We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

9 posts
Save Topic
Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

Hi all,

I am planning an epic return to the east coast road trip with my father. I will have my Honda loaded down with my belongings as I am a travel therapist returning from West coast back to East coast for a job.

A few things:

My Dad is 60 and although is looking forward to the trip, is not a HUGE “sightsee-er.” He’ll indulge me, but he’s not about to go traipsing through the city for adventures.

He also is not a big hiker, but we both want to see some National park sites.

I’d like to ideally take 10 days- 2 weeks but no more for this trip!

General plan and itinerary are as follows:

6/16: I leave Santa Barbara, CA. Drive up to see Big Sur (which I have to go North and then go south again due to road closures). Stay in Santa Cruz.

6/17: Drive to San Fran and pick him up. Plan to eat lunch, explore, take a Bay cruise. Drive to Santa Rosa for the night.

3. Drive north through Avenue of the Giants, see the Redwoods, etc.

4. Portland, OR

5. Seattle, WA

6. Onto and through some of Montana

7. Yellowstone

8. South Dakota- Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Badlands

9. Minnesota?

10. Chicago!

From there it’s really smooth sailing back to RI.

My questions for the group: any must sees on the route? any suggestions for towns or places to stay? Beyond my first two nights I don’t have any accommodations booked, because I don’t know where we’ll end up.

Also, in terms of National Parks- considering we are going to see some Yellowstone, some Badlands- is it worth it to get the America the Beautiful pass? Or just pay the entrance fees at each one?

Any, all help and advice appreciated! I’m excited to see even more of our beautiful country!!!!

19 replies to this topic
Dubois, Wyoming
Destination Expert
for Lander, Dubois, Riverton
Level Contributor
354 posts
51 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

When are you planing to travel? This will determine whether seeing Yellowstone is an option.

Sachse, Texas
Level Contributor
4,432 posts
823 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)


You could consider one day for Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming.

Vestal, New York
Destination Expert
for Auburn, Finger Lakes
Level Contributor
10,547 posts
197 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

Coeur d'Alene ID or Missoula MT would be a good overnight between Seattle and YNP.

Buffalo would be good between YNP and the Black Hills.

What interests you in Minnesota? It is not en route to Chicago from the Black Hills.

Are you considering any time in Wisconsin? It is more en route. Madison and Milwaukee are both worth stops IMO.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Level Contributor
8,238 posts
86 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

Kindly describe the certification required for a "Travel Therapist" position ... carracar

9 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

Sorry! Starting next weekend!

9 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

That’s an excellent suggestion on Wisconsin. That may be more the route we take then. I have heard Madison is a fun town!

9 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

@carracar I don’t want to hijack this thread on all that. Thanks though! Google travel physical therapist for more info 😊

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
33,375 posts
496 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

You will need reservations in and around the national parks as this is a busy time for vacations.

You will not have a lot of time for seeing the sights in places like Yellowstone which has over 300 miles of roads and travel is super slow with wildlife, etc.

Yellowstone typically takes 3 days and a bare minimum of 2 with 1 day for adjacent park- the Grand Tetons.

It is a 2 day drive from Seattle to Yellowstone/Tetons then a full day drive to the Black Hills/Mt. Rushmore/Badlands area of SD.

Think you are under estimating what you can actually see and do in your 10 day to 2 week time frame.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
3,613 posts
298 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

I would be very leery of leaving a "loaded" car unattended in parking lots or along roadsides while you go off hiking or sightseeing . You are begging for a break-in if your belongings are visible.

Level Contributor
1,320 posts
153 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)

You can really enjoy the Redwoods without a lot of serious hiking but do get out of the car to take a couple short strolls among those awesome trees! If time allows take coastal route up coast of Oregon - incredible scenery, lighthouses, picturesque towns. little Big Horn National Monument in Montana would make a nice stop for an hour or more - close to your route, I'd think.

Is Seattle a 'must do'? If not, you can head west from Portland through Columbia River Gorge & onto Idaho to Montana... gives you more time in other places. Agree Coeur D'Alene is a very pretty stop with lake to enjoy.

If you can't give more than 1 night/day to Yellowstone, I wouldn't bother to dip down to that area. And with no reservations in the area at this point, a stay could be problematic. You could slow the trip while in SD & spend a night in the Black Hills for Mt Rushmore, Custer S.P., Crazy Horse Memorial & spend another night near Badlands N.P. Your dad might enjoy a tour of Minuteman Missile sit... I'm around his age (child of the cold War era) and we were fascinated by the ranger-led tour. It doesnt take a long time but you have to sign up for it.

Have fun & safe travels!

Reply to: Road trip from CA to RI- lots of Qs- Help !:)
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted