The ULTIMATE New York to Los Angeles ROAD TRIP Itinerary

Have you ever had an experience so good that you have trouble believing it was real? Well, that is just how amazing an American road trip really is. Cruising down the highway, taking in on the stunning views and waking up in a new destination every few days. Last summer, I packed my bags and jetted off to the United States for 4 full months. It was my first solo trip and I was super excited.

The best part of my American adventure would have to be my New York to Los Angeles road trip with Trek America. At the end of August, I met a group of 13 strangers at Newark Airport, hopped in a van and began driving across the States. I know sounds crazy! (If you would like to find out more about Trek America click here)

On our New York to Los Angeles road trip we visited a total of 13 states and made memories that will last a lifetime. In this blog post, I will highlight each stop on our coast to coast road trip, as well as some of the best highlights from each destination, the travel time in between and more…

For those planning on driving across America and don’t know where to start, this coast to coast road trip guide may just be the thing you are looking for. Just be mindful, you will need a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks to complete this unforgettable experience.

Liberty State Park, New Jersey

Days 1 to 4: New York City

Ok, so the first stop on our US road trip itinerary is none other than NEW YORK CITY. That’s right, spend the first 4 days of your American dream in the big apple. Check out some of the iconic skyscrapers, catch an outstanding broadway performance or visit some of New York’s top-notch attractions.

I’d recommend splitting the New York portion of this road trip into four sections Mid-Town Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, Central Park and Brooklyn. New York is HUGE but by following my 4-day guide, it will be easy to cover all the must-see attractions and some more off the beaten track locations without spending all too much money and time on the subway.

For me, the best part of my New York visit would have to be getting the opportunity to sit in the audience of Jimmy Fallon. It was a truly unique and unforgettable experience. One I’d highly recommend trying to secure tickets too. After all, they are 100% free.

Top things to do in New York City:

  • Spot all the popular New York Skyscrapers
  • See a Broadway show
  • Go on the Staten Island Fairy
  • Explore Central Park
  • View the New York Skyline from New Jersey
  • Pay a visit to Brooklyn
  • See all the lights at Times Square

Next Destination: Niagara Falls

Drive Time: 6/7 hours (Big Drive Day) (Check out directions on Google Maps)


new york to los angeles road trip Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls, New York

Day 5: Niagara Falls, New York

NIAGARA FALLS HERE WE COME! The 5th Day of our American road trip involves quite a long drive. It takes about 6.5 hours to reach the falls from Newark Airport, however, after walking the streets of New York you will be very surprised at how sore your feet will be and a long drive may be just what you need. Be sure to download an EPIC road trip playlist for the journey.

Once you arrive at your campsite/hostel or hotel there will be no time for sitting around. It is time to check out one of the Worlds most outstanding national wanders. Words can not describe how amazing the falls are in person. They will take your breath away.

If you are visiting throughout the warmer months, a firework display takes place daily from 10 pm (for more information please click here). It is a phenomenal experience watching fireworks reflect off the water and listening to the sound of the falls below.

Highlights: Niagara Falls Firework Display

Where to stay: The Niagara Falls KOA campsite


Maid of the Mist Tour, Niagara Falls

Day 6: Niagara Falls & Sandusky Ohio

RISE AND SHINE! It’s time for an out of this world experience. The maid of the mist tour is a 100% must on any visit to the Niagara Falls. The tour gives passengers the opportunity to get up close and personal the falls and experience how surreal and powerful they truly are. Just a little warning. You WILL get SOAKED!

After the tour, head into the visitor centre to purchase a little souvenir to bring home. On my road trip with Trek America, I collected postcards from each destination I visited.

Highlights: Maid of the Mist Tour

Next Destination: Sandusky, Ohio

Travel Duration: 4.5 hours (As seen on Google Maps)

new york to los angeles road trip Sunset, Sandusky, Ohio
Sunset, Sandusky, Ohio

So, now it’s time to leave the state of New York behind and head towards Sandusky Ohio. Originally, we planned on visiting Cedar Point Amusement Park which is nearby, however, due to an incoming storm we had to book into a cabin for the night and skip the rollercoasters.

With that being said, sometimes it’s nice to chill and relax for the evening. Especially, on a fast-moving road trip.

Where to stay in Sandusky Ohio: Sandusky KOA Campground

Next Destination: Shipshewana, Indiana

Travel Time: Just under 3 hours (Check out directions on Google Maps)


Shipshewana, Indiana

Day 7 & 8: Shipshewana & Chicago, Illinois

Another day, another state. The next stop on the road trip itinerary is rather unique and one you can easily skip but I would recommend stopping by if you have the time. Shipshewana, a small town with a large Amish Community. It is a really cool place to explore and walkabout. It really shows different perspectives of America.

When I stopped in Shipshewana with my Trek we were lucky to have the opportunity to talk to an Amish family as we ate lunch. It was a real eye-opening experience and probably one of my favourite unexpected moments of the trip.

Next Destination: Chicago, Illinois

Travel Time: 2.5 hours (Check out directions on Google Maps)


CHICAGO <3

Now, it’s time to visit the Windy City, Chicago. Chicago stole my heart, it really has everything. A stunning lake, monster skyscrapers and mouth-watering pizza’s. What more could one ask for?

On my first day in Chicago, my Trek mates and I went on an electric bike tour of the city with Bobby Bikes. It was AWESOME! We saw literally everything on that tour including the big bean, all the famous buildings and Buckingham fountain. Towards the end of the tour, we even got to see fireworks reflect over Lake Michigan. I can not recommend this experience more.

Wills Tower new york to los angeles road trip
View from Willis Tower, Chicago

After spending the first day zooming through the streets of Chicago on an electric bike it’s time to take it slow and really appreciate all of what Chicago has to offer. Explore the city and take part in some of the cities top attractions.

I highly recommend viewing the city from the top of the Willis Tower Sky Deck. The view is out of this world, however, it is a little scary walking out onto a glass platform 1,353 feet in the air.

For dinner buy some world-famous Chicago deep-dish pizza pie. I have never tasted anything like it <3 It was D-E-L-IOUS.

Also, if the cubs are playing a home match, try your best to get tickets, the atmosphere at the game is amazing and super fun.

Top Things to do in Chicago:

  • Willis Tower Sky Deck
  • See the Big Bean
  • Go to a CUBS game
  • Bobby’s Bike Tour
  • Walk the waterfront
  • Buckingham Fountain
  • Deep Dish Pizza

Where to stay in Chicago: HI Hostel Chicago

Next Destination: Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Travel Time: 7.5 hours (Check out directions on Google Maps)


New York to LA Road trip
Sunrise, Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Day 9: Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Now it’s time to leave the state Illinois behind and say hello to Iowa. This is another a long drive day, so once again, have that awesome road trip playlist ready for the journey.

After the long drive, it is probably best to relax and take it easy, however, if you do have a squirt of energy left there are many hiking trails around the area.

Other than that, take some time to relax by the lake, take in the view and appreciate the road trip experience to date.

Where to stay: Gull Point State Park Campground

Next Destination: Badlands National Park

Travel Time: Just over 5 hours (Google Map Directions)


Sunrise, Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Day 10: Lake Okoboji & Badlands National Park, Wyoming

Wake up to the sun reflecting off the water of Lake Okoboji. It was honestly one of the best sunrises I have ever seen and most definitely worth the early wake-up call.

Next Destination: Badlands National Park

Travel Time: Just over 5 hours (Google Map Directions)

Badland's National Park new york to los angeles road trip
Badland’s National Park, Wyoming

Next stop on our cross country road trip is Badlands National Park. The scenic drive is INSANE! Like nothing, I have ever seen before. Being from Ireland, I am used to lovely green scenery but Badlands National park was quite the opposite. The layered rock formations go on for miles and miles.

Badlands is definitely one of the US National Parks that deserves a lot more attention. It is an absolute must for anybody travelling through South Dakota. Take about 1.5 to 2 hours to drive the Badland’s National Park loop and stop at each viewpoint. I promise you will love every moment of it.

Where to stay in Badlands: Badlands and White River KOA

Next Destination: Mount Rushmore

Travel Time: 1.5 hours (Google Maps Directions)


new york to los angeles road trip
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Day 11: Mount Rushmore & Devils Tower

Start the day off by admiring the endless views of the layered rock formations as you depart Badlands National Park. Then, drive towards one of America’s most famous national monument’s Mount Rushmore.

The monument is a 60 feet high granite mountain with carved faces of 4 US presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Once you have captured a snap of the famous mountain it’s time to say goodbye and continue along the black hills trail.

Near Mount Rushmore lies the Crazy Horse Monument (yet to be completed). To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this experience nearly as much as I expected as it’s is actually quite hard to get a front view of the mountain.

Next Destination: Devils Tower

Travel Duration: 2.5 hours (Google Maps)

Devils Tower Sunset new york to los angeles road trip
Sunset, Devil Tower, Wyoming

Next stop on the list for our New York to Los Angeles road trip is the Devils Tower. Devils tower was the first United States National Monument and is a formation of cooled lava. The tower stands 1,267 feet tall and is a popular place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers.

Id highly recommend staying at the KOA at the Devils Tower as it offers outstanding views of the monument at sunset.

Where to stay in the Black Hills Region: Devils Tower KOA

Next Destination: Cody, Wyoming

Travel Duration: 5 hours (Google Maps)


Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

Day 12: Devils Tower & Cody, Wyoming

Today is another early rise. Wake up and drive towards the Devils Tower for a closer look. Take one hour to an hour and a half to hike around the monument and snap a few picks.

After spending the early morning hiking, hop back in the car and head towards Cody, Wyoming. Cody is an old cowboy town otherwise known as the rodeo capital of the world. This day is mostly dedicated to travel and some well-needed rest because guess what?! Cody is the gateway town to YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK one of the highlights of the whole trip. So head to bed early and start getting excited for Yellowstone.

*The weather changed significantly once we reached Cody, make sure to your review my road trip packing list to ensure you have packed the right things*

Where to stay in Cody: Cody KOA campsite

Next Destination: YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK <3

Travel duration: 1-hour beautiful drive (Yellowstone Google Maps Directions)


Old Faithful Yellowstone new york to los angeles road trip
Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Day 13/14: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Wake up bright and early, the time has come to visit one of America’s most iconic national parks. That’s right, Yellowstone we are on our way!!!! Yellowstone is known for its amazing geysers, stunning wildlife and beautiful hot springs.

On the first day in Yellowstone take some time to drive around and explore some of the most popular attractions such as Old Faithful, the Black Sand Basin and the Grand Prismatic Spring.

Sunrise, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sunrise, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Start the second day off by watching the sunrise at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Then throughout the day pay a visit to Yellowstone’s Mud Volcano, Artist Point, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Calcite Springs Lookout and Mammoth Hot Springs.

If you would like a more detailed itinerary check out my 2 days in Yellowstone post.

Where to stay in Yellowstone: Grant Village Campground

Next Destination: Grand Teton National Park

Travel Duration: Only 9 Minutes! (Grand Teton Google Maps Directions)


Grand Teton new york to los angeles road trip
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Day 15: Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton was my favourite stop on my American road trip. Why? because the Teton’s beauty is out of this world. I was blown away.

Once again start the day nice and early and begin to drive towards Grand Teton National Park. The first hike of the day is around the outstanding string lake. If you get there early enough you will catch the Tetons reflect into the lake. If you are feeling warm following your hike, be sure to jump into the freezing cold water for an instant cool down.

The next hike of the day is around Jenny Lake. Jenny Lake offers some breathtaking hiking opportunities, a shuttle boat and a stunning lakeside view. 

After a day full of hiking, hop back in the car and head towards Jackson Hole Wyoming for the night.

Where to stay in Grand Teton: Jackson Hole KOA Campsite


Rafting Snake River Jackson Hole Wyoming yellowstone to grand teton
Rafting Snake River, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Day 16: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Day 16 of our coast to coast road trip gives us the opportunity to explore Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jackson Hole is a charming American town surrounded by the beautiful Teton mountain range.

Take the morning to explore the cowboy town, head down to the centre to have a look around the cute shops and restaurants. Then get ready for one big adventure by white water rafting down snake river. After drying off, head back down to the town for a cowboy shootout show, an experience not to be missed.

Where to stay in Grand Teton: Jackson Hole KOA Campsite

Next Destination: Shoshone Falls Park, Idaho

Travel Duration: 4 hours (Google Maps Directions)


New York to Loas Angles Road Trip
Shoshone Falls Park, Idaho

Day 17: Twin Falls and Nevada Dessert

Day 17 is another day to get out that road trip playlist because it involves a lot of driving. Drive from Jackson Hole to Shoshone Falls, Idaho. The falls are a lovely spot to stretch out the legs, get ice cream and enjoy the views.

Then, hop back in the car and head towards the South Fork State Recreation campsite (3-hour drive). The campsite is by the South Fork Reservoir, an awesome place to watch the sunset and stargaze.

Where to stay in Grand Teton: South Fork State Recreation campsite

Next Destination: Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Travel Duration: 5 hours (Google Maps Directions)


Parasailing, Lake Tahoe, California

Day 18: South Lake Tahoe, California

The next stop on our New York to Los Angeles road trip is the amazing Lake Tahoe. The lake is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is the perfect destination for all camping, hiking and adventure activities.

Spend the day exploring South Lake Tahoe, head towards the beach to sun bade, have a dip in the lake and enjoy the sunshine.

I highly recommend going parasailing. It is the best way to get a bird’s eye view of the lake. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever done and is worth every penny.

Next Destination: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK <3

Travel Duration: Just over 3 hours (Google Maps Directions)


Yosemite new york to los angeles road trip
Yosemite National Park, California

Day 19/20: Yosemite National Park, California

A visit to Yosemite National park is most definitely something that should be high on your bucket list. The views and scenic drives through the park are outstanding. Yosemite stole my heart and I don’t want it back.

On the drive into Yosemite be sure to stop by Tenaya Lake for a swim. Just a little of prior warning. IT’S FREEEEEZZZINNNG!! But hey… How many people can say they swam at Yosemite National Park? Not many. Tenaya Lake is also a great place to stop and have a picnic. Lunch with a view <3

Next on the road trip agenda is Sequoia National Park. The tree’s in the park are over 2000 years old and the highest tree soars at 275 feet tall. It was honestly super cool to see.

On the second day in Yosemite, I’d advise exploring one of the many possible hiking trails. I hiked up to Nevada Falls, on the mist trailhead. This hike is BEAUTIFUL <3 My favourite part was the Emerald Pool as it offered fantastic views of El Captain.

After a long day of hiking, reward yourself with some well-deserved food. There are many fast food options down in the main valley. Once your tummy is full, get ready to see Yosemite’s most famous viewpoint, Tunnel View. The Phenomenal views of El Capitan and the Half Dome, where used by Apple for the Yosemite OS X screensaver.

*CHECK OUT A SHORT 60 SEC SNIPPET OF MY YOSEMITE VISIT FROM MY NEW YORK TO LOS ANGELES ROAD TRIP*

Yosemite National Park, California

Where to camp in Yosemite: Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails Preserve

Next Destination: San Francisco, California

Travel Duration: 5 hours (Google Maps Directions)


San Francisco, California
San Francisco Bay

Day 21/22: San Francisco, California

Next stop on our New York to Los Angeles road trip is San Francisco. San Fran is one of the west coasts most popular cities, with over 25 million people visiting it each year :O

San Francisco is famous for its golden gate bridge, Alcatraz prison and it’s steep hill like terrain. I’d recommend spending at least two days exploring San Fran, to really get a feel for the city. There is so much to see and do in San Francisco, like catching a famous cable car ride, walking up the world windiest street, Lombard Street or checking out San Frans street art scene. No matter what you choose to do, I promise you will have an amazing time. I know I can’t wait for my next visit.

Where to stay in San Fran: HI Hostel San Francisco

Next Destination: California Coast (Big Sur)

Travel Duration: 3/6 hours (Google Maps Directions)


Big Sur, California
Big Sur, California

Day 23: The California Coastal Route

The 23rd day of our US road trip brings us down the scenic California coastline. There is a viewpoint at nearly every corner. This is most definitely a day for the car. Just make sure you get out and take as many pictures as possible. The views from the coastline reminds me of the first scene in the movie Greece.

Where to camp on the California Coast: Santa Margarita KOA

Next Destination: Los Angles, California

Travel Duration: 3.5 hours (Google Maps Directions)


new york to los angeles road trip
Santa Monica, California

Day 24: Los Angeles, California

FINITO! Our New York to Los Angeles Road Trip is complete. Now it is up to you, how long would you like to stay in LA.

There is so much to do and see in this coastal city. My favourite highlights from two weeks on the California coast would have to be Santa Monica Pier, Venice Canals, Laguna Beach, The Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Disneyland and Universal Studios, Hollywood.

New York to Los Angeles Road Trip Map

Drive Timeline for a New York to Los Angeles Road Trip

DestinationsDrive TimeGoogle Maps Link
New York to Niagara Falls6/7 hoursDirections
Niagara Falls to Sandusky Ohio4.5 hoursDirections
Sandusky Ohio to Shipshewana3 hoursDirections
Shipshewana to Chicago, Illinois2.5 hoursDirections
Chicago to Lake Okoboji, Iowa7.5 hoursDirections
Lake Okoboji to Badlands5 hoursDirections
Badlands to Mount Rushmore1.5 hoursDirections
Mount Rushmore to Devils Tower2.5 hoursDirections
Devils Tower to Cody, Wyoming5 hoursDirections
Cody to Yellowstone1 hourDirections
Yellowstone to Grand Tetons9 minutesDirections
Grand Teton to Jackson24 minutesDirections
Jackson to Shoshone Falls Park4 hoursDirections
Shoshone Falls to Nevada Dessert5 hoursDirections
Nevada Dessert to South Lake Tahoe3 hoursDirections
Tahoe to Yosemite3 hoursDirections
Yosemite to San Fran5 hoursDirections
San Fran to Big Sur3/6 hoursDirections
Big Sur to Los Angeles3.5 hoursDirections

*Check out a full video trailer of my New York to Los Angeles Road Trip*

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Road Trip Across America
Road Trip Across America

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