The great outdoors is calling you. As you probably know by now, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (happy birthday!), which just happened on August 25. The grand size of the United States means we all have enormous opportunities to visit one of the 59 national parks right in our backyards. Luckily, almost all of them can be reached by automobile, though you might find yourself driving further for some. With the spirit of adventure in front of you, here are some of our recommendations (and picks from @theZipperDog) for getting yourself from national park to national park with a mix of either comfort, economy, or creativity.[^1]
If you ever find yourself heading to a national park, chances are you’ll run across a plethora of Volkswagen’s ubiquitous people movers. The EuroVan is a quirky mix of minivan, cargo van, and fun-having mobile that lives up to its forefather, the Vanagon. The EuroVan isn’t going to get you to the next destination in the fastest time, but its unrivaled interior space, cargo room, sweet rotating rear facing seats that make sure the party continues as long as the drive does, and even a pop up tent in the EuroVan Westfalia edition.
Nothing quite says x-country trekking quite like Safari. They made the GMC Safari from 1992-2005, and you’re probably going to want to find a Safari towards the end of the lifecycle when it was hitting its stride. A big panel van at heart, the Safari can haul copious amounts of gear and pack on the pounds like a minivan. Being equipped with all-wheel drive makes them versatile at exploring when the weather gets sour, but its boxy profile means fuel economy will suffer in those mountain ranges. Though not the most posh offering, the Safari is a means to an awesome end.
The Honda Pilot can always be relied upon for providing decent power, reliability, and versatility. It will even seat eight, though we don’t recommend it, as you will be sitting on your supplies. The Pilot is for people who refuse to get behind the wheel of a minivan, and we don’t blame you for it. The newer models come with a standard backup camera so you can avoid traveling travesties, and folding the rear seats down keep the cargo space to a premium.
If you’re smart about packing, and even getting one of the million accessories like a roof rack, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the greatest vehicles for heading out on the open road. What’s great about the Jeep is that once you reach the destination, its capability can get it even further beyond, more or less allowing you to make your own destination. Wranglers are also great for their ability to go from a buckled down cabin to essentially a convertible, making the scenery that much more exciting from the passenger seats.
Similar to the Jeep—in that the allroad is off-road capable, just less so—but more refined and luxurious, the allroad utilizes air suspension to soak up bumps and also extend its suspension travel when necessary to access harder to reach places. In typical Audi fashion, you get beautiful ergonomics wrapped in an equally great looking body. If traveling in style and luxury is something you covet on your way to sights of this country, the Audi is a compelling choice.
If you don’t have kids, or they’re at that age where you don’t have to include them in your packing itinerary, the Corvette is actually a great long haul vehicle. The luggage compartment is surprisingly gratuitous (the convertible loses a bit of room), allowing for plenty of bags and tchotchkes along the way. Newer models have optional adaptive suspension that can go from comfort to sport, making the trek less treacherous on your back than you’d imagine. What’s better than viewing some of America’s treasures in America’s greatest sports car?
Not quite minivan; not quite truck; and not quite van, the Ford Flex is a unique vehicle in its own right by giving you that classic station wagon styling, but future-proofed. Great styling, comfort, seating for seven, and a powerful fuel-efficient engine makes the Flex a great option for larger families looking to hit the road. Don’t expect to do any off-roading, as the lowered nature and low-profile tires won’t get you as far as you would like.
Big, burly, and built for hauling, the Sequoia is equipped with a powerful V8, four-wheel drive, and plenty of options and conveniences for the nomadic lifestyle. There is a massive amount of cargo space available with the Sequoia so if you like your trips to have everything you need and be prepared for the worst, this is a good bet. And even though the Sequoia is based on its Toyota Tundra pickup truck sibling, the Sequoia can be had with rear air suspension that helps to even out the road, no matter how rough. If roughing it and covering miles in one of the most massive options out there is your idea of motoring, the Sequoia has got you covered.
Okay, go ahead and get the laugh out now. We know that looks (and laughs) aside, the Aztek is a crossover with a bad reputation; often labeled among some of the worst vehicle designs of all time. However, the Aztek can be as versatile as you want it to be, and owners almost unanimously love the car, with plenty of them crediting how reliably they’ve held up. For camping, there was an optional tent that popped out once the seats folded. Even the Aztek gods couldn’t have dreamt that up. As a bonus, Walter White drove this in Breaking Bad, which instantly gives it some street cred the next time someone questions your decision.
[^1]: Photo Courtesy of @TheZipperDog & The Dangerfield Family
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