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National Park Road Trip For Relief Vets

April is Earth Month, and April 22 kicked off National Parks week. A lot of our relief veterinarians choose this job for the flexibility it offers, for example, to take a few weeks off to achieve an epic road trip through the National Parks. 

As a relief vet, you can add shifts to the beginning, middle, or end of your vacation to defray some or all of the costs of your trip. You will need to be licensed in any state that you choose to practice in, and some states may require income tax, even if you’re not a full-time resident. But don’t let that stop you from getting to work in or near some of the most scenic spots in the country. 

With the dry details out of the way, let’s look at a few popular 2-week road trips to the National Parks!

Road Trip 1: Utah and Arizona

For many people, the gut reaction to planning a road trip to the parks in Utah and Arizona is to fly into Salt Lake City. However, we recommend flying into Las Vegas instead. Vegas is just 2-3 hours to Zion National Park. Salt Lake City is about 4 hours from Arches and Canyonlands parks, and about 6 hours from Zion. 

Utah is home to five National Parks and a host of stunning state parks. If you happen to be traveling with a pet, state parks are a lifesaver. You can take your pets on the trails at state parks, but not at most of the National Parks on this list. The one exception is the Pa’rus Trail in Zion.

Summer is the high season for this trip, which increases prices and crowds. If you have any flexibility, then look to go in the spring or fall. 

With two weeks, your itinerary could look like this:

Day 1: Las Vegas
Arrive in Las Vegas and prepare for your trip.
Day 2-4: Zion
Overnight in the park or in Springdale, UT. Plan time to catch the shuttle through the park.
Day 5-6: Bryce Canyon
Explore Bryce Canyon's hoodoos. Overnight in the park, near the park, or in Tropic, UT.
Day 7: Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon has two rims. In this route, we see the North Rim, which has a chance of buffalo sightings. Overnight at the park or in Kanab, UT.
Day 8: Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef is often overlooked. Don't miss the arches, petroglyphs, and orchards that this park offers. Overnight in Torrey, UT, or the Fruita Campground
Day 9-12: Moab, UT
Moab, UT is a great base for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as multiple stunning Utah State parks.
Day 13: Return to Vegas
The drive is about 6 hours, so we strongly recommend returning the day before your flight. This will give you a buffer if there are any road closures. Stop by Valley Of Fire State Park to break up the drive.
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These are our suggested timeframes for each park. Feel free to shift days depending on your interests. Also, Utah has some amazing state parks along this route. Take some time to visit these smaller treasures, like Kodachrome or Goblin Valley, as well as the big ticket items.

There are relief opportunities in both Nevada and Utah to work while you play. You can apply for a license for either state at any time. A Nevada veterinary license will run you $200, and a Utah license is $250 for both a veterinary and controlled substances license.

The most opportunities will be in Las Vegas, but St. George, UT, and Kanab, UT, may also have interesting veterinary relief options. Ask our Territory Manager for availability that works with your travel plans.

Road Trip 2: California Treasures

A road trip in California is a challenge because there’s so many cool things to see! California has the most National Parks in the system, with a total of 9. On top of that, there’s state parks, National Monuments, and other protected and unprotected lands. California is home to the highest and lowest points in the contiguous US, showing the diversity of ecosystems. From desert dunes to mountaintops, sandy beaches to rolling hills, California has something for everyone.

So what’s the best way to approach a trip to California’s best natural sites? We recommend flying into San Francisco. You can spend a few days in the city car-free before heading out on your road trip, reducing costs a little. The trip can also be done from LA with minor adjustments.

Here’s the itinerary:

Day 1-3 San Francisco
Enjoy a few days in San Francisco. Keep in mind that Alcatraz and the park at the end of the Golden Gate Bridge are both units of the National Park Service!
Day 4-5: Yosemite
Book early to get lodging in the park. Once you're in, rent a bicycle to get around without having to search for parking!
Day 6: Sequoia/Kings Canyon
Take a day to see the tallest tree in the world!
Day 7-9: Los Angeles
LA is massive, and you'll need all the time you can get to explore all the nooks and crannies.
Day 10: Pacific Coast Highway
One of the most iconic drives in the US snakes along California's coast, with small towns and ocean views.
Day 11: Big Sur
The Big Sur area includes a dramatic coastline, but also scenic forests in the interior.
Day 12: Pinnacles
This overlooked park is great for adventurers, with caves and high peaks among its offerings.
Day 13: Final Drive to San Francisco
The drive is short, so you can use this day to see anything you missed the first time around.
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This itinerary leaves a day free to add wherever you like, and also to give you flexibility in case of forest fires, flooding, or other issues that can crop up. 

Single Day Additions

We’ve got a few suggestions for your extra day. First of all, you can add a day to LA, SF, or Yosemite. Any of these locations can easily fill your free day. 

But there are also some individual day trips that might be interesting for you.

Napa Valley

Add Napa directly after your stay in San Francisco, around Day 3 or 4, before you head to Yosemite.

San Diego

For award-winning wine and landscapes
Pop down from LA to see the famous zoo, Old Town, or the Gaslamp District on Day 10.

Channel Islands

Truly get away from it all. Book your trip to these islands early. This all-day adventure leaves from Ventura, so plan this for after LA.

A Summer Alternative

In the summer and fall, Tioga Pass opens for a scenic drive through the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, stopping by Devil’s Postpile basalt formations, a National Monument, and Manzanar Internment Camp, a National Historic Site which could be best seen on Day 5. 


You can consider adding on Death Valley and Las Vegas, or continue on to Sequoia/Kings Canyon. If you add Las Vegas, take a day away from either SF or LA.


Add getting a California license to your planning. California offers a temporary, 1-year veterinary license, but it requires a 3-day online course that’s only offered twice a year. Getting your license sorted in March, well ahead of prime travel season, will make planning both your relief shifts and your vacation much easier.


Whether your dream National Park road trip covers the sandstone vistas of Utah or the variety of majesties in California, Holiday Vet can help make your dream a reality. We’re committed to a work-life balance and are thrilled to help veterinarian fund their dreams. Ask our Territory Manager about opportunities today!