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The Great Northern USA Road Trip - Outdoor Adventure Guide
The Best Hiking and Camping Destinations Along Route 2, The Northern USA Road Trip For Cross-Country Trekkers
The Variety of Terrain Found Along Route 2 is Incredible! - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
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A road trip is always a great way to enjoy the abundance of natural beauty you’ll find in the US. However, if you want to experience the natural attractions unique to North America, embarking on the Great Northern USA Road Trip along the Northern Route is an excellent idea. This route offers a stark contrast to the Southwest, and there are plenty of National Parks, untouched open spaces, and natural wonders to explore.
The Great Northern Road Trip spans the United States and Canada, taking you along Route 2 for 3,600 miles between Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan - with a brief foray into central Canada before re-entering the States to traverse Vermont and New Hampshire before ending on the coast of Maine.
There are dozens of ‘official’ stops across the two countries, not to mention as many unofficial ones as you have the time for. However, there are a few destinations in particular we’d like to highlight that people rate as a must-see, so you shouldn’t miss out on these!
If you want to embark on a truly incredible Northern adventure, these are the top outdoor attractions and some of the best hiking trails and camping destinations along the way.
Olympic National Park – Washington, USA
Olympic National Park - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
Olympic National Park is the first true stop along Route 2 (when traversing from the West to the East), and offers temperate climates and miles of walking and hiking trails through lush rainforests and rushing waterfalls.
Each feature of the park, like Kalaloch, Hurricane Ridge and Ruby Beach, has its own charm. Many travelers find that they need to spend a day in each spot to truly experience what it has to offer! Be sure to try the Spruce Railroad, Madison Falls, and July Creek trails. These are all loop trails, perfect day hikes for hikers of all ages!
Click here for more recommended stops along your trip through Washington!
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Glacier National Park – Montana, USA
Glacier National Park - Photo Credit: Daniel Guitierrez
Travelers who venture out to Glacier National Park along the Great Northern Road Trip route can experience breathtaking wildflower blooms, strong-flowing waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife.
There are over 700 miles worth of trails to explore, ample camping opportunities, and lodges and other accommodation available in the park. Additionally, sightseers can explore Lake McDonald and Swiftcurrent Lake for beautiful views and great photography opportunities.
Grand Forks - North Dakota
North Dakota boasts miles of indescribable flat, rural terrain that eventually leads you to the charming town of Grand Forks. Here you’ll find the well-loved Greenway, which is a 35-mile path that runs along the Red River. You can also explore Turtle River State Park, which offers plenty of outdoor activities all throughout the year.
From camping to hiking, from birding to biking, and even cross-country skiing in wintertime - if you’re looking for outdoor adventures, Grand Forks is an ideal stop on your journey.
Click here to read about Staff Writer Scott Carnahan’s epic journey across North Dakota!
Dakota: Legend Country (Part 1)
Duluth – Minnesota, USA
Duluth has long been regarded as a paradise for those who are passionate about the outdoors. Popular destinations such as Canal Park, Park Point, and Spirit Mountain offer spectacular views and amazing natural biodiversity. There are also an abundance of trails, such as the Superior Hiking Trail and the Chester Park Trail, well worth exploring.
For a more social experience, check out the many guided biking and hiking tours available in the area.
Click here for some inspiration for great outdoor activities in Minnesota for all ages!
Kayaking and Canoeing the Great Lakes in the Golden Years
Mackinaw City - Michigan, USA
Michigan's Great Lakes - Photo Credit: Abby Voce
The Mackinaw City and regional KOA's boast gorgeous accommodation in close proximity to some of Michigan’s most popular natural highlights. Travelers can find several types of camping and RV sites available, complete with full utility services, modern facilities, convenience stores, and much-loved hiking trails such as the Mackinaw City Headlands Loop and the picturesque Shoreline Trail.
While in Mackinaw City, be sure to check out Mackinac Island and the Mackinac Bridge, the spectacular geological formations located at Arch Rock, and the untouched, crystal-clear waters of Lake Huron. Informative ferry tours can also be arranged to gain a new perspective of the area - as private cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island.
Consider a detour to Isle Royale National Park while in Northern Michigan!
The Most Remote National Parks in the Contiguous United States
Ottawa – Ontario, CA
Ottawa is home to many popular Canadian attractions, and boasts some of the region’s very best parks, conservation areas, and public green spaces. Gatineau Park and Ottawa’s Greenbelt offer spectacular hiking trails through a diverse range of ecosystems - and walking tours are also popular throughout the entire Ottawa area.
Alternatively, take a leisurely canoe ride along the Ottawa or Rideau Rivers - or if you’re a bit of an adventure junkie, enjoy some of the best white-water rafting opportunities in the world! Be sure to check which waterways are more challenging (or consider a guided tour), as the rivers have different stretches with varying classes of rapids. Know which route you’ll take upfrontm or book a white-water rafting tour to ensure that you don’t end up in Class V rapids when you were intending to enjoy a leisurely paddle!
Montréal – Quebec, CA
The city of Montréal is Canada’s largest French-speaking city, and it offers an abundance of fascinating culture, along with unique architectural and botanical attractions. Travelers can experience a slice of French-Canadian life simply by wandering through the city center, savoring the nearly limitless food options available, and engaging in some regional activities.
This Canadian city is also an adventure seeker’s haven, offering plenty of bike tours, zipline and rafting adventures, hikes to the Mont-Royal Lookout, and more. There are also several iconic national parks in the area - Iles-de-Boucherville National Park and Mont-Saint Bruno National Park to name a few - that offer plenty of camping, trail walking, kayaking, bird-watching and snowshoeing opportunities.
Montréal is an ideal final stop before re-entering the US in Vermont to complete the last leg of your Great Northern Road Trip.
Green and White Mountains - Vermont & New Hampshire, USA
White Mountains, New Hampshire - Photo Credit: Tyler Gemmer
Though far lower in elevation than the mountains of the western part of the country, the hiking opportunities throughout the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire are unparalleled in their beauty and accessibility. The trails in these mountains offer a range of difficulty levels - though generally speaking, the gentler slopes of the Greens offer easier opportunities than the sharp crags of the Whites.
For the curious, adventurous, and/or somewhat masochistic trip planners, consider a short detour off Route 2 down to Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeast, once home of the “worst weather in the world” - with wind speeds that have reached an excess of 230 miles per hour!
Click here for some incredible backpacking destinations in Northern New England!
5 Top Backpacking Trips in the Northeastern US
Acadia National Park – Maine, USA
Acadia National Park, Maine - Photo Credit: Brett Stanton
Technically the end point of the Great Northern Road Trip, this is easily one of the most spectacular locations on the official map. Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the US’s most popular National Parks - and the only one north of Maryland on the Eastern Seaboard! It’s home to an abundance of unique attractions, including Otter Cliff, Acadia’s only sandy beach (aptly known as Sand Beach), and the Wildwood Stables.
The park also boasts numerous hiking trails for hikers of all levels of fitness and skill, and Cadillac Mountain’s summit sunsets are a must-see for those traveling through Acadia!
On The Road Again in North Dakota - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan
When to Plan Your Northern US Road Trip
The Great Northern Road Trip’s many attractions and stop-offs are typically best explored in summer, as this is by far the most temperate (and therefore most popular) time of year to visit the northern US states. Of course this trip can be taken at any time of year, but be prepared for storms and inclement weather to have an impact on your travel plans!
If you’re planning a trip for the summer, be aware that it’s the busiest travel season in the United States. This means that National Parks, accommodation facilities, tourist attractions, and the roads themselves can become crowded! Those aiming for a slower, quieter travel experience should consider planning their road trips for fall or spring. This can also save some money thanks to off-peak season rates.
If you plan to travel the route during the winter, remember to research your destinations to ensure that they’ll be open when you arrive - and be sure to keep an eye on the weather reports as well!
Regardless of the time of the year you’re traveling, you should always ensure that your vehicle is in good condition, that you have the right tires on your vehicle and know how to change them if need be, and that you have local emergency numbers stored on your phone. A basic first aid kit is a must, and basic auto repair skills are a definite plus for a trip like this!
Plan Your Trip with Pathloom
The Great Northern Road Trip introduces travelers to dozens of iconic landmarks, National Parks, and destinations across the United States and Canada - just waiting to be explored!
Now that you’ve learned about some of the must-see highlights of the Great Northern Road Trip, it’s time to start planning your own adventure.
Use Pathloom’s all-in-one app to discover hiking trails, campsites, and trip recommendations for the region of your choice. Then plan and set off on your next great outdoor adventure!
Look for more articles this summer on the Pathloom Blog by guest blogger Kyle R - a writer who enjoys hugging trees, stumps, rocks, and possibly even a random rodent or two in each and every state across the country!
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