The town of Bozeman, Montana is virtually synonymous with one of the world's great parks. Bozeman is known as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park, and as a result, this small town sees far more than its fair share of tourists.
With a population of less than 50,000 permanent residents, Bozeman doesn't pretend to be a bustling metropolis. That doesn't mean there's nothing to do here. One of the town's major attractions is the Museum of the Rockies, which houses an impressive collection of fossils, including the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the entire country. It's also home to the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skull ever found. So if you or anybody in your group is a dinosaur fan, you'll definitely want to check into this unique museum.
However, due to Bozeman's small size, it doesn't take too long to see everything the town itself has to offer. Luckily, there are world-class attractions outside of the city, and a week-long road trip in an RV is the ideal way to experience them. Head out on the open road on the trip from Montana all the way to San Francisco, and you'll see some truly unforgettable sites. With over 1000 miles ahead of you, you can rest assured that the biggest difficulty will be fitting everything in.
You can’t go to Bozeman and not see Yellowstone National Park. Chances are, it’s the presence of this unique place that brought you to Bozeman to begin with. But since the park sits to the south of the town, you’ll have to pass through it as you take Highway 15 down toward California.
The world is full of beautiful places, but there's nowhere quite like Yellowstone National Park. It's not just the sweeping mountain vistas, as impressive as they are. It's not just the abundant wildlife, even if this is the last stronghold of some of the nation's most charismatic species, including bison, wolves, and grizzly bears. There's also the fact the Yellowstone Park sits on top of a supervolcano and is one of the most geologically active regions in the world. Don't miss the Old Faithful geyser or the Grand Prismatic Spring. Both of these natural phenomena are evidence of the nonstop activity going on just below the surface of this unforgettable park.
To do Yellowstone National Park justice, you could easily spend a week or more within the confines of the park. But whether you get to visit for a day or week, it's a place you are never going to forget.
Yellowstone National Park is a difficult place to top. After seeing the wonders of one of the country's greatest parks, you might think that anything else would pale in comparison. But as you make your way through Idaho, you'll soon find yourself reaching Craters of the Moon National Monument. Completely different from Yellowstone, this park is no less impressive in its own way.
The park takes its name from its unusually rugged appearance that really does make it look like another world. The craters and caves here may look ancient, but in fact, they were formed only in the last few thousand years - practically yesterday in geological time. The same volcanic forces that are still active today in Yellowstone made this National Monument what it is, and it's fascinating to see another landscape shaped by the same activity.
If you're looking for a place to stay, Craters of the Moon offers the Lava Flow campground from May to November. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so you may want to get there early. There are no hookups here, but you will find drinking water and bathrooms to make for a more comfortable stay.
Boondocking isn't to everyone's taste. Just because you're camping doesn't mean you have to go without a few comforts. If you want somewhere a little more luxurious to stay, keep pressing on past Craters of the Moon National Monument until you reached the Twin Falls KOA.
This campsite has a maximum length of 90 feet, so virtually all recreational vehicles will be able to find a place to stay. There are 50 amp electrical hookups, plus Wi-Fi and cable TV. In the summer months, the campground also has a swimming pool. You can rent bikes or play a round of minigolf here too.
The campsite also has a pond, and you can rent a paddleboat and head out on the water for a relaxing afternoon. Your dog will love any time spent in the pet playground, and if you don't feel like cooking for yourself, the snack bar and café can keep you fed with minimal effort. If your experience with camping has only been with cramped and unserviced sites in the wilderness, this KOA offers the complete opposite of all that. It has the feel of a resort, and you may find that one night here isn't nearly enough to enjoy all that it offers.
Winnemucca is still a long way from the cosmopolitan metropolis of San Francisco. And it feels it. With a population of around 7000, this small Nevada town flies well under the radar of most tourist itineraries. In a town this size, you can't expect a lot of attractions. But there are a couple of quirky things to see here to break up your journey. And after all, isn't that what road trips are all about?
Back in 1912, precious stones were found in the area, leading to the opening of the Royal Peacock mine. The mine is still in operation now, and not only can you visit, you can try your luck at mining for your own gemstones here. Black fire opal, the official gemstone of Nevada, is the most commonly found stone here, with specimens of up to 130 pounds unearthed in the past. So grab a shovel and a pick and start digging. Any gemstones you happen to find are yours to keep.
While in Winnemucca, pay a visit to the Humboldt Museum. It's a small facility, but it contains a variety of exhibits, including a collection of mammoth bones found in the area. The museum was also once reputed to hold the remains of giants from old Native American legends. However, the giants in question turned out to be less than six feet tall — not particularly impressive in this day and age. Still, this quirky museum makes for an interesting place to visit.
So far, your journey has mostly involved the vast expansive landscapes of the American West, and the exploration of the sprawling wilderness that still exists out here. But after a few days on the road, you may find yourself craving the amenities and the excitement of the city. While Reno is not Las Vegas, it may be the next best thing, and it lies conveniently on your way toward the California border.
Reno calls itself the Biggest Little City in the World, and after the towns you've seen along the way, it will feel plenty big enough. Thanks to Nevada gaming laws, Reno is a hub for gambling, and its position close to the border means many Californians come here to try their luck. If you are interested in games of chance, you've come to the right place. Reno has more casinos than you could possibly hope to get through in a day or two.
But even if gambling isn't your thing, Reno still has lots to offer. The casinos also provide food and entertainment that you can enjoy as a break from camping. And if you're after something a little more educational, the National Automobile Museum is a fascinating place to visit for gearheads.
Part of the fun of an RV road trip is discovering lesser-known attractions that you would never see any other way. With that being said, there are some places that you just have to go to if you get the chance, no matter how popular they may be. And sometimes, a specific attraction is popular for reason. That's definitely the case with Tahoe National Forest.
Just over the border in California, Tahoe National Forest is an absolute wonderland. Its 850,000 acres cover mountains, forests, canyons, meadows full of wildflowers, and of course lakes, including the legendary Lake Tahoe itself. Hundreds of miles of trails wind through the pine and Sequoia forests, and there's something cool to see around almost every bend of the trail. It's no wonder that six million visitors a year make their way to this Mountain Park to enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery.
Once you see Tahoe National Forest for yourself, you're going to want to stay for a while. Luckily, the park has 11 RV friendly campsites for you to choose from. Some will accommodate RVs up to 60 feet in length. And while none of them offer hookups, that's part of the fun of staying in a national forest. Get back to nature in this unforgettable place and recharge the batteries before you continue your journey toward the coast.
California's capital is more or less unavoidable along your route. As you descend from the mountains, you'll enter the rolling farmland that occupies the center of the state and makes it such a productive region of the country. With all this farmland around, you would expect great food, and you'd be right. Sacramento is more or less the epicenter of the farm to table movement, and the culinary options available here are simply staggering. Wash down your meal with some California wine from some of the world's most highly rated vineyards, and you'll be treating yourself to a truly Sacramento experience.
If you're looking for after-dinner cocktails, hit the Ten Ten room for a dash of midcentury glamour that will make you feel as though you've stepped onto the set of the TV show Mad Men. Alternatively, you could try the Shady Lady, a prohibition-era speakeasy located in a former brothel. After roughing it in the gorgeous but admittedly primitive surroundings of Tahoe National Forest, you've earned a glamorous night out.
By now, San Francisco is almost in sight, and it's tempting to hurry on to the city set on the glittering bay as quickly as possible. But before you do that, you might want to break up your journey with one last quirky roadside attraction. Luckily, California isn't short of those.
Founded by Betty and Clayton Bailey, the Bailey Art Museum in Crockett is a million miles away from most of the art museums. A Bigfoot skeleton of dubious provenance shares space with homemade robots, mud babies under glass, and a Cyclops skull.
The museum is small and won't take long to visit. But it's totally unique and totally Californian. That makes it well worth a quick stop on your way into San Francisco.
Finally, after seeing some of the nation's greatest parks and a selection of unique towns, you reach San Francisco. The City on the Bay, once a gold rush town, is now a tech hub and a center for immigration from all around the world, giving it a unique vibe that sets it apart from anywhere else. Ride a cable car over the notorious hills, dine on exquisite seafood at Fisherman's Wharf, and take a boat trip out to the forbidding island prison of Alcatraz. After all the fun you had getting here, you'll soon find that your adventure is only just beginning.