Traveling over 2,000 miles from the City of Angels to the Windy City is a great way to see a variety of America’s cities and regions. In a typical Los Angeles to Chicago road trip, you'll go through no less than seven states. This means you'll have plenty of opportunities to explore some national and state parks in the West and Midwest. Numerous tourist attractions can be found along the way as well, so you’ll have plenty of destinations to put on your road trip itinerary from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the newer desert national parks in California, having been established in 1994. While this park is known for its unusual trees, it’s also full of numerous other types of desert flora and fauna. Cacti, palm trees, bighorn sheep, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and more all call Joshua Tree National Park home. While this is, of course, a great place to take strenuous hikes, it also has multiple easy trails that open up this fascinating landscape to everyone.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is two hours off your route, but you can’t pass up the chance to visit this legendary destination on your road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago. Millions of visitors flock to this iconic canyon every year to explore its depths and mysteries. There are multiple trails that take you around the rim and edge of the canyon, but you can also go down into it on foot or via mule. You may also want to raft down the Colorado River, which is another favorite pastime at Grand Canyon National Park.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is the first of multiple national parks you’ll pass by as you head into Utah from Arizona. It’s also among the most beautiful, so you should be sure to stop by on your Los Angeles to Chicago road trip. One of the most famous parts of this park is the Narrows, which is a gorge with thousand-foot walls that stretch toward the sky and a clear river that runs through its bottom. Visitors can wade-hike on this unique trail for up to 16 miles. Those who wish to keep their feet on dry ground can hike on more traditional trails ranging in difficulty from easy to hard.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is in the middle of three national parks stretched out in a row through Utah on Interstate 70. While it’s not the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands features plenty of grand canyons and desert vistas of its own. Multiple different ecosystems give visitors plenty of wonders to explore within the 520 square miles of the park. Canyons, mesas, crevasses, and even Native American rock paintings are on display here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Whether you decide to explore Rocky Mountain National Park before you reach Denver or from Denver itself, you’ll be able to experience the unique flavor of this part of the country in full measure. The Rockies and the lakes, valleys, and streams that surround them are home to moose, elk, black bears, and more. More than 300 miles of trails in the park take you all the way up to the summits of peaks and all the way down to the bases of waterfalls. There’s plenty of gorgeous country to explore on horseback, and you can spend even more time on the Colorado River.
Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area
Nestled in the midst of the San Bernardino Mountains in California is the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area. Silverwood Lake itself is nearly a thousand acres large, so there’s plenty of room for boating, swimming, and fishing. On land, bikers and hikers can tackle 13 miles of trails—including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Valley of Fire State Park
Between Las Vegas and the Nevada/Arizona border in the Mojave Desert is Valley of Fire State Park. It’s close to Interstate 15, so you won’t have to go far off your route. At Valley of Fire, you can explore over 45,000 acres of red Aztec Sandstone formations that seem to brilliantly burn in the sunlight. Multiple miles of trails give you ample opportunity to see plenty of formations, petroglyphs, desert animals, and more.
Vega State Park
Vega State Park is located west of Grand Junction in the western part of Colorado. This park is home to one of America’s highest mountain lakes, which is a popular place for water sports in spite of its perpetual coldness. If the water’s too chilly for you, you can hit the trails on foot, bike, or horseback. During the winter, you can go ice fishing and snowmobiling.
Elk Rock State Park
Elk Rock State Park is southeast of Des Moines, Iowa, not far from Interstate 80. Since it’s located on Lake Red Rock, there are plenty of opportunities to go swimming, fishing, and boating. You can take advantage of 13 miles of multiple-use trails that are suitable for everything from hiking to snowmobiling.
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park is located on the Illinois River, roughly two hours outside of Chicago. Here, you’ll be able to use 13 miles of trails to explore 18 canyons containing 14 waterfalls. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and even whitewater rafting opportunities are available on the nearby Illinois, Vermilion, and Fox rivers.
Downtown Las Vegas
You can’t take a Los Angeles to Chicago RV road trip without spending some time in downtown Las Vegas. There truly is something for everyone downtown, which should not be confused with the Strip, so park your camper at one of the many campgrounds in the area and stay a while. Attractions like SlotZilla, Viva Vision, the Neon Museum, and the Mob Museum await.
If you want to see over 3,000 animals in one place on your road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, then you should visit the Denver Zoo. Over 400 species call this zoo home, and multiple animal-encounter exhibits bring visitors and wildlife close together.
Pioneers Park Nature Center
Before you drive into downtown Lincoln, NE, you should stop by the Pioneers Park Nature Center. You’ll be able to explore 668 acres of Nebraska prairie, wetlands, and woodlands via more than 8 miles of trails. Exhibits featuring bison, deer, and raptors provide information about the animals and their relationship with their local environment.
At Amana Colonies, you can explore the German heritage of many Midwesterners. Located not too far outside of Iowa City, this group of seven villages is full of descendants of a group of Germans who came to America in the 1840s in search of religious freedom. Shopping, dining, and seasonal festivals make Amana a great place to visit in Iowa.
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
If you want to experience a re-creation of a much earlier time in history, you can drop in for dinner and medieval festivities at the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. The Chicago Castle is located in suburban Schaumburg, IL. Dinner with the queen, jousting, and swordplay will all be part of your entertaining evening.
Las Vegas, NV
The sheer number of attractions in Las Vegas makes it a place worthy of exploration. You'll find plenty of dump stations and campgrounds within 20 minutes of the Strip. Once you hit the Strip, you won’t have any problem finding a good time.
Grand Junction, CO
Grand Junction lies at the place in Colorado where multiple roads and rivers intersect. Plenty of dump stations and campgrounds are available in the area. Specifically, you can find some cool camping options near natural attractions like Grand Mesa and Dominguez Canyon.
The Mile High City has many great places to visit, so you’ll want to take advantage of nearby dump stations and campgrounds and stay for a bit. Places to go include the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Attractions like Old Market, the Henry Doorly Zoo, and the Durham Museum make this Nebraska town worth seeing. You’ll easily find quality dump stations and campgrounds in this popular part of Nebraska. In particular, the KOA West Omaha/NE Lincoln offers all the dumping and RV services you could need.
Des Moines, IA
Des Moines is the capital of Iowa, so there’s plenty to do there. You won’t have trouble finding great dump stations and campgrounds nearby. Places to go include the Capitol Building, the Blank Park Zoo, and Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
Don't have a camper to take on your Los Angeles to Chicago RV road trip? You may want to consider renting a trailer through RVshare. There are plenty of top-notch campers available for rent in Los Angeles and Chicago.