When seeing the world by highway, one remembers particular moments vividly—the flat desert slowly ceding to Martian rock piles near Joshua Tree, the first light splashing on the Grand Tetons in Wyoming—that may have otherwise gone overlooked. There are no ticketing lines, no 3-1-1 compatible bags for your liquids and no jamming your luggage into an overhead compartment. You will not wake up from a deep slumber as a man climbs over you in search of the restroom, and you do not follow anyone’s schedule. Though we may opt for cars instead of covered wagon, there is no question the same individualistic fire that stirred manifest destiny in our forebearers is alive today.
So find your favorite companion, get in a car and go. There are a million ways to cross our beautiful country, but here’s the itinerary for an ‘ol Man Crates favorite.
Days 1 & 2: Los Angeles to Zion, via Grand Canyon North Rim
Leaving LA before morning rush hour is like sneaking away from a zombie apocalypse, in that it’s both strongly recommended and nearly impossible. Still, get on the road before sunrise en route to the utterly beautiful, and deceptively close, Zion National Park. A pit stop at the Grand Canyon’s less populated and much colder North Rim is in order too if you’re willing to add a couple hours.
Once you arrive (should be about a 10-hour day, including stops) the ideal accommodations are Zion Lodge, which is the only hotel inside the boundaries of the park. The next day, a shuttle, which runs continuously, will pick you up at the lobby and drop you at just about any adventure you can fathom. We highly recommend the iconic Angel’s Landing hike, seen above, and The Narrows.
Day 3: Zion to Yellowstone, via Salt Lake City and Jackson
After a day (or two, or three) of hiking and exploring Zion and its adjacent wilderness, head north and prepare for a full day between the lanes. Salt Lake City is a perfect lunch stop as you undulate across Utah, and Cokeville Meadows will almost always deliver for elk sightings. Over the course of the 12-hour drive, the landscape makes a beautiful, seamless change from the wide-open expanses of Utah into the aggressive, raw beauty of Wyoming.
A strange road trip quirk: At one point, over the span of about an hour, the highway will take you through Utah, then into Wyoming, then back to Utah, then back to Wyoming again, then to Idaho, then finally to Wyoming. We’re telling you this now, because it will probably make for an epic Snapchat Story.
Day 4: Yellowstone, Tetons and beyond
You’re going to arrive in Jackson, and you’re probably going to explode. Everything is beautiful, everything seems to demand a photo. The mountains are towering, the downtown is charming, and the lakes are placid. For maximum effectiveness, allow at least a few days in the area, with one day dedicated entirely to Yellowstone (which could be a whole other blog post in itself).
Don’t overlook Teton National Park, especially its stunning hikes like Jenny Lake or Inspiration Point (above). Also, Dornan’s is great for a post-hike beer with a view.
One last bit of advice: Make sure you hit the road with the proper snackage. You'll need plenty of fuel, just like your car. Help your co-pilots keep their hunger at bay between pit stops
Once you've taken in all the beauty the American West has to offer, come back the way you came. Or don’t come back at all.