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When traveling on a road trip full-time you find that you encounter so many incredible locations to visit and sometimes even park overnight. That being said when starting out on your road trip it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. That is why I asked vanlifers their favorite road trip destinations. They replied with so many incredible locations that we now have a long list of places to see this year! I honestly have not found “The Spot” for me, I don’t have a favorite location yet BUT with this list we will have quite a few places to explore. I think once we hit the Pacific Northwest we will have found our spot and will know where we consider home. For now, I hope you will find some inspiration from some of my favorite Van Lifers who were so generous and willing to give you their favorite road trip destinations!

 

Top Road Trip Destinations for Van Life

 

Free Camping in Jackson, Wyoming

 

Name: Katie Larsen
Instagram@soweboughtavan
Location: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
 

One of the best areas for primitive camping I’ve ever experienced is the surrounding area of Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Between Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the wonderful town of Jackson, this region has an abundance of beautiful scenery and trails to explore. Whether you visit in the heat of the summer or the snowy season of winter, you won’t find a better view while camping. The spot I specifically enjoy has a wonderful overlook of the entire Teton mountain range. Don’t be afraid to find a path of your own and go searching for your own primitive campsite! There are so many options deep down dirt roads and you may just find your own little paradise.

 

 

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Free Camping in Sedona, AZ

  

Name: Sloane
Website: https://searchingforsloane.com/
Location: Sedona, AZ
GPS: 34.7274 , -111.8187
 
Hey! I’m Sloane! I travel full time in my van with my 2 dogs, Zoe and Ren, we have been on the road since February 2019.  We plan to keep traveling and seeing as many sites as possible.  To see spots I enjoy or my guides to cities my website is up to date with the latest tips.  I also have a podcast in which I talk about my journey navigating life as a recovering addict, it is called solo sobriety
 
My favorite spot has been in Sedona, AZ.  If you choose to go there is tons of places to stay off the FR525.  The best way to get into the area is coming in from Sedona using Dry Creek Road.  The reason I like going in from this direction is that 1. You pass a ton of really great trails! 2.  It drops you right into town and Whole Foods, which if you spend any time in Sedona will be your second home. 
 
The spot has both Verizon and AT&T reception allowing you to work and enjoy views at the same time.  Do know that if you are staying in Sedona at peak season you will likely be surrounded by other nomads in this area.  If you are looking to cut off from others don’t expect it from this area. 
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Free Camping in Sedona, AZ

 

Name: Vanessa and Adam
Website: https://vanessaandadam.com/
YoutubeVanessa and Adam 
Location: Sedona, AZ

We have done a full loop of Canada and America now, from Vancouver, BC to Halifax, NS, and Bangor, MN to Clearwater FL, San Diago, CA, and Seattle, WA. We have seen and been to so many places we’d love to go again, but there are a few places that just keep calling us back. The pull to go back to these places is strong, filled with memories of great hikes, nights by the campfire, and stories and laughs shared with new found friends.

One of these locations is Sedona, AZ. The town itself is great, there are so many little cafes and great places to eat, but it is surrounded by beautiful red rock mountains and countless trails for hiking and biking. Even though it can be a busy place, we’ve always found space to ourselves with ample BLM land close by. If you are in the area make sure you stop by and give yourself a few days to fall in love as we did. 

Free Camping in San Luis Obispo

Name: Lexi and Cody

Website: https://www.dynamoultima.com

Instagram: @DynamoUltima

Location: San Luis Obispo

 

It’s so hard to really pick one…Death Valley, Lake Havasu, Umpqua Hot Springs…Let’s say San Luis Obispo near the Botanical Area. We found a spot on a map once and it was such a gem. We stayed here for weeks and it’s amazing. 10 minutes from town and SLO has one of the best farmers markets on Thursday nights! So fun! Lexi and Cody loved it so much they even wrote a blog post on it you can read about here!

Free Camping in San Luis Obispo

 

Name: Shannon and Jon
Website: https://www.vanvoyage.camp/
Instagram @_VanVoyage_
Location: San Luis Obispo

 

The best spot that we’ve stayed at so far is at the top of a small mountain in San Luis Obispo. It’s not the most awe-inspiring place we’ve been to, but it checks all of the boxes we consider when picking a spot. The area, in general, has many free, dog-friendly campsites (including the one pictured), some with amazing views of the surrounding hills and ocean, and we didn’t run into too many other campers when trying to find a spot. In town there are places to dump our tanks and fill up on water for FREE – this is huge for us since most fees range from $10-25. There are also plenty of grocery stores and pharmacies around when we need them but we were still able to feel secluded atop this small peak. We stayed in this specific spot for four days enjoying the view while we worked. We then went into town to fill up on food and water and found another free site, this time at a very quiet little campground with actual fire rings (bonus!). I should also mention – while the roads up to these campsites are exposed, single-lane and occasionally tedious, we were able to drive up in our RWD van without an issue. SLO is also a great base camp or waypoint to some amazing attractions like Monterey, Big Sur and tons of beaches. There are few places this accommodating we’ll definitely be back!

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Free Camping in Kelso Dunes

 
Name: Kara
Instagram @the.karavan 
Location:  Kelso Dunes

 

Boondocking at the Kelso Dunes was just magical. @schaefescapes and I arrived after dark after a couple of miles down a washboard road and a picture-perfect desert sky greeted us. We headed up to the van roof deck with wine and my camera and had a great time playing around with photographing the sky. On top of that, I saw my first shooting star. Definitely, want to go back and spend more time in the Mojave National Preserve.

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Free Camping in Knapps Castle

 
Name: Adam, Jess, Stu, Hux, and Brooks
Location: Knapps Castle/Santa Barbara Overlook
GPS Coordinates: 34.51064, -119.80572
 
 
Tucked away in the Los Padres National Forest is a pullout off El Camino Road overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the city of Santa Barbara. Plenty of room to spread out and traffic is nearly non-existent (off-season). There is a trail that leads out to the city overlook with a deck and (dirty) couch for your enjoyment.
 
This is just a short drive up to Knapp’s Castle (ruins from a century-old mansion) that provides killer panoramic views
 
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Free Camping in Big Bend National Park

 
Name: Fuzzy
Instagram: @FuzzyandSandy
Location: Big Bend National Park
 

My favourite place to take the van so far is the Southern Texas region from Marfa to Big Bend National Park. I like this area because of the journey it takes you on. Being from Southern California, just to get there will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Arizona and New Mexico. Once you arrive in Marfa, it’s a blend of nature, art, and culture. I could stay there and never leave. Then once you get to Big Bend it’s like all the great parks of California put into one. But even bigger. There’s something for everyone. The thunderstorms there are amazing. Summer is not the best time to go because it is extremely hot. I recommend going in March because you can skip over to SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin as well, my other favourite place to vanlife. Don’t forget to check out Terlingua! A happening ghost town just outside of Big Bend!

 

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Free Camping in White Sands New Mexico

 
Name: Victoria Glavas
Instagram: @NomadicVantasy
Location: White Sands New Mexico
 

White Sands National Monument will always hold a place in my heart. It’s not so much a van haven, as it’s is a backpacker’s heaven. Though spending the day sliding on saucers or picnicking on top of dunes was quite fun. The real magic happens when you walk into the depths. It’s about a 2-mile hike through majestical dunes until you arrive at several secluded campsites surrounded by even larger dunes than the ones behind you. Its a perfect balance of isolation from the world, but connectivity through the light. The way the light plays off of the sand is a sight to see, especially during sunrise and sunset. Once the sun finds it’s hiding place for the night, the sky fills up with more stars than you ever considered existed and you find peace in this. Then it happens all over again the next day.

Free Camping in The Eastern Sierras

 

Name: Graham Fielder
Website: http://grahamfielder.com/
Instagram: @GrahamFielder
Location:  Eastern Sierras

 

One of my favorite places to experience in a van is driving along CA 395 on the east side of the Sierras. You’re close to so much and there are amazing views in every direction. It’s where the mountains loom over the desert for as far as you can see. You can stay in the Alabama Hills, which at the bottom of Mt Whitney, have to be one of the coolest places on earth. You can walk next to the oldest trees in the world just outside of Bishop, or find hot springs in Inyo National Forest. It’s a drive that can start in Death Valley at the bottom of America, and end high in the Sierras, or even in Yosemite. If you plan on visiting Lake Tahoe this is the way to do it. Take the back roads through the Sierras and experience 3 seasons in a day. It really is a magical place and one that I am grateful to have spent some time in. If you live on the road, I can’t recommend this place enough.

Free Camping in San Diego

 

Name: Ashley Muller
Website: https://ayymullerwashere.wordpress.com/
Location:  San Diego

 

Maybe I’m biased because my brother lives there – but I absolutely loved San Diego. The entire area has so much to offer from the beaches to downtown. There are endless activities to take part in along the bay and the boardwalk (like surfing, kayaking, fishing, running, skateboarding, biking, yoga, boating, etc.) and Weekly markets/Gatherings bringing the community together. I especially enjoyed sippin’ drinks over sunsets and bonfires. It’s not as “wild” as some of my other favorite places, but I met some of the best people and made some of the greatest memories in San Diego, California and it will always hold a special place in my heart!

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So many incredible locations from some badass Vanlifers! Do you have a favorite road trip spot? Let me know below!

 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

 

👉🏼 Top Van LIfe Kitchen Essentials

👉🏼 How We Pay for Van Life

👉🏼 How to Become a Digital Nomad

 

 

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