A U.S road trip is up there with the best.
In a country so vast and with such epic landscapes, there’s nothing quite like loading up your car or camper and getting out there to explore.
The classic American road trip has been romanticized so much in popular culture, it’s now way up there on the bucket list of adventurers of all ages, seasoned and novice.
But how do you choose where to go in a country with such a diverse range of scenery, food, cities, coastlines and people?
In this post, I countdown 9 of America’s best routes.
This list of ultimate U.S road trip routes has everything.
There are country-length missions, mountainous adventures, tropical escapes and the rolling deserts of the Wild West.
Whether you want to escape normality for a couple of weeks, or simply get out for a day trip, you are sure to find something you’ll like.
Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown of the best U.S road trips out there…
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the best-looking drives in the U.S.
The 469-mile route winds its way through the spectacular Appalachian Mountains from Virginia, all the way down to the Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.
Along the way you’ll find hiking trails, thundering waterfalls and fantastic vistas of the mountain range.
Unlike other U.S road trips in this list, the major highlight of this journey is the drive itself. The road was built for the sole purpose of appreciating through the Virginian countryside (hence the 45 mph speed limit), so get your windows down and your cameras ready.
THE LONELIEST ROAD
The Loneliest Road – or US-50 as it’s officially known – runs the entire distance of the country from the east coast to the west coast. Passing through 12 states and 4 state capitals including Washington, D.C., this mammoth 3,200-mile route offers some real adventure.
You can start in either Sacramento, California or Ocean City, Maryland.
Right the way across the country, US-50 passes countless small country towns that have stood the test of time. In many of them, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a fast-food franchise or chain restaurant which adds to that middle-of-nowhere charm.
If you want to feel like you’re out in the middle of dusty America, this is the trip for you. Be wary of the stretch through Nevada. Endless lonely highways and rolling mountains make it one of the quieter parts of the road trip.
That being said, US-50 covers so much of the U.S that there is plenty of awe-inspiring scenery to see, from the vast Lake Tahoe to the towering Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains to the unworldly deserts of Utah and Nevada.
Another awesome place to visit while in California is Big Sur. Check out this Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary for a full guide!
NEW YORK, BOSTON AND NEW ENGLAND
Of course, this list had to include The Big Apple.
Take an all-American road trip that combines the hustle and bustle of Manhattan with the classic American landscape of New York state, Boston and New England.
Start by exploring New York staples like Central Park, Times Square and the Empire State Building on foot. Don’t forget to order a street hotdog for a real authentic experience!
Grab your car and wind your way over to Boston via the Finger Lakes region.
This drive combines the best scenery of the famed Routes 5 and 20, and there are plenty of stop-worthy attractions and views along the way.
When you get to Boston, take the freedom trail’ and soak up the city treat yourself to a Clam Chowder – an East-coast classic!
Finally, head to Cape Cod, New England. Here you’ll find miles of untouched beaches, brightly colored lighthouses, and charming fishing villages. You might find time goes a little slower here than in the big city…
Take a ferry over to Nantucket Island and explore by bicycle. Take a look at this full New York Road Trip Itinerary for further details.
SANTA FE TO TAO (THE HIGH ROAD)
Weaving between the valleys of the Rio Grande and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this US road trip looks straight out of a classic western movie, but packs a Hispanic twist.
There are 2 options when driving from Santa Fe to Tao:
The high road or the low road.
Take the high road which which meanders through sensational scenery and charming villages. Desert sands and rolling peaks are broken up by communities known for their art such as Ojo Caliente, Chimayo, and Truchas. There’s time for the low road later…
Although possible to drive in a day, the best thing about this New Mexico road trip is stopping to experience the cultural and scenic charm along the way. Take your time, and soak it all up.
The trip ends in magical Taos, nestled at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Here, the melting pot of Spanish, Native American and Anglo cultures creates a vibrant atmosphere.
Heading back to Santa Fe?
Take the low road and form a loop.
The low road is more direct but follows the Rio Grande river and gives spectacular views of the Taos valley. Make sure to stop at some of the wineries along the way!
ALASKA – ANCHORAGE TO VALDEZ
A bit “out there”, this US road trip is one of the more unique experiences to feature in this list. The drive from Anchorage to Valdez takes just 7 hours. However, with the unworldly scenery and spectacular places to visit along the way you might want to take your time on this Alaska drive.
Along this unique route you’ll see first-hand the dramatic sites of The Last Frontier – towering mountain ranges, glaciers, waterfalls, and cliffs.
Do not miss the colorful Spirit Houses of Eklutna Village. Dating back to 1650, this is the oldest inhabited Athabaskan Indian settlement making it a worthy photo opportunity and an interesting cultural site to visit.
Just an hour outside Anchorage is 200ft tall Thunderbird Falls. The mile-long trail to the falls traverses through birch forest along the Eklutna River canyon, making for a fun walk for everyone.
One of the shorter road trips in the list, but no less spectacular, this tropical route is just a 3-4 hour drive.
It comprises 42 bridges as it crosses the ocean between Miami and Key West – an island city perched at the end Florida Keys, just 90 miles north of Cuba.
The views are simply stunning, as this unique road hops from island to island through the Atlantic ocean, making it a totally different experience to other US road trip routes.
Don’t just cruise all the way to Key West, however. Make sure to stop off at the other keys as you pass by and soak up the views of pastel-hued houses, vibrant coral reefs and white sand beaches.
Keep an eye out for the more unusually named keys while you’re at it. Notably: Fat Deer Key, Tea Table Key and Sugarloaf Key.
When you eventually arrive down at Key West, try out some snorkeling or diving before rewarding yourself with a real Key lime cocktail on the beach.
Remember: June to November is hurricane season in Florida so avoid them if you can. Winter is beautiful, however it’s also high season. Book in advance if you plan to stay in the Keys.
PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY
Get the convertible ready, this classic US road trip is one for the cameras. Oh, and don’t forget your sunscreen or your shades.
This beautiful drive takes in the highlights of the Pacific Coast of California,between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Start in San Fran and head South. That way you’ll be in the lane closest to the ocean and have the best views for the duration.
Every corner you turn will give you a new spectacular panorama. That being said, be ready that this coastal byway is absolute packed with tight turns and treacherous looking drops. It’s a real adventure, with real rewards.
What’s more, driving this route takes you to some of the more remote areas of the California coast that are inaccessible without your own vehicle. Take advantage of the fact that you can stop whenever you want.
Find a secluded spot with an awesome view of the sunset?
It’s all yours.
Take at least three days to do this drive (the longer the better in my opinion), and tick off all the big attractions along the way. We’re talking Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran, Olympic National Park, Big Sur National Park and Sunset Boulevard in L.A.
THE GREAT RIVER ROAD
The Great River Road travels almost 3,000 miles along the greatest river in America – the mighty Mississippi River.
Old Man River, Father of Waters, Big Muddy. Whatever you call it, the gigantic Mississippi river cuts an imposing figure right across 10 states in America. What better way to see it in all it it’s glory than following it on a classic road trip?
The route stretches from the northern-most points of Minnesota all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. I recommend driving North to South, if you can make it work. Thankfully, the route is well marked and easy to follow. Its famous green and white road signs (aptly depicting a steamboat inside a pilotswheel) lead the entire way.
The byway itself was created to show off the 10 states that border the river, and when it comes to scenery, it doesn’t disappoint.
You’ll travel past farms, meadows, cliffs, swamps and thick forest. Not to mention countless national parks and wildlife refuges, such as the Theodore Roosevelt Refuge and Yazoo Refuge – home to dear, alligators, birds and bears. This route is a real treat for nature lovers.
There are also plenty of quaint river towns along the way, which make a great place to spend the night and try out the local cuisine.
Once you arrive in Louisiana, treat yourself to some classic fried food and the cool rhythms of jazz in New Orleans.
Ah, Route 66. The iconic US road trip. Of course it’s number one!
It’s what I think of when someone says the word “road trip” to me. And it’s something that should definitely be on your bucket list.
Spanning across eight states and covering a whopping 2,500 miles, the historic highway 66 passes right through the heart of the US and is packed with movie-style motels and classic truck stops.
The legendary road runs between Los Angeles and Chicago and can be driven in either direction. The charm with route 66 is not the destination, nor necessarily the stops along the way. On Route 66, it’s all about the journey.
It’s about experiencing kitschy America, neon signs and oversized novelty landmarks. It’s about getting a true slice of the great American road trip.
The fascinating history of the road is well documented by attractions along the way. Museums and restaurants all proudly displaying their Route 66 identity are plentiful. As are all the tiny towns you would never visit otherwise, but have nonetheless become an important part of American history.
If you’re looking for a bit of non-Route 66 themed adventure, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon are but a short detour away.
U.S ROAD TRIP – NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…
There you have my top 9 U.S road trip routes.
Which one are you most excited to go take?
Or do you have any other great U.S road trip recommendations?
Either way, leave a comment below and let me know!
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