This exploration was focused on the outdoors, expecially the mountain ranges and coastal areas of California. Traveling by car from East Coast to West Coast, I toured for 2 months along the route West, and then around the Western states. To summarize: over 12,000 miles driven, 15 national parks, 12 national forests, and dozens of landmarks and other public lands in the process.
After reaching California, I spent the entire month of July in the Golden State; primarily in the Sierra Nevada, along the Pacific Coast, and in the Mojave Desert. I proceeded into the Southwest via Death Valley, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and into Colorado.
After almost 2 weeks in the Four Corners I flew home for a few days and then back to California. It was a little back-and-forth logistically, but something kept drawing me to the landscapes of the American West.
Before starting from the East Coast I slapped a Roof Top Tent (RTT) on top of my car (See my review here!). The RTT was an economical and unique method of exploring the country and it was a great way to experience some of the best “nature” spots in the US.
America the Beautiful Pass: this pass ($80 in 2019) allows for entry into basically all Federal Lands such as National Parks, Monuments, Historical areas, etc that require an entry fee. WIthout the pass I could have spent over $400 in entry fees. Needless to say, if you plan to do a trip like this, it’s worth the investment.
In many states out West, they encourage you to buy the pass at the entry gate if you don’t have one already if you plan to visit more than a couple of parks. Especially in park-abundant Utah and Colorado, most parks charge entry fees of $30 or more so the pass pays for itself after just 3 visits. The pass is also valid for 1 year. As you can see below, my entry fees would have added up without the pass.
National Park Visits
Arches National Park – $30
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – $20
Bryce Canyon National Park – $35
Death Valley National Park – $30 (I think it’s free to drive through, I didn’t see an entrance booth)
Dinosaur National Monument – $25
Golden Gate National Recreation Area – FREE!
Grand Canyon National Park – $35
Great Basin National Park – FREE!
Great Sand Dunes National Park – $20
Joshua Tree National Park – $30
Kings Canyon National Park – $35 (includes Sequoia NP)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area – $25
Mesa Verde National Park – $25
Mohave National Preserve – FREE!
Point Reyes National Seashore – FREE!
Redwood National Park – FREE!
Rocky Mountain National Park – $35
Sequoia National Park – $35 (includes Kings Canyon NP)
Yosemite National Park (2 visits) – $35
Zion National Park – $35
National Forests are generally free to stay. Some special places (like Maroon Bells in White River National Forest) charge an entry fee. But again, this is covered by the America the Beautiful Pass and they give you a discount for a campsite with the pass.
National Forest Visits
Dixie National Forest
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Inyo National Forest
Los Padres National Forest
Monongahela National Forest
San Isabel National Forest
Sequoia National Forest
Sierra National Forest
Stanislaus National Forest
White River National Forest