Phoenix is known for its high-end spas, exciting nightclubs, challenging golf courses, and hot weather. If you're looking to escape the Valley of the Sun during summer, consider taking a road trip to cooler pastures in Chicago. As you travel east, you will head along Interstate 40. This route is also parallel to the historic Route 66, and you could head off the interstate to explore the small towns of America. Once you hit Chicago, you will need to spend a few days enjoying all the attractions, museums, and dining establishments. On this road trip from Phoenix to Chicago, there are plenty of adventures for you to experience.
When planning your road trip itinerary from Phoenix to Chicago, you should make plans to stop by a few national parks. If you need help choosing the right stops along your route, RVshare has an informative national parks guide.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most iconic destinations in the United States. Every year, over 6 million visitors head here to hike through the park or take a look over the canyon ridge. The Grand Canyon encompasses over 1.2 million acres, and it includes the massive canyon that was carved by the Colorado River. Visitors can enjoy many recreational activities, including mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and rafting. If you're interested in some ranger-led activities, be sure to take a guided hike, participate in a geological lecture, or join a wildlife talk.
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park covers over 200 square miles of desert in eastern Arizona. Named for the fossilized wood in the region, this park is home to numerous petroglyphs and wildlife, including bobcats, coyotes, and pronghorns. Throughout the park, you can see about 200 species of birds. Since humans have inhabited the park for 8,000 years, there are over 600 archaeological sites for you to visit. With the surreal landscape, you will want to head out for some outdoor fun. Backpacking, horseback riding, and hiking are some of the most popular activities in the park. This national park also hosts ranger-led guided tours and cultural demonstrations.
White Sands National Park
In 2019, White Sands was upgraded from a national monument to a national park. These gypsum sand dunes are located in the south-central part of New Mexico, and the park covers over 275 square miles of desert. The region is home to a variety of animal life, including bobcats, coyotes, and roadrunners. Many people head to this park to sled down the dunes or explore the area on a hike. Throughout the park, there have been discoveries of fossilized footprints from mammoths, dire wolves, and saber-toothed cats.
While you are heading out on your Phoenix to Chicago RV road trip, you should take a day or two to explore some state parks. If you want to find the best options near you, check out RVshare's state park guide.
Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park is only 40 miles from Phoenix, and it is located in the Superstition Mountains. According to legend, the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is hidden in the mountains. This park covers over 320 acres of the beautiful desert landscape. At this park, there is plenty of native wildlife, including jackrabbits and mules. Many visitors come to the park to hike, backcountry camp, or look for that elusive gold mine.
Bottomless Lakes State Park
With over 1,440 acres of red rock cliffs and bluish-green lakes, the first state park in New Mexico offers a lot to visitors. Bottomless Lakes State Park is named after the "bottomless" lakes in the area. However, these lakes are only sinkholes that were formed when the Pecos River collapsed into underwater caverns. The local aquatic plants give the lake its unusual color that creates an illusion of depth. In fact, the lakes are only 17 to 90 feet deep. If you want to enjoy water sports on your trip, this is the perfect spot for kayaking and swimming. There are also fishing spots at Cottonwood Lake and Devil's Inkwell. For those who want to stay on land, you can hike the trails or look for wildlife.
Robbers Cave State Park
Nestled in the San Bois Mountains, this state park is about 5 miles from Wilburton, Oklahoma. Robbers Cave State Park marks the infamous hideout of outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr. Today, the park is a popular spot for equestrians, hunters, hikers, anglers, and nature lovers. With over 8,000 acres of land, the park is also home to Coon Creek Lake, Lake Carlton, and Lake Wayne Wallace. In addition to the lakes, there is a swimming beach, campground, and nature center. Those who want to see the local wildlife can usually spot the white-tailed deer and wild turkeys roaming the area.
Desert Botanical Garden
Founded in 1937, this 140-acre garden is located in Phoenix. Today, the garden has more than 50,000 plants, which include an extensive collection of cacti and agave. The exhibits focus on plants from California, South America, and Australia. There are many ecosystems represented in the garden, including the semidesert grassland, mesquite bosque, and upland chaparral.
Phoenix Art Museum
This is the largest museum of visual arts in the southwestern United States. In the collection, you will find over 18,000 works of art from American, Asian, European, and Latin American artists. This location has been used as a community center that hosts independent art festivals, live performances, and educational programs throughout the year.
The Old Town area is the original site of Albuquerque, and it includes about 10 blocks of adobe buildings. In the area, you can visit the historic San Felipe de Neri Church. This popular tourist destination has a large number of shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Blue Whale of Catoosa
If you are looking for a quirky roadside attraction, you will not want to miss the Blue Whale. This waterfront structure is located east of Catoosa, Oklahoma. The Blue Whale is one of the most recognizable attractions on Route 66. Be sure to stop by to take a picture of this iconic landmark.
Located in Chicago's Museum Campus, this is the country's most visited aquarium. When it was built, the Shedd Aquarium was the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. In the collection, there are over 1,500 species of birds, marine mammals, fish, and amphibians.
During your Phoenix to Chicago road trip, you will pass several notable cities. In addition to featuring some cool attractions, these cities boast excellent campgrounds and dump stations to help keep your rig sanitary.
With a history that dates back to the early 1700s as a Spanish colony, Albuquerque is the largest town in New Mexico. The Old Town area is filled with historic buildings and Native American craft shops. You can learn about the tribal history of the area at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. When you are done for the day, you can find a campground for the night. For a free dump station, stop at one of the many Giant service station options in the area.
Known for its art deco buildings, Tulsa is located in Oklahoma right on the Arkansas River. This city was once known as the "Oil Capital of the World." If you want to see evidence of the 20th-century oil boom, visit the Philtower and Philcade buildings. Tulsa is home to many campgrounds where you can relax after a busy day. Try the Estes RV Park if you want a campground in the city with a dump station
This Missouri town features some exciting attractions, including the Fantastic Caverns and Nathanael Greene Memorial Park. If you want something to do with the kids, the Dickerson Park Zoo has a collection of animals from around the world. When traveling through the Ozark Highlands, you can find a couple of campgrounds to park your RV.
There are so many things to see and do on this trip, which could take anywhere from a few days to over a week. That's why you should think about planning your Phoenix to Chicago road trip itinerary in advance. If you are looking for a unique experience, book an RV rental from RVshare. You can find a wide selection of rentals in Phoenix and Chicago. On this exciting adventure, you will make memories that will last a lifetime.