the United States is covered with spectacular landscapes, scenic road trips, and great destinations to park your van. from the east to the west coast, no matter where you’re located, there’s always someplace perfect for taking your family and friends.
while a lot of van life is about improvising, planning some trips to well-known, bucket list destinations can be fun. in this article, we’ll share 10 of the best van life destinations in the US.
- Acadia National Park
this National Park in Maine is surrounded by water and filled with wildlife. rocky beaches, woodland, and glacier-scoured granite peaks characterize its landscape. you can park your van overnight in any campground, like Blackwoods Campground, Seawall Campground, or Schoodic Woods Campground.
things to do: swimming, cycling, birdwatching, boating, hiking, and more nature activities!
price: $30 per vehicle to enter the park. camping can range from $20-40 per night, depending on the campground.
- Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake found in the Sierra Mountains. straddling the border between California and Nevada, this is a great western destination to get to by van. Lake Tahoe is a vibrant area with a wide range of activities for all ages, from skiing to water sports to visiting historical monuments and exploring the surrounding cities.
the lake has campsites all around its perimeter for camping and overnight parking; some camps are lakefront.
things to do: in the summer, you can go boating, fishing, hiking, play golf, enjoy various water sports, or just relax on the sandy beaches. in the winter there’s skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, and other winter sports. visit here for more information on all of Lake Tahoe’s wonders.
price: the cost of parking overnight in Lake Tahoe varies widely depending on the campsite, location, and time of year. expect around $70 per night in summer and about $50 per night in winter.
- Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a must-see national park, mainly in Wyoming, with some parts spreading into Montana and Idaho. the national park sits on a volcanic hot spot and is known for its countless geysers and hot springs.
the most popular (and most crowded) months to visit Yellowstone are July-September to see the beautiful fall foliage. however, October can also be a great month and less crowded than the high months.
Yellowstone has 12 campgrounds where you can park your car overnight, and, right outside, you can find dispersed campsites with free or low-cost options.
things to do:
- see the colorful hot springs
- visit the geysers
- watch wildlife
- visit the Yellowstone Canyon
- hike one of the numerous hiking trails
- take a quick road trip over to Grand Teton National Park
Price: $35 for a vehicle entrance pass into the park that’s valid for 7 days. camping inside the park can range from $20-50 a night.
- Big Bend
Big Bend National Park is located deep in Western Texas. it’s in an isolated yet splendid area known for its natural resources, cultural history, and recreational activities. it’s best to visit the park in fall or spring for optimal weather conditions.
things to do: river trips, horseback riding, biking, hiking, sightseeing, scenic drives, learning about the park’s natural history, stargazing, day trips to Mexico, and more!
price: $30 entrance fee into the park. you can park your van overnight for camping at one of the campgrounds ($16 per night) or one of the backcountry campsites ($10 per night).
- Grand Canyon National Park
this Arizona national park, famous for its grand canyons, offers breathtaking views, stunning sunrises and sunsets, and numerous outdoor activities. inside and outside, the park is full of camping opportunities for van lifers looking to stay the night.
things to do: drive and appreciate the scenic beauty, take a learning adventure to discover the history and wildlife of the canyon, go on a hike or walk through the south rim or north rim, river rafting, and more!
price: $35 for a vehicle permit to enter the park. campsites cost around $18 per night and should be reserved well in advance.
- Blue Ridge Parkway
this national parkway is known for its scenic views. road trippers can drive from Virginia to North Carolina while appreciating the beautiful colors. you can park your van at any campground along the highway. at the end of the road trip, you can stay a few nights in the Great Smoky Mountains.
things to do: Shenandoah National Park (at the beginning of the parkway), Great Smoky Mountains (at the end of the parkway), stop in towns along the way, or hike in the Appalachian mountains.
price: prices depend on the campground.
- the Great Smoky Mountains
the Great Smoky Mountains, located on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, are beautiful to visit during the fall. immerse yourself in vibrant autumn foliage during a hike or horseback ride. you can park your van at a backcountry or front-country campsite.
things to do:
- climb Clingmans Dome
- drive or hike to view the fall colors, kayak, or canoe in Fontana Lake.
- visit a waterfall
- go biking, horseback riding, or fishing
- view historic buildings
price: park entrance is free as of now, but starting March 1, 2023, visitors will have to pay $5 for a daily parking tag or $15 for a 7-day tag. campsites are priced at around $30 per night.
- Crater Lake
as the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake is a great place in Oregon to park your van for a few nights. it was formed by the collapse of a volcano and filled up by an accumulation of snow and rain, making the lake one of the bluest and purest in the country. it’s also one of the snowiest places in the US.
things to do: hiking, biking, boat tours, driving around the rim of the lake to enjoy the scenic views and taking pictures at lookouts are some popular activities.
price: $30 per vehicle in the summer and $20 in the winter to enter the park. there are several campsites around Crater Lake where you can park your van overnight; prices vary.
- Sequoia National Park
immerse yourself in the giant sequoia trees of Sequoia National Park in California. adjacent to Kings Canyon National Park, these two places are popular to visit together. the best time to visit is June-August, when the weather is optimal and stable.
things to do: climb Moro Rock, visit the General Grant and General Sherman trees, go hiking, visit soundscapes, watch wildlife, and enjoy a scenic drive.
price: $35 per vehicle for Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. park your van for around $25 per night at one of the 14 campgrounds.
- Glacier National Park
located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains on the edge of the Canadian border, Glacier National Park showcases beautiful glacier-carved peaks and valleys. this national park has more than 700 miles of hiking trails, with prime visiting time during the summer.
things to do: hiking, biking, fishing, photography, boating, rafting, and cross-country skiing are some of the popular activities in this wondrous park.
price: enter the park in your van for $35 during summer and $25 during winter. stay at one of the park’s 15 campgrounds for between $10 and $23 per night.
now that you know the best van life destinations in the US, it’s time to start planning your next trip. stay tuned for more van life articles with tips and destinations.