The Best Park-to-Park Scenic Drives

You don't get out there very often, so make the most of your time on the open road. Bag two national parks in one trip with these five scenic drives that start and end in some of the best spots in the West.
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Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah  (Photodisc)

1. Channel Islands National Park to Sequoia National Park
You can go from the Pacific Ocean to the park with the highest point in the lower 48 in a few hours, passing through lavender fields, pine forests, and citrus orchards on the way.

Route: California State Highway 33 to California State Highway 166 to California State Highway 99 to California State Highway 198 to Mineral King Road.

Mileage: About 275 miles.

A Good Place to Start: The best island for an overnight visit is Santa Cruz Island, a two-hour boat trip from Ventura Harbor. Sea kayaking and hiking are the prime pursuits. You can also make this a day trip, staying over in Ventura instead.

Pit Stops: Chic Ojai is a good pick for lunch before you avoid the L.A. Metroplex in favor of Los Padres National Forest. Visalia has a vibrant downtown, if you need a stop closer to Sequoia. You can also divert on California State Highway 65 from Bakersfield and get on 198 at Exeter for an off-the-beaten-track route through citrus orchards.

Finish Line: Mineral King is a lesser-visited unit of the park, accessible by a long, slow, and often unpaved road near Three Rivers. It's worth the drive, but the road usually closes at the end of October — after that, it's hard to go wrong rambling around Giant Forest in the heart of the park.

2. Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park
For an expedition into the stunning Utah outback, this road trip has increasingly unbelievable geological phenomena around every corner.

Route: Utah State Highway 12 to Utah State Highway 24. Mileage: About 125 miles.

A Good Place to Start: With a park full of amazing views, it’s hard to pick just one starting point. That said, Bryce Point is one of the most unforgettable vistas in the West. It’s also one of the best places to watch the sunrise over the park's iconic hoodoos.

Pit Stop: The dramatic scenery between Bryce and Capitol Reef includes Kodachrome Basin State Park and the slot canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Finish Line: At the end of the day, take the short hike to Sunset Point. It's called that for a reason.

Published: 10 Sep 2012 | Last Updated: 22 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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