Top 10 Van Life Destinations in US

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So many travelers think they have to go far and wide to find a place worth exploring. After spending so much time in my own backyard here in the US, I’m here to tell ya.. we have some amazing places to offer! There’s BLM land around the best national parks, community hot spots in random cities, and landmarks that I could stare at for days. Although this list deserves to be many more than just 10, I tried to put together the places in the US that offer as many of those qualities as possible. These are the Top 10 destinations to take your van when traveling the US!

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#10

THE ADIRONDACK PARK

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Adirondack Park | @zone3photo
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Adirondack Park | @zone3photo

The east coast gets forgotten about all the time when it comes to van life because we all seem to move west most of the year. However, the Adirondack area is gorgeous and has a totally different feel than the west coast. Spring and fall are the best two times to go and when you do, prepare for an abundance of colors and super warm tones throughout the entire park. There are several waterfalls you have to see like OK Slip Falls, T Lake Falls, and Beaver Meadow Falls. 

#9

UPPER PENINSULA

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Hungarian Falls | Shalee Blackmer
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Porcupine Mountains | Shalee Blackmer

Before I ever went to Michigan, I didn’t understand why people were telling me to go. I had spent my entire life in the midwest and there was no way any part of it was as good as what I imagined the west coast to be. That was until I spent an October in the UP. When it’s just getting chilly but the colors are perfectly changing, this part of Michigan is a must. Everything is so vibrant no matter where you look. When you’re here, definitely check out Hungarian Falls which is a beautiful set of waterfalls and The Porcupine Mountains. I also spent a good amount of time at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was amazing! 

THE BEST GUIDE BOOK:

If you plan on visiting the UP anytime soon, I recommend picking up this guide book to make sure you don’t miss anything! It’s the one I have and is loaded with all the greatest hikes there.

#8

SAN DIEGO

San Diego has been one of my favorite cities to visit in the van since the moment I got there. I had never been and it was immediately so welcoming. The entire city is really dog- friendly which makes things so easy with Ella. There’s Dog Beach where dozens of dogs are always running around and it’s awesome to let her get some exercise. Cafe Bella is super close by and has the best coffee. Plant Power has amazing vegan fast food. But the real, real reason for why I love SD so much is the community here. Fiesta Island has van gatherings every other month and usually have about 100+ vans show up. It’s really common to see other vans and RVs around San Diego so you can make friends within the first day of being here.

#7

CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK

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Glacier National Park | @benzbri

Most of Oregon is pretty perfect but Crater Lake is hard to beat. It has insanely blue water and a really unique view because of it’s shape. I’m not a big cold weather fan but Crater Lake really does look even better when it’s snow capped and looks like a winter wonderland. There’s plenty of hiking to do here and I highly recommend going to Pummice Point, Palisade Point, and Discovery Point. If you have the time, all 17 viewpoints are well worth your time though.

#6

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK

Have you ever wanted to escape the world and be dropped right in the middle of a fairytale? If so, head to Sequoia. I knew it would be pretty but I had no idea how enchanted it would feel. With the massive trees that are older than all of us and tower over your head, you feel like you’re running around in a land far, far away. Driving around this park was a dream and when you’re ready to call it a day, there’s tons of free camping in Sequoia National Forest.

GET THE GUIDE BOOK:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon has so many specific attractions to see and tons of places for camping. If you want to be sure not to miss anything, this is the guide book that I recommend! It has all the trails you don’t want to miss.

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#5

YELLOWSTONE & GRAND TETON

Okay these might secretly be my number one but it was getting too hard to decide. If you can make it to the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area during fall, you will never want to go any other time of year. The colors are absolutely incredible and the Tetons are stunning. Yellowstone is just north of Grand Teton and practically a requirement (by me) to go to both. There’s so much to see in both parks and Cody is a small city nearby to pickup anything you need before heading in. There are also several places to camp for free near that are really close to the parks so I recommend that if you don’t want to stay at the paid campgrounds.

#4

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

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Glacier National Park| @ryan_houser_18
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Wildlife at Glacier | @englephotography

The only reason this isn’t my number one is because it’s pretty seasonal for us van folk. Glacier NP is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life but it gets freezing to the point that it’s just not even fun in the van during winter. If you have a heater in your van and don’t mind really cold weather, you can year around! But I’m a negative on both of those so warmer months are it for me. That being said, it’s still an absolute must see and will blow your mind. Some of the best views you could ever ask for will come from this place.

#3

FLAGSTAFF & SEDONA

If hiking is your thing, this is the place to go! Sedona has the Red Rocks which has endless hiking and so much to see. Flagstaff is the cutest little area to walk around and visit different shops and sign up for activities. Pizza Patio is also in Flagstaff and it’s my all time favorite vegan pizza place. They have a huge vegan menu which is just really appreciated. But Sedona and Flagstaff are both beautiful and you could spend weeks hiking all the trails around here.

THE BEST GUIDE BOOK:

There’s way too much to see in Flagstaff and Sedona which makes it easy to miss some of the best! This guide book has all the best trails and spots you definitely want to see while you’re there.

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#2

SOUTHERN UTAH

This made it as #2 because there’s nowhere else in the country (in my opinion) with more to see than Southern Utah. Bryce Canyon is one of my favorite parks which is right next to Zion. Both of these parks have completely different views to offer and all of it is worth your time. Right on the border of Arizona, you can visit Horsehoe Bend which is also pretty famous and really interesting. A little east of that is Monument Valley. This has a really amazing scenic drive and the famous shot at Forest Gump Point. Last but not least, Peek A Book Gulch is the awesome slot canyon in the photo above. Antelope Canyon is really expensive and I was determined to find a slot canyon that suffice and was free. This one was a winner and you get to experience some really narrow passages that offer great photo opportunities.

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#1

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Yosemite National Park is hands down my favorite place in the States. You might disagree but that would make you crazy (kidding, kind of!). If you’re someone looking for the best views, this is the place you have to go. It’s jaw dropping everywhere you look and there’s so much wildlife which just adds to the beauty. I watched a deer cross through the water and it brought tears to my eyes because of how stunning the full image was of everything around me. It was so peaceful and quiet. There’s free camping outside the park and enough to do here for days. If you ever get the chance to go, I couldn’t recommend it more!

THE BEST GUIDE BOOK:

Yosemite is the BEST and I already know I didn’t get to see everything it has to offer. I’m definitely going back with this guide book to check off all the things I didn’t get to see last time.

I know I can’t include everything here but I wanted to shed a little light on my personal favorites in the States. We have a lot to offer in our own backyard and going international isn’t always necessary. Between the free camping on BLM, the community, and the views, there are so many factors that go into making a place suitable for van life. These were just the places that made me feel like van life was the best decision I could’ve made. I hope they make you feel the same!

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