See 28 National Parks for Less Time + Money Than You Think

Check out these incredible park-packed travel routes from coast to coast.

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It may be August, but summer's not over yet. You still have plenty of time to knock a few more places off your travel bucket list. Maybe you're dying to scope out the trails at a few of our beloved national parks?

Over the past few years, the number of visitors traveling to national parks for vacation has increased dramatically. To help outdoor enthusiasts save time and money during their travels, our friends at have calculated the estimated travel time and costs associated with visiting the greatest number of national parks possible before summer ends.

Check out these incredible park-packed travel routes from coast to coast.

California Dreamin' Route

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite National Park 

Photo by: Thinkstock


Yosemite National Park 

If you have 18 days to spare, try visiting these nine national parks in or near California:

  • Channel Islands
  • Joshua Tree
  • Death Valley
  • Sequoia
  • Kings Canyon
  • Yosemite
  • Pinnacles
  • Lassen Volcanic
  • Redwood

Example Route: Using New York as the city of origin, fly to Los Angeles and rent a car to travel between most of the parks above for the fastest travel time — 46 hours and 22 minutes in total. This itinerary also includes one additional flight and one train ride.

Example Cost: The cheapest route to see each of these parks is approximately $535 and involves renting a car for the majority of travel, although a bus and a train ride are also included in the itinerary.

National Parks in California

From Joshua Tree to the peaks of Yosemite, California's National Parks are some of the most iconic and beautiful in the world.

East Coast Route

acadia national park, thunder hole, rocks, mountain, water

acadia national park, thunder hole, rocks, mountain, water

Acadia National Park 

Photo by: By Kim Carpenter (Near Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park 8911) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons>

By Kim Carpenter (Near Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park 8911) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons>

Acadia National Park 

In just two weeks, you can visit every national park on the East Coast.

  • Acadia
  • Shenandoah
  • Great Smoky Mountains
  • Congaree
  • Biscayne
  • Everglades
  • Dry Tortugas

Example Route: The fastest route is 26 hours and 54 minutes and involves four flights between parks, as well as a rental car.

Example Cost: The cheapest route is approximately $406 and includes two bus trips and three flights to travel from one park to another.

Best East Coast Road Trips

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Drivers have little choice but to take their time enjoying the serpentine Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

Photo By: Moment / Getty Images

Blue Ridge Parkway

The route's speed limit is a strictly enforced 45 mph, which at some points is lowered to a mere 25 mph. Traffic builds up on this popular byway during October when leaf-peepers glimpse nature’s colorful display outside their car windows.

Photo By: Jimmy_Joe Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive takes you on an amazing ride, slithering through Shenandoah National Park along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The drive offers perfect views of Piedmont Valley to the east and the Shenandoah River Valley to the west.

Photo By: By Philip N. Wheeler [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Skyline Drive

Virginia's Skyline Drive is beautiful year round, but if you're looking to enjoy it in all its splendor, there's no better time to drive down the 105-mile scenic byway than in the fall. Its route along the Blue Ridge Mountains through Shenandoah National Park is not only perfect for leaf-peeping, but also offers close to 70 scenic overlooks.

Photo By: Getty Images

Kancamagus Scenic Byway

New Hampshire's Kancamagus Scenic Byway, a 34.5-mile section of Route 112 running through the White Mountain National Forest, is renowned for its autumn leaves, making it one of the top road trips during the fall leaf-viewing season.

Photo By: Jim Pennucci

Kancamagus Scenic Byway

As a National Scenic Byway, the "Kanc," as the locals call it, remains unspoiled by homes or service stations, allowing visitors to watch the maple, beech and birch trees burst into color without distraction.

Photo By: Photodisc / Getty Images

Historic National Road

Maryland's stretch of the 170-mile Historic National Road -- originally built to foster settlement into the West by aiding the movement of people and goods -- takes road-trippers on a journey through 300 years of history.

Photo By: Dwight Nadig / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Historic National Road

The lush region and towns surrounding the highway have become a mid-Atlantic hot spot for fall foliage viewing and offer plenty of historic interest to travelers.

Photo By: Panoramic Images / Getty Images

US 1

US 1 runs between the beach and Interstate 95 along Florida's east coast, allowing easy access to A1A (the road closest to the coast) while letting you hightail it past cities that don't pique your interest.

Photo By: Thinkstock

US 1

The 2,376-mile stretch of highway between Fort Kent, Maine, and Key West, Florida, passes through every state on the eastern seaboard.

Photo By: By Wsvan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Acadia National Byway

Designated an All-American Highway by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Acadia Byway winds along Maine’s coastline for 40 miles past granite peaks, craggy outcroppings, coastal fishing villages and lush old-growth forests.

Photo By: Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Acadia National Byway

Fresh lobster feasts and the chance to be among the first people in America to see the sunrise are just a few of the reasons to put the Acadia Byway in Maine on your road-trip radar.

Photo By: Paul VanDerWerf

Gulf Coast Road Trip

From Florida to Mississippi, the Gulf Coast is not only a beautiful spot for a beach vacation, but an important ecosystem that’s home to thousands of sea turtles, seabirds and other wild creatures.

Photo By: Thinkstock

Gulf Coast Road Trip

Set off on a road trip along Route 98 through the region’s best state and national parks, and appreciate the wonders of the Gulf Coast and its unique ecosystems.

Photo By: By Ebyabe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Traveling North to the Future

Denali National Park, mountains, Alaska

Denali National Park, mountains, Alaska

Denali National Park 

Photo by: National Park Service/Tim Rains

National Park Service/Tim Rains

Denali National Park 

It’s possible to visit Alaska’s eight national parks in less than three weeks:

  • Denali
  • Gates of the Arctic
  • Kobuk Valley
  • Lake Clark
  • Katmai
  • Kenai Fjords
  • Wrangell-St. Elias
  • Glacier Bay

Example Route: The fastest route is 57 hours and 19 minutes, and in addition to renting a car for part of the trip, it also necessitates three flights when traveling between parks.

Example Cost: The cheapest route from New York is $1,693 and also involves car rental and air transportation.

National Parks in Alaska

Explore a world of wild beauty and pure adventure in the country's largest state.

Pacific Northwest Route

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Mount Ranier 

Photo by: Matt Koher

Matt Koher

Mount Ranier 

You only really need eight days to see the four national parks in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon:

  • Crater Lake
  • North Cascades
  • Mount Rainier
  • Olympic

Example Route: The fastest route is 26 hours and 55 minutes.

Example Cost: The cheapest route from New York is approximately $613 and includes one flight in addition to car rental.

National Parks Near Seattle

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San Juan Islands National Monument

The San Juan Islands is an archipelago located between the Washington mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Photo By: Addie Navarro

Getting to the San Juans

To reach the San Juan Islands, travelers can take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, WA, or fly to any of small airports located on one of the four major islands: Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, or San Juan.

Photo By: David Hollerith

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park protects 73 miles of wild Pacific coast located on the Olympic Peninsula.  Further inland, the land extends out into temperate rainforests and the towering glacier-capped Olympic mountains.

Photo By: Andrew Carey

Check Out the View

At an elevation of 5,242 feet, Hurricane Ridge holds spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains leads to hiking trails that traverse mountain ridges and descend into the subalpine valleys full of lush forests.

Photo By: Andrew Carey

North Cascades National Park

Known for its wild snow-capped peaks and the countless waterfalls that spill down the sides of the mountains, the Cascade Mountain Range is often called the "American Alps."

Photo By: David Hollerith

The American Alps

Ross Lake in North Cascades is a major travel destination that offers tons of opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, backpacking and camping.

Photo By: Addie Navarro

Find Your Way

Though North Cascade National Park Highway provides an adequate way to see the park's rugged beauty, visitors who want to explore the park’s alpine wilderness can plan their route at one of the park’s eight visitor centers.

Photo By: John Mulloy

Crater Lake National Park

Over the dormant volcano Mount Mazama, Crater Lake is 21 square miles of intensely blue water and the deepest lake in America.

Photo By: Jarrod Clift

Mount Rainier National Park

Less than 90 miles southeast of Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park has everything from wildflower-filled day hikes to summiting the iconic 14,409-foot peak.

Photo By: Matt Koher

Glacier National Park

Though it’s a long car ride from Seattle, Glacier National Park is well worth the journey. Naturalist John Muir, also known as the Father of the National Parks, referred to the Glacier landscape as "the best care-killing scenery on the continent."

Photo By: Bailey Brandon

Next Up

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The Campground Lowdown

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Plan a fabulous family vacation at a kid-friendly national park.

Alaskan National Parks

We're taking you to two of the most beautiful parks Alaska has to offer, filled with terrestrial wildlife, marine animals, glaciers and spectacular views.

5 Incredible Animals You Can See in the National Parks

Travel Channel shows you where to see amazing wildlife in America's national parks.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Entering any of Carlsbad Caverns' 113 caves is like entering a larger-than-life sandcastle, where drips of sand have been changed into a twisting structure of peaks and spires.

Everglades National Park, Florida

The Florida Everglades is the only subtropical preserve in North America, and its endangerment has placed it at the forefront of a massive restoration movement.


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