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Our Summer Great Lakes Road Trip Itinerary

This post was written in June 2021 as I was preparing to go on a Great Lakes Road Trip. I hope it inspires you to do your own Great Lakes Road Trip!

I know I have briefly mentioned in my recent travel recaps that we are planning a big Great Lakes Road Trip this summer, but I wanted to share more about our plans as we would love any travel recommendations you guys have!

Our grand plan is to drive around the Great Lakes, following the shoreline on the U.S. side as much as possible. Anything after that on the East Coast will be a very welcome bonus and we have ideas, but no set plans – except for Philly, which is one of the cities in the U.S. that is at the top of my bucket list.

We’re thinking a little something like this route for the Great Lakes, but stopping at a lot more places than you can see mentioned on the map below. 

Great Lakes Road Trip map

I have been wanting to do a big Great Lakes Road Trip for years, ever since I first visited the area back in 2013. One of my weird travel goals is to swim in all five Great Lakes, and I have already swum in Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan so only three more to go. (Update 2023: I have now swam in four!)

We obviously won’t be able to visit the Canadian side on this trip but I think it will still be an amazing road trip, and I have been lucky enough to visit a couple of places on the Canadian side already, including the Bruce Peninsula, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Georgian Bay at Tobymory on a Great Lakes Road Trip in Canada Lighthouse on Bruce Peninsula on a Great Lakes Road Trip in Canada

Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to do a big Canadian Great Lakes Road Trip too.

I really don’t know how long it will take us to drive from Grand Portage, Minnesota to the Thousand Islands in New York State hugging the lake shores, but I’m thinking somewhere between 6-8 weeks as we want to stay awhile in places we like, especially in Chicago which is one of my favorite cities. I wouldn’t want to drive I am while there so chartering a bus with friends to tour the city would be super fun.

After that, I definitely want to visit Philly because I have never been before, then we aren’t exactly sure. Maybe Washington D.C., maybe New York City, maybe we will make it all the way down to Florida to visit Dry Tortugas and the Everglades…who knows.

We have so many ideas and I think a plan will evolve as we go. We might be working an event in South Carolina in early October so that will determine things a bit too. 

Highline in New York City

I don’t want to feel rushed and I will have work to do as we travel as well so we will just see how we go. I also want to allow some chilled-out days and rain days so we want to keep it as flexible as we can.

One of the big goals of this trip will be to visit some new-to-us states and National Parks, so I definitely want to visit every National Park around the Great Lakes and East Coast that I haven’t been to including Voyageurs, Isle Royale, Cuyahoga Valley, Shenandoah, and New River Gorge. 

The states I want to go to on this trip for the first time are Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware. After this trip and if I hit up all these states, I will only have one state left to visit: North Dakota.

Milwaukee is on our Great Lakes Road Trip itinerary

Along the way I am definitely looking forward to going to some cities I haven’t been to before, like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Cleveland, as well as revisiting ones we love – I can’t wait for Deep Dish and lake swimming in Chicago, and I really hope we will have time to revisit NYC and D.C.

I’m also planning on doing lots of hiking in State and National Parks, visiting some of the lake islands, exploring some cute small towns, trying local delicacies, delicious food, and craft beer, and just generally getting more of a feel for life around the Great Lakes and different parts of the East Coast.

Downtown Chicago

I can’t wait!

We are planning on hitting the road at the beginning of July (not long now!) and our first stop with be Lawrence and Kansas City where we will be spending July 4th with friends, then we’ll be working the Kansas City BBQ Festival for a few days. From there it will be up to the Great Lakes Region via Iowa.

So, this trip should definitely keep us busy for a few months!

I’m excited to take Brownie, our new RV, on the road and to jump right into boondocking and RV life. Our test run to LA where we lived in Brownie for nearly six weeks went well, so I think we are ready! 

Toby will be working hard over the next couple of weeks doing some fixes on Brownie – there have been issues with backfiring, and we still need to pass emissions to get our permanent plates – then hopefully we will be all ready to hit the road.

If we can’t get Brownie ready in time – this is the worst-case scenario – we will have to take Casper instead, but I really hope we can get everything ready.

Hollywood RV Park

If all goes well, we won’t be getting back to Colorado until sometime in late October to mid-November. But who knows what will happen? I’m kinda sad to be leaving Colorado for so long and to be missing fall there, but fall on the east coast is amazing too so I can’t really complain. 

Fall colors in Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Colorado

So that’s our vague road trip/life plan for the next few months. I’ll be updating you all with what we get up to along the way in my monthly travel recaps, and I’m hoping I will have time to write some new content about the different places we will be visiting on our trip as well.

Please let us know if you have any tips or places we should visit in any of the areas we are planning on going – we would love travel suggestions. Even if it’s just a brewery or a great place to eat – tell us!

See you on the open road!

If you liked this – check out some of my related posts:


Ultimate Great Lakes Summer Road Trip Itinerary Great Lakes Summer Road Trip

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