Can you road trip to national parks in an electric car?

All aboard Environment America’s electric vehicle road trip!

Zion National Park PEV Charging Station. Photo Credit: Alex Barajas via NREL
Morgan Folger

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America

Out on the Open Road: An EV journey through the West

Hit 10 iconic American parks with our EV-accessible summer road trip itinerary.

Cover photo credit: Alex Barajas via NREL

All aboard Environment America’s electric vehicle road trip!

Our road trip traverses the Western United States, stopping at 10 beautiful national parks along the way, all accessible with an electric vehicle. The journey starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and concludes in California’s Yosemite National Park.

The basic itinerary covers all the amazing natural wonders you can access with an electric vehicle. Read on for tips for where and when to recharge, as well as more on great hikes and activities at each stop.

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

Alpine Sunflowers

Credit: courtesy of Rocky Mountain National Park

Our West Coast Road Trip starts in the Rocky Mountains: a spectacular mountain range that spans the Continental Divide and Northern Colorado. You can camp out under the stars here, go horseback riding, watch wildlife, take scenic drives, and enjoy the 355 miles of trails. Stop in downtown Estes Park to get food and stay overnight, and while you’re there, take the time to charge up your car.

From the Rocky Mountains, head down to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Either take the scenic route, US Highway 285 S (270 miles), or the slightly quicker I-25 S (300 miles).

2. Great Sand Dunes National Park

People walking in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Credit: NPS Photo / Mackenzie Reed

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. The dunes sit surrounded by grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra giving visitors of this park a ton of options for activities. Sandboard down the dunes, splash around or fish in the creeks, hike through the dunes or along the forested trail, and make sure to experience the starry nights.

3. Mesa Verde

Exploring the Mesa Verde Step House

Credit: NPS

After the Great Sand Dunes, our next stop is 220 miles away at Mesa Verde, a national park full of wonder and history. If you are running low on power after exiting the sand dunes, you can find level 2 charging less than 25 miles away in Hooper, CO. There are a number of other good opportunities to charge on your scenic drive to Mesa Verde.

Mesa Verde is a park in the Southwest corner of Colorado, and is an extraordinary place to learn about the ancient Pueblo people. You can go hiking here, check out the museums, and take the Mesa Top Loop for views of cliff dwellings. 

4. Canyonlands National Park

Visitors enjoy the view at Canyonlands National Park

Credit: NPS Photo / Mackenzie Reed

After Mesa Verde, you’ll head to Utah to visit the majestic Canyonlands National Park. The 150-mile drive to Canyonlands will traverse through mountains and overlook scenic vistas, and you’ll have multiple places to recharge your car along the way.

Canyonlands is home to stunning canyons and beautiful buttes, formed by the rushing, snaking power of the Colorado River and its tributaries. There are four districts in the park: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. While each has the same desert feeling, they all have unique sightseeing places. Island in the Sky is the easiest of the four to access, and thus the most popular district to visit. 

5. Arches National Park

Visitors check out an iconic arch formation

Credit: NPS Photo / Mackenzie Reed

From Canyonlands, you’ll make the short 30-mile drive to Arches National Park. Before entering the park, you’ll want to stop in Moab, a town located just outside the entrance to Arches, to recharge.

Arches National Park is home to beautiful red rock, towering pinnacles, and precariously balanced boulders that all come together to make up an absolute wonderland. Take some time to go hiking, biking, or climbing in this park, and make sure to take lots of photos of these stone formations.

6. Zion National Park

Zion Canyon in autumn

Credit: NPS Photo / Christopher Gezon

Fortunately, on your drive from Arches to Zion you’ll have plenty of charging options. As you drive west you’ll drive through two national forests, Manti-La Sal and Fishlake, enjoying breathtaking views. 

Zion National Park has a beautiful variety of plants, animals, and things to see. Private vehicle parking is essentially unavailable inside the park, so you will have to make use of the shuttle system as you tour around the park. Once inside the park, there are a ton of options for things to do including hiking, biking, canyoneering, climbing, and horseback riding. 

7. Grand Canyon National Park

Lipan Point overlooks the Grand Canyon

Credit: NPS photo by Michael Quinn

Your next stop will be the iconic Grand Canyon National Park, a place synonymous with beauty, adventure and exploration. Your 250-mile journey will take you through national monuments, red rocks and sweeping views across the horizon. You’ll have the chance to charge in the town of Kanab and later on in Page, AZ.

Grand Canyon National Park encompasses 277 miles of the Colorado River, and is home to the mile-deep and 18-mile wide Grand Canyon. With breathtaking views from the rims and an unforgettable experience inside the canyon, this park is an amazing place to visit and explore. There are a number of day hikes that begin on the rim of the canyon, but keep in mind that if you wish to camp overnight inside the canyon you will need to obtain a permit from the National Park Service.

8. Death Valley National Park

Shadows of clouds over the sand flats

Credit: NPS

Your next journey will be your longest one yet, an epic 400-mile journey to Death Valley National Park, a mysterious and gorgeous place. Make sure you charge up at Grand Canyon village before heading out through Nevada to the desert of California.

Death Valley is one the most breath-taking, peculiar and memorable places on Earth. It’s the hottest, driest and lowest place in the United States, and features incredibly varied landscapes. From salt flats to sand dunes to snow-capped mountains, this is a must-see national park that seems like it’s from another planet. 

9. Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon

The base of a Giant Sequoia tree

Credit: NPS / Kiel Maddox

You’ll then drive across the Mojave desert, exiting Death Valley through Darwin to the West, and then heading north up California to the majestic forest that is Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park.

Before exiting, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully charged at Furnace Creek. As you drive out of Death Valley, you’ll see gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains before driving through the Sequoia forest and then up the mountains. Throughout the 340-mile journey, you’ll have numerous charging stops.

With Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon you can get two national parks for the price of one. This national park is filled with trees out of a storybook, including General Sherman, the largest tree by volume on Earth. The towering Sequoia trees transport you to a world far away, while giving you a sense of comfort and peace. Kings Canyon features massive rock formations and amazing views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

10. Yosemite National Park

View of Vernal Fall from the John Muir Trail

Credit: NPS, Yosemite National Park

You’ll end your road trip at Yosemite, one of the most famous places in the world. The park is known for both its natural beauty and cultural importance. It’s filled with wonder, history and beauty. The drive into the park through Tunnel View will leave your jaw dropped. Within the 1,200 square miles of protected park, you can find valleys, meadows, ancient sequoias and tons of wildlife roaming free.

Within Yosemite, there are four separate charging stations, so your car will be ready to go while in the park. 

How to Charge Along the Way

An electric car charges at the Grand Canyon

Credit: NPS / Michael Quinn

At Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is the gateway town located just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. Within three miles of the town, there are 13 available public charging stations. Five are DC fast chargers and eight are level 2 chargers. The DC Corridor charging stations may be your best option, offering four DC fast charging ports in the center of town. 

Driving to Great Sand Dunes National Park (via I-25)

If taking I-25, you’ll have four good opportunities to charge your vehicle along the way. Depending on your vehicle’s range, you’ll want to stop at one, two, or three of the charging locations. Around 65 miles into your journey to the Great Sand Dunes, you’ll drive through Denver. Denver has over 460 EV chargers, so you won’t be short of options. We suggest stopping at the REI, where you can find both DC fast and level 2 charging ports. The second option for charging is the city of Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is 139 miles from Estes Park, 70 miles from Denver and 165 miles from Great Sand Dunes. You can find DC fast charging at the Springs Utility Parking lot. 45 miles from Colorado Springs and 120 miles from Great Sand Dunes is the city of Pueblo. At the Pueblo Sam’s Club wholesale store, you can find four DC fast charging ports. The fourth option for charging is Walsenburg, which is 48 miles from Colorado Springs and 73 miles from the Great Sand Dunes. A local parking lot offers level 2 charging.

Driving to Great Sand Dunes National Park (via Highway 285)

If taking Highway 285, you’ll have three points to charge your vehicle. You can charge in Boulder, 38 miles from Estes Park and 230 miles from Great Sand Dunes. The Boulder Whole Foods is a good option for DC fast charging. 95 miles from Boulder and 140 miles from Great Sand Dunes, is Fairplay. The town offers public DC fast charging. In Salida, 55 miles from Fairplay and 85 miles to the Great Sand Dunes, you can find two DC fast chargers. If you prefer a more leisurely stop, you can find four level 2 charging stations. While your car charges, you can take a soak in the Three Hot Springs, grab a bite to eat at the restaurants along the water or stroll through Salida’s historic district.

Driving from Great Sand Dunes to Mesa Verde

If you are running low on power after exiting the Sand Dunes, you can find level 2 charging less than 25 miles away in Hooper, CO. There are a number of other good opportunities to charge on your scenic drive to Mesa Verde. 45 miles into your drive, you can find DC fast charging in Del Norte. 60 miles from Del Norte and 95 miles from Mesa Verde is the riverside town of Pagosa Springs. The town has a public DC fast charger, and offers hot springs, hikes and historic Puebloan dwellings if you’re looking for a break from the drive. You’ll drive through Durango 60 miles later. Durango is 35 miles from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, and offers two DC charging ports.

At Mesa Verde

Inside Mesa Verde National Park, the Far View Lodge offers two level 2 charging ports.

Driving to Canyonlands

The 150-mile drive to Canyonlands will traverse through mountains and overlook scenic vistas, and you’ll have multiple places to recharge your car along the way. If you’re low on charge, you can find level 2 charging in the town of Cortez 10 miles into your drive. After crossing the border into Utah, you can stop at the historic town of Monticello, 90 miles from Mesa Verde and 50 miles from Canyonlands. You’ll find DC fast chargers right outside the Monticello Welcome Center and Frontier Museum.

Driving from Canyonlands to Arches

From Canyonlands, you’ll make the short 30-mile drive to Arches National Park. Before entering the park, you’ll want to stop in Moab, a town located just outside the entrance to Arches. You can grab a bite, visit the boutique shops and recharge your car at one of the 7 charging stations in the town.

Driving from Arches to Zion

On your drive from Arches to Zion, you’ll have plenty of charging options. As you drive west you’ll drive through two national forests, Manti-La Sal and Fishlake, enjoying breathtaking views. Your first stop for charging is Green River Coffee, a cafe located 45 miles outside of Arches. You can then either stop in Salina, 100 miles from Green River, or in Richfield, 120 miles from Green River, for public DC fast charging. 62 miles from Richfield and 110 miles from Zion, you’ll find DC fast charging at a Days Inn in Beaver, UT. In Cedar City, 55 miles from Richfield and 55 more from Zion, you can recharge your car at a local Walmart.

At Zion National Park

You can find charging just outside the park’s entrance in Springdale at Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

Driving to the Grand Canyon

40 miles after exiting Zion National Park, you can fast charge in the town of Kanab. 75 miles from Kanab, you can also find level 2 charging in Page, AZ. While your car charges you can book a tour of Antelope Canyon, grab a bite to eat, or hang out by the Colorado River. You’ll want to charge your car fully so it can make the 130 mile journey to Grand Canyon Village.

At the Grand Canyon

Charging stations await electric cars at the Grand Canyon

Credit: NPS Photo / Michael Quinn

You’ll find six different level 2 charging stations in Grand Canyon Village, located just outside the park’s entrance to the South Rim. 

Driving to Death Valley National Park

Make sure you charge up at Grand Canyon Village before heading out through Nevada to the desert of California. 60 miles from the Grand Canyon, you’ll have access to DC fast charging in Williams, AZ. 114 miles later and you can DC fast charge in Kingman, AZ. After another 100 miles, you’ll drive through Las Vegas, where you can recharge at numerous spots. The Nevada-based gas station franchise ‘Terrible Herbst’ offers DC fast charging across the city. You’ll then drive 120 miles to Death Valley, so make sure you’re fully charged before then.

At Death Valley National Park

Trey Matheu, general manager of The Oasis at Death Valley, poses with two EV chargers at The Inn at Death Valley

Credit: NPS

You can find numerous charging stations at the park’s main hub, Furnace Creek.

Driving to Sequoia & Kings Canyon

Before exiting Death Valley, you’ll want to make sure you’re fully charged at Furnace Creek. Throughout the 340-mile journey to Sequoia, you’ll have numerous charging stops. 120 miles from Furnace Creek you can fast charge at the Coso Junction Rest Stop. 40 miles later, you can also fast charge near Ridgecrest, also a good option to grab a roadside snack if you’re hungry. You can then recharge 90 miles from Ridgecrest in Tehachapi, or 130 miles from Ridgecrest in Bakersfield. 90 miles from Bakersfield and only 50 miles from the entrance to Sequoia and Kings Canyon, you can fast charge in Visalia, a town right before you head up winding mountain roads leading you to the park’s entrance. 

Driving from Sequoia to Yosemite

As you head back down the mountains on Highway 180, you’ll want to return to  Visalia  for fast charging. From there you’ll drive north through the Sierra National Forest and numerous mountainside towns to end up in a place you’ll never forget. 40 miles from Visalia you can  fast charge in Fresno, CA . From Frensco, you only have 93 miles to go until you reach the entrance of Yosemite, where you can find numerous charging stations. If you do need an extra charge, you can also find a DC fast station 45 miles from Yosemite in  Oakhurst.

At Yosemite National Park

Within Yosemite, there are four separate charging stations, so your car will be ready to go while in the park.

Where to find more charging locations

As electric vehicles grow in popularity, more electric vehicle charging stations are being installed than ever before. We suggest charging stops above based on currently available infrastructure. To find up-to-date information about public charging stations, the Alternative Fuels Data Center has an interactive map, as well as apps for iPhone and Android. Most mapping apps like Google Maps and Waze also have info about nearby electric vehicle charging stations. And some electric cars have software that will show you the nearest available charging station.

What to do in our nation’s parks

  1. Rocky Mountain National Park: drive on Trail Ridge Road, hike the Emerald Lake Trail, Visit Chapel on the Rock, and more.
  2. Great Sand Dunes National Park: rent sleds at the Oasis Stores to slide down the sand dunes, hike up to Zapata Falls, see the Milky Way at night, and hike the High Dune trail.
  3. Mesa Verde National Park: tour a cliff dwelling, visit the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, see petroglyphs, and more
  4. Canyonlands National Park: take the .5-mile Mesa Arch loop to see Mesa Arch, go to Grand View Point with overlooks Needles, check out the upheaval dome, and more.
  5. Arches National Park: take the Arches Scenic Drive, hike to Three Gossips and the Courthouse Tower, hike the Delicate Arch Trail, and more.
  6. Zion National Park: visit the Narrows, hike up to Angels Landing or the Emerald Pools, see the checkerboard Mesa and the Weeping Rock, and more.
  7. The Grand Canyon: hike to Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail, hike to Plateau Point, drive out to the North Rim, and more.
  8. Death Valley National Park: visit Badwater Basin, see sweeping views from Dante’s Point, visit snow-capped mountains at Wildrose, and more.
  9. Sequoia & Kings Canyon: explore the sequoia groves, tour the Crystal Caves, climb the stairs to Moro Rock, hike through Zumwalt Meadow, and more.
  10. Yosemite National Park: stop by El Capitan meadow, drive up to Tunnel View, hike up to Vernal and Nevada Falls, or hike to the top of Half Dome (permit required).

Help put electric vehicle chargers in America's national parks

Help put electric vehicle chargers in America's national parks

The Green Spaces, Green Vehicles Act would install charging stations at national parks across the U.S., so road tripping in an electric car can bring you to amazing natural wonders without the tailpipe pollution that fuels climate change. Send a message to Congress in support of installing more charging stations in our national parks today.

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Morgan Folger

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America

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