California to Minnesota Including 4 National Parks

California to Minnesota: An Epic 7,000-Mile Road Trip Embarking on our longest journey yet, Lorna and I set out on a two-month, 7,000-mile adventure across the Western United States. With 12 stops along the way, we traversed mountains, prairies, and forests as we explored the country’s natural beauty. Our journey began at Huntington Lake in California’s Sierra Nevada, where we joined a group of friends for our annual trip. From there, we drove to Laramie, Wyoming, to visit our grandson before continuing on to Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave National Park. We also made stops at Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower National Monument, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Itasca State Park, Voyageurs National Park, Interstate State Park, a visit to Minneapolis before concluding our trip at Grand Mesa CO. Join usas I recount the highlights of this incredible adventure.

You can adjust this itinerary as to starting point or length of stay in the park to suit time or family.

Stop 1: ,Huntington Lake in the Sierra Nevada

Huntington Lake with clouds and trees reflected in the water

This is an annual trip we do with some friends and has been the starting point for some of our trips. it is a great lake to kayak.

Stop 2: ,Laramie WY

murals of fish painted on walls

Our Grandson is going to school here and wanting to visit him was the whole reason for this trip. We thought since we are going to Wyoming we might as well make a road trip out of it.

Stop 3: , Badlands National Park

Jagged rock formation called the pinnacles with a cloudy blue sky

Badlands is an awesome park and we stayed here for 3 days. There is a great Loop Road drive and many hiking trails to explore.

Stop 4: ,Custer State Park SD

BISON in a grassy meadow

This was our base camp for exploring Custer, Wind Cave NP, and Mount Rushmore. We were here for 3 days and there is so much wildlife and sites to see that we stayed busy the whole time.

Stop 5: , Wind Cave NP

Formation in the cave wall

We took a tour of the cave and explored the mixed-grass prairie.

Stop 6: ,Mount Rushmore

Memorial with the presidents, framed by pine trees, and a cloudy blue sky

We had seen so many images of this place over the years that it was good to finally see it in person.

Stop 7: ,Devils Tower WY

Devils Tower weather, cloudy, blue sky, and trees in the foreground

It was fun exploring around the tower and watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind at night.

Stop 8: Theodore Roosevelt NP

Bison grazing on the hillside

We stayed at the Buffalo Gap Resort and had 5 days to tour the North and South units and visit Medora for shopping and dining.

Stop 9: ,Voyageurs NP

Kayaker on a Calm lake with an island in the distance

This is such an awesome park that if it was closer to San Diego it would be an annual trip for us. We were here for 11 days and had a marvelous time. Forget the bison and the crowds, this was like a spiritual experience.

Stop 10: ,Interstate, 2 Parks in 1

The Saint Croix river with Wisconsin on one side, and Minnesota on the other with clouds, reflected in the river

This park straddles the St. Croix River and has campgrounds in MN and WI. We could launch our kayaks in MN and land in WI in 5 minutes.

Stop 11: ,Tourists in Minneapolis

Ford Street Bridge in Minneapolis across the Mississippi river

Since we hadn’t been in the area before we wanted to see the Twin Cities. The highlights were Ford Street Bridge, George Floyd Square, and The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Stop 12: ,Grand Mesa CO

 Sunset Lake with clouds and trees reflected in the calm water

This was our second time at Grand Mesa. We were here 2 years earlier and enjoyed it so much that we came back for a longer stay. We camped here for 9 days.

On to the first stop: Annual Bash at Huntington Lake

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