The American West featured image

The American West

Just a short two days after quitting my job in late May 2015, I set out on a 7,502-mile, 3.5-week road trip with one of my best friends. Our goal was to visit a (mostly) predetermined selection of National Parks throughout the western United States, camping out of my car in the parks if we could, or as close to them as we could.  The trip was awesome, in the original intent of the word. Awesome in the sense of the picture above. Awesome in a "holy shit that's beautiful" way. Awesome in a "full of awe" way.

The American West is stacked with absolutely stunning natural landscapes in a wide variety, from geologic hot spots to ancient old-growth forests. This trip was truly once-in-a-lifetime, so much so that I think I'll be doing something like it again at some point! Just below is a map of the route we made during the trip (note: not every individual node represents a stop, I just needed to create that many to demonstrate the correct route). Further down in this page is a list of links to the individual reviews and stories from each place we camped.

The Roadtrip


The Car

My trusty 2004 Subaru Forester XT. This is what these cars were made for. Besides better gas mileage, it did everything we wanted it to do. She trudged through mud and dirt, was sure-footed on gravel, had the power to easily climb steep grades, and the ability to descend them gradually. The combination of the 2.5-liter engine putting out 210 hp with 235 ft.-lb. of torque @ 3600 rpm and Subaru's amazing all-wheel drive made any terrain a piece of cake. Add in the dual heated front seats for those cold mornings, and a very important Bluetooth FM transmitter plugged into the dash so we could enjoy our podcasts and tunes on the road. I was very happy with it, despite its age and the relatively poor mileage by today's standards.

The Route

Starting in Chicago, we drove west through the vast great plains through Omaha and on to Denver. From Denver, we changed course to head for Black Canyon at the Gunnison. After Black Canyon, we drove on to Utah to visit Arches NP and then Zion NP. Leaving our campsite outside of Zion, we drove all the way to our campsite on the east side of the mountains of Yosemite around June Lake. After Yosemite, we drove to San Francisco and stayed there a couple nights before hitting the road again to head north. Rounding our way back, we hit Redwoods State Park, Crater Lake, Seattle, Mt. Rainier, Coeur d'Alene, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons to top it all off. At the end, we sped back to Chicago to get back in time for the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade in Chicago.

Photo Preview

Above is just a small selection of photos from the first half of the road trip. Featured are: Black Canyon, Arches, Zion, and Yosemite National Park. Plus, a great shot from our favorite campsite at Onion Creek Campground near to Arches.

Journey: The American West

For big trips like these, there's no way I could or should try to fit all of what I want to share on one page. So, I create a series of posts which all contain parts of the "journey". Below is the collection of blog posts which make up my journey "The American West". Together, these posts tell the story and share the knowledge and experiences I gained from the trip. Come along for the ride!

The American West pinit


  1. We did the drive up the California coast as well – it is absolutely stunning! We stopped in Eureka, and eventually dipped inland to go through central Oregon as well. It was great to look through your pictures and be reminded of the west coast beauty.

    1. Author

      Well that sounds like a very similar route then, there are a couple, and I would have loved to spend the entire trip on the coast itself, but that would have just taken wayyyy too long to get up to Redwoods State Park.

      Glad you liked the post, the next one coming up is about Crater Lake and our quick stop in Bend, OR as well. Check back soon 🙂 thanks for commenting!

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