttle tickets or rent electric bikes to get to the trailheads of all the most popular hikes and views. Settle down at one of the two campsites in Zion or camp for free on the BLM land just outside the park.
Day 9: The Narrows
Wake up before sunrise, pack a lunch, and hop on the shuttle to the trailhead of the most popular hike in Zion, The Narrows. Hike in the Virgin River through the deep slot canyon walls for a one of a kind hiking experience. Since the hike can be up to 16 miles long, take the rest of the day off and grab a beer at Zion Brewhouse to end your last day in Utah!
Day 10: Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley National Park
Grab a latte at Feel Love Coffee in Springdale and get on the road early for the 5 hour drive to Death Valley National Park. Don’t forget to drive through Red Rock Canyon on the way and stock up on water because you’re about to be in the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park in America. As you descend into the valley keep an eye out for sea level signs, because the park is actually 282 feet below sea level and it marks the lowest point in North America! Catch the sunset at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and set up camp at Sunset Campground for a warm desert night under the stars.
Day 11: Badwater and Artists Drive
Wake up early before the temperatures start to rise and check out Badwater Basin, a vast salt flat on the valley floor that took thousands of years to form. On your way out of the park, wind through Artists Drive where you can see a colorful mix of green, blue, and purple eroded hills that have been the backdrop for many popular adventure films. Time to make the 3 hour drive to your second-to-last destination of the trip, Yosemite National Park! Find an RV camp outside the park or stay in Curry Village Tented Cabins for a unique experience in Yosemite Valley. Just remember to put everything with a scent in a bear box if you decide to camp in the valley; the Yosemite bears are very curious!
Day 12: Alabama Hills & Mount Whitney
Alabama Hills, being our favorite campsite in all the Eastern Sierras, it’s the perfect place to call it for the day. And within any of its thousands of rock formations, you’re sure to find a secluded enclave all to yourself. You can then close out your first day overlooking those gorgeous Sierras from the comfort of your cozy (and heated!) California campervan. Nothing better.
Day 13: Bishop & Mammoth Lakes, CA
Make your way into Bishop for lunch at Mountain Rambler Brewery. From there, Mammoth awaits, and your opportunities for exploring the mountain are virtually endless.
Wild Willy’s and The Rock Tub provide several free camping spots and some seriously not-to-miss natural hot springs. There are also hot showers available at Mammoth Mountain RV Park.
Day 14-15: Yosemite National Park
Spend the morning exploring one of the oldest national parks in America by renting bikes and stopping at all the scenic spots in the valley. We recommend hiking the Mist Trail in the afternoon and watching the skilled climbers go up the face of the famous El Capitan. Set up a picnic in one of the open meadows for dinner and watch the wildlife graze as the sun sets behind Yosemite’s Half Dome.
Day 16: San Francisco, CA
Spend the day sightseeing at all of the most iconic San Fran locations: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Fishermans Warf, China Town, or historic Haight-Ashbury.
Day 17-18: Big Sur, CA
Hit the road again and head South for a scenic drive thru Big Sur. While camping options in Big Sur are typically limited (with summer being its busiest time), the following campsites are optimal for booking in advance: Plaskett Creek, Limekiln, Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground, and Andrew Molera (this last one does not allow for car camping). Though it is illegal to camp anywhere along the 101, there are additional free camping spots if you’re willing to drive a bit inland.
Just a 1-2 hour detour from the 101, camp in the mountains above Big Sur’s coast for some of the best views on the planet (beware of sections with steep dirt roads). Thankfully, both our short and long wheelbase campervans are fully capable of making this drive, just make sure to avoid these roads if it has recently rained or will be raining soon. And for any off grid camping, always be sure to abide by the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.
Day 19: Moro Bay, CA
Set up camp at Montana del Oro Campground, take a hike down to the water, and enjoy an afternoon beach day on California’s Central Coast! End the day with a drink of your choice and fall asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the shoreline.
Day 20: Catalina Island or Channel Islands National Park
Daily ferries run from the mainland California out to Catalina Island and Channel Islands National Park. Catch the Island Packers Cruises out of Ventura, CA, or The Catalina Flyer in L.A. for an island excursion like no other.
Day 21: Oceanside, CA
Time to head back head back down the coast to our Oceanside office for a quick and easy drop off. Say your last goodbyes to the van and start planning your next adventure with us!