Most of us dream about driving through the American West and traveling through the National Parks that are sprinkled throughout the mountain ranges and deserts. From the orange hues of Zion National Park to the luminescent rock formations of Bryce Canyon, to the staggering peaks of the Grand Tetons, there are few places in the world that can top the majesty of these national parks.
Racheal & I (Kristen), members of the Swiftwick team, recently embarked on an epic road trip, dubbed the #SwiftwickTrailTour, and chased adventure across 1000+ miles in 2 weeks - exploring five breathtaking national parks and the Wind River Range. We hiked, camped, backpacked, rode horses, made new friends, and experienced tons of highs, and a few lows, that can come along with chasing adventure.
Whether you’re a first-timer or an avid adventurer, we hope our adventurers inspire you to chase a new adventure of your own.
With a trip as exciting as this, you can only imagine how ambitious we were with planning our itinerary. It was about as jam-packed as it could be, which was challenging, but allowed us to experience more in 2 weeks than either of us had done in our lives!
A classic. As our first national park on the list, we wanted to get a taste of what hiking down into the canyon was like without getting overly crazy with it. It was very hot when we visited in June so layer on the sunscreen and make sure to consistently hydrate!
Hike: South Kaibab Trailhead to Ooh Ahh Point
Mileage: 2 Miles
Elevation gain: 1000ft
Pro Tip: Bring more water than you think you need for this one
This was our favorite national park we visited during the Trail Tour. It was so different than any other national park and hike we had ever done. Walking through 50-degree water for 7 miles is not something you do every day!
Hike: The Narrows
Mileage: 7 Miles
Elevation gain: 334ft
Pro Tip: Walking sticks are helpful but not necessary
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is full of jaw-dropping rock formations. These rock formations called hoodoos are tall, skinny spires of rock that were carved by ice and rain. Aside from hiking around Bryce Canyon, they also offer horseback rides that show you a completely different side of the park. If you’re looking for something even more adventurous, Bryce Canyon is the perfect place to stargaze after hours.
Hike: Navajo Loop / Queens Garden Loop
Mileage: 3 Miles
Elevation gain: 600ft
Pro Tip: Hike this under a full moon for a completely different experience
Arches National Park
Named after the 2000 arches that are scattered inside this national park, Arches National Park was another favorite. Truly an immersive park, you can get up close and personal with so many of the arches. We recommend having plenty of water on hand as this park can get hot in the summer!
Hike: Delicate Arch Trailhead
Mileage: 3.2 Miles
Elevation gain: 480ft
Pro Tip: Do this hike early! The parking lot fills up quickly
Grand Tetons National Park
With so many hikes around Grand Tetons National Park, it was hard to choose just one. But Cascade Canyon Trail did not disappoint. We might have not had enough water but we did see a moose so I think we ended with a net positive… but seriously, make sure you bring enough water for this hike.
Hike: Cascade Canyon Trail
Mileage: 11.4 Miles
Elevation gain: 1720ft
Pro Tip: Most people only go a few miles into this hike. Hike farther to get out of the crowds.
Wind River Range in Wyoming
Backpacking in the Wind River Range was our pivot after Yellowstone National Park closed due to historic flooding and we were thrilled and grateful to have connections to someone in the area who could guide us on this backpacking trip. This was a 2-night, 3-day adventure that boasted some of the most beautiful sections of the Wind River Range.
Hike: Granite Lake
Mileage: 16 Miles
Elevation gain: 1300ft
Pro Tip: Bring card games in case you get rained on and need to stick it out under some shelter.
It wasn’t all easy, but it was worth it.
There will always be the good, the bad, and the ugly. We've learned that the good make the bad and the ugly worth it. Here are a few things that challenged us and made us check our egos at the door.
Driving 1000 miles in 2 weeks is no joke. We were constantly on the go and with our audacious adventure goals, we found ourselves quite physically and mentally exhausted.
Some things you just can’t plan for. One of those things was Yellowstone having historic flooding and ultimately causing us to pivot from backpacking in the park to backpacking in the Wind River Range, 157 miles south of Yellowstone. Always be ready for plans to change!
Service and Wifi are really spotty in these remote areas of the United States. Be ready to unplug for a while and take in the views!
Tips and hacks for finding accommodations:
On road trips like this, finding accommodations can be tough especially if you want to be close to each national park. We used Airbnb and HipCamp to find most of our accommodations and were so stoked about some of the places we got to stay. Some highlights include:
Road tripping across 1000+ miles of the American West was an adventure of a lifetime. The national parks we visited gave us the chance to take deep breaths and soak in the grandeur of the mountains and valleys.
They also gave us the chance to accept going with the flow and rolling with the punches as we had to make last-minute changes on an already packed trip. We learned what it really takes to complete a trip of this size and the challenges that can come along. We’ve grown in ways we didn’t know we could and we’re ready to take on the next one.
Have you done a trip like this? Let us know in the comments below.
We had the chance to sit down with Eric Hill, founder and president ofProject Echelon, a 501c3 veterans non-profit that engages, equips, educates, and empowers veterans and their families through physical activity and self-discovery.
So you want to start running… maybe you’re training for your first race or choosing to get in shape. Before you lace up, you’re faced with a decision: are you going to be a road runner or a trail runner?