Western mountain range with trees.

The Best Road Trips in the West

Rafting the Merced River in spring 2022.

Explore the Road to Whitewater

The classic road trip vacation is undeniably nostalgic. If the lure of the open road is calling, let these action-packed itinerary ideas from some of the West’s biggest travel hubs be your inspiration to get out there. And because we couldn’t help ourselves, they all lead to at least one unforgettable rafting adventure.

Even if you don’t love whitewater as much as we do, you’ll find there’s no shortage of incredible sites and stops to experience on these nine adventurous Western road trip routes.

Ready to hit the road?

Here are some of the best road trips in the West:

  1. Denver to Dinosaur National Monument Loop
  2. Scenic Route to the Lower Salmon & Hells Canyon from Portland
  3. Tahoe to Yosemite Loop
  4. Los Angeles to Yosemite Road Trip
  5. San Francisco/Sacramento to the Sierra Nevada (serious whitewater-lovers only!)
  6. San Francisco to Southern Oregon Loop
  7. Epic Southern Oregon Road Trip from Portland
  8. The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip
  9. The Classic Western Road Trip to Yellowstone & Grand Teton 3 Ways
Woman enjoying the breeze on a roadtrip.

1. Colorado Road Trip: Denver to Dino Loop

From the towering peaks of the Flat Tops Wilderness to the ancient red rock canyons and exciting whitewater within Dinosaur National Monument, this bucket list road trip from Denver makes for an outdoor adventure you’ll never forget.

2. The Best Road Trip From Portland Nobody Knows About

On this short and sweet road trip, leave the city behind and explore scenic Highway 14 as you wind your way through the Columbia River Gorge on the way to Lewiston, ID–the gateway to several of Idaho’s renowned river canyons, including the Gorges of the Lower Salmon.

Woman enjoying a view of a waterfall in Yosemite.

3. California Road Trip: The Tahoe to Yosemite Loop

This unforgettable California road trip takes you from the mesmerizing blue waters of Lake Tahoe to the raging waterfalls of Yosemite and back. Along the way, pass over stunning mountain passes, stop for some whitewater action, stretch your legs on a hike or two, and enjoy a dip in a natural hot spring.

Woman in a river on the Los Angeles road trip.

4. Los Angeles to Yosemite Road Trip

If you’re in Southern California, it doesn’t get better than this bucket list road trip, which takes you on the road less traveled from Los Angeles to the granite wonderland of Yosemite and back. Explore the majestic Eastern Sierra, go off-the-beaten-path in the park, and take on some of the state’s most thrilling whitewater.

Half dome in Yosemite.

5. Ultimate California Road Trip for Adventure-Lovers

An easy excursion from San Francisco or Sacramento, this adventure through California’s Sierra Nevada, including rafting on four different stretches of river and a layover in Yosemite National Park, is big on thrills, scenery, and fun. It’s definitely for serious whitewater lovers.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

6. Go Rogue: San Francisco to Southern Oregon Road Trip

This action-packed road trip from San Francisco starts with a visit to Lassen National Park before taking you across the Oregon border for one of the most classic multi-day whitewater rafting trips in the West. After ditching the car for a few days, you’ll return to the road to explore California’s iconic Highway 1 back to San Francisco.

Tent set up in the woods in Oregon.

7. Oregon Road Trip: Portland to the Rogue Loop

This southern Oregon road trip has a little something for everyone. You’ll stand-up paddle the Deschutes through the heart of Bend, hike Crater Lake National Park, and raft down the Wild & Scenic Rogue River, before exploring the scenic Oregon coast on the way back to Portland.

Woman under an arch in Moab.

8. Hit the Road: Salt Lake City to Moab

This lollipop loop from Salt Lake City to Moab takes you through the heart of red rock country to all five of Utah’s iconic national parks, plus Bears Ears National Monument. It’s the ultimate southwest road trip adventure.

People floating down a river in tubes in Wyoming.

9. Wyoming Road Trip: 3 Epic Routes to Yellowstone & Grand Teton

This is the classic Western road trip. From where to stop to stretch your legs or grab a good meal to the cool attractions you won’t want to miss along the way, we’ve compiled some of the best stops on the road to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks from three major hubs—Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.

Discover your next OARS Adventure

Half dome in Yosemite.

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