Travel blogger Dinh Hang

Discover America’s wild side on a road trip through its majestic national parks

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” I understood the meaning of Alfred D. Souza’s famous quote during a long road trip to some of the United States’ national parks.

Visitors explore Bryce Canyon National Park on horseback

On the road

When the first rays of sun struck the granite Mesa Arch in Canyonlands Park, I was astounded to see the landscape beyond the stone arch light up in the early morning mist. I lost myself in the view beyond this stone doorway.

I had gone to sleep late the night before, preoccupied with admiring the glittering stars enveloping the pitch-black ground below. I could hear my own gentle breathing throughout the night. There were no car horns, only the sounds of my breaths and the wind, below a silvery sky filled with countless tiny dots of stars.

A giant stone arch in Arches National Park

This was one morning on a road trip through six states. My friends and I were traveling for one month. Our 19-year-old Recreational Vehicle (RV) had been converted into a mobile house with all amenities, including a kitchenette, bedrooms, dining areas, and bathrooms.

Setting out on a road trip showed me an astonishingly different side of America than what I’d seen in its big cities. Driving along its rural roads in the summer, we sometimes wondered if we were actually in the center of the vast United States, or if we had somehow become lost on another planet.

In this world, skyscrapers are replaced by white-foam waterfalls; the subway network by million-year-old rocky canyons; and busy roads full of moving vehicles by a lonely strip of asphalt.

The ancient houses of indigenous people in Mesa Verde National Park

America’s treasures

Every few years, the elderly couple who are my friends take a road trip in an RV. They are familiar with all of the roads and know how to survive in the wilderness without electricity, running water, and (oftentimes) even other people. In the summer, American families enjoy getting out into nature, cooking around a campfire, hiking, climbing, and canoeing.

If you don’t take a road trip, you’re missing out on seeing the breathtaking canyons in Utah, lakes reflecting pine forests in California, and the joy of wandering along trails in the middle of nowhere. This nation’s treasures lie in its seemingly infinite lengths of green fields, snow-capped mountains, and million-year-old canyons, not just in its cities’ brilliant lights. Bryce Canyon, with its layers of granite ridges that change color with the sun, and Grand Teton National Park, featuring peaks that remain snow-capped even in the summertime, never ceased to fascinate me. Cedar Breaks’ golden meadows gave me the impression that I’ve arrived in a land of eternal spring, while Lake Tahoe’s azure waters seemed to reach the skies. Our hike in Grand Staircase-Escalante was abruptly cut short because of quicksand. Although we were unable to locate the canyon, we proceeded slowly as we passed between heaven and earth and rocks of varying colors. Another amazing road trip experience wa the sleepless night we spent admiring the bands of stars that painted a beautiful image of the universe above the stone bridges at the Natural Bridges National Monument. I enjoyed inhaling the fresh air of Yosemite Park as the sun began to rise over the lake’s calm surface, overlooked by the shadows of green pine trees wreathed in mist.

A squirrel in Lassen Volcanic National Park

At the end of our route in Yellowstone Park’s Upper Geyser Basin region, I was most eager to see the Morning Glory Pool. As its name suggests, Morning Glory Pool resembles a pure and fragile morning glory blossom. The pool’s “petals” stretch out in vivid, clear colors that sparkle in the sunlight, growing from a thin, funnel-shaped “stalk” that extends into the pool’s green depths. The pool is surrounded by white sand and various shades of orange that encircle its deep blue center. The pool’s vibrant hues result from the yellow and orange microorganisms that flourish in the hot springs. Examining it under the sun from various angles, you will see that Morning Glory Pool truly resembles a flower formed of water.

My journey to Yellowstone is best described as “a brilliant adventure”. Located on the edge of a volcano, this park experiences several minor earthquakes each year. Volcanoes deep beneath Yellowstone are monitored daily. Under Yellowstone’s geysers, hot springs, and mud pits lie blazing hot lava. Another highlight for me in Yellowstone was the Grand Prismatic Spring. Behind a curtain of steam that covers the water’s surface, it resembles a huge clear blue eye dripping iridescent tears in the sunlight.

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its natural hot springs

Alone on the road

“America as a whole is like a huge “comfort zone.” We live in houses with air conditioning and heating systems and have access to cars. There is even a paved road in the national park and a trail that leads into the forest,” my friend joked. “Some people stay in America their entire lives because it’s too huge, and they don’t want to leave their comfort zone. But since living in concrete boxes all the time gets dull, they all take a road trip in the summer to the mountains and the ocean.”

Rugged mountains in Yosemite National Park

I have a lot of respect for Americans who go on yearly road trips with their families. Except for a few parks that offer all-inclusive lodging, most campgrounds only offer a few basic amenities, but these areas are well-planned and kept clean.

We travelled for a month and often paused to wonder: “Where is everyone? Where has the world gone?” There was no response—just an endless expanse devoid of other humans. America is such a vast country!