I love road trips. Throughout our marriage, Tim and I have taken to the road many times. Some of the best road trips we’ve taken have been last minute. The ones where we grab the dogs, pack some snacks, and head out to visit family.
There is something undeniably nostalgic and American about road trips. As kids, I feel like so many of us got into the minivan for family vacations. From Florida to Texas, road trips were a summer thing for my family. Once I got older and was able to drive, it was a right of passage to take a road trip. There are so many memories on the road. And I think that is why so many of us love hopping in the car for a road trip now!
Awesome Road Trips To Take In The U.S.A
Let’s face it, the U.S. is a pretty expansive country, and our interstate system makes it easy to travel around. With our amazing National Parks, public lands, various landscapes, and regions, it is easy to see why road tripping across the country is so much fun. Here are some of the country’s very best road trips and routes that cover everything from mountainscapes to seaside drives.
Historic Route 66
We have to start out our list of best road trips with the historic Route 66! Starting in Chicago and winding all the way Santa Monica this road takes you on quite the journey. It crosses eight states and approximately 2,500 miles. As one of the U.S Highway System’s first roads, this historic route is full of Americana. You’ll find classic stops and plenty of kitsch roadside attractions.
Great River Road
The Great River Road is one of America’s longest scenic byways. For about 3,000 miles this road follows the mighty Mississippi River from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The drive takes you through 10 states and has a number of cultural and historical sites along the way. One of the best ways to end this epic 10 day-ish road trip? A stop in New Orleans!
Border to Border
As the name suggests, this route takes you from Canada’s Jasper National Park all the way down to the Sonora Desert. As your drive along US-93, you will travel along some of the country’s most rugged and wild landscapes. From mighty mountains to raging rivers, this drive takes you through some gorgeous views that also include glaciated valleys!
The Appalachian Trail
The AT is thought of as an epic hiking trail, which it is, but it also has a sister driving route! This road trip takes you from the top of New England to the heart of Appalachia before ending in Georgia. You can enjoy all the natural beauty as you travel without having to deal with bugs or blisters. This epic drive includes Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, The Poconos in Pennsylvania, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Blue Ridge Parkway
America’s favorite drive snakes its way through the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. This 469-mile route connects the Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks. The whole drive is a hot spot of leaf-peeping in autumn when foliage explodes in a gorgeous display of crimson reds, dusty oranges, and golden hues. In the spring beautiful wildflowers cover the mountainsides.
Anchorage to Valdez
Taking the road from Anchorage to Valdez in Alaska is a stunningly short but sweet drive. This 300-mile drive connects Glenn Highway and Richardson Highway and passes through the last frontier! As you cruise past glaciers and mountain ranges, you really take in the Alaskan beauty that draws in so many visitors. If you want to make your trip a little longer, detour to see the colorful Spirit Houses of Eklutna Village and the Matanuska Glacier Scenic Turnout.
Going-to-the-Sun was originally built to promote tourism and draw people to American National Parks in 1932. Since then, this 50-mile road takes you through Glacier National Park and the Rockies where it isn’t uncommon to see mountain goats grazing among blankets of wildflowers in the meadows.
This is one road trip, though, you don’t want to take in the winter as snowbanks can get pretty big.
Grab your flip flops, blast some Jimmy Buffett, and drive down Overseas Highway in Florida! This sunshiny route is 113-miles that follows US-1 and connects the Florida Keys. As you make your way from Key Largo down to Key West you’ll cruise over Seven Mile Bridge (one of the world’s longest bridges) and see lighthouses among the tropical colors of Florida.
Authentic American Road
If you’re looking to get out of the craziness that is NYC, head to this scenic road through New York State! You can explore the Finger Lakes by driving along the best of Route 5 and Route 20 which makes up part of the transcontinental Federal Highway (which connects Boston, MA to Newport, OR). There are a number of bed and breakfasts you can stay at to break up the drive for a long weekend away. Make sure you visit one (or a few) of the award-winning wineries in the area.
Highway 1 to Big Sur
This drive is probably one of the best known. Even if you don’t know it by name, chances are you’ve seen it – from its cameo in the Big Little Lies intro to numerous car commercials. Highway 1 is the classic California road trip full of stunning views. The 656 miles take you all along the Cali coast and has been compared to driving along the Amalfi coast.
Texas Hill Country
Hill Country is nicely sandwiched between Austin and San Antonio. And while it might be common to fly into the Lone Star State, the best way to see its beauty is to drive around! Texas’ Hill Country is known of its hills (obviously) but also the insta-worthy bluebonnet blooms. Along the drive, you’ll find charming wineries and orchards, as well as plenty of mom and pop BBQ joints. For history lovers and outdoor buffs, a trip to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a must! And if you have time, outside of Fredericksburg, you’ll find a climbable pink granite mountain! The area shows signs of human settlement dating back more than 10,000 years that is worth checking out.
Olympic Peninsula Loop
Another West Coast wonder and favorite is the Olympic Peninsula Loop. This dipping and diving 330-mile drive encircles Washington’s Olympic National Park. As you make your way through boulder-peppered coastlines, you can see snow-capped mountains from the Cascade Range. While exploring, make sure you try the local oysters and fresh clams, regional specialties that are sure to delight your tastebuds! And if you need some R&R, stop by Sol Duc Hot Springs near Port Angeles for a dip in their natural mineral springs. If you forget to pack a swimsuit, no worries – the springs welcome bathers in the buff.
Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway
If you’re looking for a road trip with unique and spectacular views, make your way to the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. This north to south route is about 500 miles and connects California’s Lessen National Park with Oregon’s Crater Lake. Along the drive, you’ll encounter the geological formations created by the volcanos of the Cascade Mountains that look like something off of another planet. You’ll have views of the Shasta Valley including Mount Shasta, the second tallest volcano in the United States. Don’t miss Petroglyph Point, one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the US!
Santa Fe to Taos
The loop from Santa Fe to Taos is calling all western lovers, so grab your cowboy boots! This section of Route 66 was originally used from 1926 until 1937 before the construction of the “Santa Fe Cut Off.” Along this drive, you will have one of the best all-American road trips imaginable as the road weaves its way between the valleys of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Rio Grande. The landscapes look like the setting of classic Westerns with tumbleweeds and pueblo communities pepper the desert-scape.
Hawaii is known for its lush tropical offerings and is home to one of the best road trips in the United States. Hana Highway is a 60-mile drive through paradise that links Kahului to Hana. The drive can usually be done in about three hours but account for some extra time in the high season. If you are looking for things to do along the way, we recommend stopping to explore Waianapanapa State Park where lush emerald jungles meet the black basalt lava coastlines.
The Beartooth Highway is a section of U.S. Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming. This 68-mile route is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road that takes you right into Yellowstone National Park, passing over Beartooth Pass. It first opened in 1937 and is considered one of the most beautiful drives in America. Along Beartooth Highway, you’ll see glacial lakes, wildlife like moose and black bear, forested valleys, and alpine plateaus.
Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway starts in at the northwest tip of the U.S. at Olympic National Park in Washington. The route continues for 1,650-miles along the ocean all the way south, ending in sunny San Diego. Along the drive, you’ll see everything from desert-like climates to temperate rainforests. If you are looking for some things to do along the way, you can spend some time in Washington’s Olympic National Park, Oregon’s Three Capes Loop, and California’s Redwood National Park.
The Loneliest Road
From sea to shining sea, The Loneliest Road is a 3,200-mile journey that takes you from San Francisco, California to Ocean City, Maryland along US-50. This route passes through a dozen states, four state capitals, and Washington D.C. As you make your way across the country, literally, you’ll see landscapes change and really get to see how varied and vast the U.S. is!
The Oregon Trail
US-20 follows the footsteps of the pioneers and pilgrims. This 3,300-mile route takes you from the rugged coast of Oregon to the sands of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. From the wide-open West to a more urban East Coast, the Oregon Trail is one of the longest but best road trips in the United States. With numerous potential detours, it is easy to see why this route is a favorite.
The Great Northern
The Great Northern gets its name from the pioneer railroad the western half of the route parallels. US Highway 2 is unlike any other cross-country road trip! It starts in near Seattle and follows the Cascade Range before heading to the Columbia Plateau where you can see the Grand Coulee Dam. This route leaves Washington and heads into the Idaho Panhandle before taking you into western Montana and Glacier National Park. From there, you continue to head east going by way of North Dakota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula before heading into Canada and ultimately ending in Maine.
The United States has so many great options for road trips because of our amazing interstate and highway system. If you’re able to just hit to road with no plan, we recommend doing just that. If you need more of a plan our list of the best road trips in America will help you pick where to go.