You'll find detailed information to the national parks on the sites of the national park service, here and here. Via a search engine, you'll find lots of additional information (Wiki, ...).
Joshua Tree NP
Route No. 1
Lake Powell (Glen Canyon)
Canyonlands, Islands in the Sky
Canyonlands, The Maze
Capitol Reef NP, Escalante
Here you'll find - without the Death Valley NP - a good infrastructure. The road network is excellent, but there's mostly heavy traffic.
Highlights: Death Valley NP, Los Angeles, Napa Valley, Route No. 1, Route 66, San Francisco, Yosemite NP, Joshua Tree NP
The Death Valley includes the deepest point on the western hemisphere (282 feet below sea level). This is also one of the hottest places in the whole world. The highest measured air temperature was 134°F, only in Libya they've once measured a slightly higher temperature.
Next town: Beatty, NV (inside the park, you'll find almost no civilisation)
Highlights: Badwater Bassin, Uhebe Crater, Sand dunes, Artists Palette, Zabriskie Point, Devils Golf Course, Mosaic Canyon (short hike, nearly impossible at summer) - if you've a 4WD, you should also visit the Eureka Sand Dunes (a longer drive, but this unpaved road is a very interesting route to/from the park)! Another interesting route is the unpaved road from Beatty via Rhyolite and Leadfield through a very attractive canyon.
Restaurants: The Furnace Creek Ranch offers a good restaurant. You'll find almost no alternatives so you shouldn't expect to pick up a bargain...
Hotels: Here, the choice is very limited! In the middle of the park, you'll find the Furnace Creek Ranch, the Furnace Creek Resort and the Stovepipe Wells Village, in the northern part Scottys Castle.
Best season: Winter, maybe spring or autumn - at summer, you'll experience an unbelievable heatness (at June 2007, we had 125°F at 5 P.M.), at 8 A.M. the next day we were above 104°F). In the past, driving through the Death Valley at summer was life-threatening, today thanks to air condition it is possible.
In the spring season, you can see the living desert! Seeing all the flowers in this normally very inhospitable desert is extremely impressive - you'll want to see this again!
Apart from that, you'll see lots of Joshuas (the typical trees here) and a mountainous desert landscape. If you do like offroad tours, here's your paradise!
Next town: Palm Springs, CA and Indio, CA
Highlights: Flowering time, Joshua Trees, cactus garden, hikes and walks (49 Palms, Baker Dam), offroad tours (here, you can see very exotic animals like the Chuckwalla!)
Restaurants: In Indio, we always visit a very authentic Mexican restaurant: The El Mexicali Cafe II. Some years ago, we found it via the internet - now, we don' search for others (the food is very good and priceworthy).
Hotels: In Palm Springs, you'll find lots of good hotels. But the distance to the national park is too high! We always stay in Indio, close to the freeway. The Holiday Express is acceptable, the location is perfect (from here, it's only some miles to our 'special' unpaved road into the park). Our favorite Mexican restaurant is also very close.
Best season: Spring, January up to May. At this time, the desert is flowering! Without the flowers and offroad drives, the detour is not worth it!
For us, this town is interesting - but nothing really special. It is one of three or four destinations in this area for direct flights from Germany, so we are here very often. Here, you can acclimate pretty good, the theme parks offer amusement for more than one day and world-renowned attractions in Hollywood (Chinese Theatre, Walk of Fame) provide some variation.
In the surroundings, there are also some (less known) attractions like the Mulholland Drive and the Paramount Ranch.
The beaches are well known and impressive.
Next town: Los Angeles, CA
Highlights: Theme parks (Universal Studios, Disneyland), Hollywood, beaches (e.g. Santa Barbara), Mulholland Drive, Paramount Ranch (outdoor studio)
Hotels: We always stay in one of the hotels near the airport. The hotels here offer good comfort and service for a reasonable price. But check the cost for parking - this are often $20 and more per day, so apparently cheap offers could become quiet expensive! We mostly select the Mariott or the Figueroa.
Best season: The whole year. In summer, it is only attractive for those who want to go to the beaches.
Everybody does know the Napa Valley. A pretty nice valley, dominated by wineries. It's interesting to see how they feed the grapes up. The main advantage here is the climate, almost no rain but moist air from the sea.
They don't water the grapes, they produge fog: Big ventilators do spray lots of water.
If you are here because of the wine, you should also visit the Sonoma County nearby! One of our favorite winemakers works here: Nalle. Healdsburg is a nice town, very European - lots of cafes and even a really good ice cream shop!
Next town: Napa, CA; St. Helena, CA; Healdsburg, CA
Highlights: Round trip - that's it! We didn't hear too much positive things about the visiting tours in the wineries.
See also the Route No. 1 (Point Reyes is pretty attractive and not too far away)!
Restaurants: We didn't visit any restaurant. I would prefer Healdsburg: Here you can find lots of restaurants, you'll find even pretty good ice cream!
Best season: The whole year.
This road is famous, particularly the part between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the past, the part near San Francisco was one of my most favorite roads. But now the road is reconstructed, many tunnels and other changes together with the growing traffic destroyed the 'myth'. North of San Francisco, you can find remaining parts of this fantastic road. If you know Scotlands northwestern part (north of Fort William), you will possibly have a déjà vu. One of the villages here is named 'Inverness', a perfect fit! Point Ryes is more or less unknown, but give it a chance! The Muir Woods near San Francisco are also a nice tourist attraction.
Next town: San Francisco, CA
Highlights: Nice road along the pacific coastline, partly with a spectacular outlook. At the beach, sometimes you can see elephant seals, with some luck you will see some whales in the water.
You should visit Muir Woods, San Francisco and Point Ryes! If you pass L.A., you should drive some miles on the Mulholland Drive.
Restaurants: No recommendations directly at the Route No. 1. We always search either for a Wahoo's Fish Taco (great restaurant chain) or for a Mexican restaurant what is as authentic as possible: just look for tidiness and ignore the ambiente (in nice looking restaurants, we were mostly dissatisfied with the food)!
Hotels: You can make the whole trip between L.A. and San Francisco in just one day. But you should plan for a overnight stay, for example in San Luis Obispo or Monterey!
Best season: The whole year. At summertime, it can become very warm in the southern part.
In the past, for me San Francisco was the town in the U.S. - a mild climate (always spring), a great landscape and very relaxed people. The last years, there was a slight change. The people are less relaxed, driving is much more stress than ten years ago. Now you have to be 'brutal' (push and chase) like in L.A. or Las Vegas, otherwise you will make no progress! Nevertheless, I do like this town and will come again!
Next town: San Francisco, CA
Highlights: Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, Telegraph Hill, Twin Peaks, …
Restaurants: The Yuet Lee in Chinatown (Broadway/Stockton) is a great Chinese restaurant, some prominent people also do like it (Gerard Depardieu, Jackie Chan and others). The fish will be slaughtered on demand!
Hotels: The hotels in downtown are often not good at the price and/or are comfortless. We mostly prefer one of the hotels near the airport, here you will get a good value for the money (for example in the Airport North Travelodge)!
Best season: The whole year. It is not too warm, even the summertime (but the aserted quote from Mark Twain is most possibly not from him: 'The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco').
Since this great national park is easily accessible from San Francisco and Los Angeles, it is often overcrowded. In the main season, you shouldn't come to here if you want to sleep too long! Come very early or wait for some hours...
If you wake up early enough or are not here at the main season, you'll see great outloooks and impressing waterfalls. The hikes are often spectacular.
You should use the Tioga pass, at an altitude of up to 9,900 feet! This street is closed up to mid of June, at summertime it is overcrowded with campers. If you have the guts to pass all the campers and slower cars, this road brings you lots of fun!
On the other side of this great pass, you'll find two other interesting highlights: the Mono lake and the ghost town Bodie!
There's a quite interesting site with lots of tips for hiking and camping in Yosemite!
Next town: Mariposa, CA und Oakhurst, CA
Highlights: The Glacier Point offers a nice access road and spectacular outlooks. Several waterfalls are accessible via short walks.
The greatest places are only accessible per feet, shorter and longer hikes bring you to attractions like the Half Dome, the Vernal Fall and the Nevada Fall (Mist Trail).
If you start early and do have some luck, you'll even be able to see some bears!
Restaurants: Not too far away from the Yosemite NP, you'll find a restaurant with a benchmarking service and great food: the Happy Burger Diner in Mariposa.
Hotels: We always search for a hotel outside the park, but not too far away. Oakhurst and other towns in the surroundings are not a good idea!
The Cedar Lodge in El Portal offers a fair price-performance ratio.
Best season: Almost the whole year. But the Tioga pass is closed in winter (opens not before mid of June) and other passes like that in direction Oakhurst are in spring and autumn often closed for some hours or days - that could mean huge dertours.
In summer, this national park is extremely overcrowded so I recommend late spring and early autumn!
Up to now, we slept for some days in Las Vegas every time we were in the U.S.. That is a great contrast to all the national parks! At weekdays, you'll get luxuriously suites for a very competitive price. But you should avoid weekends and holidays!
Next town: Las Vegas, NV
Highlights: Several of the big casinos offer visual highlights, adventure and shows. Several global super stars here found a new homebase.
You should visit at least one casino, and you should try to play for money - but do not take more money with you than you are willingly to loose (and do not take credit cards with you)! ;-)
You should visit the strip at day and at night!
Restaurants: There are several great buffets for a very reasonable price. At the Circus Circus, it is particularly affordable, the MGM offers much more quality. Our clear favorite is the Spice Market Buffet in the Planet Hollywood (in the past, this was the Aladdin)!
Hotels: Here you can find some of the greatest hotels of the world, often with more than 6,000 beds. Ad weekdays, the well known hotels (Stratosphere, Luxor, Circus Circus, Mirage, Hilton, ...) do offer very comprehensive prices - de luxe can be expected in all this hotels.
At weekends or in the holiday season, the prices can rise dramatically - you should try to avoid this times!
I recommend to select a hotel close to the strip or at least close to the Las Vegas Monorail! In summer, the temperatures can be very high (often above 100°F) so you will not want to walk too much...
Best season: October up to May. In the summer season, it can become extremely hot and you will not want to leave the rooms with A.C.!
Next highlights: Death Valley, Zion NP, Grand Canyon north rim, Grand Canyon south rim, Grand Canyon west rim. Route 66, Los Angeles
Documented: 2005, 2007, 2008, 2013
Links: http://www.lasvegas.com/, http://www.visitlasvegas.com/
Here, you'll find the most spectacular national parks! The region is thinly populated, so you'll find a good infrastructure only close to the popular national parks.
Lots of the highlights are located in Native American reservations.
The road network is very good, there's not too much traffic. But in the high season, close to the national parks it can get lousy! If a road is closed, there's often no detour - enormous diversions are possible. Since the plateau is on an elevation of 6,000-7,000 feet, the temperatures are fair even in midsummer. But you should be careful: The solar radiation is awfully strong! In the winter season, you could encounter a blizzard what often makes the roads impassable. We've seen more then ten feet of snow...
There's a quite interesting site with lots of tips for hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon!
Highlights: North rim, south rim, west rim, Route 66, Lake Powell (Glen Canyon)
The north rim of the Grand Canyon is much higher (approx. 1,000 feet) than the south rim. So it is much cooler, the park is less known and closed in the winter season. The viewpoints provide excellent views, some of the best outlooks are only accessible via offroad tracks. But those tracks are pretty long and lots of spiky stones pose a risk of tyre damages!
Next town: None! Fredonia, AZ und Kanab, UT are more then 50 miles away…
Highlights: Several great viewpoints, often only accessible via long and strenous offroad tracks. The hike into the canyon (Roaring Springs / Phantom Ranch) is great, but extremely strenous.
Restaurants: The hotel offers a good restaurant. It is located straight at the rim, a window table offers great views into the canyon. There are no alternatives, so a reservation is mandatory. You shouldn't expect a bargain buy…
Hotels: There's no alternative to the only hotel directly at the rim (Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim). The rooms are nice (single cottages, fireplace, but no TV).
Best season: Only in the summer season - the access road wil not be opened before May.
The south rim of the Grand Canyon is world-renowned and therefore often overcrowded. Besides the viewpoints, you should visit the IMAX cinema. A skyscraper flight is pretty expensive, but a great experience (depending on the place you'll get in the skyscraper). For us, a hike into the canyon is an absolute must!
Next town: Grand Canyon Village, AZ; Williams, AZ; Flagstaff, AZ; Peach Springs, AZ; Kingman, AZ
In Las Vegas, NV there are lots of offers for trips to the Grand Canyon (skyscraper, scenic flights, bus tours and so on).
Highlights: Our first highlight is the hike into the Grand Canyon (Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail)!
We also would recommend the skyscraper flight, the trip to the Diamond Creek (the only option to reach the Colorado river by car) and the IMAX cinema.
Restaurants: The restaurant in the Canyon Plaza Quality Inn & Suites (contiguous to the IMAX cinema) offers very good food (buffet) at a very reasonable price.
Hotels: There are lots of hotels. Be careful: not each hotel with names including 'Grand Canyon' are near the rim! Often they are located near the highway up to 50 miles away...
The hotels in the Grand Canyon Village are pricy. We prefer staying in Tusayan (near the IMAX cinema, between park entrance and airport - only five miles from the Grand Canyon Village). The Canyon Plaza Quality Inn & Suites is our first choice, the Best Western next door is also recommendable.
Best season: Spring and autumn - in the winter season, you have to expect road closures because of the snow and in the summer season it can be very hot and overcrowded.
West of the south rim, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon Village, there's a huge Native American reservation. Some years ago, they've started to offer some touristic attractions. But up to now, the infrastructure is very basic (no paved roads, almost no hotels, no shopping possibilities). It seems that they also plan to build hotels and so on, we will see what happens!
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a bridge with a floor of glass. Below this floor, there's - nothing! More than a half mile of abyss down to the floor of the Grand Canyon - to be honest, this is only a branch of the canyon!
The fee for usage of the bridge is pretty expensive (in 2007, we payed $25). But that's not all: You have to book a package (including something like a theme park and a basic meal plus the mandatory bus shuttle) so all in all it costs at least $75!
Other possibilities include skyscraper rides and scenic flights, river rafting and so on - all pretty expensive. It seems that most of the guests do book a package including the flight from/to Las Vegas.
Next town: Peach Springs, AZ and Kingman, AZ (to both, you have to drive more than one hour on partly unpaved roads)
Do I have to write anything about ths street?
Major parts of this road now are only subsidiary road, the traffic flows on interstates. So it's only you and the street! So you can drive a good speed, only the cattle sometimes brings some delay. Just off the street, there are lots of side-trips - you should give them a chance. The railway is mostly running in parallel to the Route 66, this offers additional variety (the trains here in the U.S. are not comparable with trains in Europe).
Next town: Kingman, AZ
Highlights: The journey is its own reward!
In each case, you should take the chance to try a brunch - I recommend Kingman or Seligman!
The wild donkeys in Oatman (near Kingman) are also worth seeing.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk ist accessible from Kingman or Peach Springs.
Hotels: In Kingman, there are some suitable hotels like the Quality Inn.
The gambling city Laughlin could be an interesting alternative - like in Las Vegas, they offer very low rates at weekdays, a good infrastructure and lots of luxury!
The Hulapai Lodge in Peach Springs is another recommendable hotel, but here you'll find almost no infrastructure!
Best season: The whole year. In the winter season, the roads to the east Williams, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon Village can be closed because of snow (I've experienced some blizzards, but the road closings were always only some hours), there's often no detour. Recommendation: spring or autumn.
Here, the Glen Canyon Dam dams the river Colorado to a lake with a length of more than 100 miles. This lake consists of lots of branches, which are mostly extremely narrow. To drive with a boat in some of those narrow canyons, is a great adventure!
You can almost touch the sidewalls of the canyon, fantastic!
Another highlight are the slot canyons. The upper and lower Antelope Canyon offer a unique adventure - an expensive expirence, but for us an absolutely must! If you don't shun some offroad drive (including crossing a small river), you should visit the Alstrom point - the best viewpoint we know in this area! The driving is not too difficult, I did it once with a big limousine (Buick Park Avenue, similar to the BMW 6er).
In the summer season, the lake is full of houseboats. For sure a great way to spend his holidays here - but very overcrowded and therefore expensive.
Next town: Page, AZ
Highlights: Slot canyons (Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon), boat ride with one of the powerboats to the Rainbow Bridge, great viewpoints (Alstrom Point), Glen Canyon Dam. Adventures like river rafting are possible.
Restaurants: In Page: no recommendation! I recommend a side trip to Tuba City, the capital of the native American reservation nearby. Here, the Hogan restaurant was a very positive surprise!
The restaurant in the Lake Powell Resort is pretty expensive, but offers good food (and a great sight). We once had a very hot Jalapeno soup, a real experience!
Hotels: I can recommend only one hotel, the Lake Powell Resort. Very good, but that comes at a price.
A houseboat could be an interesting alternative, but this is even more expensive! You shouldn't forget the fuel price!
Best season: Summer season, May up to November. In the winter season, the water is too cold for boat tours or swimming, then only the overviews and the slot canyons are options. In the midsummer, it is overcrowded.
The region around Moab, UT is thinly populated, but you can find five national parks and lots of other attractions. In Moab, they offer extracurricular activities for a whole holiday! If you do like the adventure, you should come to here!
Highlights: Arches NP, Canyonlands, Islands in the Sky, Canyonlands, Needles, Canyonlands, The Maze, Natural Bridges
Northern of Moab, you can find the Arches, offering lots of stone archs and natural bridges.
Highlights: Arches, nice walks and hikes (Primitive Trail). Nearby you can find other 'must sees', for example hikes (Fisher Towers) and offroad tracks (Onion Creek) - see the Canyonlands below.
The Canyonlands consist of three parts - the Needles (left of the Colorado river), the Islands in the Sky (between Colorado river and Green river) and The Maze (right of the Colorado river, below the Green River).
All three parts are very remote, there's no connection between the parts. The Arches NP is in the direct neighborhood of the Islands in the Sky.
Moab offers lots of natural beauties - I don't know any town with more attractions in the proximity!
Next town: Moab, UT
Highlights: Moab is the location for an adventurous holiday: Offroad tours (with 4WD, motorcycle or mountain bikes), river rafting and lots of other attractions guarantee entertainment for days and weeks! Alongside the four national parks, lots of other nice places offer the chance for great hikes, offroad tours and so on: For examplethe Fisher Towers or the Onion Creek.
Restaurants: In Moab, Miguel's Baja Grill is our first choice. Good Mexican food and the best Margerithas we know!
Hotels: We tried several hotels and were always satisfied. The last times, we selected one of the hotels outside Moab (in direction to the Arches NP) - here you can expect the best price-performance ratio.
Best season: The whole year. In the winter season, the roads from the east (Denver) will be partly closed (they go across passes of 10,000 feet altitude). Inside the national parks, some of the ways can be impassable after heavy rainfall.
I recommend spring or autumn.
Details to the three parts:
Islands in the Sky
You stand on a plateau more than 6,000 feet above sea level and look down on another plateou, more than 1,000 feet deeper (the White Rim). From this 2nd plateau, it is another 1,000 feet down to the Colorado river. On the right side, you see the Green river - the largest tributary river of the Colorado. Both rivers digged extreme windings, the landscape looks like a gigantic fractal.
Highlights: Genious viewpoints, a great 4WD track (White Rim) with a natural bridge you can pass (if you have the courage to do so).
This is the part simplest reachable. The landscape is not as spectacular like the Islands in the Sky, but the desert with lots of rocks offers walks, hikes and offroad tracks at all levels. Petroglyphs and other attractions do offer a singular contrast program.
You'll not be able to see the Colorado river without some offroad driving or hiking!
Highlights: Walks and hikes (Slickrock Footpath), offroad tracks at all levels (Colorado Overlook, Elephant Hill)
This part of the Canyonlands is not easily accessible. It is not possible as day trip, and there are no hotels or other facilities. You have to stay overnight, what needs some equipment. Sounds great, but up to now we didn't make it.
This small, outlying park is predestinated for a stopover on the way through. That is fine because there are not that great highlights. Nice walks and hikes, three giant natural bridges. We recommend a short walk down to one of the bridges and a picnic.
Not far away, there's a ferry crossing the Lake Powell. That is the only passage via the Colorado River between Page (Glen Canyon) and Moab (Arches). At the harbor, there are some options for camping and so on. On the other side, there's an unpaved road (accessible for all types of cars) to Escalante and the Capitol Reef NP.
Next town: Blanding, UT
Highlights: Three giant natural bridges. It is good to observe how such formations can develop. The landscape here is very nice, here driving is real fun! The ride down to the Valley of the Gods is also great (you may know this road from some films, here often cars and trucks loose control...), excursions to the observation points Muley Point and Goosenecks State Park are recommendable.
Restaurants: None (see Arches and Monument Valley)
Hotels: None (see Arches and Monument Valley)
Best season: The whole year. In the summertime, it can become very hot. At wintertime, road closures because of snow are possible. Recommendation: Spring or autumn.
Utah doesn't consist only of the Arches and Canyonlands - other parts of this beautiful country do also offer attractive national parks! Those are not as spectacular as the national parks near Moab, but most of them are less overcrowded. Most of them are located in uninhabited regions, so sometimes one can have the (mostly very good) roads on its own!
Highlights:Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef NP, Escalante, Monument Valley, Zion NP
The Bryce Canyon (what is no canyon but the rim of a plateau) offers a incredible play of colors, the sunset and sunrise can be tremendous.
Next town: Tropic, UT
Highlights: Needles like you wouldn't believe, nice walks and hikes near and through them. The park is elevated, the highest point is above 9,000 feet. So you should expect snow even in the late spring!
Restaurants: You are in the middle of nowhere, so you shouldn't expect too much...
Hotels: The Hotels near to the park entrance are all O.K., but not cheap. Maybe you can find some budget-priced alternatives in Tropic, 15-30 minutes away. We didn't test this, we prefer the Best Western Rubys Inn (what offers a good convenience.
Best season: Summertime, April up to November. In the winter season (sometimes also in the late spring), you have to expect closed roads due to the snow.
The Capitol Reef NP offers not that big highlight and is relatively unknown.
Next town: Torrey, UT
Highlights: Great roads on all sea levels (Escalante is one of my absolute favorites), great landscape, lots of hikes (day trips or multi day trips). If you like driving on umpaved roads, here you can have lots of fun...
Here, the endangered wildlife is in good order!!
Restaurants: For us, the Capitol Reef Inn is the by far best restaurant in Torrey.
The Luna Mesa (some miles northeastern in the Wayne County - the most thinly populated county in the U.S., only about 2,000 inhabitants) is also very recommendable and authentic, but the last two times we had bad luck (the restaurant was closed despite the big sign 'we are open!'). You should give them a phone call!
Hotels: The BW Capitol Reef Resort is the hotel located next to the park entrance. It offers tranquility and is reasonably priced.
Best season: The whole year. In the winter season, access from the west (Lake Powell, Escalante) can be difficult - the road goes across a pass of almost 10,000 feet altitude! After rainfall, some of the unpaved roads can become inaccessible. Recommendation: spring or autumn.
See the Capitol Reef NP!
See the Lake Powell!
Who doesn't know that scenery from films or advertisements? A scenic road (unpaved) leads through the territory, offers views from close to the so called buttes. Besides of this, you shouldn't expect too much. In Mexican Hat, a small town not far away, you can see and do many things (Valley of the Gods, river rafting and so on).
Next town: Kayenta, AZ; Mexican Hat, UT
Highlights: Round trip; that's it! Near Mexican Hat, you can see the Valley of the Gods, Viewpoints like the Muley Point or the Goosenecks State Park, you can do river rafting and so on.
Restaurants: No recommendation. In Mexican Hat, the San Juan Inn & Trading Post offers good food for a reasonable price.
Hotels: The hotels in Kayenta are absolutely O.K. - but the small town doesn't offer any attraction and the infrastructure is poor (for example, you'll have difficulties to get any alcoholic drink). We prefer to stay in Mexican Hat. The San Juan Inn & Trading Post is perfectly located directly at the San Juan river.
Best season: The whole year. Since you don't have to leave the car too often, you can stand the heat even in the midsummer! Ganzjährig. Da man das Auto praktisch nicht verlassen muss, ist selbst die Hitze im Sommer kein echtes Hindernis.
The Zion NP is hiker's paradise! Lots of walks, daily walks and multi day walks offer more than you would expect on the first view. Hikers will have fun for many days, all the others wouldn't realize the beauty of this rough diamond.
Next town: St. George, UT; La Verkin / Hurricane, CA; Springdale, UT
Highlights: The hikes to Angel's Landing (a fine line to a butte, far above 1,00 feet high) and to the Observation Point (hike through a slot canyon, incline of almost 3,000 feet) are strenous, but fantastic. The walk to the Emerald Pools is not hard, but one of the paths leads directly across the waterfall!
Restaurants: We always visit the Red Lobster Restaurant in St. George. Ernesto's Mexican Restaurant offers good food, but you shouldn't have too much expectations in case of cleanliness.
Hotels: We always stay in St. George, roundabout 30 miles away. Here, you'll find a very good infrastructure and inexpensive hotels. Also, the choice of restaurants is very good. The Ramada Inn answered our expectations (more than once) as well as the Hilton.
Best season: Summer season, spring up to autumn. At midsummer, the toughest (and most beautiful) hikes are almost impossible! Recommendation: Spring or autumn.
The Yellowstone NP is one of the most beautiful national parks in the whole U.S.. But it is quite remote, visiting this park always comes with lots of driving. So, the holidays will become a road trip (for me, not an disadvantage)!
Next town: Bozeman
Highlights: Geysirs, hot springs; animals (as buffalos, bears, wolfes, deers); sunrise and sunset; waterfall
Restaurants: Will change rapidly; ask locals!
Hotels: In the main season, one must be happy to find any bed in reasonable distance to the park! My advise: book early, check the reviews in e.g. TripAdvisor and Google Maps! The skiing area Big Sky is not too far away from West Yellowstone and may be a good alternative.
Best seasont: autumn to spring.
Next highlights: Grand Teton NP, Glacier, Monument Valley
Next town: Honolulu
Highlights: Beaches, coastline, dschungle; sunraise and sunset on the mountains or at the beaches
Restaurants: Will change rapidly; ask locals!
Hotels: On Hawai'i, the Ma'ukele Lodge is a clear recommendation (Bed aund Breakfast)!
Best season: autumn to spring.