Chicago and San Francisco are two of America’s most iconic cities, so who could blame you for wanting to take a Chicago to San Francisco road trip? The second part of your trip will feature many national parks. There will also be plenty of state parks to visit, great tourist attractions to check out, and exciting cities to explore. Building an awesome road trip itinerary from Chicago to San Francisco is easy, so let’s hit the road without further ado.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is about halfway into your road trip from Chicago to San Francisco, but it’s well worth the wait. It’s about two hours northwest of Denver, so it’s not too far out of your way. You can summit Longs Peak at this park, hike to some incredible waterfalls, and encounter moose, black bears, and other mountain animals. Horseback tours are popular here, as is setting out on your own for a great hiking adventure.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is the first of three jaw-dropping national parks you’ll encounter on this particular stretch of Interstate 70 in lovely Utah. It's 40.7 miles from Crescent Junction. It’s world-famous for its gorgeous, graceful sandstone arches that are a delight to photographers and tourists alike. You won’t have to work hard to take once-in-a-lifetime photos here. Canyoneering and rock climbing are popular here, thanks to the park’s great desert environment. Once you’re done exploring here, you can head across the town of Moab and explore Canyonlands National Park, which is also full of beautiful canyons and red rock desert scenery. Capitol Reef National Park isn’t too far down the road, either, so be sure to stop there and get your fill of red rocks and wild desert beauty.
Zion National Park
Once you hit Interstate 15 in Utah, you’ll pass by two great national parks. Zion National Park is the second of these and is 23.5 miles from Toquerville. In fact, humans have inhabited this area for thousands of years, so many generations of people have appreciated the beauty of this 15-mile swath of Zion Canyon. A fan favorite here is The Narrows, a deep gorge created by the Virgin River. You can wade through this shallow river for several miles while looking at the towering canyon walls. Bryce Canyon National Park is also nearby; be sure to check out its unique rock formations called hoodoos.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is also a desert environment—and an extreme one at that—but its flavor is totally different from that of the Utah desert parks. It's located 100 miles from Baker. This is the place to go if you want to visit the location of the world’s hottest temperature on record. Salt flats, sand dunes, and some of the world’s hardiest wildlife are on display thanks to several trails of differing levels of toughness. Badwater Basin, Mosaic Canyon, Desolation Canyon, and more await you at Death Valley National Park. Should you desire to experience a gentler desert environment, you should also stop by Joshua Tree National Park on your Chicago to San Francisco RV road trip.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is 105 miles from Tracy. You’ll pass by Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park first; both are definitely worth a visit. However, Yosemite is on another level thanks to renowned locations like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Soda Springs. There are plenty of great public and private RV parks at Yosemite, so you can prolong your road trip from Chicago to San Francisco by staying here as long as you want.
Rock Cut State Park
Rock Cut State Park is just north of Rockford, Illinois, so it’s the first item on your road trip itinerary from Chicago to San Francisco. Covered wagons once forded the Rock River near here, so it’s a historically relevant state park. Olson Lake Beach is a great place to go swimming, while Pierce Lake is ideal for fishing. There are multiple trails in the park for hiking, riding, and biking.
Prairie Rose State Park
Not too far from Interstate 80 and Harlan, Iowa, is Prairie Rose State Park. Prairie Rose Lake is a popular fishing and swimming place, so this is a great place to go if you want to catch some bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish. In the winter, people love to go snowmobiling and skiing here.
Highline State Park
Between Grand Junction and the Colorado/Utah border is Highline State Park. Its center is Highline Lake, which is often used for paddling, kayaking, canoeing, and a variety of other water sports. If you love birdwatching, then Highline State Park is the place for you. Thousands of birds migrate through the area annually, so the Audubon Society has designated this park an important place for birds and birdwatchers alike.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Before you hit Bakersfield, California, and that great stretch of National Parks not far from Interstate 5, you’ll want to stop by Red Rock Canyon State Park. This park features 27,000 acres of stunning rock formations, desert cliffs, local wildlife, and buttes. You can even find ancient petroglyphs here.
Hearst San Simeon State Park
No road trip from Chicago to San Francisco is complete without making a stop on the California coast. Hearst San Simeon State Park is an excellent coastal park to visit because it has several different preserves. It's 88 miles from Kettleman City. You can visit the San Simeon Natural Preserve, the Santa Rosa Creek Preserve, and the Pa-Nu Cultural Preserve.
Just 20 miles south of Kearney in the middle of Nebraska's southern part is Pioneer Village. This complex of 20 acres contains 12 historic buildings and a total of 28 buildings altogether. More than 50,000 historical items are on display here, giving you a chance to get a feel for pioneer life.
Denver Art Museum
In the heart of Downtown Denver, you’ll find the Denver Art Museum. The museum has 12 collections containing more than 70,000 works of art from all around the world. This is a great place to go if you have kids because children 18 and under get into the museum for free.
Parashant National Monument
If you want to see the Grand Canyon without going all the way to Grand Canyon National Park, you can simply travel south 21.6 miles from St. George to Parashant National Monument instead. You can go to the edge of the Grand Wash Cliffs and gaze into the Grand Canyon without the large crowds you’ll face at the national park.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Your route takes you so close to the Los Angeles area that you can easily visit this iconic American city. If you want to easily get the feel of this unique city, you can do so on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some of Hollywood’s greatest stars have their names inside of literal stars on this legendary street in the City of Angels.
Mission Peak Regional Preserve
Instead of rushing to reach the Bay area, you should take one last chance to explore nature on your road trip from Chicago to San Francisco. At Mission Peak Regional Preserve, you can hike to the top of Mission Peak and see some of California’s other great mountains and vistas. It's only 18 miles from Dougherty.
Des Moines, Iowa
The capital of Iowa is a great place to explore on your road trip. You’ll be able to take advantage of many dump stations and campgrounds in the area while you visit places like the Des Moines Art Center and the Blank Park Zoo.
Omaha has great tourist attractions like the Henry Doorly Zoo, Lauritzen Gardens, and the Joslyn Art Museum. You’ll be able to tend to your trailer at multiple local dump stations and park your camper at some area campgrounds.
Denver is home to a host of excellent points of interest like Union Station, Mount Evans, and the Denver Zoo. There are numerous dump stations and campgrounds in this area for the many tourists this city attracts.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Many of Vegas’s numerous casinos and complexes have dump stations and campgrounds for the those who visit Sin City. The Las Vegas Strip, Hoover Dam, and the Mob Museum are all great places to have fun in Vegas.
Before you cross the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge into San Francisco itself, you should stop and explore Oakland. Multiple dump stations and campgrounds in the area are available. Places to visit include the Oakland Museum of California, the Oakland Zoo, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Chicago to San Francisco, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Chicago or San Francisco.