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15 BEST USA Road Trips of a Lifetime 2023 (Photos + Maps)
October 4, 2023
Article Overview: Best Road Trips USA
If you’re planning some road trips in the good old USA then you’ve come to the right place! We’re brothers obsessed with the national parks who have spent the past decade road tripping across the country to see (& film) the national parks.
As a result, it turns out we’ve done nearly every US road trip imaginable… Which means we have some extensive knowledge and great recommendations built on our own experiences.
From great desert southwest road trips to the California coastal road trips, east coast road trips, Hawaii road trips, and more. We’ve traveled on nearly every interstate in America including and stopped at some of the best roadside attractions (thinking Wall Drug & The Thing).
There is no better way to see the beauty of the great USA than through road trips. In this article I’ll roll through 15 epic road trip ideas to help inspire your next drive across the USA.
Now, in the words of Andy Dufresne ( Shawshank Redemption ), “if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further…”
USA Road Trip: Best Scenic Drives in America
15. trail ridge road/beaver meadow national scenic byway, 14. natchez trace parkway, 13. john d. rockefeller jr. memorial parkway, 12. peter norbeck national scenic byway, 11. route 100, 10. kancamagus highway, 9. avenue of the giants (redwoods), 8. nevada route 50 (the loneliest road in america), 7. olympic peninsula loop, 6. going to the sun road, 5. the road to hana, 4. blue ridge parkway, 3. pacific coast highway 1, 2. historic route 66, 1. utah mighty 5 road trip, deciding where to go & what to see, mapping out your usa road trip (creating a road trip map), how long will the road trip take & how much time do i need, choosing a starting point for this us road trip, camping on a us road trip, road trip food planning, planning a usa road trip budget, helpful related articles, best road trips usa, top 15 best road trips in america.
- Location: Colorado, USA
- Distance: 48 miles (77km)
- Suggested Time: 1 day
- Minimum Time: 2 hours
Driving Trail Ridge Road
At 12,183 ft elevation (over 2 miles high), Trail Ridge Road is the highest road in the state of Colorado and one of the highest in the United States. The road itself, while relatively short compared to many of the others on this list, packs a breathtaking punch.
Trail Ridge Road traverses some of the most beautiful and striking sections of Rocky Mountain National Park revealing truly epic panoramic views. Along the way you’re likely to spot a host of wildlife including bighorn sheep, marmots, elk, and more.
If you’re interested in this road I recommend checking out our article on the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park .
- Location: Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, USA
- Distance: 444 miles (715 km)
- Suggested Time: 5 days
- Minimum Time: 1 day
- Best Time of Year: October – November
Driving the National Trace Parkway Road Trip, USA
The Natchez Trace is one of the South’s crown jewels and one of the most scenic road trip drives in the USA. Starting in Mississippi and crossing through Alabama and Tennessee, this road traverses quintessential southern beauty.
If you’ve got the time I recommend spending several days and soaking in the sites. Along the way you can visit the Meriwether Lewis Museum, Emerald Mound , Chickasaw Village, and much more.
The road is actually managed and maintained by the National Park Service and is an All-American Road.
- Location: Wyoming, USA
- Distance: 27 miles (43 km)
- Suggested Time: 7 days (including visits to Yellowstone & Grand Teton)
- Minimum Time: 30 minutes
- Best Time of Year: June, July, & September
Driving the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway
While the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway parkway itself is only 27 miles long, it happens to connect two of the most visited and best national parks in America, Grand Teton & Yellowstone.
I recommend taking a week and splitting time between Yellowstone National Park (3 days) & Grand Teton National Park (4 days). Despite sharing a border these are totally different & unique places with absolutely incredible natural scenery.
Personally, I favor Grand Teton because it’s far less crowded than Yellowstone but you can’t go wrong.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park or the best things to do in Grand Teton National Park we’ve got you covered!
- Location: South Dakota, USA
- Distance: 70 miles (112 km)
- Suggested Time: 3 days
- Best Time of Year: June & October
Driving the Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway
The next one of the best road trips in America on our list takes us to the upper Midwest.
The Black Hills of South Dakota are one of the most magical places in all of America and no road does a better job of displaying them in all their glory than the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. This is truly one of the great All-American Road Trips.
Maybe it’s just the dazzling rock formations, beautiful pine forests, incredible wildlife, mesmerizing magic hour, and wild amount of recreation opportunities that exist here. Or maybe it’s more than just that…
There’s something almost spiritual about this place (just ask the native tribes who’ve lived here for nearly 10,000 years). Sure the air is crisp, the forests are vibrant, and the land is serene, but there’s something intangible about the Black Hills that you just have to experience for yourself.
I recommend taking your time, driving slow, stopping at all the viewpoints, and enjoying the incredible scenic beauty. Along the way you’ll find the epic Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore National Memorial .
RELATED: 15 HELPFUL Tips for Visiting Mount Rushmore (Things to Do + Photos)
- Location: Vermont, USA
- Distance: 216 miles (348.7 km)
- Best Time of Year: October
Driving Vermont’s Route 100
Every year millions of people all over the world look forward to fall to watch the leaves change color – there is no better place to see this happen on the planet than Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.
I would argue that Vermont Route 100 is the best fall road trip in the US for foliage lovers.
There are many incredible drives through the Green Mountain National Forest. Of them, Highway 100 is a stand out for exceptional fall viewing.
Mountains pop up on either side of the road throughout the drive along with vast hardwood forests full of color in the fall.
Highlights along the way include the world-famous Vermont Country Store in Weston, the charming cities of Stowe & Waterbury, & the Green Mountain National Forest .
Check out this helpful page for more festive things to do in Vermont in the fall .
Top 10 Best Road Trips USA
- Location: New Hampshire, USA
- Distance: 34.5 miles (90 km)
- Suggested Time: 2 days
- Minimum Time: 3 hours
- Best Time of Year: October (Fall Foliage)
Driving the Kancamagus Highway
The best fall road trip in America is up next! It’s no exaggeration to say that every year nearly a million people drive this scenic, 34 mile stretch of highway to see the spectacular displays of fall foliage.
To see the Kancamagus in peak foliage season I recommend visiting between October 7-13.
If you have to choose between seeing it too early or too late, I recommend erring on the side of early as it’s better to see the area with leaves (albeit greener than you’d like) rather than with no leaves at all.
I recommend getting on the road early in the morning to avoid late afternoon and evening traffic.
While you’re in the area be sure to check out the spectacular Green Mountains over in Vermont!
- Location: California, USA
- Distance: 31.5 miles
- Best Time of Year: May – September
Driving the Avenue of the Giants
Moving to the west coast we’ve got one of the most striking road trips in America.
The Avenue of the Giants is a magnificent 31.5 mile drive that weaves you through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park located about an hour south of Eureka. This road trip is one of the most epic USA road trips packing a major punch in just 31 and a half miles.
While this area is not technically part of the group that officially comprises “national & state parks” we included it anyway because it’s so close and not to be missed.
This drive is a bit further off the coast than the rest of the park and the redwoods here feature a redder shade than their coastal siblings. Many folks consider this one of the most scenic drives in the world.
If you’re interested in this road I recommend checking out our article on the best things to do in Redwood National Park .
- Location: Nevada, USA
- Distance: 408 miles (657 km)
- Time of Year: October – May
Driving Nevada Route 50
Known as the “loneliest road in America”, Nevada’s Route 50 is a sight to behold and one of the eeriest road trips in America. Seemingly endless stretches of road stretch on for miles and miles, up and down the sides of countless valleys.
Route 50 is one of those roads where you keep saying to yourself “just over the next ridge I’m sure the scenery will change” only for it to go on like this for hours and hours.
If you’re headed to Great Basin National Park you might end up on this road or to Ely, Nevada. Otherwise it’s out of the way but very memorable in it’s otherworldly scenery (like something out of Star Wars).
While you’re in the area be sure to read up on Nevada’s National Parks and National Parks Near Las Vegas .
- Location: Washington, USA
- Distance: 329 miles (531 km)
- Best Time of Year: July – September
Driving the Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip
When I was 21 I flew across the country (from Georgia) drawn to the siren calls of the pacific northwest to visit a park that seemed too epic to be true. That park was Olympic and it was every bit as incredible as I imagined.
The Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive makes for one of the greatest road trips in the US and also one of the more underrated ones.
Don’t believe me on how beautiful this place is? Watch the award-winning video we created on Olympic National Park.
Olympic National Park is the most diverse national park in America , hands down. This park has everything from lowland forests, glaciated mountain ranges, pristine alpine lakes, sparkling rivers, temperate rain forests (the largest in North America), iconic wildlife, and over 50 miles of rugged wilderness coastline!
You can see it all from the Olympic Peninsula Loop Drive. If you’re interested in visiting this road, I recommend checking out our article on Olympic National Park .
- Location: Montana, USA
- Distance: 50 miles (80km)
- Best Time of Year: July – October
Driving Going to the Sun Road
Can you hear the music from The Shining playing in your head already? This next U.S. Road Trip is one of the msot famous due to its cameo in the Stanley Kubrick film.
You know when a road is the most highly sought after attraction in a park as beautiful and epic as Glacier, it must really be something. It is .
Widely considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world , the Going to the Sun Road is approximately 50 miles long and will take about 2 hours to drive (depending on traffic conditions). The road itself spans the width of Glacier National Park.
The traditional route starting at the Apgar Visitor Center near the West Entrance and going up to Logan Pass (6,646 feet) at it’s height before heading back down on the other side of the continental divide to the Saint Mary Visitor Center.
I typically like to minimize my time inside the car in national parks but Going to the Sun Road is a notable exception to this rule. This is a rare drive you never want to end.
If you’re looking for more of the best things to do in Glacier National Park we’ve written about those as well!
Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in the USA
- Location: Maui, USA
- Distance: 64 miles (103km)
- Best Time of Year: May – October (when the fruit stands are open)
Driving the Road to Hana
We’re taking this list of the best road trips in the USA tropical. Haleakalā National Park and the island of Maui is home to the world famous Road to Hāna (pictured below).
This famous road follows the Northeastern coast of Maui is one of the most scenic and precarious in the world.
Yes I mean that both because of the wild ride and the stunning views it has to offer. Wildlife, vivid rain forests, lush meadows, sweeping views of the Pacific, and did I mention the waterfalls? Lots of waterfalls. Buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life!
The entire road is one lane and offers little room for error as one navigates the twists, turns, rock slides and floods that are so common along the route.
Those who brave the Road to Hāna are rewarded with unparalleled views of the island’s natural splendor and awe-inspiring vistas of the Pacific.
The Road to Hāna will take you along Maui’s southeastern coast and provides access to Oheo Gulch, the Pools of ʻOheʻo, Waimoku Falls , the Pīpīwai Trail , as well as Kīpahulu Campground on the coast.
If you’re looking for more things to do around the Road to Hana, check out the Haleakala National Park ! We’ve written about the best things to do in Haleakala as well.
- Location: Virginia to North Carolina, USA
- Distance: 469 miles
- Minimum Time: 1 days
- Best Time of Year: October (Fall foliage)
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
Some folks say that the Blue Ridge Parkway is the best road trip in America for fall foliage. I’m not inclined to disagree with them. Having driven the Blue Ridge Parkway in October during peak fall foliage, I have to say it’s spectacularly beautiful.
Need more proof? Watch this award-winning film featuring the parkway which goes through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is both a National Parkway and All-American Road meaning it’s a must see. I grew up in Georgia and despite having this in my backyard (3 hours away) my whole life it took me far too long to get out and see it.
While you’re on the Blue Ridge Parkway you have to be sure to stop off in America’s most visited national park , Great Smoky Mountains .
- Distance: 655 miles (1,055 km)
- Suggested Time: 7 days
- Best Time of Year: April – October
Driving the Highway 1 Road Trip
California’s Highway 1 makes for some of the most scenic road trips in the US with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and sunny California landscapes on the other.
The official start just south of Los Angeles and ends just north of San Francisco (but south of the mightiest groves of Redwoods).
If you’re interested in this road I recommend checking out our article on the California National Parks .
- Location: Illinois to California
- Distance: 2,400 miles
- Suggested Time: 3 weeks
- Minimum Time: 2 weeks
- Best Time of Year: May – October
Historic Route 66 Road Trip Description
As *the* place to “get your kicks”, the Route 66 road trip has long been somewhat of an American road trip right of passage.
I recall my first time on route 66 as an 18 year old the summer I graduated high school feeling alive with hot desert air on my face and not a care in the world.
While the official start of route 66 road trip is in Illinois and the official end of route 66 is near Santa Monica, California I recommend driving at least parts of it if you don’t plan on doing the whole thing which takes weeks.
The highlights of this trip for me are the sections in Arizona & New Mexico with tumbleweeds rolling by and vast desert landscapes.
If you’re interested in this road I recommend checking out our articles on Arizona’s 24 National Parks & New Mexico’s National Parks .
- Location: Utah, USA
- Distance: Approximately 1200 miles (1931 km)
- Minimum Time: 3 days
- Best Time of Year: March – October
Utah, USA Road Trip Description
Utah is home to *the best* road trip in all of America known by most as simply “The Utah National Parks Road Trip” or “Mighty 5 Road Trip.”
Better than the California coast road trip or Route 66 road trip, you say? Yes, the More Than Just Parks team recently ranked it the #1 national park road trip via our national park road trips ranking – here’s why.
The Utah National Parks Road Trip is great in any season. Sure summer is hot, and winter can be cool but all in all the route stays drive-able pretty much year-round and offers sunny and warm escapes even when it’s cold where I live.
The scenery is unlike anything you’ll see on this earth. I absolutely love red rock country and find myself really pining for it in late winter. The desert has a way of calling me back (especially when it’s cold).
PLUS, there are plenty of parks and trails on this route, where you will find hardly another soul despite the recent uptick in crowds – even in Zion!
Be sure to check out our article with everything you need to know about the Utah national parks road trip .
Planning Your USA Road Trip
Step 1 of planning a US road trip is deciding where to go and what to see. Are you in the mood for the desert? Maybe a Utah or southwest road trip is right for you. Or maybe you’re thinking something a bit greener, like a Pacific Northwest road trip.
We recommend making your decision around either a singular must see destination (“I’ve got to see Yellowstone!”) or a type of scenery (“I’m dying to see red rock country”). Having one of these in mind will help shape the rest of your trip.
Finally, check for closures of sites and roads to make sure the main things you want to see are open and accessible!
Best to check ahead of time and save yourself the disappointment.
One of the most fun parts of planning a US road trip (at least for us anyway) is plotting it all out on a map. Seeing all those little points come together and the significance of each one gets us every time.
There’s just nothing like the feeling of seeing the map points come to life when you finally arrive.
Best Road Trip Map Tool
We always use google maps for this as the interface is hard to beat. However, they do currently have a 10 destination limit on the regular one.
If you want/need to add more points to your map than the 10 destination limit, google also has a “ my maps ” tool which is free and even savable right to your google account.
We’ve ranked the 15 BEST Road Trip Planning Tools if you’re looking for more!
Tips for Creating a US Road Trip Map
- Try changing the order of the destinations. We find that often time what might seem the most logical route to us, in fact is not. Changing the order of your map points around can (and has for us) save you precious hours of drive time in between destinations
- It’s easy to get carried away adding pins to the map (we do this every time). “What’s an extra 5 hours on the trip of a lifetime!” or “When are we ever going to be out that way again?” can be dangerous questions that lead to trip stress. We recommend spending taking a good hard look at your map and eliminating extra time draining stops. You’d probably rather spend an extra few hours soaking in grand canyon views than fighting over bathroom stops with the back seat.
- Check the drive times between stops and determine approximately what time you will be arriving at each destination. Say you’ve always wanted to see a sunrise at Monument Valley, but you don’t calculate your drive and you end up getting there at 9am instead of the sunrise you always dreamed of. Not an ideal situation. This part can be a bit cumbersome but is well worth the effort .
Next step is determining how much time you have vs how much you “need”. On average, we recommend allowing for at least 1-2 days per major destination on your trip.
That means if you’ve got a week (5-7 days) to do your road trip, the most major destinations you should include is probably about 5.
You want to be able to give yourself time to appreciate and enjoy each destination and not feel rushed.
One of the toughest parts of planning a USA road trip can be choosing the right starting point. If you’re driving your own car and starting from your residence then feel free to skip on to the next part. For everyone else, especially if you plan on flying to your destination and renting a car, there’s a bit of a decision matrix to consider.
The question we always ask ourselves which makes it easier for us is: what is the cheapest price we can pay combined for rental car + airfare? Price is easily our biggest determining factor when choosing a starting point.
If you’re interested in a National Parks Road Trip, you might want to look over our post on Best US National Parks Road Trips that lists all of the best national road trips.
Getting the Best Price for Rental Car + Airfare
Consider the following example. You’re doing a Utah National Parks Road Trip to see the Mighty 5. The most convenient airport options are Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Say you find amazing flight deals to Salt Lake City – great, we fly into salt lake, right? Maybe.
Sometimes the rental car prices in one airport are so bad that it makes flying into another destination more worthwhile despite a great flight deal and vice versa. Always check both the flight price and rental car price at each destination before booking.
Choosing the Right Lodging Options
We’ve all been there before… arriving at the campsite late at night praying we there’s an open spot only to find nothing. Or pulling into town after a 4 hour cell-service blackout only to find that all the hotels are all booked up.
Or realizing upon arriving to your destination that you didn’t make reservations anywhere and the prices are astronomical (we’re looking at you, Yellowstone).
Like way more than a national park should ever cost seeing that it’s a tax-payer funded, publicly owned resource managed for the benefit and enjoyment of the people ( all people).
The point is, planning ahead of time on lodging and deciding on the right accommodations for your budget is important. I recommend starting early and scanning what hotel prices are like during the time of year you want to visit (covered below). This will give you an idea of what availability looks like and how expensive it is.
If you plan on camping, check out recreation.gov to see if you can reserve a site ahead of time. One pro-tip we recommend is seeing if there are any nearby national forests where you might be able to camp.
National forest campgrounds are amazing for a number of reasons, two of them being price (they’re usually cheaper if not free) and availability (they’re usually way less crowded than national park campgrounds).
With that being said, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan for each night that you are unable to book something in advance.
Ah, nothing says US road trip quite like the smell of glistening hot dogs rotating over an open warming pan at Love’s gas station at 2 in the morning… With that being said, planning out your road trip food is absolutely essential.
We’ve all seen the beloved road trip companion turn Mr. Hyde after being forced to miss their self-appointed feeding hour. Avoiding this doomsday scenario can mean the difference between a warm ride home full of fond reminisces or an unscheduled stop at the Twin Falls airport conducted in total silence.
We recommend a budget friendly mix of dining at local eateries and “cooler food”. Feeling the fatigue of too much fast food can tank a day in a hurry so we highly recommend finding a cooler for the trip to pack something on the healthier side.
Pro-Tip #1: We often pack a soft cooler ( this is our current go-to ) full of clothes on the way over (if flying) that can be removed upon arrival and replaced with ice and lunch food/snacks (sandwich fixings, dips, greens, drinks, etc).
Road Trip Groceries
Typically our first stop after the airport is to a Trader Joe’s (who is not paying us to say so) to stock up on essentials. We often end up in places during dining hours that either have no food options or very limited unhealthy options and so it’s nice to have an alternative in the car.
Making food stops also slows down trip momentum and can mean the difference between “making it there before sundown”.
Pro-Tip #2: A few years back we (finally) started packing a small, inexpensive one burner stove ( this one ) and it has made all the difference. Having the option to make hot food (we camp/car camp a lot) can make all the difference after a long day in the parks.
Finally, in the dining category of this post, comes the topic of coffee (should’ve been #1, I know). We are hopeless caffeine junkies and need our morning fix.
Jim swears by this piñon coffee that he always packs with us (I’ll admit, it’s pretty good). We use this gadget to heat the water and this metal pour over tin to do the job (usually with good results I must say).
I’ll never forget running out of gas in the middle of the Mojave desert near Baker, California in 110 degree weather and no shade for miles…
Or the subsequent ride into town with my brothers and the sailor-mouthed tow-truck driver whose vernacular was completely free from the typical societal constraints one might expect with a 12 year-old (my youngest brother) present.
Good news is there was service, we lived, and Tom (youngest brother) went on to become the wisest of the bunch! And while I’d like to say I learned my lesson from that experience, sadly it took several more extremely close terribly inconvenient calls for me to remember to plan fuel stops and check the old fuel gauge regularly.
It’s a good idea to come up with an overall budget at the outset of planning your road trip. A budget makes it easy to remove unnecessary stops and keep everyone in check. A sample budget breakdown for one of our trips looks something like this:
Sample USA Road Trip Budget
- Food – $50/person/day
- Lodging – $150/day if hotels per two people
- Gas – $30/day (this is pretty variable depending on what kind of car you’re driving)
- Rental Car – $70/day (this is fluctuating wildly given the current vehicle shortages)
- Flights – $300 round trip/person (extremely variable)
- Fees/Attractions – $100 total (park pass, etc)
- Miscellaneous – $300 total (the unforeseen expenses)
- SAMPLE TOTAL for 7 Day Trip for 2 People = $3300 ($700/food + $900/lodging + $210/gas + $490/rental car + $600/flights + $100/fees + $300/miscellaneous)
*this is very fungible up or down depending on how many nights are spent in hotels (if any), if you can get cheap flight deals vs gauging prices, driving your own car vs renting, if you eat at nicer places vs average & groceries, how fuel efficient your vehicle is, etc
Flexibility Is The Key To A Happy Road Trip
The whole reason we take road trips is to see new sights, experience new things, and most importantly to have a good time. Being flexible is the most important factor we’ve found in overall trip happiness (and life).
A few tips based on many years of experience and running the whole gamut of trip emotions:
Tips for a Happy Trip
- Don’t plan out every second of your road trip. Leave free space to either leave places early, linger longer, or just relax.
- There’s no such thing as being late on a road trip. If you miss a sunset it’s not the end of the world. If you have to nix a destination there’s always next time.
- Hydrate well and have plenty of snacks on hand. Hungry ≠ happy and neither does thirsty.
- Take time to enjoy the moment rather than always being concerned about making it to what’s next.
And Finally, The Weather
The most unpredictable factor and potentially biggest damper (intended was the pun) on any trip is the weather.
If you have a plan beforehand for how to spend your time or alternative routes if specific places have bad weather you won’t be as disappointed when it inevitably rains on your parade.
We like to check monthly forecasts to see average temperatures and precipitation before making plans.
Map of the Best Road Trips in the USA
Summary of the Best Road Trips in the USA
- Utah Mighty Five Road Trip
- Historic Route 66
- California Highway 1
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Road to Hana
- Going to the Sun Road
- Olympic Penninsula
- Nevada Route 50
- Avenue of the Giants
- Kancamangus Highway
- Route 100 Vermont
- Peter Norbeck National Scenic Byway
- John D Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway
- Natchez Trace Parkway
- Trail Ridge Road
Pin Road Trips America
Road Trip Planning: 15 Best Free Road Trip Planning Tools
Road Trip Essentials: 35 Must Have Road Trip Essentials
Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip: Ultimate Utah Mighty 5 National Parks Road Trip
Arizona Road Trips: Ultimate Arizona Road Trip
Oregon Road Trips: Ultimate Oregon Road Trip
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Co-founder of More Than Just Parks. Husband. Conservationist. Currently living in NYC.
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September 1, 2023 at 10:17 am
I am based in Dubai and have applied for my USA tourist visa. I have heard a lot about USA road trips, however I was unaware that the landscapes across the highway are quite impressive. The mountains in the distance look stunning.
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Home » North America » USA » Best Road Trip
20 Best USA Road Trips • Famous Driving Destinations in 2023
Many will say that going on an epic road trip is the best and really the only way to experience America. This is the land of the open road, the roadside attraction, the roadside diner. If all roads lead to Rome, they must eventually make a detour in the United States, I say.
There is a lot that goes into planning a road trip in the USA. What to pack, what kind of car to rent, and, most importantly, where to go. There are a million routes out there and they all have their own merits and, in some cases, oddities.
I’ve assembled a list of some of the best and most classic road trips in the country. From East Coast to West Coast and Sea to Shining Sea, the finest stretches of good ol American-made asphalt are all found in this article. Through the desert, over the mountains, into the past, doesn’t matter; we’ve got them all covered right here.
So which Great American road trip will you take?
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20 Greatest Road Trips in the USA
Renting a car in the usa.
Let’s get down to brass tacks and start talking about the top American road trips there are! Here are twenty for you to choose from!
Don’t have a car yet? Well, we’re going to have to sort that out! Use rentalcars.com to find the best deals on the web and save heaps of cash!
1. California Route 1 – Pacific Coast Highway
The road trip in the usa to take before you die.
- States : California
- Start: San Diego
- End : Mendocino
- Total Distance: 656 miles
- Best Part: Camping in Big Sur
What’s a trip to California without visiting the coast or the beach? The beach is one of the most important aspects of California livin’, after all. It is talked about during just about every other conversation in the state. Who could blame the natives for loving their coastline so much when you have superlative stops like Malibu, San Luis Obispo, and Point Reyes all there?
For the ultimate road trip in California , consider driving the entire stretch of the Pacific Route 1. This epic route, which should take at least a week (two for maximum enjoyment), seriously pulls out all the stops. Gorgeous coastline, bustling metropolises – like San Francisco and Los Angeles – and more than enough In n’ Out Burger joints all combine to make the perfect road trip itinerary. This is some of the best California has to offer.
Since you’ll be starting in San Diego, why not book a nice place to stay and soak up the city before departing?
2. Route 66
The classic road trip across america.
- States: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California
- Start: Chicago, Illinois
- End : Santa Monica, California
- Total Distance: 2448 miles
- Best Part: The Americana
Route 66 is probably the first thing that springs to people’s minds when they think “Great American road trip.” Over the years, Route 66 has been practically immortalized – by Hollywood films, musicians, novels, etc – so much so that it is practically synonymous with the very idea of going on a road trip around the USA.
Since it passes through eight different states and four different regions, Route 66 offers a somewhat abridged version of American culture. You’ll get to see roadside attractions, antique gas stations, and eccentric diners; all staples of American weirdness.
One of the best parts of Route 66? Watching the landscape shift from the Great Plains and Mississippi wetlands to the deserts and mountains of the West Coast’s roadside landscapes . Entering Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona is a particularly surreal experience, as there is nowhere else quite like the American Southwest. If you have time, be sure to stop by Monument Valley for an iconic American backdrop.
The USA is blisteringly beautiful. It’s also blisteringly expensive! Visiting two national parks in day can run you $70+ in entry fees.
Orrrr… you kick those entry fees to the curb, buy an annual ‘America the Beautiful Pass’ for $79.99, and get unlimited access to ALL 2000+ federally managed sites in the States totally FREE!
You do the math. 😉
3. Skyline Drive
The most scenic mountain road trip on the east coast.
- States : Virginia
- Start: Front Royal
- End : Rockfish Gap
- Total Distance: 105 miles
- Best Part: Parking the car and going for a quick hike
It’s a favorite day trip for those visiting Washington DC for a simple reason: the Skyline Drive is one of the most accessible mountain drives in the USA. In just over an hour, one could easily escape from the politics and actions of the nation’s capital and be in the heart of Appalachian Country. For those who like long-winding mountain roads, this will be one of the best road trips in the USA.
The Skyline Drive traverses the entirety of Shenandoah National Park. This means that, besides offering breathtaking views, the route also affords access to many local trails. The epic and grueling AT (Appalachian Trail) runs parallel to Skyline Drive. Those who’ve dreamed of hiking (a section of) the thru-hike can do so at many points of the road.
For those looking for a more docile couple of days in Shenandoah, there are lots of campsites and little towns around worth visiting. Winchester has a rich Civil War history while sleepy Staunton is generally considered the prettiest town in the region.
Stay in Washington DC a few days before heading out and be sure to check out all the spectacular museums.
4. Going-to-the-Sun Road
The best way to see one of the best american national parks.
- States: Montana
- Start: West Glacier
- End : Saint Mary
- Total Distance: 50 miles
- Best Part: Seeing Saint Mary Lake for the first time
Glacier is one of the best national parks in the USA . It’s the kind of place that, once you’ve visited, makes you want to pack up your bags and move to Montana. I’ve dreamt of doing this before and I’m sure a lot of people share this dream with me.
The main road that traverses Glacier is called the Going-to-the-Sun Road and it is, without question, one of the most beautiful roads in the US. Firstly, it passes right next to the stunning Saint Mary Lake, which is one of the highlights of the park. It also provides quick access to some very good trails in the park, like Hidden Lake Lookout. This 3-mile round-trip hike starts at Logan’s Pass and offers views of the uniquely-shaped Bearhat Mountain.
It should be noted that the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens late in the season and closes early due to heavy snow. The road is closed for 7-8 months and crazy busy the rest of the year. There are quite a few hair point turns as well so remember to keep your cool out there when driving.
5. Olympic Peninsula Loop
Rainforests, glaciers, and beaches (oh my).
- States: Washington
- Start : Port Angeles
- End : Port Angeles
- Total Distance: 330 miles
- Best Part: Feeling the carpet in the Hoh Rainforest
Very few places to see in the USA are as geographically unique as the Olympic Peninsula. Here, you’ll find a huge diversity of landscapes, from glaciers to rainforest to rugged coastline. This is a paradise for outdoorsy types or, at least, those who can’t quite decide what kind of outdoor adventure they want to go on during their road trip in the USA.
There are too many cool spots on the Olympic Peninsula to talk about. Hurricane Ridge offers the most spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and also offers solid skiing in the winter. Rialto Beach is famous for its sea stacks that resemble those found commonly in Iceland. The Enchanted Valley is a very remote portion that requires an overnight hike but rewards visitors with, supposedly, 10,000 falls.
The best part about the Olympic Peninsula is exploring the Hoh Rainforest. Thanks to constant rain, the woods of the peninsula are overgrown, towering, and constantly lush. Go for walk here and you’ll see more shades of green then you previously thought possible.
If you’re passing through, then take a couple of nights booking a stay in Seattle before visiting the Olympic Peninsula!
6. Kancamagus Highway
For fall foliage fanatics.
- States: New Hampshire
- Start : North Woodstock
- End : Conway
- Total Distance: 56 miles
- Best Part: Being there in autumn
New Englanders are very proud people and there are certain things that you don’t talk shit about with them. Dunkin’ Donuts, lobster rolls, Tom Brady; even a whisper of ill will about any of these things is a sure way to piss of a local. Just as important to the New Englander identity as any of these though is it’s most noticeable natural phenomenon: the fall foliage.
From late-September to middle-October, the Patriots become slightly less talked about (until they eventually go to the Super Bowl) in lieu of the changing colors of the trees. New Englanders go crazy for the reds, oranges, and golds of the season; some plan whole weekend excursions in search of the best colors. Admittedly, it is pretty damn cool when you travel outside Boston and are hit by all those hues.
One of the most famous fall foliage road trips in New England is the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. When the time is right (early-October), a cold fire hits the hills and they explode with color. The 56-mile stretch of the Kanc is never-ending foliage and shifting colors; it’s like driving through the barrel of a kaleidoscope. Just be warned: you and everyone else will be there – it gets busy in October!
7. San Juan Skyway
Colorful colorado at it’s best.
- States: Colorado
- Start : Durango
- End : Durango
- Total Distance: 233 miles
- Best Part: Dallas Divide Viewpoint
The San Juan Skyway is the best road trip in Colorado ! Nestled in the far southwestern corner of the state, this route offers some of the finest Rocky Mountain views you could hope for. The road twists and turns through the valleys of the San Juan Mountains, arguably the prettiest part of the Colorado Rockies, and visits many historical towns and viewpoints along the way.
This itinerary begins and ends in the former mining town of Durango. There’s not much to do here besides ride the old gauge railroad, which is admittedly pretty damn cool if you like old-school trains.
As you head north from Durango to Silverton, the scenery really starts to unfold. To the east, the rugged Weminuche goads avid climbers and hikers. To get the best views of the Weminuche and the nearby Grenadiers, be sure to stop at Molas Pass for a break.
Beyond Silverton is the remote resort town of Ouray and the Sneffels Wilderness. The Dallas Divide, which overlooks the Sneffels, is very popular with photographers, especially in autumn when the leaves change color.
After the Dallas Divide, it’s straight onto one of the most famous mountain towns in Colorado: Telluride. If you’re staying in Telluride during the summer, be sure to check for local festivals. During this time, there’s one almost every weekend.
Just got off the plane at Denver and need somewhere to crash? Check out our comprehensive accommodation guide for Denver and find something you like!
8. The Cascade Loop
The best of the “american alps”.
- States : Washington
- Start: Everett
- End : Everett
- Total Distance: 440 miles
- Best Part: The North Cascades to the San Juan Islands
This is THE ULTIMATE Pacific Northwest road trip! Seriously, there are few itineraries that offer such a huge array of activities. Alpine hiking, whale watching, breweries; these are just a few of an adventurer’s favorite things!
The Cascade Loop begins in Everett, which is just north of Seattle. Everett is a pretty little town although you will not want to miss out on visiting Seattle. From Everett, you’ll head east over Stevens Pass before turning north along the Columbia Basin until looping back west across the Washington Pass and the astounding North Cascades. You should end your road trip through Washington by spending a few days relaxing in the idyllic San Juan Islands.
If the previous paragraph felt like an oversimplification, I’m sorry; but the Cascade Loop is too grand to fit in this section. To learn more about the route, be sure to visit the official Cascade Loop website for heaps of more information!
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9. Florida A1A – Overseas Highway
340 miles, almost all beaches.
- States : Florida
- Start: Amelia Island
- End : Florida Keys
- Total Distance : 340 miles
- Best Part: Driving across the Caribbean Sea
Knock it all you like for its douchey spring break parties and invasive retirees, but Florida still has some of the best beaches in all of the USA. As you may have gleaned from the subtitle of this particular USA road trip, almost all of them are accessible via a single highway.
The Florida A1A runs the entire length of the Atlantic Floridian Coast AND even further into the Caribbean Sea. The portion that connects the mainland to the Florida Keys (The Florida Key Scenic Byway) is considered an engineering marvel and this is one of the highlights of the trip. Gliding across the Caribbean and into the likes of Ernest Hemingway’s home on Key West is just too good.
But there is more to this Florida road trip than just the Keys. Fort Lauderdale is shedding its MTV beach party reputation (for a more laid back vibe). Cocoa Beach and Vero Beach still surf central. Plus, there’s always hedonistic and culturally rich Miami to demand your attention (probably too much).
Use our Miami travel guide to learn more about the city!
10. Lassen Scenic Byway
A “lasser-known” road trip in california.
- States : California, Oregon
- Start : Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
- End : Chemult, Oregon
- Total Distance: 500 miles
- Best Part: Ending at Crater Lake aka Heaven on Earth
The Lassen Scenic Byway is one of the most unknown and underrated road trips in America. The route can’t be faulted either – it’s located in the relative unknown of Northern California, which, unfortunately, only enters the news when there’s a forest fire or a rebellious splinter-nation about to spring up. Yet, Northern California and Lassen are just as beautiful as anywhere else in the state.
The Lassen Scenic Byway, which takes its name from the National Park where it starts, gives a grand overview of the region. Dormant volcanoes, bubbling springs, and waterfalls are just a few of the sights you’ll see along the way. Mt Shasta, which marks the beginning of the Cascade Range, is the most prominent landmark in the area. The Park boasts some of California’s best camping spots ; enjoy the breathtaking views at Heart Lake, or kayak around Manzanita’s calm waters.
The Lassen Scenic Byway also extends across the state border into Oregon. This means you can visit one of my all-time favorite places in the USA: Crater Lake. It is an enormous body of water, perfectly serene and close to fathomless. Every time I see it, Crater Lake reminds of Thoreau and what he said about lakes in general: “(they are) the Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”
11. The Oregon Coast – USA Route 101
For those who like to wear sandals and sweaters (at the same time).
- States : Oregon
- Start: Brookings
- End : Astoria
- Total Distance: 363 miles
- Best Part: Southern Oregon Coast
Having spent much of my life in Portland, I’ve been on more than a few road trips in Oregon and there’s a special place in my heart for the Oregon Coast.
When I needed to get away from the city and work, I would run away to the coast. When my girlfriend and I wanted a romantic dinner, we’d skip the restaurants and instead buy fresh oysters from the local fishermen in Netarts. To me, the coast was my playground, my church, and my home away from home.
I’m not the only person who loves the Oregon Coast though – lots of people go on vacation here to get away from the madness of their lives (including everyone’s favorite Midwestern melodist, Sufjan Stevens). Apparently, the charm of old coastal towns and the particular moodiness of a cool, cloudy day is not lost on the others.
Mine romanticizing aside, the Oregon Coast is just a beautiful place to visit. The Southern portion, around Bandon, Langlois, and Samuel H. Boardman, is particularly notable as the scenery around here – rocky towers, jagged promontories, and enormous cliffs – are quintessential.
Given how sheer flippin’ magnificent the Oregon Coast is, make sure you know what areas to stay in as you drive through!
12. The High Road to Taos
The magical highway to everyone’s favorite hippy town.
- State: New Mexico
- Start : Sante Fe
- Best Part: The old Spanish architecture
New Mexico is like the weird aunt that always drives up to the family gatherings in her converted VW bus and talks about gemstones all night long. Not that this is a bad thing: we all love them for doing this and hope they never change. After all, these conversations are far more interesting than the ones we have with that one overly conservative uncle (I’m alluding to you, North Dakota).
New Mexico loves art, culture, and the surrounding nature that, in turn, inspires art and culture. People from all over the country, whether native or tourist, are inspired by landscapes and old Indian pueblos of the state (even the esteemed George R.R. Martin has drawn inspiration from this landscape).
One of the best ways to experience the magic of New Mexico is via the High Road to Tao scenic byway. Starting from the city of Santa Fe and ending in Taos, this road trip not only connects two of the most artistic cities in the state, but it also features a lot of interesting stuff in between.
Chimayó makes for a very interesting stop thanks to its namesake church, which promises to heal the sick. The San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is one of the most iconic buildings in the American Southwest and could easily serve as a prop for Tarantino or Sergio Leone western.
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13. Texas Hill Country
The “green” part of texas.
- States: Texas
- Start : Austin
- End : Austin
- Total Distance: Depends
- Best Part : The natural pools
Texas isn’t just desert and oil fields; there is plenty of greenery around if you know where to look. In fact, there are heaps of waterfalls and grottos to be found! Texas Hill Country is full of hidden wonders that most would’ve never thought could be found arid ol’ Texas. If you’re looking for some top-notch hiking in the States and want to try some of the tastiest BBQ in the state, then consider going on a trip here.
Texas Hill Country roughly refers to the elevated areas west of Austin. Many roads that go through this area; to visit a decent chunk of it will require you to take many different routes.
Generally speaking, the best parts of Texas Hill Country are around Highway 290. Locally beloved waterholes like Hamilton Pool, Pedernales Falls, and Jacobs Well are all within about 30 minutes detour.
There are many BBQ joints and spirit distilleries spread throughout Hill Country as well. If you want some of the most legendary BBQ in Texas, be sure to drop by Cooper’s Old Time Pit in Llano.
Austin is a bit of an underrated gem, so check out our insider travel guide and make sure you experience it fully.
14. Beartooth Highway
One of the most beautiful highways in america.
- States: Wyoming, Montana
- Start : Red Lodge, Montana
- End : Wyoming/Montana border via US 212
- Total Distance: 69 miles
- Best Part : Arriving at Beartooth Pass
For being one of the prettiest roads in America, it’s amazing how few people have probably heard about the Beartooth. When talking about what to do in Wyoming, most people talk about staying in Yellowstone or the Tetons more than anything. (Rightfully so! Those places are spectacular in their own right!)
Yet, just 2 hours away from the center of Yellowstone lies this stunner of a road trip, so stunning some say that it could easily compete with the aforementioned national park. Not to be taken lightly, this road starts at 5000 ft and climbs to a maximum height of nearly 11,000 ft. By the time you reach Beartooth Pass, you’ll be driving through high-alpine plateau; barren, humbling, and, most of all, awe-inspiring.
The drive is the show-stealer here but there’s still lots to do outside of the car on the Beartooth Highway. Lakes for fishing, trails for hiking, and kitschy shops for souvenirs all abound. Though the drive itself only takes 2-3 hours, one could easily spend several days here. Don’t just look at this as a way to connect Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks; think of this route as a park to be explored onto itself.
Things go wrong on the road ALL THE TIME. Be prepared for what life throws at you.
Buy an AMK Travel Medical Kit before you head out on your next adventure – don’t be daft!
15. The Hana Highway
A must-do on your hawaiian vacation.
- State: Hawaii
- Start : Kahului
- End : Haiku-Pauwela
- Total Distance: 64 miles
- Best Part: Playing “Spot the Waterfall”
Some people find the word “highway” in Hana Highway to be a gross exaggeration. “This isn’t a highway!” they might say; “this is a crooked alley in the middle of the jungle!” Fair enough fictional angry tourist I say.
The Hana Highway is not a typical highway: it’s narrow, winding, and sometimes scary to drive on. What would normally take an hour to drive will take more like two or three. The road is so small that parking on the side of the road is very difficult; sometimes it even turns into a single lane of traffic.
But the Hana Highway is worth the extra effort, of course. Waterfalls are everywhere along this road trip; during heavy rain, falls may spring up out of nowhere (be careful in this case actually). That quintessential Hawaiin lushness will be omnipresent as you coast through different areas of Maui , and you’ll even the opportunity to visit the beach! Pullover at Waianapanapa State Park just before Hana to see one of the better beaches on the island.
If you end up doing this Hawaiin road trip, just be sure to leave Kahului with a full tank of gas and snacks. There isn’t a whole lot in the way of food and gas stations along the way.
To be honest, Hawaii is yummy, expensive, and worthy of a proper adventure. Check out our budget travel guide for Hawaii and extend your trip a bit longer !
16. Charleston to Savannah
Southern comfort at its finest.
- States: South Carolina, Georgia
- Start : Charleston, NC
- End : Savannah, GA
- Total Distance : 108 miles
- Best Part : Comparing the two cities
It’s a well-known fact that there’s a long-standing rivalry between the cities of Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. Both are competing against each other for the title of “most charming cities in the South” and the competition is fierce. Thanks to their close proximity, one could easily visit one on a weekend road trip!
Charleston is the smaller city; not so hectic and pretty down-to-Earth by many standards. It’s mostly known for its old plantations and Southern hospitality. A lot of people – especially the locals – like to say that Charleston is much more laidback than Savannah and consequently much more hospitable. You can find plenty of great Airbnbs in Charleston too, so it’s definitely a place to stop over for a bit longer.
Savannah, on the other hand, is the larger of the two cities. It was formerly and economic center of the region and, as such, expanded quite fast. The original Southern architecture is very well preserved, the best examples being the cobblestone streets themselves, the old-school neighborhoods of Savannah , and the nearby plantations. Fun fact: public drinking is also legal in Savannah, which does lead to the occasional, spontaneous block party 🙂
17. The Best of the American Southwest
Take a trip through one of the most beautiful parts of the usa.
- States : Nevada, Utah, Arizona
- Start: Las Vegas
- End : Las Vegas
- Total Distance: 1200 miles
- Best Part: Doing acid somewhere you love
This isn’t an established route; there is no single road that you’ll stay on over the course of this trip. What this is a collection of highways that together form without question one of the most phenomenal road trips around the USA.
The American Southwest is one of the most beautiful regions in the world; a dreamscape filled with surreal arches, bottomless canyons, and rocks painted by the passage of time. Hiking through the arid landscapes of Arizona or Utah is more fantasy than reality sometimes and, to me at least, a more appropriate place for Gods to inhabit than humans.
My mind reels when I think about how many wonders there are on this Southwestern road trip. The Grand Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Antelope Canyon, Havasupai; all of these could be considered amongst the most beautiful places in the world. Yet, I haven’t even talked about the national parks of Utah either! Zion, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, my god – it’s all too much to think about at once.
Love it or hate it, you’ll be visiting Las Vegas for this road trip, so you may as well make the most of it!
18. Route 61 – The Blues Highway
Visit some of the most significant musical sites in america.
- States: Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa , Wisconsin, Minnesota
- Start : New Orleans
- End : Wyoming (Minnesota)
- Total Distance: 1,400 miles
- Best Part: Finding out where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil
A good American road trip doesn’t ALWAYS have to be about pleasant scenery or heritage sites. Sometimes, all a good road trip takes is an appreciation for our musical forefathers and a really good playlist to go with it.
Route 61 is called the Blues Highway because it has been a part of so many American musicians’ lives. Bastions of classic American music, like Memphis, Des Moines , St. Louis, and the classic southern destination New Orleans are all connected by this road.
That means the greatest blues singers, rockers, country wailers, and more have all, at one point in their lives, driven on this road. It goes without saying that a lot of shit has probably happened here then.
Route 61 is full of interesting and sometimes strange attractions. The BB King Museum, Heartbreak Hotel, and some of the most hallowed music venues and concert halls in the country are all along this route.
The coolest place to visit on this USA road trip? The infamous “crossroads” where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil for fame (at the intersection of Highway 1 and 8).
For a shorter version, road trippers can instead drive from New Orleans to Memphis and experience many of the same attractions.
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19. Seward Highway
A wild road trip in the usa’s most wild state.
- States: Alaska
- Start : Anchorage
- End : Seward
- Total Distance: 125 miles
- Best Part: The Kenai Fjords
Choosing between this and the George Parks Highway is a tough call. The option of seeing the monstrous Denali is possible with the latter, and that alone should be enough to entice people. But overall, the Seward Highway is probably the best road trip in Alaska .
Why is the Seward Highway great? Well, it’s not too long, not too far away from civilization, and it offers a little bit of everything. The drive itself is remarkable as you’ll be afforded views of both the Chugach Mountains and the rugged Alaskan coastline at the same time, plus a bear or two (or more) as well.
For those very adventurous folk, the Kenai Peninsula offers more than just road thrills. Kayaking in the fjords among the glaciers is available as is hiking in the Kenai Mountains. Just remember: if you do decide to go off into the wilderness, don’t forget to exhibit the usual bear safety.
Now things are getting wild! You’ll be starting with a stay in Anchorage so make sure you book an awesome place in an awesome spot… it’s cold up there!
20. Park Loop (Acadia National Park)
Rugged new england coastline.
- States: Maine
- Start : Hulls Cove Visitor Center
- End : Hulls Cove Visitor Center
- Total Distance: 27 miles
- Best Part : Sunset beers at Cadillac Mountain
Maine is one of the most popular road trip destinations on the East Coast during the summer. People travel here over the weekend from as far as New York City or Philadelphia in search of some far more positive vibes. The Maine coastline, long beloved for its lighthouses and sandy beaches, for one reason or another, has long been therapeutic to these city slickers.
When it comes to coastal routes, few can compare to the Park Loop at Acadia National Park. Towering conifers, fine beaches, and that rough coastline that defines New England are all featured here; all are accessible from your car. There are several hikes around that will take you to some pretty solid viewpoints as well. The sunset at Cadillac Mountain is particularly good with friends and brews.
Because everyone wants to travel to Maine these days, it can get pretty crowded during the summer. Traffic will be bad and accommodation will either be limited or expensive. Autumn, though only slightly less busy, is a nice time to visit because of foliage. Spring is a great time though you should definitely have a coat with you. Visiting in winter should only be for the mad or photographically-inclined.
BONUS: The Ultimate USA Road Trip (According to Science)
For niiieerrrdddsss (kidding).
- States : All 48 lower states
- Start: New York
- End : New York
- Total Distance: 13,700 miles
- Best Part: The end.
Does anyone remember when that viral image of the GREATEST ROAD TRIP ACROSS AMERICA EVER was making rounds on the web? How many people made plans to do the damn thing?
Admittedly, this road trip was more notable for its use of data, specifically using a genetic algorithm, which already sounds super cool. In lamens, this genetic algorithm allowed the whizzes behind this to see the greatest amount of American destinations with as little backtracking as possible.
So are you ready to tackle this bad boy? Are you really in the mood for the most epic USA road trip imaginable? Then put in that vacation time and pack the car up as much as you can. Don’t skimp on the Red Bull either – there are going to be a lot of long drives here folks.
With all of those competing companies and exorbitant deposits, renting a car in the USA can seem scary. Frankly, I don’t blame people if they ever felt intimidated in this country while trying to rent a car – there’s a real learning curve.
But booking a rental car can be much more manageable if you know a few things beforehand. Here’s what you need to know:
- You need a credit card to rent a car in America – They rental company will use it to take a deposit for the car.
- You have to be 18 – Even then, you’ll get charged more if you’re under 28. Younger drivers are seen as liabilities.
- Don’t book rental insurance with the rental company – Use a third party because they’re cheaper and have better protection. Rentalcover is a great choice.
- Do your research – Use search engines, like Rentalcars.com , to find the best prices. Sedans are usually the cheapest options. SUVs will cost much more.
- Gas prices are different in every state – Use ViaMichelin to chart gas prices in each state. As a rule of thumb, gas is cheaper the closer you get to Texas and the South.
- Some credit cards offer rental insurance – Be sure to check if your credit card company will cover you in the case of an accident. If they do cover you, you’ll save heaps of money. You’ll need to book the car with THAT card to qualify, of course.
- Almost all American cars have automatic transmissions – I honestly think it might actually cost more to rent a manual…
- Check to see if there is a cleaning fee – If you made a small mess, most companies won’t charge you anything. Some shady ones will charge you a fortune for a gum wrapper though.
What to Pack for a Road Trip in the USA
First off: your road trip packing list is going to vary wildly depending on how long the itinerary is. If you’re just going for a weekend, then your list is going to be much trimmer and less demanding. But some road trips can last weeks or even months. If you’re like my friends, Kevin and Liz, you’ll eventually end up living out of your car at which point it may be time to consider investing in the vanlife .
When packing for a shorter road trip, go minimal . Take the essentials, like a roadside safety kit and some form of navigation for example, and then add more as needed. If you’re camping, take the appropriate gear. If you have a toddler, take a doona car seat stroller (it’s a seriously cool piece of engineering). If you want to save money, take lots of snacks and pre-made meals to avoid stopping at diners. Easy peasy.
On the other hand, if you’re planning a truly epic American road trip route, the likes of which would make Jack Kerouac or Alexander Supertramp jealous, then you’ll need much, much more stuff. I cannot cover everything in this single section of the article but I can suggest that you check out our road trip packing checklist for more ideas and suggestions.
Aside from knowing what to pack on your road trip in the USA, you’ll also need to know how to pack . If you have a lot of stuff, you will need to be conscious of how you organize everything, especially if you have a smaller, passenger-style vehicle. Get a system in place – use packing cubes and plastic bins to keep everything separated; bungee cables will be your best friends.
For more information on how to pack a car, check out this informative article at USA Today .
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What to do in Case of Trouble while Road Tripping in the USA
It should go without saying that you need to be prepared for your road trip in the USA. I would like to make a friendly reminder here to do so. Prepare thyself before embarking on your asphalt odysseys by having the following, at a minimum: a roadside emergency kit and some form travel insurance for the USA .
A lot can go wrong on a road trip: tires can pop, accidents can happen, engines can stutter and stop. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere because someone forgot to do something essential like change the oil could ruin your trip real fast.
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A roadside assistance kit will contain everything that you could need to fix small problems on the road. They can’t fix everything (you’ll need a mechanic for that) but at least you’ll be able to recharge a dead battery and arrest a bumper on the fly.
If the shit really hits the fan and your vehicle is really in trouble, that’s when the insurance comes in handy. If there’s a fatal problem with the car, trust me, it will be expensive, and having insurance means that you’ll have a bit of financial help.
Now you could invest in two types of insurance: regular travel insurance or special rental car insurance.
Some travel insurance providers provide basic vehicular coverage and will cover you in certain circumstances. World Nomads insurance is a good example. Granted, there is at times some fine print regarding who qualifies. For example, drivers from some US states cannot qualify for vehicular assistance with World Nomads. Always be sure to double-check.
If you want total protection, go with an independent rental insurance company like Rental Cover. Most offer excellent coverage at very reasonable rates, more so than the rental car company will give you.
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Beartooth highway tops out at just shy of 11,000 feet…. not 8000.
Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve changed the detail now.
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Best USA Road Trips: 18 Ideas for Your Next Big Adventure
Julie Last updated: August 27, 2023 United States 16 Comments
One of the best ways to explore the USA is on a good old-fashioned road trip. Cruise along Route 66, road trip through the Florida Keys, explore the American Southwest, or even drive from coast to coast. In this guide, we share 18 of the best USA road trips…18 great ideas for your next big adventure.
Table of Contents
About these USA Road Trips
These road trips range from just a several days to two weeks in length. Most them are written as 7 to 10-day itineraries.
This is not a list of scenic drives, which are drives that can be done in a few hours or a full day (for example, Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway, or Beartooth Highway). However, these scenic drives are included in the itineraries below.
For each road trip, we list the approximate distance you will travel and the best time of year for each trip. Most of these can be done all year, but like any travel destination, there are ideal times for each of them.
Most of these road trips include at least one national park. We are on a quest to visit all 63 national parks, and they make perfect road trip destinations.
We have done all but a few of these USA road trips…several are still on our bucket list. And on this list we have a few favorites, what we think are must-have experiences in the USA, and I’ll share those with you at the end of this guide (or you can skip ahead now).
While visiting the national and state parks, national monuments, and public places, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trails, pack out what you bring with you, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
#1 Route 66
Distance: 2,448 miles Length of Time: 1 to 2 weeks to drive the entire distance, or you can drive a section of Route 66 When to Go: All year
Highlights: Chicago, ghost towns in New Mexico and Texas, quirky roadside shops and restaurants, Petrified Forest National Park, Santa Monica. If you drive the entire length of Route 66, you will drive through eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the USA. This historic road is also called the Main Street of America and the Mother Road.
This road runs from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, totaling 2,448 miles. In the 1930’s, it was the route used by those migrating west to escape the Dust Bowl. And in the 1950’s, this route was used by vacationers on their way to Los Angeles.
In the 1960’s, as more direct highways were constructed, traffic along Route 66 declined, leading towards its demise. Portions of Route 66 were bypassed and neglected, although in recent years, there has been revitalization along this route.
As far as planning your road trip, you can drive the entire distance, which takes one to two weeks, depending on what you do along the way. Or, just road through a portion of Route 66.
We have driven Route 66 in Arizona. With quirky roadside stands and several great places to visit along the drive (Petrified Forest National Park, the Meteor Crater, and Flagstaff) this is one of the most iconic sections of the drive.
Holbrook, Arizona | Best USA Road Trips
Plan Your USA Road Trip
The Route 66 Road Trip website has lots of information about what to do and see along the way.
#2 California: The Pacific Coast Highway
Distance: 650 miles Time: 7 to 10 days When to Go: spring and summer
Highlights: San Francisco, Monterey, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles
Tim and I did this over 20 years ago, and it still remains one of my favorite USA road trips.
The Pacific Coast Highway, also called California State Route 1, runs north to south from Leggett to Dana Point. The classic Pacific Coast Highway road trip runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but you can also add on San Diego in the south or continue the drive north into northern California.
This road trip is done point-to-point and can be done in either direction.
The drive between San Francisco to Los Angeles, as the road winds along the rugged coastline in Big Sur, is one of the most beautiful drives in the USA. It takes 8 to 10 hours to drive this stretch of road, but most people break the drive up into several days, spending the night in either Santa Barbara, Solvang, Morro Bay, and/or Monterey.
There are also some great nearby destinations to add on to this road trip. Napa Valley, Pinnacles National Park, and San Diego all make great additions to a Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
Here is a sample 7-day Pacific Coast highway itinerary heading south to north. Day 1: San Diego Day 2: Los Angeles Day 3: Santa Barbara, Solvang, and Morro Bay Day 4: Big Sur State Park and Monterey Day 5: San Francisco Day 6: San Francisco Day 7: Napa Valley day trip from San Francisco
With more time, you can continue the road trip by heading north to northern California, add on more time in each city, or add on Pinnacles or Yosemite National Parks.
Bixby Bridge at Big Sur: Phitha Tanpairoj/shutterstock.com
Cable cars in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO: 25 Best Things to Do in San Francisco SAN DIEGO: 10 Best Things to Do in San Diego YOSEMITE: Yosemite for First Timers: Best Hikes, Best Views, & the Best Things to Do
#3 American Southwest
Distance: Varies, 1,000 – 1,500 miles Time: 7 days to 2 weeks When to Go: Best during the spring and fall months
Highlights: The Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks
American Southwest Route | Best USA Road Trips
Admire the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canyon, hike the thrilling trails in Zion National Park, and photograph the millions of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon. The list keeps going, with the sweeping views of Monument Valley, dusty, off-road adventures in Grand Staircase-Escalante, and numerous slot canyons to scramble through. With more time, you can extend the road trip and head farther into Utah, exploring Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks.
Monument Valley | Best USA Road Trips
Zion National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Antelope Canyon | Best USA Road Trips
If you have the time, I recommend planning a two-week road trip through this region. On just one road trip, you can visit the Grand Canyon, Utah’s Mighty 5, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, and Las Vegas.
Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas, Drive to the Grand Canyon Day 2: Grand Canyon National Park Day 3: Grand Canyon National Park Day 4: Page, Arizona: Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend Day 5: Monument Valley Day 6: The Needles, Canyonlands National Park Day 7: Arches National Park Day 8: Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky Day 9: Goblin Valley State Park and Little Wild Horse Canyon Day 10: Capitol Reef National Park Day 11: Capitol Reef or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Day 12: Bryce Canyon National Park Day 13: Zion National Park Day 14: Drive to Las Vegas and fly home
With less time, we have a great 10-day road trip that includes several highlights and wonderful off-the-beaten-path destinations in the American Southwest, and a 7-day road trip that includes Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We are frequent visitors to the American Southwest and have a lot of different road trip itineraries on this website.
American Southwest Road Trip Itineraries
TWO WEEK ITINERARY: Two Week American Southwest Road Trip: Grand Canyon & Utah’s Mighty 5 10 DAY ITINERARY: 10 Days in the American Southwest: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary 5 TO 10 DAY ITINERARIES: Grand Canyon Road Trip: 5 Itineraries from Las Vegas
#4 Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks
Distance: 900 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: Early July through mid-October, when all of the roads in the national parks are open
Highlights: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks
Day 1: Arrive in Jackson, Wyoming Day 2: Grand Teton Day 3: Grand Teton & Yellowstone Day 4: Yellowstone Day 5: Yellowstone Day 6: Yellowstone Day 7: Drive to Glacier Day 8: Glacier Day 9: Glacier Day 10: Fly Home
This is one of the best USA road trips if you want to visit three popular national parks. We like this road trip so much that we have done it twice.
This USA road trip is done point-to-point. It can be done in either direction, but most people start in Grand Teton and then head north to Glacier National Park.
In Grand Teton National Park, visit Jenny Lake, hike to Inspiration Point or head farther into the Teton Range, go wildlife spotting at Oxbow Bend, photograph the mighty Teton Range, and spend some time in Jackson.
Then head to Yellowstone, where the wildlife sightings are some of the best in the national parks and you can visit bubbling mud pots and technicolor hot springs.
Finally, the trip ends with its grand finale in Glacier National Park. Drive the beautiful Going-to-the-Sun Road, take your pick between short and long hikes, and marvel at this gorgeous national park.
Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park
Hayden Valley, Yellowstone
Glacier National Park | Best USA Road Trips
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: Grand Teton, Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary WITH LESS TIME: Yellowstone and Grand Teton Itinerary: How to Plan Your Road Trip GRAND TETON: 15 Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park YELLOWSTONE: 18 Amazing Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park YELLOWSTONE: Where to Stay in Yellowstone National Park GLACIER: Top 10 Things to Do in Glacier National Park
#5 Washington State Road Trip
Distance: 1,225 miles Time: 7 to 14 days When to Go: July through September
Highlights: Olympic, Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks, Leavenworth, Lake Chelan
Day 1: Arrive in Washington, drive to Port Angeles Day 2: Olympic National Park Day 3: Olympic National Park Day 4: Mount Rainier National Park Day 5: Mount Rainier National Park Day 6: Leavenworth Day 7: Lake Chelan Day 8: North Cascades National Park Day 9: North Cascades National Park or Mount Baker Day 10: Fly Home
Washington state makes an excellent road trip destination, especially for outdoor lovers, hikers, and families. Three national parks are located in Washington.
Mount Rainier National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Olympic National Park | Best USA Road Trips
North Cascades National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse national parks in the United States. In just one national park, you can climb peaks as high as 8,000 feet, walk through old growth temperate rainforests, and stroll along beaches littered with driftwood.
For hikers, Mount Rainier is one of the best US national parks to visit. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails loop around Mount Rainier, a glacier-capped active volcano. For an epic experience, you can also climb to the summit of Mount Rainier on a multi-day hiking trip.
North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the United States, and we also think that it is one of the most underrated. It’s also another great spot to go hiking.
On a road trip through Washington state, you can also add on the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, go wine tasting at Lake Chelan, visit Mount Baker, go on a day hike in the Enchantments, and visit Seattle.
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: 7 to 14 Day Washington Road Trip Itinerary WASHINGTON PARKS: Washington National Parks: Travel Guide & Itinerary MOUNT RAINIER: 14 Amazing Things to Do in Mount Rainier National Park NORTH CASCADES: The Complete Guide to North Cascades National Park OLYMPIC: Best Things to Do in Olympic National Park
#6 Las Vegas to San Diego
Distance: 640 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: fall, winter and spring
Highlights: San Diego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park (the cover photo for this article)
This USA road trip is great in the wintertime. Joshua Tree and Death Valley tend to be some of the hottest spots in the USA, so it’s best to visit this area when the weather is cool.
Since this road trip is done point-to-point, it can be done in either direction. Here is a sample 10-day itinerary, starting in Las Vegas and ending in Las Vegas. For more information, plus an alternative route that includes the Mojave National Preserve, read our Las Vegas to San Diego Itinerary.
Day 1: Las Vegas Day 2: Valley of Fire day trip from Las Vegas Day 3: Red Rock Canyon or more time in Las Vegas Day 4: Death Valley National Park Day 5: Death Valley National Park Day 6: Drive to Joshua Tree National Park Day 7: Joshua Tree National Park Day 8: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Day 9: San Diego Day 10: Fly home
For a shorter version of this itinerary, skip Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the day trips from Las Vegas.
Death Valley National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Las Vegas | Best USA Road Trips
Valley of Fire | Best USA Road Trips
Joshua Tree National Park | Best USA Road Trips
SAN DIEGO: Best Things to Do in San Diego, California JOSHUA TREE: Top 10 Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park DEATH VALLEY: The Complete Guide to Death Valley National Park ANZA-BORREGO DESERT: How to Spend One Day in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park LAS VEGAS: Best of Las Vegas: Things to Do, Day Trip Ideas & Sample Itineraries VALLEY OF FIRE: 16 Amazing Things to Do in the Valley of Fire RED ROCK CANYON: 2 Short, Fun Hikes in Red Rock Canyon
#7 Florida Keys Road Trip
Distance: 200 miles Time: 7 to 10 days When to Go: All year but this road trip is best from November through March, when the weather is cooler, rainfall is low, and there is no threat from tropical storms or hurricanes.
Highlights: Miami, Key West, Florida Keys, Everglades, Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks
White sandy beaches, warm sunny skies, palm trees, key lime pie, warm sunny skies…sounds nice, right?
Driving from Miami to Key West is one of the best USA road trips.
The Florida Overseas Highway connects mainland Florida with Key West. As you road trip through the Florida Keys, you can visit state parks, beautiful beaches, animal conservation centers, breweries, and boutique shops. Dine al fresco, on the beach, in the shade of palm trees.
Spend some time in Miami and Key West and you can also add on three national parks: Biscayne, Everglades, and Dry Tortugas.
Seven Mile Bridge | Best USA Road Trips
Key West | Best USA Road Trips
Dry Tortugas National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Day 1: Arrive in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Day 2: Everglades National Park Day 3: Biscayne National Park Day 4: Florida Keys road trip to Key West Day 5: Key West Day 6: Key West Day 7: Dry Tortugas National Park Day 8: Key West Day 9: Florida Keys road trip to Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Day 10: Fly home
If you have less time, this itinerary can easily be shortened to one week. Travel point-to-point through the Florida Keys. In our Florida Keys Itinerary, we give suggestions on how to do this.
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: 7 – 10 Day Florida Keys Itinerary: Miami, Key West & the National Parks FLORIDA KEYS: Florida Keys Road Trip: 25 Awesome Things to Do between Key Largo and Key West KEY WEST: 18 Best Things to Do in Key West DRY TORTUGAS: The Complete Guide to Dry Tortugas National Park EVERGLADES: One Perfect Day in Everglades National Park BISCAYNE: Best Things to Do in Biscayne National Park
#8 Northern California & Oregon
Distance: 650 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: Summer and early fall
Highlights: Redwood State and National Parks, Lassen Volcanic National Park and Crater Lake National Park
On this loop, visit three national parks: Crater Lake, Redwood, and Lassen Volcanic National Parks. This road trip is still on our to-do list. When we were planning one of our big summer trips, we had to choose between the Washington road trip (listed above) and this one. Washington won but we are hoping to do this one soon.
Since this USA road trip is done as a loop, there are several different spots to start this trip. Medford, Oregon is the most convenient location that I have found, since it has one of the largest airports in the area.
Below is a 10-day road trip itinerary starting and ending in Medford.
Day 1: Arrive in Medford, drive to Crater Lake National Park Day 2: Crater Lake National Park Day 3: Crater Lake National Park, drive to Lava Beds National Monument Day 4: Lava Beds National Monument, drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park Day 5: Lassen Volcanic National Park Day 6: Drive to Redwood National Park visiting Whiskeytown on the drive Day 7: Redwood National & State Parks Day 8: Redwood National & State Parks Day 9: Redwood National & State Parks Day 10: Drive to Medford and fly home
Crater Lake National Park: Nature’s Charm/shutterstock.com
#9 Washington DC to Asheville, North Carolina
Distance: 700 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: May through October
Highlights: Washington DC, Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, New River Gorge National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville, Gatlinburg
If you are looking for a USA road trip to do in the fall, this is one of the best on this list . In October, all three national parks are ablaze in fall colors, making this one of the most beautiful times to visit this part of the USA.
Spend a day or two in Washington DC, visiting the Smithsonian Museums, national monuments, and iconic landmarks. Then, leave the city behind, as you road trip through Shenandoah National Park, driving the beautiful Skyline Drive.
Next, drive the Blue Ridge Parkway to Natural Bridge. Take a detour west, spending a few days in one of the USA’s newest national parks, New River Gorge. After New River Gorge, resume the drive south, visiting Asheville, North Carolina, before ending the trip with a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Shenandoah National Park in October | Best USA Road Trips
New River Gorge National Park | Best USA Road Trips
The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina | Best USA Road Trips
Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Day 1: Washington DC Day 2: Washington DC Day 3: Shenandoah National Park Day 4: Blue Ridge Parkway, Natural Bridge, New River Gorge National Park Day 5: New River Gorge National Park Day 6: New River Gorge National Park Day 7: Drive to Asheville, North Carolina Day 8: Asheville Day 9: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day 10: Gatlinburg and fly home
To turn this into a 7-day itinerary, eliminate New River Gorge National Park and do this as a road trip from Washington DC to Asheville, North Carolina.
WASHINGTON DC: One Day Walking Tour of Washington DC SHENANDOAH: Best Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park NEW RIVER GORGE: 20 Amazing Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park NEW RIVER GORGE: 6 Great Hikes in New River Gorge National Park ASHEVILLE: How to Plan a Weekend Getaway to Asheville, North Carolina GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS: A Weekend in Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg
#10 Arizona Road Trip
Distance: 1,080 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: Fall, winter and spring
Highlights: Grand Canyon, Sedona, Monument Valley, Saguaro National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend
On this Arizona road trip itinerary, you will visit three national parks, drive past the buttes and mesas of Monument Valley, walk through magical Antelope Canyon, and hike the desert hills of Sedona. Arizona is home to some of the most iconic landscapes in the United States and this road trip is the perfect way to see them.
Day 1: Arrive in Phoenix, Saguaro National Park Day 2: Saguaro National Park Day 3: Petrified Forest National Park Day 4: Monument Valley Day 5: Antelope Canyon Day 6: Grand Canyon Day 7: Grand Canyon Day 8: Grand Canyon & Sedona Day 9: Sedona Day 10: Fly Home
Arizona is a large state with a lot to do. This road trip focuses on the national parks, Sedona, and Monument Valley, but if you have more time, you can also add on Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and Scottsdale.
Grand Canyon National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Sedona, Arizona | Best USA Road Trips
Saguaro National Park | Best USA Road Trips
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary SEDONA: The Complete Guide to Sedona, Arizona GRAND CANYON: The Complete Guide to the Grand Canyon SAGUARO: 8 Amazing Things to Do at Saguaro National Park PETRIFIED FOREST: Petrified Forest Travel Guide & Itinerary ANTELOPE CANYON: Should You Visit Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon? MONUMENT VALLEY: The Complete Guide to Monument Valley for First-Time Visitors
#11 Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Distance: 100 to 300 miles Time: 1 to 7 days When to Go: All year
Highlights: Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Louisville, Bardstown, Lexington
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT) is a collection of eighteen bourbon distilleries located in and around Louisville. If you want to tour all eighteen distilleries, you need a minimum of seven days. For those who just want a taste of the KBT, this area also makes a great weekend getaway.
There is a lot more to do in this part of Kentucky than just tour bourbon distilleries. Enjoy the nightlife in Louisville, watch a horse race at Churchill Downs, drive through scenic bluegrass Kentucky, visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, or spend the night in a historic tavern.
Maker’s Mark | Best USA Road Trips
Horse Racing at Churchill Downs | Best USA Road Trips
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in a Weekend
Friday: Arrive in Louisville, evening distillery tour and dinner Saturday: Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Bardstown Bourbon, sleep in Bardstown Sunday: Lux Row, Maker’s Mark, fly home
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in One Week
Day 1: Louisville distilleries Day 2: Louisville: museums, distillery tours and Churchill Downs Day 3: Distilleries near Owensboro Day 4: Bardstown distilleries Day 5: Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, and the Kentucky Cooperage Day 6: Wilderness Trail, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve Day 7: Distilleries between Lexington and Louisville
One week is a long time to spend on the bourbon trail and it will get repetitive. I only recommend doing this if you are a BIG fan of bourbon. It took us several different trips to Kentucky to visit all of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries.
KBT ITINERARY: Kentucky Bourbon Trail Itinerary: Suggestions for 1 Day to 1 Week KBT GUIDE: The Ultimate Guide to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail DISTILLERIES: Best Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail LOUISVILLE: Best Things to do in Louisville, Kentucky
#12 Alaska Road Trip
Distance: 700 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: May through September
Highlights: Anchorage, Seward, Valdez, Kenai Fjords and Wrangell – St. Elias National Parks
There are many different ways to put together an Alaskan road trip, and in our Alaska Itinerary post, we share three detailed itineraries.
Our favorite is a 10-day trip that includes Anchorage, Seward, Valdez, Kenai Fjords, and Wrangell – St. Elias. It’s our favorite for two reasons.
For one thing, Wrangell – St. Elias is one of the most underrated US national parks. This place blew us away, with its multiple ranges of mountain peaks, glacier hiking, and flightseeing.
The second reason is that Denali Park Road, in Denali National Park, is closed at about the halfway point, while a bridge is constructed around a landslide. Until this road fully reopens (2023 or later), I think it is best to save Denali and visit the other Alaskan national parks instead.
In our article 10 Day Alaska Itinerary: 3 Road Trip Ideas, we provide three different road trip routes through Alaska, but below is the 10-day itinerary with Wrangell – St. Elias and Kenai Fjords National Parks.
Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage Day 2: Drive to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Day 3: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Day 4: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Day 5: Drive to Valdez Day 6: Valdez Day 7: Cruise to the Kenai Peninsula Day 8: Kenai Fjords National Park Day 9: Kenai Fjords National Park Day 10: Fly home
With more time, you can add on Denali or add on a day trip to Lake Clark or Katmai National Parks.
Kenai Fjords National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve | Best USA Road Trips
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: 1o Day Alaska Itinerary: 3 Epic Road Trip Ideas WRANGELL – ST. ELIAS: 10 Best Things to Do in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve ANCHORAGE TO VALDEZ: Driving from Anchorage to Valdez: Best Things to Do, Map & Photos DENALI: 16 Best Things to Do in Denali National Park KATMAI: 8 Amazing Things to Do in Katmai National Park
#13 New England Road Trip: Acadia to Boston
Distance: 700 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: Late spring through fall; October is the best time for fall colors
Highlights: Acadia National Park, Kancamagus Highway, Franconia Notch State Park, Stowe, Lake Champlain, the Berkshires, Boston
This is a road trip that is very high on our to-do list. We have been to Acadia National Park and Boston, the starting and ending points of this itinerary, and loved both experiences. Our visit to Acadia coincided with peak fall colors and it’s breathtaking.
We live in the mid-Atlantic region of the US so we get to see some beautiful fall colors in our backyard, but there is something extra special about New England in October. Not only do the fall colors seem more vibrant, but the small towns and state parks make this region one of the most beautiful destinations in the USA for a fall road trip.
Day 1: Acadia National Park Day 2: Acadia National Park Day 3: Portland, Maine Day 4: Drive to Conway, then drive the scenic Kancamagus Highway, visit Franconia Notch State Park, and sleep in or near Franconia Day 5: Stowe, Burlington, and Lake Champlain Day 6: Drive to Lenox, Massachusetts in the Berkshires Day 7: Drive to Boston Day 8: Boston Day 9: Boston Day 10: Fly home
Acadia National Park in October | Best USA Road Trips
Boston | Best USA Road Trips
Since we have not done this road trip yet, we have limited information. But here are a few posts which will be helpful: ACADIA: The Complete Guide to Acadia National Park BOSTON: Best Things to Do in Boston, Massachusetts BOSTON: Tips for Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston
#14 Utah’s Mighty 5
Distance: 900 miles Time: 7 to 10 days When to Go: Spring and fall
Highlights: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks
If you like rugged, desert landscapes, it is hard to beat the beauty of Utah. If you are a hiker, there are enough trails in these parks to keep you busy for weeks. And if you like a good road trip, Utah is the perfect place to explore from behind the wheel of a car.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best USA road trips. We can’t get enough of this part of the USA…Utah keeps calling us back.
Hike the bucket list worthy trails at Zion, explore the fantasyland of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, photograph the arches and unique rock formations at Arches National Park, explore the waterpocket fold in Capitol Reef, marvel at the landscapes at Canyonlands Island in the Sky, and hike through the unique landscape in The Needles at Canyonlands.
This is just a short list of things to do on a Mighty 5 road trip. You can spend weeks here and never run out of new things to do.
Arches National Park | Best USA Road Trips
The Needles, Canyonlands National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Bryce Canyon National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Capitol Reef National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Day 1: Arrive in Salt Lake City, drive to Moab Day 2: Arches National Park Day 3: Canyonlands National Park Day 4: Drive to Capitol Reef, visit Capitol Reef, sleep in Torrey or near Bryce Canyon Day 5: Bryce Canyon, drive to Zion, sleep in Springdale Day 6: Zion National Park Day 7: Drive to Las Vegas, fly home
MIGHTY 5: Utah’s Mighty 5: Travel Guide & Road Trip Itinerary UTAH ITINERARY: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary ZION: The Complete Guide to Zion National Park BRYCE CANYON: One Perfect Day in Bryce Canyon National Park CAPITOL REEF: 14 Amazing Things to Do in Capitol Reef National Park CANYONLANDS: Top 10 Things to Do in Canyonlands National Park ARCHES: One Perfect Day in Arches National Park
#15 Colorado Road Trip
Distance: 1,050 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: Summer and early fall
Highlights: Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Parks, Aspen and Snowmass, Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and numerous scenic drives.
With four national parks, numerous national forests and state parks, plus historic towns scattered throughout the Rocky Mountains, Colorado makes an awesome road trip destination.
Our 10-day road trip itinerary includes all four national parks, which are linked together with some of Colorado’s best scenic drives (the San Juan Skyway, the Million Dollar Highway, Top of the Rockies, Mount Evans Scenic Byway, and Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park).
Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park
Mesa Verde National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Day 1: Arrive in Colorado, drive to Colorado Springs Day 2: Garden of the Gods & Pikes Peak Day 3: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Day 4: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Day 5: Mesa Verde National Park Day 6: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Day 7: Drive to Rocky Mountain National Park Day 8: Rocky Mountain National Park Day 9: Rocky Mountain National Park Day 10: Fly Home
This itinerary is done as a loop, starting and ending in either Denver or Colorado Springs. It’s a great road trip for families, hikers, and those who love the great outdoors and scenic drives.
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: The Perfect Colorado Itinerary: National Parks & Scenic Drives COLORADO PARKS: Colorado National Parks: Travel Guide & Road Trip Itinerary ROCKY MOUNTAIN: The Ultimate Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park GREAT SAND DUNES: 8 Amazing Things to Do in Great Sand Dunes National Park MESA VERDE: Top 10 Things to Do in Mesa Verde National Park BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON: How to Visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park SCENIC DRIVES: 9 Spectacular Scenic Drives in Colorado
#16 Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore
Distance: 1,400 miles Time: 10 days When to Go: May through October
Highlights: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Badlands and Wind Cave National Parks, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore, Beartooth Highway, Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, Custer State Park
With 10 days, you can visit Yellowstone, Devils Tower, and Mount Rushmore, but that’s not all. You also have enough time to visit the highlights of Grand Teton, day trip out to Badlands National Park, spend some time at Wind Cave National Park, and cruise the scenic drives and spot wildlife at Custer State Park.
That’s four national parks in one road trip, not to mention two national monuments, one incredible state park, and several very scenic drives.
Day 1: Arrive in Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park Day 2: Grand Teton National Park Day 3: Yellowstone National Park Day 4: Yellowstone National Park Day 5: Yellowstone National Park Day 6: Bighorn Mountains & Devils Tower Day 7: Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, Lead & Mount Rushmore Day 8: Custer State Park Day 9: Badlands National Park Day 10: Wind Cave National Park & Fly Home
It’s possible to do this in 7-days, although you will have to give up a few destinations. Get the details on how to do this by clicking here.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
Beartooth Highway | Best USA Road Trips
Mount Rushmore National Monument | Best USA Road Trips
Badlands National Park | Best USA Road Trips
READ THE FULL ITINERARY: Yellowstone, Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary ROAD TRIP GUIDE: How to Drive between Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone: Road Trip Routes YELLOWSTONE: Complete Guide to Yellowstone National Park BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY: Beartooth Highway: Things to Do, Map, Photos & Travel Tips GRAND TETON: Best Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park DEVILS TOWER: The Complete Guide to Devils Tower: How to Plan Your Visit MOUNT RUSHMORE: Mount Rushmore: 10 Things to Know Before You Go BADLANDS: 15 Best Things to Do in Badlands National Park WIND CAVE: 6 Great Things to Do in Wind Cave National Park
#17 California National Parks
Distance: 700 miles Time: 7 to 10 days When to Go: May through October; some roads in Yosemite are only open from mid to late-May through mid-October
Highlights: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks
This itinerary starts in San Francisco, travels through three national parks, ending in Los Angeles.
This road trip skips Death Valley National Park. Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are best in the summer and fall, when the roads are open. This happens to be the worst time to visit Death Valley, since it is so hot. You can add on Death Valley, just be prepared for scorching temperatures if you plan to do this from May through October.
We did this road trip in 2017. At that time, there was a road closure on the Pacific Coast Highway, so we drove through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, rather than taking the coastal route. This also makes a very nice USA road trip, particularly for those who are trying to visit all of the US National Parks.
Day 1: San Francisco Day 2: San Francisco Day 3: Drive to Yosemite Day 4: Yosemite National Park Day 5: Yosemite National Park Day 6: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks Day 7: Drive to LA or San Diego
You can turn this into a longer national park road trip by adding on Channel Islands National Park when you are in LA. And if you can brave the heat, spend a day in Death Valley. That totals five national parks in one road trip.
Yosemite National Park | Best USA Road Trips
Sequoia National Park | Best USA Road Trips
SAN FRANCISCO: Best Things to Do in San Francisco YOSEMITE: Yosemite for First Timer’s: Best Views, Best Hikes & the Best Things to Do YOSEMITE: How to Hike Half Dome: A Step-By-Step Guide KINGS CANYON & SEQUOIA: One Perfect Day in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
#18 The All-American Cross Country Road Trip
Distance: 3,000 miles Time: 10+ days When to Go: best in the spring, summer, and fall
Highlights: The USA
Driving cross country is the ultimate USA road trip. Crossing the country by car, visiting small towns, big cities, national parks, and numerous landmarks along the way is definitely a bucket list kind of trip. In fact, it’s still on our travel wish list.
There are many different ways to drive across the US. It takes about 5 days to do this drive, averaging 8 hours a day, without making any stops. Once you start adding on time for sightseeing and detours, the distance and amount of time spent gets much longer.
Ideally, plan on doing this over a minimum of 10 days, although more time is better. Some people set aside a full month, or the entire summer, to road trip across the United States.
Here are a few cross-country road trip ideas:
Connect two big cities, New York and LA, visiting the Las Vegas, Moab, Denver, Nashville, and Washington DC on the drive (3,200 miles).
On a northern route, start in Boston, visit Niagara Falls, drive through Chicago, South Dakota, visit Yellowstone, and end in Seattle. (3,300 miles)
If you are looking to do this in the winter, you can drive across the southern US, starting in San Diego, going through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, visiting New Orleans and the Florida panhandle, ending your trip in Savannah, Orlando, or going all of the way to Miami (2,700 miles).
Which One(s) Should You Do?
If you need help trying to decide which road trip to do, here are a few suggestions.
Our favorites are the American Southwest, Utah’s Mighty 5, and Alaska.
Best Road Trips for Families
- Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks
- American Southwest
- Utah’s Mighty 5
- Yellowstone to Mount Rushmore
Best Road Trips for Hikers
- Washington road trip
- Colorado road trip
- Alaska road trip
- California national park road trip (Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia)
- Northern California and Oregon loop
Best Road Trips for Non-Hikers
- Florida Keys road trip
- New England road trip
- Kentucky Bourbon Trail
- Pacific Coast Highway in California
Best Road Trips for Fall Colors
- Washington DC to Asheville
Best Road Trips in the Winter
- Florida Keys
- Arizona road trip
- Las Vegas to San Diego
You can also visit Utah’s Mighty 5 or do an American Southwest road trip, but it can be cold and there is a chance of snow.
There are many more ways to plan a USA road trip than what we list above. In the comment section below, share your favorite road trips…we are always looking for new ideas and our readers would like to see them too. Thanks!
And if you have any questions about these road trip itineraries, you can also let us know in the comment section below.
You Might Also Like:
- US NATIONAL PARKS: The Complete Guide to the US National Parks
- US NATIONAL PARKS: 20 Epic Day Hikes to Do in the National Parks
- TRAVEL INSPIRATION: 10 Cool Travel Spots to Put on Your Travel Wish List
- TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY: Our Travel Photography Gear Guide
- HIKING GEAR: Hiking Gear Guide: Essential Hiking Gear
Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.
All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.
What budget do you recommend putting aside for a 5 night stay mid-range hotel?
That really depends on where in the USA you plan to go and the time of year you plan to do your road trip. A mid-range hotel can range from $100 to $350 per night, depending on the location and time of year. In recent years, we have found that hotels around national parks can be surprisingly expensive, especially at peak season. Cities can be expensive as well. Cheers, Julie
Hi Julie, I’m from Australia and planning to do the American Southwest in Sept. this will be my first time visiting the States. Here are my questions 1) is it safe to drive and hike solo? 2) do I need a 4wd car especially driving around the Monument Valley? 3) how good phone reception in these areas?
I really appreciate your input.
Hello Nas. That’s exciting that you are planning your first trip to the USA. Yes, it is safe to hike and drive solo in the American Southwest. I would not hesitate to take a solo trip here myself. You will need a 4WD if you plan to do Moki Dugway but for everything else that we have done in that area, a 4WD is not necessary. Phone reception won’t be very good outside of the small towns in this area. You’ll have some cellular service along some of the highways as you drive around, but don’t depend on it. We cache our maps just in case we do not have cellular service. But, for the most part, cellular service will be spotty in the national parks and outside of the towns. Cheers, Julie
Thanks Julie! That’s a huge relief. I will be travelling around the USA for 6-8 weeks and honestly no idea what to expect. A silly question, can you tell me how tipping culture works?
Btw I did a few hikes in Lofoten islands and Trolltunga, Norway last year based on information i gathered from here. I also did reach out to you asking a few questions which were very useful 🙂
Tipping in the US is a lot different from Australia. At restaurants, it’s typical to leave a 15% tip, 20% for outstanding service. Tip taxi drivers and bell hops a few dollars. Getting tipped is expected in the US and some restaurants will already add it to the bill, so check that before leaving a tip. If you have any other questions, please let me know and I’d be happy to help. Cheers, Julie
I will keep that in mind. Any recommendations for reliable car rental companies at Las Vegas Airport? Also which US SIM card is best?
I will be reading more of your USA blogs and definitely more questions to follow. Thanks for your kindness Julie!
In the USA (and around the world) we use Avis and Budget the most and for the most part, always have a very good experience. Other companies we use include Hertz and Sixt. We use Verizon in the USA and it has the fastest, most widespread coverage throughout the US. You can also compare prices with Airalo. This is an eSIM company that we use when we travel, and so far have used it in Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Samoa and have had a good experience. It may not be as fast as getting a SIM card from a carrier such as Verizon, but it is convenient in that you don’t have to visit a store and it might be cheaper. We have no experience using Airalo in the USA. Cheers, Julie
We have been to many of the places in this article for the best US road trips as a couple but would love to roadtrip through Utah and camp with our dogs. Are you able to name some of the best dog friendly campgrounds in Utah near the state and national parks that we could check out? Most national parks aren’t very dog friendly so it’s difficult to find some that are.
Hello Stacy. Thanks for writing in. We haven’t traveled with dogs so aren’t familiar with dog-friendly campgrounds. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to answer your question but hopefully some more searching online will get you the answers you need. Cheers, Julie
Hi! Where do you recommend to stay at Yosemite NP? Thank you!
The best place to stay is inside of the park, in Yosemite Valley. We stayed in Mariposa, so we had a bit of a drive back and forth to the park, but we were able to get cheap lodging. Closer places than Mariposa are El Portal and Yosemite West. Cheers, Julie
Thank you so much! We’re planning for next summer and the prices for hotels inside the park are over $500… such a bummer. We’ll check the cities you suggest.
Wow! That’s so expensive. Good luck!
We want to get on Route 66 in Oklahoma, is that 40? Are the attractions on that road or do you have to exit off? Our final stop is the Grand Canyon. We want to travel the Route Oklahoma in to Arizona
Hello Jennifer. I have not driven all of Route 66 yet but included it in this post since it is a classic USA road trip. I do believe that some parts of Route 66 also includes I-40. For the Route 66 itinerary, I provided a link to a guide to Route 66 which should have the answers to your questions. Cheers, Julie
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The 25 best road trips in the usa.
If you’re looking for the best road trips in the USA, look no further! These great road trips will have you driving for the rest of your life.
This post was written in partnership and paid for by Hum by Verizon . All opinions are my own.
There’s probably nothing more American than packing up your car and hitting the open road with family or friends, some good snacks, and great tunes… and for good reason. With more than 3.7 million square miles to discover and 4,071,000 miles of road , the United States has so many hidden gems accessible by car.
Although I’ve got about 194 countries on my bucket list right now, I’m grateful to live in the great US of A and think it’s one of the most amazing countries to explore from the road. There are so many fun road trips that you can take all over the country!
Here's a Short Cut
The Best USA Road Trip Safety Tips
Get ready for the best road trips in the usa, 1. pacific coast highway, 2. park loop acadia national park, 3. washington-oregon coast, 4. great river road, 5. big island loop road, 6. musical road usa trip, 7. northern national parks road trip, 8. southwest national parks road trip, 9. hana highway road trip, 10. new york city to finger lakes, 11. williamsburg, va to charlottesville, va to washington d.c., 12. miami to the overseas highway to key west, fl: 160 miles from miami, 13. the grand canyon to las vegas, 14. black hills of south dakota, 15. maine lobster trail, 16. blue ridge parkway, 17. grand teton national park to glacier national park, 18. outer banks scenic byway, 19. olympic peninsula, 20. route 66, 21. alaska highway, 22. ultimate florida road trip, 23. the great american road trip – cross country on the i-90, 24. anchorage to seward, 25. canada to mexico.
If you’re planning to take a road trip this year, I’ve compiled the best American road trip routes in the country. These are 25 of the best road trips in the USA that everyone should take in their lifetime. We’ve been lucky enough to drive almost every inch of this country and there is some beautiful land to see out there.
Before you leave on any road trip, be sure your car is road trip ready. If you’re traveling the US by car, it’s important to know how to prepare.
Prepare Your Car for the Best Road Trips in the USA
Before heading out on your USA road trip, be sure your car has been serviced, and everything is working properly. When you road trip around the US, anything could go wrong! It’s best to be prepared.
Use Hum by Verizon to Prepare for Road Trip Vacations I’ve talked about my love of Hum by Verizon before, but it’s because I love my HumX and think anyone taking a road trip should have one!
Hum by Verizon is campaigning to make the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 Safer Days of Summer.” During these 100 Days, you can find helpful tips for safer driving on their Facebook page.
According to a study from Hum by Verizon and Wakefield Research that surveyed 1,000 U.S. adult drivers ages 20 and older, 80% of participants think that drivers are more likely to speed during the summer months. The survey also found that 61% of millennial drivers struggle to focus while driving during the summer, and one in five drivers have received at least one speeding ticket within the past five years.
Hum by Verizon wants to change that, by helping us practice important road safety with “100 Safer Days of Summer.”
With so many great summer road trip destinations around the country, and so many more Americans traveling these days, safety has never been more important! The best summer trips are safe summer trips!
We use HumX in our car. HumX is a little device that is easily installed in your car and takes the guesswork out of driving by using connected car technology. It allows you to have quick access to emergency services and loved ones while on a road trip, or any time on the road.
If you have an accident or emergency, HumX can send assistance to help you get back on the road.
Hum X car also runs diagnostics on your vehicle to make sure that things are running smoothly so you can take these cool road trips worry-free.
I love that HumX helps you keep track of general maintenance like oil changes and tire rotation, and you can set up alerts to remind you when it’s time for service.
All the Hum by Verizon services can be accessed on your smartphone from the Hum App which you can find in the App Store or Google Play . HumX also comes with a Bluetooth speaker that clips to your visor. This will give you access to roadside assistance with the touch of a button and can also be used as a speaker for your phone and be connected to your contacts.
I’m also really excited to have this service when my kids start driving, which is only in 3 more years (HELP)! It provides a safety score, boundary alerts, and records speed, so you can monitor your teen’s driving.
You can also track your fuel and mileage using HumX, which is great if you’re taking road trips that are for work and need to track mileage for expenses or tax purposes.
To prepare for your American road trip of choice, be sure to follow these tips that I’ve shared in How to Plan a Road Trip . If you don’t know what to do on a road trip, these tips will help you prepare and also help you have the best time! Learn a lot and have fun along the way while you road trip USA style!
25 Best Road Trips in the USA
● Begin: San Francisco, California ● End: San Diego, California ● Distance: 655 miles ● Drive Time: 12 Hours
California is one of the best places to road trip in the USA! Its size and diversity provide so many options and the Pacific Coast Highway is just one. This iconic highway along the California coast covers 655 miles of awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from San Francisco to San Diego. See classic sites like the Golden Gate Bridge and Bixby Creek Bridge along the way. The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best summer road trips in the world!
Read more about our detailed West Coast Road Trip.
● Begin: Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Acadia National Park, Maine ● End: Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Acadia National Park, Maine ● Distance: 27 miles ● Drive Time: 2 hours This is one of the best east coast road trips I’ve ever taken. This is a quick road trip but packed full of stunning views as you drive along the Park Loop in Acadia National Park. Forests, mountains, and rocky shores greet you on your drive along with plenty of wildlife. Be sure to spend some time in beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine , the town where you can base your Acadia trip from. All good road trips include some amazing scenery, and this one is no exception!
If you’re looking for a great guide to the park, check out this Acadia National Park Guide.
● Start: San Juan Islands ● End: Brookings, Oregon ● Distance: 600 miles ● Drive Time: 15 hours
The Pacific Northwest is one of the best places to go on a road trip due to its geographical diversity and stunning scenery. One of the most dramatic coastlines in the world, the Pacific Northwest offers rocky beaches, turbulent waters, thick forests, and great food. Begin in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington and continue down to the southern tip of Oregon for one of the best road trips in the USA.
● Starting point: Minnesota ● Ending point: Louisiana ● Distance: 3,000 miles ● Drive Time: 20 hours Follow along the mighty Mississippi River from its beginning in Minnesota, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. This route is called the Great River Road and it cuts 3,000 miles down the center of our great nation, passing through 10 states, where you’ll see St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, and everything in between. This United States road trip is one of my all-time favorites as it explores some lesser-known destinations in the “fly over” states!
● Starting point: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii ● Ending point: Mauna Kea, Hawaii ● Distance: 300 miles ● Drive Time: 7 hours The Island Loop Road of the Big Island of Hawaii offers scenic views of beaches, mountains, lava fields, active volcanos, black sand beaches, and heated swimming pools. This may be the most diversity in landscape you’ll ever see in one day.
● Begin: Nashville, Tennessee ● End: New Orleans, Louisiana ● Distance: 600 miles ● Drive Time: 9 hours If you’re a music fan, then Route 61 (also known as the Blues Highway) will be a perfect road trip for you, giving you the chance to hear live music, visit Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, and see famous recording studios. Finish in New Orleans, where you’ll hear live jazz on the streets nightly!
If you want to continue on farther, you can do this amazing gulf coast road trip !
● Begin: Jackson, Wyoming ● End: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming ● Distance: 70 miles ● Drive Time: 1.5 hours National Parks make for the best road trip destinations. Explore both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park with this road trip full of stunning mountainous scenery! It’s the perfect summer road trip.
● Begin: Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim), Arizona ● End: Moab, Utah (one of the most amazing things to do in Utah !) ● Distance: 600 miles ● Drive Time: 11 hours This nature-packed road trip will allow you to see five stunning Utah national parks including the Grand Canyon, Zions’, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Arches. This is a great Utah road trip itinerary if you’re interested in exploring even more of this beautiful state.
Check out this Utah Road Trip Itinerary
● Begin: Kahului, Hawaii ● End: Hana, Hawaii ● Distance: 52 miles ● Drive Time: 2.5 hours This is possibly the most popular road trip in all of the Hawaiian Islands. The 60-mile Road to Hana takes you along the eastern coast of Maui where you will be sandwiched by beautiful ocean views and jungles filled with waterfalls. The Hana highway will wind you around approximately 600 curves, crossing 59 bridges, but the ride is worth it!
● Begin: New York, New York ● End: Corning, New York ● Distance: 250 miles ● Drive Time: 4.5 hours I love this New York road trip! After enjoying the busy city life, escape into the Fingerlakes region of upper state New York. Enjoy culture, scenery, great food and wineries along the way. New York City with kids is so much fun, but it’s great to mix it with a more relaxing and nature-filled vacation.
- Begin: Williamsburg, Virginia
- End: Washington, D.C
- Distance: 240 miles
- Drive Time: 4.5 hours
Brush up on your colonial history and visit the homes of some of our founding fathers while reliving the past. Begin your journey in southern Virginia where you can visit Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown Settlement, where you’ll witness historical reenactments and join in on living history.
Next, head to Charlottesville and visit the homes of former presidents Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) and James Monroe (Highland). Head to Mount Vernon, just outside Washington DC to visit George Washington’s home (Mount Vernon) and finish off your trip in our nation’s capital. The distance from Williamsburg VA to Washington DC isn’t much, but the history that can be found on the side of the road is amazing!
You can also do this trip in reverse. It’s one of the best road trips from DC I’ve ever taken.
Begin: Miami, Florida End: Key West, Florida Distance: 170 miles Drive Time: 3.5 hours Take the 150-mile drive on Route 1, also known as the Overseas Highway, from Miami to the Florida Keys, crossing 42 bridges. These sandy islands are full of history, sun, and relaxation. This southern USA Florida road trip is sure to be one of the most sun-filled, fun-filled drives ever!
Begin: Grand Canyon National Park End: Las Vegas, Nevada Distance: 250 miles Drive Time: 4.5 hours Start out with nature, and end in Sin City. This desert drive will take you through the majestic Grand Canyon, with a stop in St. George, Utah and end with some fun in Las Vegas.
Check out this awesome Utah road trip.
Begin: Deadwood, South Dakota End: Hot Springs, South Dakota Distance: 100 miles Drive Time: 2.5 hours The Black Hills of South Dakota offer more than just Mount Rushmore. Drive along the Badlands Scenic Byway, making stops at Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and the infamous Wall Drug. National parks are some of the places to stop on a road trip. Stunning sunsets and sunrises in the Badlands will take your breath away. Keep an eye out for bison on the road. Check out this South Dakota road trip planner for more information.
Begin: Milbridge, Maine End: Eastport, Maine Distance: 125 miles Drive Time: 6 hours Explore the southeastern corner of Maine, also known as “Downeast Maine” as you drive along the Lobster Trail on Coastal Route 1. This colorful and delicious journey will take you through beautiful coastlines and forests while providing tasty and adventurous stops where you can find lobster and all kinds of local seafood. Try your hand at some local activities like clam digging or goat milking. There are so many more incredible east coast road trips .
Begin: Shenandoah National Park End: Asheville, North Carolina Distance: 469 miles Drive Time: 6 hours The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular road trips in the US. Connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, this 469-mile stretch of scenic road is the most visited road controlled by the U.S. National Parks system. Stops along the way include Skyline Drive (particularly beautiful in the fall), Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge, and Asheville.
Begin: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming End: Glacier National Park, Montana Distance: 500 miles Drive Time: 9 hours Explore two national parks in one road trip by driving from Grand Teton National Park to Glacier National Park . The drive along the way will provide some of the most diverse landscapes in the U.S.
Begin: Carova, North Carolina End: Ocracoke, North Carolina Distance: 138 miles Drive Time: 5 hours North Carolina’s Route 12, otherwise known as the Outer Banks Scenic Byway spans 21 coastal villages and 138 miles of paved road and 25 ferry-traveling miles along the coast of North Carolina. Dotted with lighthouses, museums, houses and hotels, the Outer Banks is a great beach road trip.
Begin: Seattle, Washington End: Seattle, Washington Distance: 300 miles Drive Time: 10 hours Explore Washington’s Olympic Peninsula on this scenic road trip which takes you through the Olympic National Park and Forest and the lush Hoh Rainforest. There are great spots along the way for hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting.
Begin: Santa Monica Pier, California End: Chicago, Illinois Distance: 2,500 miles Drive Time: Several days Follow in the path of your grandparents by taking a quintessential cross-country road trip along one of the original highways in the U.S., Route 66. This road is not traveled very often now that the Interstate Highway system is established, but you can still visit many old towns that once thrived in the middle of the last century along The Mother Road. Route 66 crosses 8 states and dozens of historic sites along the way. It’s the ultimate US road trip, but with so many good road trip places around the country, this classic can be overlooked for bigger cities and National Parks. Don’t skip Route 66!
Begin: Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada End: Anchorage, Alaska Distance: 2,500 miles Drive Time: 27 hours Stretching nearly 1,500 miles between Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada and ending in Anchorage, Alaska, the historic Alaska Highway (also known as the ALCAN) is not for the faint of heart. Though most of the road is paved, many sections are constantly under construction and parts of the road are only gravel.
It’s a road that should only be attempted in the best of weather, usually during the summer months, but the views and wildlife along the way are worth the adventure. An Alaska highway road trip should be well planned out in advance, with stops and accommodations mapped out at least six months in advance! But it is worth the planning. Alaska is one of the most amazing places to take a road trip! Learn more about planning a trip to Alaska.
Begin: St. Augustine, Florida End: Destin, Florida Distance: 1,400 miles Drive Time: 24 hours See the majority of Florida by circling the entire state, starting in St. Augustine(America’s oldest town) then bring out your inner-child in Orlando, eat your way through Miami, and relax on the beach in Clearwater, then explore the panhandle in Destin. This route is long, but the stops and scenery are breathtaking. Learn more about the best things to do in Destin, Florida .
Begin : Boston, Massachusetts End : Seattle, Washington Distance : 3,000 miles Drive Time: 45 hours This is the best cross country road trip! We’ve done this road trip across America many times out of necessity. It’s more exciting to do it when it’s just for fun. The I-90 spans 3,000 miles across the entire country from Boston to Seattle or vice versa, running along the northern part of the U.S. This route makes some incredible stops like Niagara Falls, Chicago, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, and Yellowstone. This is one of the best American road trips you will ever take! A US cross country road trip can seem a little daunting. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time and map out your stops ahead of time, breaking up the long drive.
Begin: Anchorage, Alaska End: Seward, Alaska Distance: 125 miles Drive Time: 2.5 hours This quick 125-mile drive along the Seward Highway takes you from Anchorage to Seward. While small, this strikingly beautiful route offers incredible stops like seeing the Bore Tide at the Turnagain Arm, glacier hiking, berry picking, fishing, rafting, kayaking and more. Once in Seward you can finish off your trip with a fishing excursion or a wildlife cruise in the Kenai Fjords National Park where you’ll sail among whales, puffins, seals and more.
Begin: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada End: Tijuana, Mexico Distance: 2,300 miles Drive Time: 24 hours Hit three countries in one epic road trip by starting in British Columbia, Canada and using this itinerary all the way down to the border of U.S. and Mexico into Tijuana.
Whatever road trip you choose this summer, be sure to prepare your car for an epic road trip and install a HumX in your vehicle to take the worry out of your journey and to get you on the road!
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6 thoughts on “ the 25 best road trips in the usa ”.
thanks for all the info and pictures! would love to do some of these one day I’ve done a lot of road trips in Europe but none in the US yet! route 66 and the grand canyon is definitely on the bucket list!
America certainly has some awesome road trips! I’ve done a lot in Europe, but would definitely love to do more!!
I love that some of these road trip destinations are kid friendly. The kids and us could really use some time off from the house after all that’s happening. But we ‘d like to go once things get better. or rather, safer.
Cross country trips and most of the iconic rides like Route 66 are the best! Gotta love having the countries (and even the continents) so close to us that we can travel by land all we want.
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17 Spectacular Southern USA Road Trip Itinerary Ideas
From the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains to the sandy beaches of the Lowcountry, and from the music of Nashville to the food scene of New Orleans, there is no shortage of wonderful options when looking for the best southern USA road trip itineraries.
I’ve been taking road trips in the south for my entire life, crisscrossing across the southeast USA visiting cities, towns, national parks, beaches, marshes, and beyond.
And yet, even after all that time, there are still plenty of southern road trip routes on my wish list.
In order to give perspectives beyond my own, I asked several other travel bloggers to share their favorite road trips in the south, and the result is a road trip bucket list that would take even the most dedicated road-tripper years to complete!
From weeks-long deep south road trip itineraries to quick weekend getaways, these southeast US road trip ideas cover an enormous variety of landscapes and interests.
No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for, we have a southern USA road trip itinerary here for you!
Table of Contents
Quick Tips for Your Southeast USA Road Trip
Deep south usa road trip itinerary ideas, other multi-state southern usa road trip routes, more single-state southeast road trip itineraries.
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Ideally, take your southern road trip in the spring or fall.
While you can technically take all of these southern USA road trips year-round, the south’s notoriously brutal summer means that it’s best to avoid the months of June, July, and August if you can (unless you plan to spend most of your time on the beach, of course).
Winter, depending on the location, can be gray and rainy, but can also be a joyous time to visit cities, towns, and mountains that see far less tourism in the winter (but don’t underestimate the possibility of snow in the mountains, either: it may be the south, but the Smokies still get snow!).
If you’re renting a car, shop around.
The best company to rent a car from for your US south road trip will likely vary dramatically depending on where and when you’re traveling.
Sometimes large international carriers offer the best prices, sometimes local outfits. Sometimes one company has an excellent base price, but terrible rental requirements.
The best way to find your rental car is to search through Discover Cars , which will sift through dozens of companies to find the best combination of low prices and reasonable rental terms for your USA road trip.
Browse rental cars for your southern USA road trip today!
We have offered suggestions for the best hotels in each place but if you are doing this as a true road trip it is really cool to do it in an RV. You can rent incredible RVs and camper vans from Outdoorsy, book here for your next road trip!
Read the rental requirements carefully.
Especially make sure you know how many miles you’ve been allotted (or ideally, if they’re unlimited), if you need to return the car empty or full of fuel, what to do if the car breaks down, and what damages you’re liable for in the event of an accident.
Don’t underestimate the south’s national parks!
The wide-open spaces and epic landscapes of the American West are often the typical images conjured up when imagining the USA’s national parks–but the south has plenty to offer, as well!
In fact, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee is the most-visited national park in the country, and its gorgeous vistas and jaw-dropping waterfalls are well worth exploring.
Other southern national parks to consider adding to your road trip through the south include Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Everglades National Park in South Florida, and Congaree National Park in South Carolina–just to name a few!
Make sure you pack the right gear.
From safety gear to snacks, a deep south road trip requires bringing the right tools along, whether you’re taking a short vacation, trying out van life, or something in between.
We recommend taking a look at the suggestions on our road trip packing list before you go!
Don’t overextend yourself.
Exploring every nook and cranny of the US south is a project for a lifetime, not one trip!
As tempting as it is to add on additional driving to stop at just one more beach or small town, make sure that you leave enough time to thoroughly explore each destination rather than spending the entirety of your road trip driving from one spot to the next.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Scenic Byway
From Charles of US Gulf Coast Travel
One of the best scenic coastal drives in the United States is the Gulf Coast Scenic Byway (US Highway 90 / Beach Boulevard) in Coastal Mississippi , where for 11 glorious miles there is nothing between you and the soft sugar sand and Gulf of Mexico water.
The most awe-inspiring section of the Gulf Coast Scenic Byway is from Henderson Point Beach to the Port of Gulfport Mississippi.
Drive this portion, or this entire road trip, in either direction, but we suggest west to east because you are closer to the water.
Start this road trip after an overnight in Bay St Louis or New Orleans (55 miles away).
In Bay St Louis, fuel up at Mockingbird Cafe (try their pulled pork and grits) or Serious Bakery (superb chicken salad).
Drive across the iconic St. Louis Bay Bridge and your senses will activate and heighten with your first Gulf and sand view.
Stop as often as you want because parking is free!
The coastal drive continues through Gulfport and into Biloxi.
Visit the new Mississippi Aquarium, stroll the Biloxi Beach Boardwalk, and eat at White Pillars or The Blind Tiger.
After crossing the Biloxi Bay Bridge, make time to explore the wonderful small town of Ocean Springs.
Stroll the gorgeous oak-lined Washington Avenue, stop at Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and eat at Vestige.
Highway 90 continues through Pascagoula (Jimmy Buffett’s birthplace) and into Mobile, Alabama, where you can turn around and complete this classic deep south road trip again.
Bay St Louis to Pascagoula is 50 miles. New Orleans to Pascagoula is 107 miles and it is another 35 miles to Mobile, Alabama.
Recommended Road Trip Length
You can drive this coastal scenic drive in a couple of hours but we suggest allowing three or more days to fully experience the spectacular sugar sand, seafood, sunsets, and small beach towns of Coastal Mississippi.
Alabama Black Belt Road Trip
From Lori of Southerner Says
A road trip through the Black Belt region of Alabama is one of the best southern USA road trips around.
Named for the dark fertile soil of the region, the Alabama Black Belt is made up of twenty-three states across central and south Alabama.
This part of Alabama is the place where significant law-changing history was made, where literary giants were born, and is home to some of the best food that can be found in the United States.
For first-time visitors or someone flying in, there’s no better way to start an Alabama southern road trip than by including the capital – Montgomery.
Plan on visiting important civil rights sites and the renowned Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Next, drive west approximately fifty miles to Selma, Alabama on Highway 80.
This route is the same route as the important Selma to Montgomery march for voters’ rights that took place in 1965.
See the places that put this small town on the map and made it crucial in the civil rights movement.
Walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge, eat locally caught catfish, and sleep in a hotel that was built in 1837 .
After saying a farewell to Selma, drive county backroads approximately seventy miles to the literary capital of the south.
As unbelievable as it may seem, Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird and Truman Capote – Breakfast at Tiffany’s were childhood friends in the south.
They both grew up in Monroeville, Alabama – the next stop on this southern road trip. Take a walk around the charming downtown square to spot murals that pay tribute to these well-known books and authors.
From Monroeville, it’s easy to hop on Interstate-65 north to return to Montgomery or take the scenic route for a few more towns and sites on your southern road trip.
Recommended road trip length .
This itinerary would be good for a weekend or long weekend.
Since the Alabama Black Belt is a rather large region there is an abundance of small towns and sites that can be added to a southern road trip.
Visitors could easily spend a week or two in the area.
Mississippi’s Highway 61 (Blues Trail)
From Hannah of HH Lifestyle Travel
A road trip from Memphis to New Orleans down Mississippi’s Highway 61 is rich in music history; and the inevitable river lore that pervades a road trip running parallel to the Mighty Mississippi.
In true road trip style, the road itself is part of the fun of the journey.
Highway 61 is long and flat and often sits higher than the fields and levees below it. It is punctuated by quaint southern churches, glimpses of the Mississippi River, and cities rich in blues history.
Enjoy visiting one of the legendary ‘juke joints’ in Clarksdale, Mississippi .
If there is one stop on the road trip to learn about the history of blues music in the area, it’s Clarksdale.
Visit the Devil’s Crossroads, the Delta Blues Museum, and many more Blues Trail plaques.
Your next stop is Vicksburg. Brimming with Civil War history, Vicksburg mixes reverence with rejuvenation.
Pay your respects to meaningful Civil War history, but then enjoy a day spa and quality craft brewpub experience.
Natchez sits on an important bluff on a bend in the Mississippi River with a long history.
The historic district of Natchez Under-the-Hill has a prime position along the river and was once famous for gambling and river pirates.
Nowadays it’s a cute place to see the Mighty Mississippi and have lunch in one of the historic buildings.
End your road trip in the vibrant and magnetic city of New Orleans .
It takes around 9 hours of non-stop driving time from Memphis to New Orleans, but with time spent in the stops above it would suit a 5–7-day road trip.
Plan a bit longer if you want to spend time in both Memphis and New Orleans before and after this deep south road trip experience.
Coastal Georgia and South Carolina Road Trip
From Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
One of the fabulous road trips in the southeastern USA travels along the historic coastal corridors of Georgia to South Carolina, finishing in Charleston.
From the Georgia border to Florida, the major artery is Hwy 95, you’ll pass through so many historic and recreational sites along the way to make this a few days or even a longer visit depending on how many places you want to see and experience.
Some of the cool and historic places to visit in Georgia include St. Marys and Cumberland Island, Brunswich and St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island , Tybee Island , and Savannah .
Places to explore around South Carolina’s southern coastline from Savannah include Hilton Head, Beaufort, Edisto Island, and Charleston.
Each of these areas caters to historic sites or recreation getaways that are fun to explore when you have more time to visit each area on this road trip.
Even though you can go directly on Hwy 95 from the Georgia border all the way to South Carolina, it’s the small detour expressways and backcountry roads that will give you a better insight into visiting some of these gems in the region.
If you only have a few days or longer then the major cities of Savannah and Charleston are memorable cities to prioritize to experience the local lifestyles foods that you’ll enjoy on this southern road trip experience.
Savannah, with its historic squares, fabulous architecture, and historic district that remains intact includes so much to see, do and experience around the historic center of the city.
Charleston on the other hand is more compact and walkable with a tighter historic district to enjoy and explore on your own or with some tour operator sharing the main attractions to see in town.
It’s 107 miles to drive straight from Savannah to Charleston.
If you’re focusing on Savannah and Charleston, 5 days is a comfortable length for this USA southern road trip itinerary.
Add additional days for each city, small town, or island that you’d like to visit.
The Classic Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Route
From Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
The Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches 469 miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, is such an unimaginably epic USA road trip, that veterans almost envy people who are experiencing it for the first time.
There are a lot of reasons it’s the #1 most visited unit in the US National Park system (with more than 15 million annual visitors), including 200 jaw-dropping BRP overlooks that offer stunning Blue Ridge Mountain vistas and provide access to the region’s most incredible hiking trails, landmarks, mountain towns, and waterfalls.
Designed as part of FDR’s New Deal to protect American wilderness and provide jobs in the wake of the Great Depression, construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway began back in 1935.
Most of the scenic route was completed by 1966, but the popular 8-mile stretch around the iconic Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina (including the engineering marvel known as the Linn Cove Viaduct) wasn’t finished until 1987.
The BRP is the longest linear park in the country, taking travelers through the Jefferson, George Washington, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests.
So naturally, there are a lot of exciting things to do along the way.
At 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River, with lots of challenging hiking trails and a relatively easy paved path to the observation platform at the summit.
Grandfather Mountain State Park is also home to epic hiking trails (including several with ladders to climb massive boulders), and the neighboring Grandfather Mountain attraction is home to the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, a small zoo featuring native North Carolina animals, and myriad picnic areas.
Virginia’s Mabry Mill is the most photographed spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one of the region’s many historical attractions.
There’s very little commercial development along the Parkway, with only a few hotels and resorts (including the historic Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland NC , and the Peaks of Otter Lodge in Bedford VA).
But part of the fun is exploring some of the charming little mountain towns along the way, including Cherokee, Blowing Rock, and Boone in NC, and Bedford, Lexington, and Waynesboro in VA.
You could drive the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in as little as 15-16 hours if you wanted, but that would totally defeat the purpose.
Some people like to break it up into weekend getaways, basing themselves in a local town.
But you could also spend a week or two driving the entire route, spending nights in lots of little towns along the way.
Chattanooga, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina
From Kim of Traveling Swansons
A Chattanooga, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina southeast road trip takes you on a tour of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the region.
Chattanooga is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and located along the Tennessee River.
There are many fun things to do here including the Tennessee Aquarium, Lookout Mountain, Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway.
After leaving Chattanooga, your next stop will be Knoxville, Tennessee.
Check out the Sunsphere Tower, which was built for the 1982 World’s Fair. Walk around Market Square and grab a bite to eat and shop.
After leaving Knoxville, your next stop will be Pigeon Forge.
Here you find no shortage of attractions including the popular Dollywood.
Right next to Pigeon Forge, you’ll find the town of Gatlinburg.
In Gatlinburg, you will also find plenty of attractions including Anakeesta and the Gatlinburg Skybridge.
Gatlinburg is one of the busiest and most popular gateway towns to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has many amazing hiking trails, waterfalls, and views.
Drive the breathtaking scenic Newfound Gap Road to Cherokee, North Carolina. Jump out along the many turnouts along the way and enjoy the scenery.
Once you reach Cherokee, explore the Oconaluftee Indian Village and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Shop for some authentic Cherokee arts and crafts.
The drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina is 191 miles and takes 3 hrs 51 minutes if driving straight through.
Since there is so much to do on this southern USA road trip, you will want to spend at least 5 days here in order to take in as much as you can along the way.
NOLA to Nashville Southern Road Trip Itinerary
From Agnes of The Van Escape
The southern USA road trip from New Orleans to Nashville is extraordinary.
Why? Nashville and New Orleans are music cities.
New Orleans – the world capital of jazz and Nashville – the capital of American country music – anyone who likes live concerts will appreciate this combination.
And indeed, in both cities, you can listen to music at every turn!
Concerts, music events, live music in almost every restaurant, bar, and even on the streets – Nashville and New Orleans are alive with sounds.
Moreover, there are many great things to do in Nashville and in New Orleans.
In Nashville visit Jonny Cash Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Grand Ole Opry, reproduction of the Parthenon, and Downtown with famous Broadway Street.
In New Orleans, visit the French Quarter, the Jazz Museum, the Woodoo Museum, the National WWII Museum, explore one of the famous cemeteries, sign up for a swamp tour. Enjoy the best cocktails at the famous Bourbon Street.
Both cities are also known for their excellent cuisine. In New Orleans, you’ll melt at the tastes and smells of Louisiana Creole cuisine, and in Nashville, you’ll delight at the famous juicy BBQ ribs and more.
That’s not all. Both cities are famous for the finest spirits.
New Orleans offers great alcoholic cocktails and in Nashville, you can try classic Tennessee Jack Daniels whiskey , whose distillery is nearby.
The driving time from NOLA to Nashville is about 8 hours, and 4-5 days is perfect for this road trip.
You can cover the distance in one day or split it into two days and spend one night in Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama.
To feel the atmosphere of each city and immerse yourself in its music world, we recommend two nights in New Orleans and two in Nashville.
Virginia Beach, Virginia to Hilton Head, South Carolina
From Alex of Wander With Alex
If you’re planning a road trip from Virginia Beach, VA to Hilton Head, SC, and need a few stops along the way, we’ve got you covered!
While Virginia Beach and Hilton Head are both popular southern beach towns, the experience is very different!
They are both, however, family-friendly vacation destinations with lots of unique things to do and see.
While in Virginia Beach, VA you’ll want to check out the main beach at the Oceanfront.
There are 35 miles of beachfront, an amusement park on Atlantic Ave, and tons of souvenir shops for you to choose from.
If you’re looking for something free to do, check out the Creative ViBE District for murals, sidewalk art, and other creative artwork!
Now that’ll you’ve explored Virginia Beach, it’s time to hit the road!
After being on the road for seven and a half hours, you’ll be nearing Savannah, GA! If you’ve never been to Savannah, consider staying overnight.
You can take a riverboat dinner cruise on the Savannah River or enjoy a low country dinner at one of the best restaurants in Savannah .
And since Hilton Head is only 45-minutes from Savannah, you can stick around for a few hours in the morning and to Tybee Island before heading over to Hilton Head!
Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is a laid-back resort town offering beautiful beaches and tons of golf courses.
Additionally, Hilton Head is incredibly bike-friendly.
Head over to Hilton Head Outfitters, rent bicycles for the whole family, and go exploring!
And if you are a seafood lover, you’ll have tons of waterfront restaurant options!
A road trip from Virginia Beach, VA to Hilton Head, SC via Interstate-95 is approximately 589 miles.
If you do not want to stay overnight in Savannah, you can make the trip in seven and a half hours.
However, if you prefer slow travel and wish to explore Savannah, you should consider making this a two-day drive.
Gulf Coast Beach Road Trip from Alabama to Florida
From Ashlee of The Happiness Function
One of the best-kept secrets in the South are the sugar-white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama to the Florida panhandle.
If you have never heard of Dauphin Island, Alabama, it is a must-visit southern destination.
Take the ultimate beach road trip from Dauphin Island, Alabama, to Pensacola, Florida!
Dauphin Island, Alabama, is a beautiful place to visit. The island is home to many different wildlife species, including sea turtles, and the scenery is simply stunning.
If you’re looking for a place to relax and enjoy nature, Dauphin Island is the perfect spot. Plan to stay at least two days.
From Dauphin Island, take the ferry across Mobile Bay to Fort Morgan, where visitors can continue the road trip to Gulf Shores.
Be sure to visit Gulf State Park and enjoy the incredible beaches from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach! Plan at least two days in Gulf Shores.
Gulf Islands National Seashore in Fort Pickens is a popular tourist destination offering a variety of activities such as catching some sun on beaches, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and exploring the historic fort.
Camp at the Fort Pickens Campground for a few days to enjoy all the island offers.
From Gulf Shores, continue east into the Florida panhandle towards Pensacola.
A road trip along the southern coast of Alabama into the Florida panhandle makes for an incredible beach road trip any time of year.
We recommend taking about a week to enjoy this road trip in the US south.
This way, road trippers can enjoy each destination for two days.
Savannah, Georgia to Clearwater, Florida Road Trip
From Terri of FemaleSoloTrek.com
If you’re looking for beautiful beaches and fun in the sun, plan a short southern road trip route from Savannah to Clearwater.
Plan to start at dawn from Savannah on a Saturday so you can arrive by noon in Clearwater, Florida .
Google Maps or Waze will offer you the choice of traveling down I-95 toward Orlando and then across to Tampa/St. Pete outposts.
Alternatively, you can drive through Jacksonville and then cut across the state via US-301 S and I-75 S.
The estimated time is 6 hours if you don’t hit bad traffic on I-95.
You will also have time to eat fried grouper at Clearwater Beach for lunch, then hit the Clearwater Aquarium for an afternoon adventure.
Dedicate the evening to drinking margaritas and watching the sunset.
You might want to watch the sunset (while sipping a cocktail) at Pier 60 on Saturday night or delay until Sunday because you will be exhausted from your early morning drive.
Clearwater is also a great place to settle while you plan day trips to Tampa, St. Pete, and Sarasota.
While you can easily make the drive in a day, it’s best to set aside a week for this US south road trip as you will lose two days to travel.
Florida’s Gulf Coast deserves a minimum five-day stay so you can experience different beaches.
Southeast USA Road Trip from Washington DC to Florida
From Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids
One of the best road trips in the southeast US is from Washington, DC to Anna Maria Island, Florida .
If you want to break it up with overnights and stops, I recommend going from Washington DC to Raleigh, NC on Day 1. On Day 2, drive from Raleigh, NC to Savannah, GA. Then on Day 3, drive from Savannah, GA to Anna Maria Island, FL.
Starting in Washington, DC, where there is much to see from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian Museums, you can begin heading on the road toward Virginia and the Carolinas.
In Virginia, the historic college town of Williamsburg is well worth a visit.
In addition to being a beautiful town, home to William and Mary College, it is also where you can step back in time at Colonial Williamsburg and learn a bit about American history.
From here, head into North Carolina and stop in Raleigh if you plan to spend the night.
Then head into South Carolina, where a drive-through or stop in Charleston is a great thing to do.
The historic and lavish architecture is well worth a look, and the southern hospitality and walk on the waterfront are worth it even just for a short visit.
From here, continue into Georgia, where a stop in Savannah is a must.
If you have a bit of time to spend in this southern city, the hop on hop off trolley, walking tours, and a 90-minute riverboat sightseeing cruise would be worth doing.
This beautiful and historic city really is a gem on this road trip, so be sure to build in a bit of time, and even book a bed and breakfast for the night.
Continue on from Georgia into northern Florida, where if you can stop in Jacksonville for a visit to the University of Florida or in St. Augustine for lunch or a walking tour of this beautiful and historic city.
There is an old town part of St. Augustine well worth visiting, and depending on the time of day, is a great stop for a lunch. Continue on from St. Augustine to Anna Maria Island, Florida.
You may pass through Orlando and Tampa, which if you have time, may want to stop in one of these cities.
While Orlando is home to many theme parks and activities, you won’t have time on this drive to do many of those unless you build in another day or two to your drive.
Instead, I suggest stopping in Tampa, where you will get to view this fantastic seaside city, where you can enjoy a cruise, walk around Ybor City, or grab a meal at the famous (and delicious) Columbia Restaurant.
While you are also right at Clearwater Beach, you may want to save that beach visit for Anna Maria Island, just about an hours drive from Tampa, on the Gulf Coast, and renowned for its teal Caribbean-like water, white soft sand, quieter beaches, and home rentals perfect for a beach getaway.
It’s the perfect destination to such a cultural and historic road trip, and one of the best road trips in the south USA.
Approximately 945 miles (about 14 hours total) one way.
Approximately 945 miles (about 14 hours total) one way, this road trip is at least a two to three-day drive, depending on how much you would like to stop along the way.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina Road Trip
From Candice of CS Ginger
One of the best Southern USA road trips is driving through the Outer Banks. There are so many fun things to do in the Outer Banks and its sweeping coastal scenery is gorgeous.
The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands off the North Carolina coast filled with beautiful beaches, lighthouses, and fun beach towns.
A great historic stop in the Outer Banks is at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
This is where the Wright brothers completed the first controlled flight in December of 1903.
There are a fun visitor’s center, some historical markers, and a replica of the first plane.
The Outer Banks is also home to the tallest brick lighthouse in the world. You can climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. There are 257 steps to the top.
The lighthouse and Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a great place to spend the afternoon. The beaches are beautiful and not crowded.
After spending time at Cape Hatteras, you can take the ferry over to Ocracoke Island.
There is another lighthouse on this smaller island, but it is not open to visitors.
There are, however, beautiful beaches making this island a fun spot to explore.
The distance from the northern town of Corolla through Hatteras, the southern point, is about 95 miles.
If you continue to the ferry to Ocracoke, the mileage is longer.
You can easily fill 4-5 days with fun activities during your Outer Banks road trip, and spend even more time in the area if you want to relax on the beach.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
From Anna of Stuck On The Go
One of the best road trips in the southern US winds through Shenandoah National Park offering stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you drive Skyline Drive straight through it only takes a little under 3 hours but there are so many hikes, overlooks, and small towns to stop and explore. This is the perfect road trip for outdoorsy people.
You can start at the Front Royal Entrance Station and on your first day hike to Compton Peak where you’ll find a gorgeous view as well as unique geological formations that resemble the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland .
In the afternoon, head out to the town of Luray where you can shop in the boutiques along Main Street and visit the famous Luray Caverns.
If you like to camp then stay the night in Mathews Arm Campground, otherwise rent a room at the Skyland Resort inside the park.
For day two you can fit in two hikes – Stony Man and Hawksbill – which both offer stunning mountain views and are 2 of the best hikes in Shenandoah .
Have lunch at Big Meadows and make sure you get the blackberry ice cream pie for dessert!
In the afternoon you can hike Dark Hollow Falls or just head into Elkton or Sperryville.
Visit Sperryville for wineries and Elkton for breweries. Tonight stay at the Lewis Mountain Cabins & Campground.
On the last day of the road trip, hike Doyles River Falls and Blackrock Summit.
Stop for lunch at Blue Mountain Brewery and check out some of the other Waynesboro breweries. Main Street in Waynesboro is also very quaint.
For many people, 3 days is enough to spend in Shenandoah National Park.
However, if you are very outdoorsy and love to hike and explore small towns then you can spend a week in the Shenandoah Valley.
Northwest Arkansas Road Trip Loop
From Lydia of Lost With Lydia
Arkansas is an underrated state with a lot to offer for outdoor adventurers!
The state has beautiful state parks, incredible mountain biking trails, a uniquely historic national park, and much more.
The northwest portion of Arkansas is where you’ll find the most beautiful natural areas along with some fantastic cities.
This road trip begins in Bentonville, a city known for mountain biking, modern art, and as the Walmart headquarters.
There are miles of mountain biking trails in parks around the city and trails range from beginner to advanced.
Continue on from Bentonville to Buffalo National River, a beautiful river with epic canyon walls towering above it.
After the National River, enjoy hiking in the Ozark National Forest (the most famous hike is Whitaker Point) and take in the views at Mount Magazine and Mount Nebo. Mount Magazine is the highest point in the state.
Be sure to not miss the most iconic state park in Arkansas: Petit Jean. This state park is a favorite of many and is home to a 95-foot waterfall, caves, and several unique rock formations.
Spend some time in Little Rock for great food and interesting history.
Things to do in Little Rock include visiting the Little Rock Central High School Museum, exploring the vibrant SOMA neighborhood, and hiking at Pinnacle Mountain.
Finally, end your road trip with a visit to Arkansas’ only national park: Hot Springs.
Hot Springs National Park was a resort destination in the early 1900s and there are a couple of bathhouses still in operation today.
In addition to the spas, you can visit a brewery inside of a bathhouse and enjoy the views from the observation tower.
A week is the minimum amount of time you’ll want to fully explore the cities and hiking destinations along the way.
Ideally, take 10 days or more to take your time and enjoy this underrated southern USA road trip itinerary.
Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast Road Trip
From Lori of Travlinmad
If you’re looking for an ideal year-round road trip destination, Florida’s Gulf Coast offers dreamy beaches, fantastic food, and some of America’s most (in)famous history!
Begin your road trip in Tampa, where you can spend 2 days exploring the city’s Cuban history in Ybor City and enjoy the amazing cuisine before heading south to Sarasota and Siesta Key.
Spend the next day in Sarasota admiring the mid-century architecture and visiting the Ringling Museum.
Shoppers will no doubt stay longer on St. Armand’s Circle, then head to Siesta Key later in the day to take in the new age vibes of the nightly drumming circle on the beach at sunset.
The next day, drive south to Casperson Beach in Venice and rent a “Florida snow shovel” for a few dollars to dig in the sand for prehistoric megalodon shark teeth.
Millions of them wash ashore every day and you just might find a big one to treasure!
Spend the night at Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, one of Southwest Florida’s most historic towns before heading out the next morning for Fort Myers.
Situated where the Caloosahatchee River meets the Gulf of Mexico, the city of Fort Myers is worth a few days to explore the history and the beautiful beaches on Sanibel and Captiva.
Visit the summer homes of neighbors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, whose mansions are popular tourist attractions today.
The last stop on your road trip is Naples and Marco Island on the southwestern coast. This stunning region is known as the Paradise Coast and it’s easy to see why.
Spend your days on the soft white sand beaches, shopping at the luxury stores and dining downtown, or get out into the Everglades for some adventure.
It is 180 miles from Tampa to Marco Island.
Plan on 7-10 days for this southern road trip route.
There is plenty to see in the major cities of Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Naples, and Marco Island, but you’ll find the real gems in between!
Virginia’s Eastern Shore Drive: Chincoteague to Cape Charles
Recommended by Erin Gifford of Go Hike Virginia
There’s so much to love about Virginia’s Eastern Shore .
Roll down the windows and breathe in the salt-infused air as you make the 70-mile drive north to south from Chincoteague to Cape Charles.
Get ready to make stops for sandy beaches, ice cream shops, and verdant wetlands just right for a scenic paddle.
Start at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to miles of stroller-friendly hiking and biking trails.
The Chincoteague Lighthouse Trail is a must-visit to ogle the red-and-white striped Assateague Lighthouse.
Take a guided kayak tour or nature cruise across pristine coastal waterways with Assateague Explorer.
Keep your eyes open for wild ponies, as well as native wildlife, like sandhill cranes and eastern mud turtles, that call the wildlife refuge home.
Order up a scoop of Mint Chip or Pony Tracks at Island Creamery.
Spend the night at the Refuge Inn, a mainstay in Chincoteague since 1973. Chincoteague is also home to several camping resorts, including KOA and Jellystone Park.
Continue on to Onancock, a historic waterfront town.
Start your day with a delicious breakfast sandwich at Janet’s Café before strolling the hamlet’s tree-lined streets that wow with Victorian-style homes.
Take a tour of Ker Place, a historic Federal-style home.
On the south end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is Cape Charles, which is home to gentle beaches and vibrantly-colored sunsets.
Spend the day on the beach at Kiptopeke State Park, then order hush puppies at The Shanty.
Cap off the day with a scoop at Brown Dog Ice Cream and settle in at the Sunset Beach Hotel on the Chesapeake Bay.
This trip is best enjoyed over at least 3 days, including one day in Chincoteague, one day in Onancock, and one day in Cape Charles.
About Kate Storm
In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.
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The 10 most incredible road trips in the USA
Aug 19, 2023 • 6 min read
Take to the open road and discover a different side to the USA © Tony Anderson / Getty
While a plane may get you there faster, road-tripping across the US is one of the most iconically American things you can do.
Get up close and personal with the country’s most striking landscapes – dense eastern forests, windswept plains, red rock canyons, dramatic Pacific coastlines – and make pit stops at some of its most famous cities all in one go.
Crisscrossed with an extensive network of pretty well-maintained highway systems, the US is remarkably easy to traverse by car. Some distances may be long, but gas, food and accommodations are largely easy to come by (except in some of the most rural locales), and a set of wheels gives you the freedom to do extra side quests along the way.
Here’s a list of our favorite routes across America’s wide open spaces, along with some tips on how to make the most of your journey.
1. Pacific Coast Highway
Best road trip for Pacific views San Diego–Seattle; 1600mi; 8-12 days
The Pacific Coast Highway delivers one of the US’ most iconic road trip experiences, linking together the West Coast’s most notable metropolises, quirky California beach towns, ancient redwood forests, and the dramatic capes and pools of the Pacific Northwest . The route includes Hwy 1, Hwy 101 and I-5, starting in San Diego ; it winds up the coast through LA , Big Sur , San Francisco and Redwood National & State Parks , eventually terminating in Seattle .
Planning tip: Always check for road closures, particularly in the Big Sur area, where rockslides are common along the sea cliffs.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway
Best Appalachian road trip Cherokee, NC–Waynesboro, VA; 469mi; 2-5 days
This spectacular route takes you through the heart of the US’ oldest mountain range, delivering view after view of rolling green mountains chock full of enchanting hiking trails, thundering waterfalls, ancient rock formations and prolific wildlife. The Parkway – part of the NPS system – begins adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and passes through the spectacular Pisgah National Forest, a number of state parks and recreation areas, and Roanoke, VA, before ending at the southern entrance of Shenandoah National Park .
Detour: In addition to state and national parks, many one-off hikes originate along the parkway. Consult trail maps to avoid missing some of Appalachia’s hidden gems.
3. Route 66
Best road trip for American kitsch Chicago–Los Angeles; 2250mi; 1-2 weeks
Nicknamed the Mother Road, Route 66 has permanently ingrained itself in the international psyche as the original US road trip. Starting in Chicago , it crosses eight different states and connects travelers to national parks, weird-but-wonderful roadside attractions and tons of vintage Americana. The route can be driven in pieces or all at once, but we suggest allotting plenty of time to explore – distances are long, and the activities are numerous.
4. Natchez Trace
Best road trip for southern history Pasquo, TN–Natchez, MS; 444mi; 2-3 days
The path for the Natchez Trace was originally carved not by man, but by buffalo that wandered the region from middle Tennessee to Natchez, MS. Indigenous hunters and traders soon followed, and later the route became a full-fledged thoroughfare for European colonists, soldiers and dignitaries. Today, a trip down the trace yields gorgeous scenery, historic towns and the experience of traveling one of the most storied roads in the country.
5. Florida Highway 1
Best road trip for gulf coast culture Amelia Island–Key West; 475mi; 6 days
Florida’s Highway 1 runs the length of the state’s Atlantic Coast before banking east at Miami and ending in stunning Key West. This sublime multi-day journey takes you through tons of Florida’s most iconic stops: historic St Augustine , windswept Canaveral National Seashore , Nascar-fueled Daytona, laid-back Fort Lauderdale and the glam and glitter of Miami and South Beach.
Planning tip: Hurricane season lasts from June through October – with the most active months being August and September – and has the potential to significantly affect Florida. If you’re visiting during this window, keep your eyes on the forecast.
6. Badlands – Black Hills Loop
Best road trip for Great Plains experiences Badlands National Park–Badlands National Park; 330mi; 2 days
If you want to get a taste of how expansive the Great Plains really are, head to South Dakota for this fascinating road trip through a state of huge ecological and cultural importance. Start your trip at the mind-bendingly beautiful Badlands National Park before looping over to the Black Hills , home to the Crazy Horse Memorial , Mt Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park . Along the way, take in views of thriving buffalo herds, fascinating rock formations and plenty of rolling hills.
7. San Juan Skyway
Best road trip for Rocky Mountain peaks Durango–Durango; 236mi; 1-3 days
The San Juan Skyway delivers some of the Rockies ’ biggest views in high definition – this route, which includes the renowned Million Dollar Highway, leapfrogs across central Colorado’s mountainous core connecting Durango , Silverton, Ouray, Telluride and Mesa Verde National Park , known for the cliff dwellings left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans.
Whether you’re a history buff, ski bum, landscape photographer or simply someone who enjoys a thrilling drive, San Juan Skyway has something for you.
Planning tip: A fact that can be deduced by its name, the San Juan Skyway runs through high-altitude terrain, and that makes road conditions somewhat unpredictable, particularly during shoulder season. Always check for closures or local warnings before heading out.
8. Richardson Highway
Best road trip for Alaska outdoors Fairbanks–Valdez; 364mi; 2-4 days
No road trip list would be complete without a journey through the country’s largest, northernmost state. The Richardson Highway, Alaska’s oldest highway, connects Fairbanks with Valdez , winding past dramatic mountain peaks and glaciers and giving travelers a front seat to some of the country’s most jaw-dropping natural attractions. Be sure to make pit stops for hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting.
9. Scenic Byway 12
Best road trip through red rock country Bryce Canyon National Park–Capitol Reef National Park; 122mi; 1 day
Southern Utah feels like an entirely different planet, and this backroads route takes you through the best scenery this geologically diverse state has to offer. Start your journey in the town of Panguitch – right outside of Bryce Canyon – and follow the road through red rock canyons, historic towns and pine forests until you finish your journey in Torrey, gateway to Capitol Reef National Park , one of the west’s best-kept secrets.
Detour: From Torrey, it’s an easy 2.5-hour drive to Moab , Canyonlands and Arches , making these routes the best way to see Utah’s Big 5. And the road itself takes you through some amazing lunar-like scenery that contrasts sharply with the red rocks – wild.
10. Coastal New England
Best road trip for Atlantic maritime vibes New York City–Portland, ME; 430mi; 3-5 days
Prep yourself for seafood chowder, picturesque oceanside towns and all the lobster you can handle – this coastal New England trip will definitely help you find your sea legs. Start in New York City and make your way north along the coast, stopping to enjoy the lovely beaches in Rhode Island , Massachusetts’ wealth of historical heavy hitters and New Hampshire’ s lighthouses before arriving in culinary-minded Portland, ME .
This article was first published May 2019 and updated August 2023
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21 Best Road Trips in USA to Put on Your Bucket List
- In the City / North America / Outdoors / USA
Don’t miss out on these amazing road trips!
Since we got married, we’ve done 5 cross country road trips and dozens of shorter ones. In our opinion, road tripping is the best way to see the beauty of the United States. There is so much this country has to offer. Here is a list of 21 American Road Trips that we think everyone needs to put on their bucket lists.
This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. All opinions are always our own. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.
Last Updated: July 26, 2023
− − Content Menu
- 21 Best Road Trips in USA
- Map of Best Road Trips in USA
- More Scenic Road Trips to Check Out
- Essential Tips for First Timers
- Planning Checklist
- More Resources
Whether you love the mountains, want to drive above the clouds, or cruise over the ocean, there’s a road trip for you. Here are 21 of the best road trips in the United States. Let us know in the comments below if there are more we should add to the list.
1. Pacific Coast Highway →
Location: California | Distance: 123 Miles
Enjoy the endless views of the ocean and drive through some of the best beach towns on California’s Route 1. Don’t forget to stop at Hearst Castle, spend some time in Big Sur (one of our favorite places in the US), and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.
Local Tip: Check the news to see if there are any big events occurring. We’ve done this road trip a handful of times with no issues, but the last time we went, there was a bike race and we were stuck in traffic for hours.
See More: Recap of Our Endless Caravan
2. Historic Route 66
Location: Illinois to California | Distance: 2,451 Miles
Route 66 is one of the most iconic drives in America. The best stretch of this highway runs from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. To dive into the history, visit the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac, Illinois.
Local Tip: Unfortunately they’ve painted over most of the Route 66 signs on the road because it was dangerous for people to try to take photos with it. Apparently some still exist, but we haven’t found them yet.
See More: Your Ultimate Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip
3. Overseas Highway
Location: Florida | Distance: 120 Miles
We just came back from a trip to the Keys and ended up driving the Overseas Highway. It was unbelievably beautiful.
Unlike any other drive in the country, this route takes you on bridges right over the ocean. It gives you the sensation of floating over the water. Plus, the Florida Keys ain’t a bad destination either.
See More: 7+ Remarkable Things to Do in Key West Florida
4. Million Dollar Highway (San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway)
L ocation: Colorado | Distance: 305 Miles
Twist and turn through the winding roads between two historic gold-mining towns. Take in the amazing views and don’t forget to take deep breaths as you’ll be over two miles above sea level.
5. Columbia River Scenic Highway →
L ocation: Oregon | Distance: 75 Miles
See the amazing Columbia Gorge on a highway built purely for scenery. This drive gives you views of waterfalls and mountains, and there are plenty of pull-offs. Here are 21 best hikes in the Columbia River Gorge from short and easy day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips .
Local Tip: Part of the charm of this area is the rainy weather. Come prepared with solid waterproof boots and a raincoat ; the hikes are magical.
See More: 21 Best Hikes in the Columbia River Gorge Oregon
6. Skyline Drive
L ocation: Virginia | Distance: 105 Miles
This scenic drive takes you along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. Drive through the Appalachians and stop to enjoy any of the 75 overlooks.
7. Hana Highway (Road to Hana) →
L ocation: Maui, Hawaii | Distance: 51.1 Miles
Explore the coastlines of Maui along the Hana Highway. You’ll find black sand beaches, waterfalls, jungles, and roadside stands. Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit!
See More: 19 Incredible Road to Hana Stops You Shouldn’t Miss
8. Black RIver Scenic Byway
L ocation: Michigan | Distance: 11 Miles
Tucked away in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Black River Scenic Byway has a lot to offer in a short distance. Pass by waterfalls and dense forests as you follow the river to the lakeshore.
9. The Loneliest ROad in America (HWY 50) →
L ocation: Nevada | Distance: 408 Miles
Named for the largely uninhabited region that you drive through, explore mining camps, cross mountain ranges, and stop in small cafes. Don’t forget to look up at the stars at night for some of the most spectacular views.
See More: Ultimate Nevada Road Trip – Best Places to Visit in NV
10. Route 12
L ocation: Utah | Distance: 124 Miles
Drive through some of the most breathtaking views and explore Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park . You can even stop in Boulder Mountain for a night’s stay and a great meal.
See More: 15 Amazing Things To Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
11. Kancamagus Highway
L ocation: New Hampshire | Distance: 34.5 Miles
Make a trip down this highway in the fall to get some of the best fall foliage views. Enjoy the crisp breeze with your windows down and take in all the colors of the leaves.
The first time we did this drive, we missed the peak of the fall foliage by one day. The rain and wind the day before we arrived took out most of the leaves.
12. THe High Road to Taos
L ocation: New Mexico | Distance: 56 Miles
This scenic, winding road takes you through deserts, mountains, forests, and ancient Indian pueblos. You’ll find beautiful wildflower meadows and there are art galleries scattered throughout the drive. You can also take the Low Road through the valleys on the way back.
13. Beartooth Highway
L ocation: Montana and Wyoming | Distance: 68 Miles
Drive through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming with breathtaking views of the Absoroka and Beartooth Mountains. You’ll drive by glacial lakes, forest, waterfalls, and wildlife. To top it off, you end at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park .
See More: Best Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park + Essential Tips For Your Visit
14. Highway 2
L ocation: Nebraska | Distance: 200 Miles
See the Great Plains of Nebraska and the rolling sandhills that make up nearly one-fourth of the state. You’ll also see huge farmlands, marshes, and winding rivers. Certain times of the year will bring huge numbers of migrating birds too.
15. ROute 6
L ocation: Massachusetts | Distance: 117 Miles
Explore the Cape Cod area on this scenic drive. Drive through forests, colonial villages, tidal pools, and explore the harbor.
16. Park Loop ROad →
L ocation: Maine | Distance: 27 Miles
This coastal drive gives you views of Acadia National Park and is one of the best places for spotting bald eagles and peregrine. You’ll get amazing views from above but also from the harbor below.
See More: 15 Incredible Things to Do in Acadia National Park
17. Going to the Sun Road →
L ocation: Montana | Distance: 50 Miles
This drive through Glacier National Park gives you views of mountain peaks and alpine lakes while having the least negative impact on the delicate environment.
Local Tip: It closes every winter because of snow, which can reach up to 80 feet in depth. When we went in late June, they had just opened the road the week before.
See More: What You Need to Know Before Visiting Glacier National Park
18. Tail of the Dragon
L ocation: Tennessee and North Carolina | Distance: 11 Miles
This drive is more about the drive and less about the scenery. Known for its degree of difficulty and sheer excitement when driving, the Tail of the Dragon is full of sharp curves, twists, and turns that demand your full attention.
19. Route 100
L ocation: Vermont | Distance: 216 Miles
Route 100 runs through almost the entirety of Vermont and takes you right through the center. See the fall foliage, stop for ice cream, and enjoy the views of the lush mountains.
20. Cascade Loop →
L ocation: Washington | Distance: 400 Miles
See rainforests, apple orchards, beautiful lakes, small towns, and more on this 400-mile loop that takes you through some of the best of what Washington has to offer.
See More: 7 Best Things to Do in North Cascades National Park
21. Mount Washington Auto Road
Location: New Hampshire | Distance: 8 Miles
This short drive climbs nearly 5,000 feet allowing you to stop at viewpoints, see waterfalls, and gaze out at sprawling meadows. The end offers a spectacular view from above.
Bonus: Cross Country Road Trip
There’s no better way to see the country than to drive across it. There are many different routes to take, but if you’re ambitious, check out this road trip plan that was computed to be the most optimal way across the United States.
Map of Great American Road Trips
More US Road Trip Ideas for Your Bucket List
- 17-Mile Drive, CA
- Alaska Highway, AK
- Big Island Loop Road, HI
- Black Hills, SD
- Bluebonnet Trail, TX
- Blues Highway (Route 61), TN
- Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
- Great River Road, LA
- Highway 143, TN
- Historic National Road, MD
- Lake Shore Drive, IL
- Maine Lobster Trail, ME
- North Shore Drive, MN
- Ocean Drive, RI
- Olympic Peninsula, WA
- Oregon Coast, OR
- Outer Banks Scenic Byway, NC
- Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, MI
- Silverado Trail, CA
- Trail Ridge Road, CO
- Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, CA
- Take your time! These trips are all about the journey so enjoy the views and pullouts. Don’t try to cover too much ground each day.
- Avoid getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, have a car emergency kit ready to go.
- Stay safe on the road by picking up a dash cam .
- Stay hydrated by bringing enough water and beverages with you. These insulated water bottles will keep your drinks cool (or hot). These are the best water bottles for travel we tested on the road.
- Bring a few extra bags to collect garbage in the car.
- We love having this cooler with us on our road trips. Helps us keep anything we need cold.
- It’s always good to have a physical road map with you just in case you lose service.
- Worried about bathroom stops, we always have these handy in our car in case we just can’t hold it anymore. Wet wipes are always handy too.
- Rand McNally Road Atlas
- The Open Road: 50 Best Road Trips in the USA
- USA Travel Guide
Can you think of any other road trips in the US to be added to this list? What’s the best road trip you’ve been on?
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes ” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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This Post Has 6 Comments
Amazing link – thank you! But you missed one of the top 5 – Rocky Mountain National Park – the Great Divide. That is breathtaking! I’ve been to many of the above listed destinations and believe Colorado’s Eastern as well as the Western (the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton) slopes have much to offer.
We have been fortunate to have driven on half of these. Route 12 in Utah and Beartooth stand out. And the Tail of the Dragon was sheer fun. But the Going to the Sun Road was in my opinion, the most scenic, plus fun to drive and in the middle of my favorite National Park. Hope to get back there some day
That’s one of our faves too!
All of these sound amazing! Glad Acadia made your list – there are lots of other scenic drives in Maine as well (the western part of the state is gorgeous!). And I’ve only done parts of Skyline Drive but I can attest that it is absolutely incredible. I would love to do a cross country road trip one day though! Life goals. :)
I’ve been n a few. And the ones I have been on I want to do again!!!
What a great post! We need more like this. There are hundreds of posts on must visit places but not enough on must do road trips! These certainly look like some awesome places.
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- 1 Grand Circle Tour through Utah's Big 5
- 2 Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
- 3 Pacific Coast Highway from Golden Gate Bridge to Redwood to Olympic National Park
- 4 California's Majestic Mountain Loop
- 5 Denver to Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verde to Great Sand Dunes National Park
- 6 Seattle to Mount Rainier to Olympic National Park
- 7 Park Loop Road through Acadia National Park
- 8 Shenandoah to Great Smoky Mountains to Mammoth Cave National Park
8 U.S. National Park Road Trips to Take in Summer and Fall
During the warmer months, we're all about planning a blowout road trip across the US. With scenic coastal vistas, monolithic canyons, and towering forests, these 8 U.S. National Park road trips more than fit the bill.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart
Grand Circle Tour through Utah's Big 5
If you’ve saved up all your PTO in anticipation of your next great adventure, consider spending it in the great American Southwest on a Grand Circle Tour . The 11-day-ish (depending on how often you stop) road trip traverses 1,500 miles, six national parks—that’s Zion , Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef , Arches , Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon — plus Monument Valley (as seen in our fave HBO thriller, Westworld ), and a slew of tiny desert towns. Along the way, you’ll be treated to sheer sandstone cliffs, canyon floor hoodoos, soaring arches, and unrivaled sunsets.
Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
The 3,000-mile Rocky Mountain range—spanning from British Columbia through ID, MT, WY, CO, and even NM—harbors some of America's most adored national parks. Get to know the Northern Rockies by knitting together a road trip through three of them: Grand Teton , Yellowstone , and Glacier. The 450-mile route (one way) weaves together vast backcountry, erupting geysers, and alpine meadows for an epic western escape. Pro tip: take a detour along Glacier’s stunning Going-to-the-Sun Road , a 50-mile scenic stretch that crosses the Continental Divide as it winds its way through Logan Pass alongside Saint Mary Lake.
Pacific Coast Highway from Golden Gate Bridge to Redwood to Olympic National Park
We’ll take any excuse to cruise down the PCH, but throwing some national parks into the mix takes it to the next level. Starting in San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge off your bucket list before continuing your 15-hour drive up the winding coast en-route to Redwood National and State Parks, and then on to Washington’s Olympic National Park . With 850-ish miles (and three states) to explore, there’s much to see beyond the tallest trees on earth and the perpetually misty million-acre wilderness; don’t miss out on pit stops in smaller state parks like CA’s Humboldt Redwoods (home of Avenue of the Giants ) and WA’s Capitol State Forest .
RELATED: The Most Incredible National Parks Inside Hotels
California's Majestic Mountain Loop
All it takes is five hours of (speed-limit-abiding) driving to knock three of California’s most iconic parks— Sequoia , Kings Canyon , and Yosemite —off your list. Known as the Majestic Mountain Loop , this long-weekend-friendly road trip can be done in as little as three days, but the more you can add on, the merrier. Key points of interest include Sequoia’s beloved General Sherman Tree (the world’s largest tree by volume), Kings Canyon’s trout-filled Hume Lake, and Yosemite’s Half Dome day hike .
RELATED : 11 Gorgeous National Parks Within 3 Hours of Major U.S. Cities
Denver to Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verde to Great Sand Dunes National Park
If you’re feeling ambitious and find yourself in Colorado, this multi-park tour can't be missed. Unlike other states (see: Utah and Wyoming), Colorado’s national parks don’t sit shoulder-to-shoulder, but that’s what makes this trip so great. A 1,000-mile loop from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve to Mesa Verde National Park and then back to Denver will require about 19 hours of driving, but you’ll cross more than half the state in the process. Between the three parks, you’ll find drastically different attractions like 12,000-foot alpine peaks, North America’s tallest dunes, and ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Just make sure you have your playlists ready to go.
Seattle to Mount Rainier to Olympic National Park
A Washington two-for-one is what this short Pacific Northwest trip is all about. Start in Seattle and head southwest through Enumclaw, a tiny Mount Rainier National Park gateway town that offers stellar pre-park vistas. How long you stay in Mount Rainier is up to you, but don’t miss out on a hike up the eponymously-named glacier-capped summit; a romp through Paradise , the park’s most popular wildflower meadow; or a leisurely drive down the Chinook Scenic Byway. From there, set off about 115 miles northeast to Port Angeles, the entry point of Olympic National Park . This nearly one-million-acre swath of wilderness follows the Pacific coast for 70 miles in a show of old-growth rain forests, glacier-capped mountains, and foggy, wave-eroded sea stacks.
Park Loop Road through Acadia National Park
When it comes to exploring Maine's Mount Desert Island—and taking in Acadia's best coastal views—by car, this scenic 27-mile route is the only way to go. Beginning at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (just off Route 3 on the northern side of the island), the road loops past Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and the 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain—the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. Even if you don't stop at all the main sites, you'll still find unparalleled panoramas of the stunning Maine landscape including snow-capped mountain peaks, rocky stone shores, and pink granite summits along the way.
RELATED : 9 of the Most Underrated National Parks in America
Shenandoah to Great Smoky Mountains to Mammoth Cave National Park
If you’ve got a week to spare, this East Coast route is one for the books. Along Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive (just 75 miles from D.C.), you’ll find more than 70 overlooks where you can stop for a view of the protected park’s 200,000 acres—home to cascading waterfalls, wooded hills, and meandering backcountry. From there, it’s about 350 miles to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (470 miles if you take the scenic route—a.k.a. the Blue Ridge Parkway). After a few days in the foggy, heavily forested park, it’s time for your final stop: Mammoth Cave National Park . The Kentucky cave system contains more than 400 explored miles—the longest in the world—and ranger-led excursions are offered season to season.
Women’s Dress Outfit for a National Park
Shop the look.
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Men’s catskills outfit.
Chronograph Leather Strap Watch
Women’s Walking Outfit for a National Park
Dede Cargo Pants
Imitation Pearl Headband
Elephant Pendant Necklace
Platform Portal Sneaker
Men’s walking outfit for a national park.
Running Man Graphic Tee
Women’s Flowy Outfit for Summer
Lele Sadoughi Stacked Stone Barrette
Mini Ark Handbag
Myron Point Toe Flats
Men’s casual outfit for summer.
Bleach Ripped Slim Jeans
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USA Road Trip Planner – 10 Best National Parks in Southwestern US
September 1, 2018 by Jennifer Fontaine 4 Comments
by Jean Grant – Planning a family road trip to the Southwest? Try this epic USA road trip itinerary which hits the 10 best national parks in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Our family made a slight modification of the classic Grand Circle road trip for our April school break, soaking in 10 destinations, including US national parks and monuments, national forests, tribal lands, and national recreation areas in eight days and 1300 miles, starting and finishing in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Southwestern US National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
Stop #1 – dinosaur national monument, utah and colorado.
In 1909, researchers from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History led an excavation in the Morrison Formation, a layer of rock deposited in the late Jurassic Period 150 million years ago. Their find: thousands of bones! Some were assembled and shipped to museums; the remainder were left in situ and enclosed in a hall. The massive quarry wall contains over 1,500 bones from 10 different dinosaur species.
Outdoor Activities Start at the new Visitor Center , check with rangers for activities and exhibit hall access and absorb information from the displays and bookstore in this quiet, remote national park. Drive or take the shuttle (seasonal) to the Exhibit Hall.
Don’t forget to pick up a $1 fossil guide or use the touchscreen displays to identify the bones. The Fossil Discovery Trail is an easy walk to more touchable fossils. In season (summer-fall), the winding Echo Park road takes visitors to a campground along the Green River across from iconic Steamboat Rock.
Lodging Six campgrounds in the national park; nearby Vernal offers hotels, grocery stores, gas and restaurants. Both Dinosaur Inn & Suites and Springhill Suites by Marriott Vernal offer affordable nightly rates that include breakfast.
Fun Detours The Cub Creek petroglyphs are a short walk up a cliffside along the auto Tour of Tilted Rocks route (stops #13 and 14). Don’t forget to take a photo at the intersection of Stegosaurus Freeway and Brontosaurus Boulevard in Dinosaur, Colorado!
Stop #2 – Arches National Park, Utah
Millenia of erosion of Entrada sandstone formed over 2,000 arches, pinnacles and balance rocks in this iconic national park (that used to be an inland sea millions of years ago). Time-crunched? Arches can be explored in a day. The national park brochure lists the best time to view specific arches. Bring your hiking boots as many arches are only accessible by walk or hike.
Outdoor Activities Well-paved roads meander through the national park. With limited services, bring in water and a picnic lunch. Trail difficulty varies, though many are easy. Be careful with children when climbing under arches due to steepness and drop-offs.
Double Arch, Turret Arch and The Windows are connected by a loop of easy, short trails. Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America at 306-feet, as well as many others, are found off the 1.6-mile Devil’s Garden trail in the northern part of the national park.
Feeling adventurous? Hike up to Delicate Arch near sunset for the best show in the national park. If the kids are tired or the weather is not cooperating, Delicate Arch can also be viewed from a lower viewpoint and trail (bring a telephoto lens if you have one).
Lodging Devil’s Garden is the only campground in the national park, but Moab is packed with additional campgrounds, hotels, shops and restaurants to suit your tastes and budget. We opted for our first glamping experience at the Under Canvas locale outside the national park.
Despite the roaring high winds all night (and a very restless sleep), our deluxe tent and tipi did provide breathtaking views of distant arches and desert scenery. Red Cliffs Lodge also provides scenic and authentic, local accommodations with gorgeous creek or river views from every suite.
Pro Tip: Be prepared for any kind of weather!
Fun Detours The Moab Rock Shop and Mill Creek swimming hole .
Stop #3 – Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Island in the Sky district gifts visitors with colorful and dramatic canyons carved out by the Colorado and Green Rivers in this quiet giant of a national park. Other districts of the park include the more remote Needles and Maze.
Outdoor Activities The short Mesa Arch loop hike (be careful with young children at this precarious arch) at sunrise, and the Grand View Point and Green River overlooks. The kids had fun spotting collared lizards and identifying plant life.
Lodging Island in the Sky has one campground at Willow Flat. The Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn is an affordable base camp to explore the area, or splurge on a stay at Moab Springs Ranch where you can relax in your own private bungalow on the oldest continuous settlement in Moab.
Fun Detours The steep, switch-backing drive down Shafer Trail Road to White Rim Road and Potash Road. Going off the beaten path in the Needles or Maze.
Stop #4 – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
This less-frequented national park is home to the historical Fruita District and colorful rock formations, washes, narrows and hikes.
Outdoor Activities A trek through Grand Wash to The Narrows made for a great midday treat and respite on our drive to Bryce Canyon. Other options: Capitol Gorge or Cassidy Arch hikes. Grand Wash was filled with boulder climbing, blue skies and sunshine. Check with rangers before starting hikes in the washes.
Lodging Fruita Campground is great for families and there are a number of backcountry campgrounds, if you’re looking to rough it. Capitol Reef Resort in Torrey, Utah offers fun and quirky accommodations such as tipis and Conestoga wagons.
Fun Detours Dixie National Forest overlooks.
Stop #5 – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Sitting at 9,000-feet in elevation, Bryce Canyon’s signature landmark is the hoodoos, sedimentary rocks wedged into unusual spires by erosion. The national park is home to the oldest species of tree, the 2,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine. It’s a popular, compact national park. Wear warmer layers if hiking in spring or fall.
Outdoor Activities Starting at Sunset Point drop down into the 3-mile Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden Trail, which finishes at Sunrise Point. Take your time and drink plenty of water. Higher altitude exhaustion can sneak up on you. We also walked the Bristlecone Loop Trail. Our kids took part in the ranger program and received stickers.
Lodging Bryce Canyon Resort, North Campground, and Sunset Campground in the national park are great family lodging options in the area.
Fun Detours The Utah Rock Stop (plus ice cream and coffee!) and Moqui Cave between Bryce and Page. Both ranked high on my fun list.
Stop #6 – Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona
Resting on 1.25 million acres in the Colorado Plateau, this ecologically and culturally unique area is home to protected wilderness, heritage sites and water resources including the man-made Lake Powell.
Outdoor Activities Stunning Horseshoe Bend stands on a 1000-foot sheer drop (watch kids) over the Colorado River. At 710-feet tall, the impressive Glen Canyon Dam created the country’s second largest reservoir, Lake Powell, and generates hydroelectricity. Tickets for this highly recommended tour of the dam must be purchased in person up to one day in advance. To look over the edge of the dam is heart-pounding.
Lodging Page, Arizona is a tourist-friendly city with plenty of lodgings, campgrounds, and restaurants. Shash Dine’ Eco-Retreat is one such glamping bed & breakfast that offers guests a unique stay on the Navajo Nation, atop pastoral lands overlooking beautiful, unobstructed views of Lake Powell, the Echo Peaks, and the Vermilion Cliffs.
Fun Detours Rent kayaks and paddle Lake Powell or take a boat tour.
Stop #7 – Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona
This remarkable set of slot canyons (Upper and Lower) were formed by erosion of Navajo sandstone via rain and flash flooding. All tours are Navajo run and owned.
Outdoor Activities Choose between siblings Ken or Dixie’s tours. The esteemed Upper Antelope Canyon boasts larger chambers with photographic sunbeams, however, we enjoyed the beauty of the lower canyon. Be warned—over the past decade popularity of the canyons has risen—purchase tickets well in advance.
Lodging Page, Arizona is still a perfect jumping off point to explore Antelope Canyon. If Shash Dine’ Eco-Retreat isn’t your speed, try Dreamkatchers Bed & Breakfast or Lake Powell Resort for comfortable and affordable family-friendly lodging.
Fun Detours Visit nearby Rainbow Bridge (accessible by water or permit).
Stop #8 – Four Corners Monument (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico)
Where else can you stand in four states at once ? Bring cash or purchase tickets online. We arrived just before closing and were greeted with solitude…and sand-spitting wind.
Outdoor Activities Stand in four states at once! Native American guides can also take you on horseback trail rides, hikes, and Jeep excursions to other interesting areas.
Lodging Desert Rose Resort & Cabins is a luxury desert oasis that gives you easy access to Four Corners Monument. You’ll also find several campgrounds located nearby, some of which require reservations and/or daily permits.
Fun Detours Monument Valley Tribal Park and smaller, equally stunning Valley of the Gods both offer dramatic scenery with sandstone towers, pinnacles and buttes.
Stop #9 – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
The Ancestral Puebloans inhabited this lush region hovering between 6,000-8,000 feet elevation over a thousand years ago. The national park boasts thousands of archaeological sites and over 600 cliff dwellings. It’s a serene, historically-rich national park.
Outdoor Activities Balcony House ranger-led tour. Tickets must be purchased in person at the visitor center or museum up to two days in advance. Leaving my fear of heights at the car, ladders, a few tight squeezes and an informative ranger-led talk rounded out the tour of cliff dwellings. Spruce Tree House was closed except for the overlook and Cliff Palace, as well as Wetherill Mesa, weren’t open until May.
Lodging We stayed in Mesa Verde National Park’s only hotel, the Far View Lodge , however Morefield Campground is located near the national park’s entrance. Food is available at the Far View Terrace and restaurant. Nearby Cortez and Durango offer plenty of additional hotels and restaurants.
Fun Detours Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum housed interesting relics, a delight to peruse.
Stop #10 – San Juan Skyway (Route 145), Colorado
Given the mid-April snowfall, we ventured through the San Juan Mountains on Route 145 past Telluride, but if there is no snow, head up the adventurous “Million Dollar Highway” (Route 550). Both roads meet at Ridgway en route to Grand Junction.
Outdoor Activities Recreational activities aplenty, but many tours aren’t available until May.
Lodging Right on Route 145, The Angler Inn is a cozy, family-run hotel nestled right in the San Juan Mountains. You can find additional accommodations in Telluride, Dolores, Ouray, and Silverton, as well as ample camping in the National Forest.
Fun Detours Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Abandoned mines.
6 Tips For A Southwestern National Park Road Trip
1. Research and Plan Ahead. Book lodgings and campgrounds in advance in highly-visited areas. Some national parks have additional fee areas (online ticketing or in-person). Be aware of limited features (campsites, tours, roads) or hours (museums/visitors centers, exhibits) during non-peak seasons.
For kids, most national parks also have Junior Ranger program; booklets can be printed in advance. Other activities such as the benchmark scavenger hunt at Bryce Canyon reward kids with special national park stickers. Remember to call ahead if arriving to your destination late.
2. Always have a Plan B…or C. Flight delays, road/trail closures, illnesses or weather happen. Have a Plan B or wing it!
3. Creature Comforts. For both road trip games and entertainment and lodging entertainment, think like a kid when packing. What would you want if you were in the backseat?
4. Safety and Food. Pack a safety kit: first aid supplies and medicines (be prepared for anything from scrapes to altitude sickness), including hand wipes, sanitizer, and tissues and flashlight. For food we bring a collapsible cooler and hit a grocery store for portable snacks/lunches. Grab an extra gallon or two of water; many national parks do not have accommodations beyond simple bathrooms. Pack water bottles.
5. Scenic Detours. Make a game of it. Keep your eyes open for intriguing areas to rest, explore, shop or eat. One of my favorite places was the Rock & Espresso shop . Bonus: they had ice cream! One of the kids’ favorite pit-stops was a picnic area in Canyon Pintado along the Dinosaur Diamond scenic byway.
6. Maps, Travel Guides. GPS and WiFi can be sketchy when traveling through remote canyons, deserts and mountains. Keep paper maps or guidebooks handy along with contact information for lodging and rental car providers.
Jean Grant is a scientist, author, and mom to two active, nature-loving sons. She currently resides in Massachusetts. She writes where her heart takes her…from castles to craters to crags of all kinds. Her website can be found at: jeanmgrant.com
September 2, 2018 at 2:12 pm
Hi friends, Thank you so much for linking to our site http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ ! Looks like you had a wonderful time, that the little ones are sure to brag about to their classmates once school’s back in. By the way, regarding Rainbow Bridge, another way to see this attraction without expending too much time, effort, or hassle is to fly over it by fixed-wing airplane or helicopter. Hope you get a chance to return to the Grand Circle and experience even more fun and adventure the area has to offer! Best wishes for happy traveling, Alley Staff Writer/Social Media Consultant http://www.AntelopeCanyon.AZ http://www.HorseshoeBend.com http://www.TheWaveAZ.com
Jennifer Fontaine says
September 4, 2018 at 10:25 pm
Hi Alley, thanks for stopping by and saying hi, and thanks for working to promote and preserve such a beautiful place for our kids to honor and cherish. Here’s to getting families outside more!
Jean M. Grant says
September 3, 2018 at 12:28 pm
Thanks for stopping by, Alley! Yes, we do love the Grand Circle! My husband and I did this trip (a bit modified, dipping down to the Grand Canyon area and starting in Las Vegas instead of Grand Junction) over twelve years ago. Loved it so much that this time we planned it as a family trip! I highly recommend this trip to families. 🙂
March 20, 2019 at 5:28 pm
Hi! How long would you recommend to take this trip? What are the best spots to stay for the night? thank you 🙂
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