10 Great Stops from Los Angeles to Chicago

The Wave

LA to Chicago Map

If you ever find yourself driving from Los Angeles to Chicago (or vice versa or anywhere in between), you may wonder what to stop and see along the way or where to eat. There are actually several routes to choose from, but here are just 10 recommendations we have that might help you choose.

Zion National Park – Springdale, UT

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is Utah’s first & most visited national park and consists of colorful Navajo sandstone canyons carved by the Virgin River, featuring hiking, museums, scenic views, streams, and waterfalls.

Hours: Visitors Center 8am-7pm (Late spring through summer), shuttles run 6am-9:30pm (see schedule)

Address: Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT

Cost: $30/car, $15/person, or use the National Park Annual Pass

Parking:  Lot at Visitors Center fills up by 8-9am.  You can also park in Springdale and take the free shuttle to the park

Park Map

What to do:

  1. Ride the free Zion Canyon shuttle in Zion National Park at the South Entrance
  2. Recommended Easy (but busy) hikes:
    1. Emerald Pools (1.2-2.5 miles round trip, 1.5 hours) – return to stop or take Kayenta Trail to the next shuttle stop
    2. Weeping Rock Trail (0.4 miles, 0.5 hours)
    3. Riverside Walk – on way to Zion Narrows (2.2 miles, 1.5 hours)
    4. Canyon Overlook Trail is near east entrance (1 mile, 1 hour)
    5. Wildcat Canyon Trail & Timber Creek Overlook (1 mile, 0.5 hour) in the Kolob Terrace area is much quieter – however it is closed due to construction as of May 1, 2018 for seven months.
  3. Recommended Moderate hikes:
    1. Watchman Trail (2 miles round trip, 2 hours) – most underrated, one of best places to watch sunset
  4. Recommended Strenuous hikes:
    1. Angel’s Landing (3.5 miles round trip, 3-4 hrs)
    2. Zion Narrows (2-16 miles round trip, subject to water levels)
  5. Scenic Views: Checkboard Mesa, Court of the Patriarchs

The Wave – Kanab, UT

The Wave

The Wave is a colorful sandstone rock formation on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes located at the border of Arizona and Utah near the town of Kanab, UT.  You must have a permit to be able to hike it and they are only available via a lottery system, both online and in person.  If you are in the area, it is worth a try to get a permit.  See this blog write-up for a great guide on how to see this amazing place.  Best odds are Sundays.  Use restrooms at visitors center & bring plenty of water.

Hours: Visitors Center 8am-4:30pm

Address: 745 E Hwy 89, Kanab, UT

Cost: $5/group application fee, $7/person entrance fee

Parking:  park at Wirepass Trailhead to hike to The Wave (5.6 miles round trip)

Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons – Escalante, UT

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon

Peek-A-Boo & Spooky Gulches are moderate trails (3 miles combined) navigating through slot canyons (down to 10” wide).  It is best to check the weather ahead of time and not go if there is snow, ice, or a lot of rain.  You need to drive down a 25 mile unpaved road to get to the trailhead.  Print trail maps before going.  Start at Peek-A-Boo and back through Spooky.  There is usually water on this trail, so be prepared for that as well as some rock scrambling and narrow spots.  Use restrooms in Escalante and bring plenty of water.

If you want something easier, check out Escalante Natural Bridge trail (3.2 miles, moderately trafficked).  You will get wet on this trail.

Arches National Park – Moab, UT

Arches National Park

Arches National Park, northwest of the Colorado River, is home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the most famous being the reddish Delicate Arch.  It also includes hundreds of pinnacles, fins, and balanced rocks.  Take the scenic drive and hike to popular views.

Hours: Visitors Center 9am-4pm

Address: Moab, UT

Cost: $25/car, $10/person, or use the National Park Annual Pass

Parking:  Lot at Visitors Center and trail heads.  Plan to arrive early (7-8am) or late (3-5pm) for less congestion.

Park Guide & Map

What to do:

  1. Hike The Windows (1 mile, 0.5 hour), Broken Arch (1.3 miles, 1 hour), Delicate Arch (3 miles, 3 hours) & Landscape Arch (1.6 ,miles, 1 hour).
  2. Take a ranger-lead tour of the Fiery Furnace if you’re up for adventure.  Purchase online!

Starvin Arvin’s – Clifton, CO

Starvin Arvin's Colorado

Nab a hearty breakfast and a huge cinnamon roll at Starvin Arvin’s in Clifton, Colorado just off I-70 Exit 37.  Don’t stop at the truck stop in Fruita, keep going!  Starvin’ Arvin’s was started in the 1970’s by Arvin & DonEtta Leany and expanded into five locations with their oldest son.  It continues to be a family-run business with loyal employees and customers.  They use fresh Colorado ingredients and Wisconsin cheese to make all homemade dishes from recipes dating back to their ancestors.  They’re most famous for their homemade cinnamon rolls and biscuits.

Hours: 6am-3pm every day

Address: 3247 F Rd, Clifton, CO

Prices: $5 – $13

Parking: Parking lot onsite.

Georgetown Loop Railroad – Silver Plume, CO

Georgetown Loop Railroad

The Georgetown Loop Railroad and Silver Mining Tours is a family friendly attraction in the Rocky Mountains with a historic steam engine train ride on tracks dating back to 1884.  The 4.5 mile route includes horseshoe curves, up to 4% grades, and four bridges across Clear Creek.  There is also a walking tour of the Lebanon Silver Mine available where visitors can venture 500 feet into a 1870’s silver mine half-way through the train ride.  The train offers three classes of service with snacks and beverages available in the upper classes.

Hours: trains run 10am-3:50pm from the Silver Plume Depot (recommended starting point)

Address:  825 Railroad Ave, Silver Plume, CO

Prices:  $26-$50 adults, $19-$40 children (3-15yrs old).  Purchase online!

Parking: Parking lot onsite at depot

Monument Rocks National Landmark – Oakley, KS

Monument Rocks Kansas

Just a short drive off I-70 at exit 70 (US-38 S), the Monument Rocks were one of the first National Natural Landmarks designated in the US.  Large chalk formations teeming with fossilized sea life rise up to 70 feet from flat farmland seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  View the sunset through the famous ‘Keyhole’, a large gap in one of the formations.  The Keystone Gallery is nearby offering fossils for exhibit and for sale along with art and other souvenirs of the area.  It’s between the towns of Oakley & Scott City on US 83.

Hours:  Monument open 24 hours a day

Address:  Gove 16, Oakley, KS

Price:  free.  On private land, so please be courteous!

Parking:  onsite

The Cozy Inn – Salina, KS

The Cozy Inn Kansas

The Cozy Inn is a historic vintage style diner in Salina, Kansas.  It is one of the last remaining six-stool diners in America and offers up stacks of burgers, bags of chips, and sodas.  A ‘one of a kind’ place you just have to stop at as you’re driving I-70.

Hours:  10am-9pm (M-Sa), 11am-8pm (Sun)

Address: 108 N 7th Salina, KS

Prices: $1.20 – $6.49

Parking: Lot next door and across the street

Gates Bar-B-Q – Independence, MO

Gates Bar-B-Q

Since 1946, Gates Bar-B-Q is a family owned company and a Kansas City original with their unique red roof design and “Struttin Man” in full tuxedo and top hat. The connection of good food, fast personalized service and the immediate greeting, “HI, MAY I HELP YOU?” all act as their trademark.

Hours:  11am-11pm (M-Th), 11am-12am (F-Sat), 11am-10pm (Sun)

Address: 10440 E US Hwy 40, Independence, MO

Prices:  $11-13

Parking:  Parking lot

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park – Columbia, MO

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park Missouri

Stretch your legs at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park just south of Columbia, Missouri, Exit 124 off I-70.  Offering some of the best hiking trails in the state, it also has a large cave system to explore.  The Rock Bridge, Devil’s Icebox, Connors Cave are a few of the highlights (and busiest), but all of the trails are worthy to try.  The park also includes picnic shelters and primitive camping sites.

Park Map

Hours:  Sunrise to sunset; visitor center 9am-4pm (M-F) closed Noon-1pm

Address:  5901 S Hwy 163, Columbia, MO

Prices:  free

Parking: lots available

These are just 10 of the places you can stop and see or places to eat along the I-70 corridor between Los Angeles and Chicago.  If you’re planning a road trip, there are plenty more!  If you’d like me to give you more recommendations, just go here!  If you’d like a day-by-day itinerary, go here!

We’d love to help!

As always, thanks for reading!

Kristi, aka The Trippy Tripster!

About Author

Kristi enjoys traveling and taking road trips to fully experience life. She loves to find local eateries, off the beaten path hidden gems, and the secrets to enjoying the journey.

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(11) Comments

  1. Clay Westfall

    I have been planning a trip from New York to Los Angeles, and I was going to fly. After looking through your website and reading your article, I have convinced my wife that we should take a couple weeks and drive! The sites you show are so beautiful! Thank you for opening our eyes to the beautiful country!


    1. Trippy Tripster

      Hi Clay!  That’s great!  Driving will be a blast!  Let me know how I can help make it awesome for you!  Thanks for your comments!

  2. Monika

    That was really great information! Such good suggestions. I’m going to have to save this for the future because i really want to check some of these spots out!!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment! I’d love to help you on your next road trip!

  3. Jessica

    Got to add these to my road trip. I live in Colorado and I’ve never heard of the couple on here. I’m going to have to go find them!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      it seems like every time I look, I find something interesting or a great food place to try! that’s what I love about road trips!

  4. johnny

    I did a similar road trip about 10 years ago from Chicago to Vegas. However, I didn’t stop anywhere, I was too excited to get to vegas I think. Now I read this and think what a waste of a road trip.

    1. Trippy Tripster

      Hi Johnny! I know, there have been many times that I just drove through an area without even thinking about stopping! – even for 15 or 30 minutes you can experience some great things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Live and learn!

  5. Courtney

    That looks like a very fun but long drive! Love the suggestions! Utah and Colorado have so many great stops to visit!

    1. Trippy Tripster

      Hi Courtney! Thanks for reading and commenting on my post! I agree, with Utah and Colorado it’s almost more about choosing what *not* to see/do!!

  6. pam purcell

    tHANK YOU now I am more excited I have to take a car to my daughter in indiana but i get off in chicago to fly home this will be awesome I have also wanted to road trip with the gkids now I have a place and ideas

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