Where to? Western Road Trip Tips from Pros Who Know the Backroads Best
1 of 4Kalen Thorien
Secret Southern Utah
The Expert: Kalen Thorien, Adventurer and Photographer, Salt Lake City, Utah
For me, it’s all about the dogs, good camping, and yummy food, so an easy choice is a road trip through Southern Utah that hits the national monuments and state parks often overshadowed by the surrounding national parks. From Salt Lake City, head south to Goblin Valley State Park, where you can immerse yourself in psychedelic hoodoos and excellent camping. As you head west, make a stop at Stan’s Burger Shack in Hanksville then continue on highway 24 toward Capitol Reef NP. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a left on Notom-Bullfrog Road to the famous Burr Trail Switchbacks. Continue to Boulder for a mandatory stop at Hell’s Backbone Grill. After you roll yourself out of the restaurant, make the quick drive to Escalante National Monument where camping and views are endless. Next stop is Kodachrome Basin State Park, rightfully named for its stunning array of colors and rock formations, and then on to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where pink-hued dunes collide with red rock to form an otherworldly landscape. Relax with a cold drink and a stunning sunset while you debate ever returning to real life.
The Tip: Pack Right
I always bring my Backcountry All Around duffels for gear, clothes, and dog supplies. They’re extremely rugged, have internal waterproofing, and can be carried like a backpack or slung over the shoulder.
2 of 4Tsalani Lassiter
The Expert: Tsalani Lassiter, Wildlife and Landscape Photographer, Lake Tahoe
My excursions are all about the epic views, so a trip through the Pacific Northwest is ideal for me. In this corner of the country, we get to see mountain peaks, waterfalls, lakes, and forests. My first stop would be Lassen Volcanic National Park, where there are endless day-hiking trails. Redwood State Park would be next on my list. The hikes are fairly easy and those gargantuan trees provide plenty of shade for escaping the summer heat. As we head north, Bend, Oregon, is always a nice pit stop. It’s a cool town with local breweries and coffee shops. There are also many scenic sites in the vicinity, such as Smith Rock State Park. Here you will find unique rock formations that draw climbers from all around. Whenever we’re in Oregon, we also make a point to see as many waterfalls as we can. We’ll drive along the Columbia River Gorge area for a waterfall tour of Multnomah, Bridal Veil, Punch Bowl, and several others. After seeing all the views, it’s always nice to head into town and experience Portland’s booming food scene to end our trip.
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3 of 4IG: @CHRISTINHEALEY
Find Your Vista
The Expert: Christin Healey, Endurance Athlete and Photographer, Boulder, Colorado
I absolutely love Dead Horse Point in southern Utah. The vista provides views of the expanse of Canyonlands National Park and is truly awe-inspiring. Moab is a must-stop on the way. It has cell service unlike Dead Horse and Canyonlands NP. Stop at Sweet Cravings Bakery + Bistro to fuel up on tasty snacks and coffee for the trip.
The Tip: I always bring my Somewear Satellite Communicator with me along with lots of layers for chilly evenings, and, of course, my camera.
4 of 4Chris Clearman/Matador
When in Doubt, Take the 1
Chris Clearman, Founder, Matador, Boulder, Colorado
It’s near impossible to compete with a road trip from San Francisco down Route 1 toward Los Angeles. The inland highway is a lot faster, but I cannot think of a drive that is more about the road than the destination. Forget where you’re headed and take a couple days to make your way down the coast slowly. Endless incredibly scenic pull-offs, secret cliff enclosed beaches, and vistas that just cannot be matched. Highlights include the Land of the Medicine Buddha in the redwood forest outside Soquel. There’s a retreat center here, but we came for the hiking trails. What makes this place remarkable is actually what it lacks—a single sound. If a tree falls here, I doubt anyone would hear it. It’s transformative silence. Shark Tooth Beach just beyond Davenport. You can’t see it from the road, but just past Davenport, when the road starts to head uphill, you’ll see the cars on the side of the road. Hike the short but steep path to the most incredible hidden cove. Vertical walls enclose all sides, while a massive shark-tooth-shaped monolith stands in the ocean just beyond the crashing surf. Set up camp in the mountains of Big Sur. When you get to Big Sur, you can take just about any road headed east off Route 1 up into the mountains. A few miles of switchbacks, and you’ll find dispersed camping sites with the most incredible ocean views. Wake up above the fog in the morning and watch the ocean appear as the fog burns off in the sun.
The Tip: We like to stop at all the fruit and pie stands as we drive and take breaks at beaches to snack. When we did this particular road trip last, we brought Matador’s packable nanodry travel towels to sit on and dry off with at our stops. We have a beach towel collaboration with Volcom coming out this spring that would have been even better. We like to pack light and multipurpose, even when we drive.
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