BlogTRAVEL

76 Places to Visit by Van

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This post is in partnership with 76® but all opinions are my own. Don’t forget to check out their vanlife campaign here to learn all about Jean and Gene and their own van adventures.


Life moves fast. It’s something you’re told when you’re younger but year after year, it really does seem as though time speeds up.

Some days, it feels like I moved into a van yesterday. Other days, it feels like I’ve been doing this for years and years. The reality is that I’ve been officially living in a van full-time for 1.5 years. I’ve visited and (fairly) thoroughly explored all 50 states in the United States of America, as well as three provinces in Canada. Overtime, the way I’ve traveled has really changed along with the things I seek out when exploring new areas. That’s the beauty of travel – you can make it whatever you want to fit your specific needs.

The long list of places I’ve explored throughout the continent includes cities, monuments, National parks, State parks, specific trails, and fabulous restaurants.

In June of 2017, I set out mostly seeking five to seven mile-long hikes in beautiful National and State Parks. By Spring of 2018, I was literally googling “weirdest things to see in Nebraska.” Some cities were explored by grabbing a coffee and perusing the tiny shops within the area for five hours. Some cities were explored by seeing live music and grabbing food at the best rated restaurants. In some states or general regions, I didn’t even enter a city – I just stayed in surrounding recreational areas or national forests.

The point is, there is so much to see throughout North America.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. As I continue my van travels, I still explore new areas every day. Some items on this list were even explored as recently as last week!  It’s also important to note that some places listed below are there specifically because of wonderful experiences I created (i.e. grabbing a cup of coffee and a blanket and simply reading a book in said city). There is a lot to experience when you seek out specific experiences, but some of my best memories include sitting on a beach at a random lake and watching the clouds roll by. So, (drumroll please), here is a list of my 76 favorite restaurants/general cities/parks/hikes/museums that I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing within the last two years.

P.S. I know the “West” takes up a lot of this list…maybe it’s because I’m from the PNW but I spent a fair amount of time exploring these states and enjoying the public lands they provide!

WEST

  • Priest Lake, Idaho
  • Red Meadow Lake, Montana
  • Moro Rock Trail – Sequoia National Park, California
  • Meow Wolf – Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Gallatin National Forest, Montana
  • Byron Glacier, Alaska
  • East Rosebud Lake, Montana
  • Golden, Colorado
  • Bear Lake Trail – Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Virginia & Nevada City, Montana
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho
  • Mount Evans Scenic Byway – Colorado
  • Lake Isabelle, Colorado
  • The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas – Lake County, Montana
  • Steamboat Springs, Colorado
  • Boysen State Park – Shoshoni, Wyoming
  • Ashley Lake, Montana
  • Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site – Boise, Idaho
  • Sawtooth Range, Idaho
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  • Redwood National and State Parks, California
  • Big Sur, California
  • Twentynine Palms – Joshua Tree National Park, California
  • Death Valley National Park, California
  • Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
  • Olympic Peninsula, Washington
  • Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  • Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
  • Sedona, Arizona
  • Monument Valley, Arizona
  • Zion National Park, Utah
  • Moab, Utah
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Flattop Mountain Trail – Anchorage, Alaska
  • Lake Wallowa/Joseph, Oregon
  • Skagway, Alaska
  • La Jolla Shores, California
  • White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
  • Lake Havasu City, Arizona
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Payette Lake – McCall, Idaho
  • Penny Hot Springs, Colorado
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Salvation Mountain – Calipatria, California

MIDWEST

  • The Rice Paddy – Marquette, Michigan
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Maple City, Michigan
  • Big Plateau Trail – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  • Antique Archaeology Store – LeClaire, Iowa
  • Chapel in the Hills, South Dakota
  • Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum – Ashland, Nebraska
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Field of Dreams – Dyersville, Iowa
  • Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota
  • Airstream Factory – Jackson Center, Ohio
  • Wrigley Field – Chicago, Illinois
  • Frankenmuth, Michigan

SOUTH

  • The Howlin’ Wolf – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Prada Marfa – Valentine, Texas
  • New River Gorge Bridge – West Virginia
  • Siesta Key Beach, Florida
  • Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Key West, Florida
  • Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Austin, Texas
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

NORTHEAST

  • Saguenay Fjord National Park, Quebec, Canada
  • Watkins Glen, New York
  • Gatineau Park – Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • L’Isle-aux-Coudres, Quebec, Canada
  • Portland, Maine
  • Central Park – New York City, New York

Vanlife is wonderful and I absolutely love the freedom I’ve created for myself.

But in reality, it’s not really about the van. My van (my dear, sweet van) is simply a way to travel. It’s the most convenient form of travel I’ve ever experienced. In each of the spots listed above, I’ve been able to come back to my own home, cook a hot meal in my own kitchen, take a brief nap in my own bed, or change out of my wet clothes after a rainy hike. There are no packed bags, travel itineraries, or deadlines. I simply drive and find what is interesting to me. Even though time may continue to speed up, my pace of travel has definitely slowed down.

I look forward to adding new and exciting places to this list, as well as revisiting my favorites. In fact, you may have noticed that New Mexico is on the list numerous times – and even so, I’m headed back there to explore more this week. Stay tuned!

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