By Johnny Jet – For the past 20 years, Johnny Jet averaged 150,000 miles and 20 countries a year. He has been featured in many major publications and appeared on ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC and PBS.
With many people hitting the road this summer, RV sales and rentals are at record highs. If you're looking for the ultimate RV road trip, consider these routes to see the best of the U.S. in comfort and at your own pace. With continually changing regulations around COVID-19, we’ve picked routes and destinations that are currently open to campers with self-contained RVs.
East Coast Lighthouses
Dive in the deep end of scenic road trips by planning a route along the Atlantic coast. Visit the beaches and lighthouses dotting the coast as an easy win-win trip. Some of the best East Coast lighthouses locations include:
- Cape Cod, MA
- Assateague State Park, MD
- North Carolina's Outer Banks (Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Bodie Island)
- Hunting Island State Park, SC
- Tybee Island, GA
- St. Augustine, FL
Maine also has several lighthouses, including the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park. However, Maine currently has a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for any visitors who are not New Hampshire or Vermont residents. For summer 2020, lighthouses located in the Mid-Atlantic and South will likely be the most accessible.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Another East Coast road trip gem is the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic byway traverses the Blue Ridge Mountains across Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and ends in Cherokee, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains. You can visit Appalachian towns like North Carolina's Asheville or Blowing Glass Rock. Virginia towns to visit include Roanoke and nearby Lynchburg.
Tip: Some roads have tunnel height restrictions, so be sure to check the tunnel restrictions for your planned route. The most restricting tunnels have a maximum height of 18 feet. Also, cell phone reception, gas stations, and other amenities might be limited, so plan ahead by bringing everything you need.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway lets you see the southern United States by RV. Starting in Nashville, Tennessee, travel the whole trail to also explore Alabama and Mississippi. Cities located on the route include Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi. You can also see waterfalls, prehistoric mounds, and other historical landmarks. You may also decide to vacation on a Gulf Coast beach after touring the Natchez.
Like the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, there are maximum RV restrictions. The maximum length is 55 feet (including a tow vehicle) and a 14 feet height restriction.
Way before our current national interstate highway system, federal highways, like U.S. Route 66, were main thoroughfares. On historic Route 66, you can explore America’s Heartland and other enchanting pockets of the United States from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Carve out time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. It's possible to visit Carve out time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. It's possible to visit South Rim with day passes at the southern entrances near Tusayan. Limited overnight accommodations are available, so book your campground reservations early. Also, remember to forward your campground reservations and other travel plans to TripIt. Doing so will allow you to check out nearby places ahead of time, so you know where to find local amenities, such as convenience stores and restaurants.
Notable cities where you might stop along the way include:
- Springfield, IL
- St. Louis, MI
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Tucumcari, NM
- Albuquerque, NM
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Needles, CA
There are also a few under-the-radar national parks that are worth checking out if you're willing to stray from the path a little.
America's Mountain West can be the RV road trip of a lifetime. In Colorado, you can camp near Colorado Springs. Journeying outside Denver lets you visit Estes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The national parks may have timed entries, so advanced planning may be necessary.
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is one of the first world-renowned tourist sites to reopen in the U.S. Grand Teton National Park, also in Wyoming, is following a phased reopening, as well. Montana's Glacier National Park started increasing recreational access as of June 8, 2020. Due to the temporary closure of the United States and Canada border, visiting the Canadian or Alaskan portions of the Rockies may not be possible.
South Dakota's Black Hills
Consider driving to the Black Hills in western South Dakota if you want to see a different set of mountains. It's an approximate 6-hour drive (390 miles) from Denver to Rapid City. You're also 7 hours (426 miles) from Yellowstone National Park to Rapid City.
Key Black Hills landmarks include:
- Custer State Park
- Spearfish Canyon
- Crazy Horse Memorial
- Mt. Rushmore
The Black Hills Wine Trail can also be a relaxing way to see the Black Hills region. Many South Dakota wineries began reopening in late May.
California is gradually reopening for tourism. Driving north to south along California Highway 1 (CA-1) lets you drive on the lanes closest to the Pacific coastline. Many consider this highway section to be the most scenic in the state.
California’s Yosemite National Park is also a must-see, but note that you currently need reservations. During the initial reopening phase, the park is issuing up to 1,700 day passes with limited operating hours. As of June 11, 2020, you can visit most of the key landmarks, including:
- Yosemite Valley
- Glacier Point
- Mariposa Grove
- Hetch Hetchy
Other inland California landmarks include the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These parks can be a great option if you want to see more Giant Sequoias than what Yosemite's Mariposa Grove offers.
RV road trip planning tips
Planning an RV road trip requires you to consider different factors than traveling by car or plane. Here are some key things to consider when planning your trip:
- RV rental cost (if you don't own one)
- RV insurance
- The average price of diesel fuel along your planned route
- Maximum RV height and length restrictions for your planned route and attractions
- Campsite availability at RV parks
- Available electric, water, and sewer benefits at your planned campsites
- Your need for (and ability to tow) a vehicle
These factors can help you compare your estimated travel costs to your travel budget.
Also, be mindful of state or local travel restrictions. Most states are RV-friendly this summer despite the coronavirus travel restrictions. However, some states, including Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, are currently only open to regional residents.
Many state and private campgrounds began reopening in May or June. You should make reservations to secure your spots. Unlike previous camping seasons, some campground shower and bathroom facilities may not be open. As RVs are self-contained, you should be okay in most places.
These RV road trip routes will let you see some of the hidden gems in "flyover country,” visit great beaches near scenic byways, and explore the country’s many national parks. As you plan your epic summer road trip, be sure to double-check what is open before traveling.