The only thing more American than baseball and apple pie might be the good old-fashioned road trip. The size and variety of the US make it the ideal place to hop in your ride and explore. There are plenty of options for road trips but it’s hard to beat the grand cross-country route. So when looking for a cross-country trip, why not try the route that many American pioneers braved years ago? This, of course, the fabled Oregon Trail and then some.
Times have certainly changed since those covered wagon days but this is still a trip that can capture your imagination as you head west.
Let’s explore the northern Oregon Trail road trip by featuring some great destinations, what to do at those destinations, as well as some pit stops along the way. You’ll have a great time and likely won’t have to worry about a member of your party dying of dysentery.
About the Northern Oregon Trail Road Trip
This is a long road trip that kicks off in the culturally rich town of Provincetown, Massachusetts and winds its way west all the way to the Oregon Pacific Coast. At over 3,000 miles you best make sure your ride and you are prepped for the varying terrain and conditions of this monster of a road trip. Just like the settlers, we’ll be moving east to west.
Note: If you're looking for the National Parks designated Oregon Trail road trip, check out their great guide starting in Missouri and ending in Oregon.
East Terminus: Provincetown, Massachusetts
Where to Stay in Provincetown: Dunes' Edge Campground
This scenic campground lies right on the shores of the Cape Cod National Seashore and is an ideal place to begin your northern Oregon Trail journey. Sites at Dunes' Edge have both electric and water hookups and while there isn’t any sewer, there is a dump station at the park.
You have a camp store for camping supplies, modern bathrooms and showers, laundry facilities and even a dishwashing station. You’ll be taken care of at Dunes' Edge Campground.
What to Do in Provincetown
Provincetown has long been a prime example of cultural freedom so it makes for a great place to keep off your road trip. For scenery you don’t have to go far, you can take advantage of the Cape Cod National Seashore right outside your campground. If you enjoy the serenity of the Cape Cod area you can also try Hering Cove Beach, Race Point Beach and MacMillan Wharf. You can get out on the Cape as well for some dolphin and whale tours and if you’re searching for the famous fun of Provincetown, look no further than Commercial Street.
Pit Stop: Boston, Massachusetts for some famous American heritage sites and museums.
First Stop: Grand Island, New York
Where to Stay in Grand Island: Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort
You have a variety of sites to choose from at Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort such as gravel sites and grass sites but all of these sites come with full utility hookups, fire ring, and personal picnic table. The facilities and amenities at Branches of Niagara are outstanding and one of the best in New York.
You can expect clean bathrooms and showers, laundry facilities, a general store, activity center and plenty more. There are recreational opportunities right at the park such as nature trails, private fishing pond, ziplining and plenty more. Tons of great facilities and rec opportunities at Branches of Niagara.
What to Do in Grand Island
As the name of your campground suggests, you’ll be right up close to one of the most majestic waterfalls in the entire world in Niagara Falls. You have Niagara Falls State Park, Cave of the Winds, Bridal Veil Falls and Whirlpool State Park all within the local area. You also have Aquarium of Niagara for the kids and the Seneca Niagara Casino if you want some nightlife fun. Spend your days at the falls and the nights at the slots when visiting Niagara Falls
Pit Stop: Buffalo, NY for the birthplace of the ultimate sports food, the buffalo wing.
Second Stop: Cleveland, Ohio
Where to Stay in Cleveland: Streetsboro/Cleveland SE KOA (Streetsboro, OH)
You may not be right in Cleveland but the Streetsboro/Cleveland SE KOA will get you close enough to the action with great amenities and facilities. There are a variety of site types available but you should be taken care of regardless of what site you choose as most come with full utility connections as well as cable TV hookups. You’ll get the great shower and bathhouse facilities you’ve come to expect from KOA along with onsite fishing, propane refills, snack bar, camp store, bike rentals, and that’s just a start. No worries if you have a giant RV as this KOA can take care of rides up to 95 feet in length.
What to Do in Cleveland
Cleveland, Ohio is a big city so that leaves you with a lot to do. One of the most popular activities is to pay tribute to the great vocalists and shredders of our time by visiting the world famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum but there are plenty of other great museums as well such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the USS Cod Submarine Memorial. If you want to be outside you have several choices such as the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Rocky River Reservation, and the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Of course, you can just walk around downtown for some great food and people watching.
Third Stop: Chicago, Illinois
Where to Stay in Chicago: Hollywood Casino Hotel and RV Resort (Joliet, IL)
RVing in the heart of Chicago would not be very much fun but you can stay in nearby Joliet, Illinois for your overnight needs. This an onsite RV resort and they take care of their visitors with water and electric hookups, laundry facilities, private hot showers, business center, Wi-Fi access and even hot breakfast. You’ll feel like you’re staying at a resort when you stay at Hollywood Casino Hotel and RV Resort and you’ll be plenty recharged to go check out Chicago.
What to Do in Chicago
The third largest city in the United States has days’ worth of activities and sites but there are a few that should jump out immediately such as Millennium Park, the famous Cloud Gate, Michigan Avenue and the Art Institute of Chicago. If you’re a baseball fan and you’re there during baseball season you must catch a game at the legendary Wrigley Field. Chicago offers culinary tours as well so if you’re a foodie try joining one of these for a true taste of Chicago. Finish it all up by viewing the city from the sky deck of the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.
Fourth Stop: Custer, South Dakota
Where to Stay in Custer: Broken Arrow Horse Camp
Broken Arrow Horse Camp is a highly rated and the reviewed campground is a fantastic starting point to everything the local area has to offer. This place is loaded down with amenities. Of course, you’ll get full utility hookups for your ride but you’ll also get private bathhouses, laundry facilities, group pavilions, playground, camp store and even golf cart rentals. With onsite management, you’ll feel like you’re camping in your “home” RV park. A great RV park for checking out the Custer area.
What to Do in Custer
We go from urban stops to a stop out into the natural areas of the South Dakota. Custer is surrounded by natural beauty and plenty of famous parks and sites. Some of the top highlights in the area include Custer State Park right on your doorstep, the alien topography of Badlands National Park and of course the famous Mount Rushmore. Those are the top three but there are so many other great parks and areas around like Sylvan Lake, Jewel Cave National Monument and Legion Lake. Whether it’s by vehicle, foot or even helicopter, there is plenty to see and do in the Custer area.
Fifth Stop: West Yellowstone, Montana
Where to Stay in West Yellowstone: Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park
These may very well be the best individual campsite on the entire trip. Each site has plenty of space, comes with full utility hookups as well as cable and Wi-Fi connections, even your own grill and picnic table, a very loaded site altogether. The amenities don’t end there, Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park comes with six bathhouses, four laundry rooms, clubhouse, playground and group pavilions. All this you get right on the doorstep of one of the most popular National Parks in the entire world.
What to Do in West Yellowstone
You’re at essentially knocking on the door of Yellowstone National Park. You can spend days exploring the different trails and points of interest at Yellowstone National Park by foot, bike or vehicle on the scenic byways. Can't-miss sites come at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring, Lower Yellowstone River Falls and of course Old Faithful. Yellowstone is full up on things to do so it might be wise to try a guided tour either by the park service itself or a third party company. Whatever you decide, the geological activity, wildlife and waterfalls of Yellowstone will amaze just about everyone.
Pit Stop: Crater Lake National Park. You’ll be veering a bit off of your path to get down to Crater Lake but the surrounding forest and deep blue water of Crater Lake make it all worth it.
West Terminus: Portland, OR
Where to Stay in Portland: Columbia River RV
A great RV park to finish up your northern Oregon Trail journey, in Oregon of course. This park is right on the Columbia River and all sites are paved with full utility hookups. The bathhouses and laundry facilities are kept sparkling clean and there are places where Fido can run off leash. If you feel like just relaxing and unwinding you can hook up to Columbia River’s satellite service.
What to Do in Portland
Portland’s underground motto is “Keep Portland Weird” so you know this is a town with some culture. One of the closest and best attractions will be Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to go along with other outdoor adventures like Washington Park, the Portland Japanese Garden, and Oneonta Gorge. For some fun things within the city try checking out the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Zoo or the Portland Aerial Tram. There are many day trips to the Portland area if you don’t want your road trip to end including Mt. St Helens, Mt. Hood and the lovely Oregon coast.
When to Go on the Northern Oregon Trail Road Trip
You’ll be spending most of this road trip in the central to northern portion of the United States so heat is not as much of a worry as other parts of the US. That being said, you don’t want to become entangled with all of the other summer road trippers so try taking this trip in the early or later part of peak seasons such as May or September. This trip is not recommended in winter due to the chance of encountering hazardous road and weather conditions.
So like the pioneers before you, you’ve made it along with your own northern Oregon Trail. Sure it’s a bit easier with an engine instead of a covered wagon but it takes some effort nonetheless. For a variety of scenery, local culture and things to do, the northern Oregon Trail road trip has you covered.