No vacation is complete without looking back at the top highlights of the journey. Whether it was a place that you ate at, an attraction you visited or those fun road trip stories – its all great to share! Our 2 week US Road Trip highlights include a helicopter tour, hiking, battling temperatures of 40°c to -4°c, getting stopped by the police and more!
“We will look back and smile, knowing we saw those things and made those memories”
Keep reading to see just some of our highlights during our 2 Week Road Trip across West Coast America. It was pretty hard to choose as we had explored so much!
1. Hiking in US National Parks
We had no idea what to expect when planning to visit Zion, Death Valley and Bodie National Parks. Following some research, we knew where we wanted to go or what we wanted to see. However we didn’t want to research too much as you end up seeing everything online rather than it being impressive when you get there.
We had chosen to hike Angel’s Landing in Zion, the highest peak (and the most challenging) there is. For us, who once got lost hiking in Innsbruck Austria, this was a challenge but we did it, reaching the top and seeing the best views of the valley. You can see more about hiking Angels Landing on our post here!
For Death Valley we followed the famous little loop to see Artist’s Palette and the Devils Golf Course. It was a very hot day so not too much hiking, but it was an amazing contrast of landscape from what we had previously seen in America. You can see more about Death Valley on our post here!
Furthermore Bodie was at the top of our list after seeing some abandoned photos online. A historic little mining town completely empty with many houses and the factory still in place. We easily hiked around for more than 2 hours here seeing each little home and the church. You can see more about Bodie on our post here!
2. Our US Motel Experiences
We visited a total of 3 motels during our road trip, which we had chosen based on their locations and of course the price! The one we enjoyed the most was Knights Inn at Cedar City, super clean place with free breakfast. It was a little old fashioned but that really gave us the typical American motel feel, with old yellow/green colours and the typical wooden furniture you would expect. We loved that you could park right outside too!
We were planning on heading to Zion NP from this location the next day, but thunderstorms woke us up in the night and we knew we’d have to change our plans. You can check out our Zion Hiking post here!
3. Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour, AZ
This was AMAZING! If you have the time (and the money) to spend on a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon, we totally recommend it! This was actually a surprise for me on an early morning in Las Vegas, with my partner telling me to set the alarm and get ready for 06:30am! He had booked a morning helicopter flight to the west part of the Grand Canyon and we were lucky to be chosen to sit in the front seats!
Read all about our Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour on our full post here!
4. Waking Up To Unexpected -4°c Snow After 40°c in Death Valley!
This was an awesome surprise in the little area of June Lake where we stayed the night. Opening our curtains to the fresh white snow was very pretty at June Lake. Unfortunately this stopped us going to Yosemite, so that sucked! None-the-less that didn’t stop us enjoying breakfast at the famous Tiger Bar and via Tahoe Lake to San Francisco for an extra day there instead. Gives us a good excuse to go back to Yosemite one day.
Check out our 40°c to -4°c snowy night stop at June Lake in detail here!
5. Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
One of the best things we did in our short 2 days in San Francisco was renting some bicycles at Fisherman’s Wharf and cycling all the way to the Bridge, with the plan to cycle up the other side for the viewpoint!
This was such a fun highlight as we had great sunshine weather and clear skies. We also no longer had the car so it was an active way to get around and explore the city like the locals. We are active cyclists at home so we had no problems getting around by bike in San Francisco.
You can check out the whole route we cycled on our post here!
6. Feeling Intimidated in Area 51, Rachel
Have you been to the main entrance gate of the famous military / suspected alien base? before we headed to the main gate out of curiosity and a photo, we decided to head to the back entrance… oh how nerve-racking, scary and thrilling that was!
You follow a long dirt track, past a small building with cattle, then we got lost and took some more dirt track until we were confronted with the well known white security SUV’s that patrol the gates. We knew we were close to the back entrance as we were seeing more and more small white security cameras but what made us stop and panic was the white SUV sat at the top of the hill, looking down on us. The closer we got, the more it moved towards us and it freaked us out! That’s of course what they want to do, to make sure we wouldn’t get any closer. At this point we turned around and went to the main entrance instead!
We wrote a post about our full exploration at Area 41 and the famous Alien Cafe here!
7. Getting Stopped By The Police, Whoops!
When you first see this title, you must think we did something pretty bad to get stopped by the police. Well, we decided to go down Lee Ferry Road, close to Navajo Bridge to stop down by the Colorado river for a snack. Speed limit was around 15mph (24kph) and I got stopped for doing 20mph (30kph) – oops!
It was just like in the movies, blue flashing lights and speeding up behind us, which was totally not needed as it was literally just us and the police on the long empty road. I of course followed up by giving my license and registration of our rented car. My license check came back fast and good, since I’ve never had any problems. However our rental car registration was actually outdated! We were so worried that we would have to pay the suspected $900+ fine that she told us first, but let us off with a warning to get it sorted at our next stop in Arizona.
Realistically, this fine would have gone to the rental company Avis (which we were told by Avis ourselves after complaining). However at the time we didn’t know for sure and were pretty agitated and unhappy that Avis had not given us an updated registration in the first place for inside the car. Plus we never did enjoy our snack down by the river. Still a highlight after all!
8. Driving Through The US
One thing we truly enjoyed was driving in the US. It was amazing to drive on the big wide roads through the landscape! At first we didn’t have a clue what to expect and had even watched some Youtube videos to see the differences from driving in Europe. After 2 weeks worth road trip activities, we had finished with this amazing moment: arriving in San Francisco through the tunnel and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time!!
We’ve written all about our driving experience in the US from our own EU experience.
9. Exploring the Meteor Crater, AZ
The size of this Meteor Crater is massive and truly impressive to see in person. It is 1,200 m (3,900 ft) in diameter and around 170 m (560 ft) deep. Even with seeing photos of it online, to see it in person is needed. It was formed more than 50,000 years ago but only discovered as a meteor crater in 1891 by Albert E. Foote, after years before that people thought it was just a volcano. We were lucky to arrive around the same time as the last daily tour was starting, totally recommended if your visiting as you learn so much more from the expert guide than the signs and museum.
Theres even a small aeroplane in the crater that once crashed inside, I bet you can’t see the wing in the photo below! To find out where it is, check out our full post here.
10. American Treats!
Walking around a local Walmart for the first time was a big difference to our usual food shop in the Netherlands. We bought new sweets, weird crisp flavours and random snacks that we had never heard of before. Such as red velvet oreo’s to peanut butter crackers, which we took on our Amtrak journey. Food was definitely part of our US Road trip highlights!
But what we also loved was eating out at local restaurants in America. For example like visiting a classic delicious Route 66 Galaxy Diner, with a delicious chicken burger and fries. This just had to be within our US road trip highlights!
11. Travelling Together!
One of my best highlights is being able to travel together with my partner and experience all these things for the first time with him. It’s so lovely to have found someone to be able to do this. Without him I would likely be less willing to do something as adventurous as this on my own. We might not have everything in common (which is totally not needed) but our interests in travel work really well.
I can’t wait to explore our next location together!
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Have you ever travelled through the US with a road trip? What was your US road trip highlights? Let us know in the comments!