Hi everyone! I'm planning a 3-week road trip in July around the west coast to visit as many national parks as I can, but I'm not sure if the plan is absolutely crazy, and if so, what changes I should make / any other general advice you guys can give would be great! I'm 28 and I'll be driving with my boyfriend (who is 37) in a rental campervan starting from Las Vegas. We haven't nailed down the final schedule with driving dates or how long we plan to spend in each place, but we have a general loop in mind with a number of parks / cities we want to visit. The numbers I'm giving below are just estimates from Google maps and I know realistically everything will take longer due to gas / meal stops and traffic.
The loops starting from Vegas is: Death Valley, Yosemite, Redwood, Crater Lake, Portland, Olympic, Mt. Rainier, Seattle, North Cascades, Vancouver, Banff, Calgary, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grant Teton, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, back to Las Vegas. According to google maps, this trip will cover about 5000 miles in total, which would average about 250 miles of driving per day over 20 days (we have to return the campervan in the morning of our last day unfortunately). But of course some days will be mostly driving and longer than others, while other days would maybe only have a few hours. It looks like there will be 4 super long drive days: from Yosemite to Redwood; Vancouver to Banff; Glacier to Yellowstone; Yellowstone to Arches. Each of these legs is 8-9 hours drive time according to maps, which I know will realistically take a few hours longer. We are planning to use all daylight hours to either drive or explore parks, plus we are both fine with driving at night and with taking turns driving and sleeping. We aren't really planning to explore the cities too much, but since these are some of the ones we'd be driving through anyway, we'll probably stop by them for a couple hours for a meal / restocking supplies.
My major concern is that this would be by far the longest and most ambitious road trip that either of us have ever done, and I'm also worried we aren't factoring in how tired hiking and exploring the parks will make us over such a long period of time, or that exploring the parks at such a fast past (0.5-2 days per park) means we won't really get to see anything there. I did a somewhat similar road trip 2 summers ago where I drove around the ring road in Iceland in 5 days (830 miles total, so about 165 miles each day) in a campervan with just one other person my age, which is serving as my inspiration for this current trip. I remember that trip being a bit tiring but also incredibly wonderful and fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. However, I recognize this current one I'm planning is longer not only in average driving per day but also number of total days. And we would be working with less daylight hours (in Iceland it was 24 hours sunlight which we took advantage of) and more traffic. But on the other hand, the driving distribution would be mostly coming from those 4 days of very long drives (basically 2000 of them would be over 4 days), so if I factor those out, the other days would average about 3000/16=187 miles per day, which is the pace I did Iceland at and was very comfortable with. I'm obviously ok not seeing every single thing in each park and there are some parks (like Redwood and Grand Teton) that I basically just want to stop by for a few hours and then move on. So far we're planning roughly 2 days each for the bigger parks Yosemite, Banff, and Yellowstone, and half day or one day at the other parks.
Besides an opinion of whether or not you think this is too crazy or unrealistic, what are some other general advice or things I may be overlooking in a roadtrip of this length in a campervan where we are planning to free camp? Any advice on bears, since we will have food inside the van where we will be sleeping? What are things that are must see versus things we can skip? I keep going back and forth on so many things, one day thinking we'll be fine and the next day thinking we're crazy and going to burn ourselves out.
Thank you so much for reading, and any advice you can give!!!