20 Best American Road Trips that will make your jaw drop
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As you all probably know, here at Dotted Globe, we love amazing road trips. We have taken some cool road trips during our time in the United States including the Overseas Highway from Miami to the Florida Keys, the Grand Circle Tour in the southwest, and the incredible South Dakota road trip through Badlands and the Needles. In fact, the United States is where we fell in love with road tripping – driving along for miles on straight roads, checking out roadside attractions, understanding the people and their heritage and visiting great destinations. We are always on the lookout for new road trip ideas and so last weekend I asked other travel bloggers to share their favorite road trips. Their suggestions opened my eyes to whole new routes, great landscapes, unexplored states, and under the radar destinations. Here’s our list of 20 best American Road Trips, some as recommended by my awesome travel blogger friends.
California Highway One
by Chris at Explore Now or Never
Fly into San Diego and drive through to Portland, Oregon for the full west coast experience of this epic road trip (or do it in reverse!) This drive is world-famous for a reason. You’ll cruise past San Diego’s surfer scene and dozens of picturesque San Diego beaches first. (Stop for a California burrito—carne asada with French fries—or a Baja fish taco for lunch.)
Then take a peek at the good life in world-famous Malibu and LA beach communities. Consider an overnight stay in the sleepy bedroom community of Santa Barbara (Oprah has a home here) on night one and enjoy the impressive food scene. Or meander further on up to California’s vivid central coast for a stay in the college town of San Luis Obispo, with a stop at the famous Hearst Castle or to gawk at sea lions and sample oysters pulled fresh from the Pacific.
Next stop: Big Sur and tony Carmel, of Pebble Beach golf course fame. Recently reopened to through traffic, the road trip through Big Sur is all about the rugged rocky coast and jaw-dropping vistas. Continue on up to Monterey—take in Fisherman’s Wharf and the famous aquarium—and then head to Northern California’s favorite hippie enclave and college community, Santa Cruz, for lunch.
Then it’s into San Francisco, the ultimate “City by the Bay.” Short on time? You could end your road trip here. North of here is less traveled but incredibly scenic! See Mendocino and go all the way up to Eureka where California One turns into California 101. The most picturesque section north of San Francisco is further north of Eureka near the remote college town Humboldt. Think towering redwoods and fern forests. It’s slow going here though so plan extra time for this scenic section.
Up for more? See the wild Oregon coast as you head into Oregon rocky coast after Crescent City. Yachats, Cannon Beach and Manzanita all make good overnights to watch crashing surf in moody weather. You can continue yet farther up the coast or head inland to catch a flight from hipster capital Portland. But if you’ve gone this far, plan to spend several days exploring this mecca of gastropubs and nature in the Northwest. There are lots of free things to do in Portland for the budget-minded road-tripper!
If visiting Oregon, check out the most Instagrammable spots in the city by the amazing Haley!
San Francisco is one of the must stops on the California Highway One trip
Historic Route 66
by Theresa at The Local Tourist
Route 66 is the mother of road trips – the Mother Road, to be exact. Stretching more than 2400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, Route 66 is a road trip lovers dream journey. One of the original highways in the U.S. Highway System, it touches eight states and traverses plains, mountains, valleys, deserts, farms, and Tornado Alley.
In its heyday, Route 66 brought tourists and commerce to the small towns that bordered its path. With the development of the Interstate system in the 1950s, however, several of these once-thriving communities became ghost towns when travelers bypassed the towns for faster routes. While many of those towns never recovered, others have seen a renaissance in recent years. The romance and lore of The Main Street of America has blossomed and there’s been a resurgence of interest in this historic highway, bringing travel buffs from all over the world.
One reason for this interest is the number of historic spots along the way. Popular stops include the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Cadillac Ranch, and Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you head east from that town, you’ll come across a The Singing Road. Drive exactly 45 MPH and that stretch of Route 66 plays America, the Beautiful. In Arizona, there’s an abandoned mountain lion zoo. Donkeys roam the streets in Oatman.
There are countless other places to visit, but the real reason Route 66 is an epic road trip is that it exemplifies the freedom of the open road.
Along the Historic Route 66 in Adrian, Texas (Photo: The Local Tourist)
The Overseas Highway
The Overseas Highway is Florida’s answer to California Highway One. The Miami to Key West drive was our first big trip as a family after the birth of our son and what an incredible trip it was. The Overseas Highway itself has an incredible history and the great attractions along the way make this the trip of a lifetime. The road has its beginnings in the form of the Overseas Railroad, an ambitious project, taken on by the American industrialist, Henry Flagler. When a great hurricane washed out the railroad, it was replaced by the Overseas Highway.
The Overseas Highway connects the vibrant city of Miami to Key West, the southernmost city in the country. The route passes through the islands and has incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, you will find great sandy beaches, excellent snorkeling, colorful coral reefs, a bunch of nature reserves and protected areas, and abundant marine life. John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, Long Key State Park in the Middle Keys and Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys have great campsites, excellent beaches and are worth a stopover.
The highlight of Overseas Highway road trip is the iconic Seven Mile Bridge, the longest bridge in a series of 42 bridges that constitute the Overseas Highway. The highly scenic drive along the narrow two-lane bridge is what makes this road trip most memorable. There are places to pull over and enjoy the view from both sides of the bridge. The Overseas Highway road trip is also a culinary adventure. Throughout the journey you will find many seafood shacks and restaurants serving fresh catches, small eateries excelling in the Cuban coffee, pastries, and sandwiches, different takes on the key lime pie, and local favorites including conch fritters and oysters.
Key West, the city at the end of the road, is vast and diverse. The perfect place to get acquainted with the laid-back Florida lifestyle, Key West has lots of things to do for families, couples as well as party-seekers. Watching the sunset celebrations in Mallory Square and seeing the city’s popular attractions including Hemingway’s house and the Southernmost point buoy will easily keep you busy for a couple of days. Your trip need not end here, you can also take a ferry ride to the Dry Tortugas National Park and explore Historic Fort Jefferson. Whichever way you chose to spend your time, the Overseas Highway is a road you will want to take again and again.
Seven Mile Bridge is the longest bridge on the Overseas Highway and has fantastic water views
Grand Circle Tour
The Grand Circle is a large area comprising of the scenic South Western states of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. Most of the road trips that originate in Las Vegas or Phoenix fall within the Grand Circle. National Parks and monuments including the Grand Canyon and clustered close together in the Grand Circle and you can plan literally hundred different road trips in this area. We have visited the Grand Circle on various occasions and one of our favorite itineraries to suggest to first-time visitors in the Grand Circle area is from Las Vegas to Phoenix through Grand Canyon and Sedona.
We recommend starting your road trip to Las Vegas where car rentals are available in plenty and cheap. Your first stop should be the Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is an arch dam built over the Colorado River. You can drive or walk for free on the Hoover Dam, park your car and take some cool photos, and if interested even take a behind the scenes Dam Tour that takes you right into the Dam passageways to take a closer look at its machinery.
From Hoover, head towards the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This rim is open throughout the year and is most visited among all the rims. Take a day or two to explore the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon is majestic and driving around the South Rim Road shows you the best vistas and epic scenery. We recommend stopping at all the different pullover points and taking in a few hiking trails to explore the canyon. Exit through the east rim road entrance and drive to Page, Arizona. On the way stop at Cameron Trading Post to understand Native American culture, dine on Navajo food, and buy some of the handicrafts.
You need to stay in Page for at least 1 day to explore the area’s attractions in full at a leisurely pace. The top things to do include Antelope Canyon guided tour and Horseshoe Bend. The Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a 1-mile round trip uphill hike with stunning views over the horseshoe-shaped meander (sharp, curvy turn) of the Colorado River. Antelope Canyon is the world famous slot canyon which can be seen only by guided tours. You can tour either the Upper Canyon or Lower Canyon or both; the canyon has beautiful vibrant colors and vivid shapes and is a photographer’s dream. If you have more time to spend in Page, you can also take in some activities at Lake Powell including a half day boat ride to visit the Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
Your final stop before arriving in Phoenix should be Sedona. Popular for its vibrantly colored crimson rocks, Sedona’s Red Rock State Park is the area’s most popular attraction. The state park has a large concentration of red rock formations. You can explore the stunning landscape by hiking, biking, or taking a jeep tour. The area’s Palatki Heritage Site has ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings and petroglyphs and is a great place to learn about the Hopi tribe. From Sedona, it’s a short drive of 2 hrs to Phoenix where you can either explore the city or take a flight back home.
Majestic views of the Grand Canyon are a highlight of the Grand Circle Tour
Utah’s Mighty 5
By Jennifer Melroy of National Park Obsessed
Few states are more blessed in terms of stunning National Parks than Utah. The state has 5 National Parks within 5-hour drive of each other and you can see them all on an incredible road trip that is part of the Grand Circle Tour. Start your epic Utah Road Trip in Moab. Spend a couple days hiking and backpacking in the Needles and Island in the Sky Districts of Canyonlands National Park. While still in Moab, head over to Arches National Park. Hike out to Landscape Arch, Delicate Arch and any of the other arches that suit your fancy.
A couple hours drive south-west is Utah’s most underrated national park, Capitol Reef National Park. This park is often overshadowed by its neighbors but has a great mixture of scenic views, canyons, arches, and orchards. The park offers great hiking in the canyon and after your hike, you can reward yourself with a Fruita pie and ice cream.
After exploring Capitol Reef for a couple of days, take on the “Hike the Hoodoos” Challenge in Bryce Canyon National Park. To complete the challenging hike, walk at least 3 miles of trail and collect 3 rubbings of the survey markers. I love to do the Figure 8 loop which combines the Peek-a-boo loop with the Navajo / Queen Combination.
End your trip on a high note by driving down to Zion National Park. Take at least two days to explore this national park. On the first day, get your feet wet and hike all or part of The Narrows. This hike can be as long or as short as you want it to be, just enjoy hiking in the Virgin River. Complete your epic Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip with a visit to Angel’s Landing. This 5-mile hike is a challenging hike with a wonderful view.
View of Zion National Park from Angels Landing trail (Photo: National Park Obsessed)
Trail of the Ancients
Another great drive in the Grand Circle area, the Trail of the Ancients is my personal favorite road trip in the region. The Trail of the Ancients is the nation’s only scenic byway that exclusively connects ancient archeological locations including the area’s National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites that exemplify the Ancestral Pueblo Culture. For the uninitiated, Ancestral Pueblo people were Native Americans living in the Four Corners area. Having given up their nomadic existence, the Pueblo people heavily relied on farming. They lived in settlements known as Pueblos, which in Spanish means village or town.
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is a great place to begin this road trip. The National Park has some of the country’s best-preserved cliff dwellings or pueblos built into the cliff side. Some of the cliff dwellings can be seen by climbing long ladders while other dwellings are built on top of each other, creating unique tiered structures. The large concentration of Ancestral Pueblos found in Mesa Verde has earned it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We recommend spending a day or two to explore the park.
Worth a brief stop after Mesa Verde is the Ute Tribal Park which is managed by the Ute tribe. The Native American guides are keen to share their ancestral heritage and traditions including art forms. From Ute Tribal Park, reach the Four Corners Monument. Four Corners is the only place in the country where 4 states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet at a single point. The Monument is managed by Native Americans and inside you will find beautiful handicrafts including turquoise jewelry, dreamcatchers, sand art, and sculptures for sale.
Next, you will drive through the Monument Valley. The Monument Valley is an incredible red rock and sand desert famous for its sandstone buttes that tower above the flat landscape. The area is protected by Monument Valley Navajo National Park and best toured by driving along the Valley Drive, a 17-mile long scenic drive. Monument Valley is a photographer’s paradise and the sweeping views are a highlight of this trip.
Complete your trip by visiting the Hovenweep National Monument, Canyon of the Ancient National Monument, and Crow Canyon Archeological Area located in close proximity to each other. Hovenweep area preserves 6 ancient Pueblo structures while the Canyon of the Ancients has a large concentration of the archeological ruins including pueblos, cliff dwellings, and stone towers. The Crow Canyon site is a great place for both adults and kids to tour an archeological site under excavation and join the dig members.
This unique road trip provides a practical history lesson along with stunning scenic views and lots of cultural perspectives and is a must for archeology lovers.
Mesa Verde’s ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Blue Ridge Parkway
By Paige Wunder of For the Love of Wanderlust
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect US drive if you’re looking for an epic 3-4 day road trip. The Blue Ridge Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. This 469-mile route takes you on top of and through the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. All along the drive, there are mountain overlooks, historical sites, and 100+ hiking trails. I highly recommend starting in Virginia and ending in North Carolina, where I think the views and trails are much more striking. I highly recommend taking as many hikes as possible because you’ll get more unique viewpoints, waterfalls, and wildflowers.
In addition to the gorgeous natural views, you pass through tiny mountain towns and even larger cities, like Asheville, North Carolina. I would highly recommend taking 4 days to do this drive because of all the amazing sites to see. The must-sees of the Blue Ridge Parkway are Linville Falls, Crabtree Falls, a pitstop in Asheville, North Carolina, Devil’s Courthouse and Skinny Dip Falls. Plus, you have to stop at just about every overlook you can see. Don’t forget to find great spots for sunrises and sunsets each day. It’s the best way to start and end each day of a truly epic road trip. If you love epic road trips, nature and mountain views, don’t miss out on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has highly scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountain ranges in North Carolina (Photo: For the love of Wanderlust)
The Great River Road
By Roxanna Keyes of Gypsy with a Day Job
When it comes to the Great American road trip, several come to mind, but one of my favorites is driving the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. The Great River Road follows the path of the Mississippi River from its humble beginnings at Lake Itasca State Park, in central Minnesota, where it is so shallow you can wade across, all the way to New Orleans, where it spreads over a huge delta and then pours into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Great River Road does not have the mountains or desert scenery that many associate with American road trips, but it does pass through many beautiful areas. There are palisades, bluffs, and scenic overlooks of the mighty Mississippi all along the way. The area is also known to have some of the largest nesting sites for bald eagles in the lower US.
The Great River Road captures the heartbeat of the US unlike any other road trip, and there is a bit of something for everyone. History lovers will find Native American sites and the National Civil Rights Museum interesting. There are remote Revolutionary locations, the site of the Civil War turning point, and of course the Gateway to the west. Literature fans can find the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Mansfield, and that of Mark Twain in Hannibal, while music lovers can explore the homes of Elvis Presley, Prince, Chuck Berry, and B.B. King, among others. For a taste of Americana, there are Paul Bunyan sites and quaint towns with iconic Main Streets. Shoppers have the Mall of America, and partiers have both Beale Street and the French Quarter.
And, while the Central US is not known for gourmet food, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some good eating along the way. The route passes through St. Louis and Memphis, both known for their barbecue, the tamale country in central Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as the home of Cajun specialties, in southern Louisiana.
View of the great Mississippi River from Lover’s Leap in Hannibal, Missouri (Photo: Gypsy with a Day Job)
South Dakota via Badlands Loop Road
This South Dakota Road Trip will highly appeal to those with a sense of adventure. The journey will take you through the Badlands Loop Road, Peter Norbeck Scenic Highway and highly scenic stretches of the Interstate 90 W. Begin your trip in Sioux Falls at the Falls Park where you can see the Big Sioux River tumble down over sandstone rocks. Next visit the unique roadside attraction of Mitchell’s Corn Palace. This is a building entirely decorated with corn and has beautiful murals and thematic representations which are updated each year.
Your next stop is the bizarre landscape of Badlands National Park. In our opinion, this is one of the most underrated national parks in the US. The very scenic Badlands Loop Road is the highlight of your visit here. The road has many viewpoints and overlooks over the Badlands and is a delight to drive. Expect to encounter wildlife along the way. You can also camp and hike at Badlands or check out the touristy Wall Drug.
Next, visit Custer State Park and drive along the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. This route is actually made up of 3 awesome roads: wildlife loop road is Custer State Park which is great for spotting wildlife, the Needles Highway which passes through cool geological formations called the Needles, and Iron Mountain road which is full of hairpin turns and tight tunnels. Driving the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is a thrilling adventure.
End your trip by visiting the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and see the carvings of the 4 US Presidents. You can hike the Presidential Trail and attend the evening lighting ceremony at the memorial.
Badlands Loop Road has amazing views of the dramatic Badlands landscape
Upper East Coast Road Trip
While I was living in Delaware, I completed this awesome upper East Coast road trip with my friends. We started in Boston where a friend was completing her MBA and explored the awesome city. In addition to checking out the city, I recommend going to Nantucket beach and touring Harvard. Then start driving down the coast to New York.
In the Big Apple, eat delicious cheap food, see the view from rooftop bars, and walk around Central Park, Wall Street, and Chinatown. You can easily spend a few days to a week in New York checking out all the attractions. After having fun in New York, we made a beeline for Philadelphia. We visited the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. We ate at the Reading Terminal market and discovered cool street festivals.
Then we went to Wilmington, where I was living at the time. In Wilmington, I suggest walking along the Delaware Riverfront and taking a small boat cruise. We also went to Brandywine Creek park area and the Delaware Art Museum. Your next stop should be Baltimore. We strolled along the Inner Harbor and tried Baltimore’s famous crab cakes. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the city since we were arriving in Washington DC just in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival; Baltimore does have a lot to offer and is worth a day or two.
Washington DC at the end of the road was a place I fell in love with and could have stayed there forever. We were lucky to see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom and it was a spectacular site. We spent two days at the National Mall and saw all the great monuments and memorials. We also visited the National Cathedral, US Capitol, and some of the Smithsonian museums. The city is full of history, culture and was the perfect end to our road trip.
The upper East Coast Road Trip from Boston to Washington DC is especially spectacular in spring
Civil Rights Road Trip
By Ryan Victor of Passions and Places
When you think about top travel destinations in the U.S., not many places in the South tend to make the cut. We’ve come to see the South as a region all Americans should visit if they have the chance though. In a country partially founded on slavery and inequality, we all have a responsibility to learn about the country’s past, especially those of us who’ve benefited from it. With the South as the site of a significant enslaved population and some of the most exploitative policies, it’s also the best place to learn about the history of slavery, the level of racism and discrimination that persisted in the country, and the Civil Rights Movement.
We visited the Deep South on a Civil Rights road trip, starting and ending in New Orleans (a city that might not be considered part of “the South” but that has a fascinating history all its own). From the Big Easy, we drove to Natchez and Jackson in Mississippi and to Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma in Alabama. Some of the must-sees on a historical road trip through the South include the Whitney Plantation near New Orleans, the Smith Robertson Museum in Jackson, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Vulcan Museum in Birmingham, the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, and the Voter Rights Museum in Selma. With more time, we’d definitely recommend adding Tennessee to the itinerary, too!
Visiting the Deep South on a road trip makes it easy to see more of the many towns with significant history and take your time exploring each one. Plus, with the unexpected landscapes and easy driving conditions in the areas we visited, road tripping there was a treat.
Four Spirits Statue in Birmingham, Alabama is dedicated to the victims of 16th Street Church bombing, an event which greatly spurred the passage of Civil Rights Act (Photo: Passions and Places)
Lake Michigan Circle Tour
Lake Michigan is the only great lake which is completely inside the US and you can circumnavigate it as part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. We completed this awesome trip over one summer week and fell completely in love with it. We completed the trip clockwise, however it is along possible to drive this route in an anticlockwise direction. There is so much to do along this route that you can even complete the trip in 2 weeks and still need to skip a few attractions.
We started and completed our trip in our hometown of Chicago, which is about the best start you can have. The Illinois part of this route is shortest but filled with activities. You can begin by spending a couple of days in Chicago and checking out the major tourist attractions of the Windy City. See your reflection on the Bean, stroll through downtown and along the river walk, take a lake cruise to see the skyline over the Lake. Eat some deep dish pizza and get ready for an early start the next day. Next, spend some time in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest city and famous for its breweries and a cool hip vibe. From Milwaukee drive up to Green Bay and enter the Door County. Door County comprises of the Door Peninsula on Lake Michigan and is incredibly scenic, especially in fall. The Door Peninsula has many lighthouses, organic farms, quaint beds and breakfasts, and state parks. Drive north from Door County and explore Michigan’s northern peninsula. The wildlife in this area is abundant and we saw deer, ducks, and moose crossing the road in broad daylight. The road follows US 2 here till you reach Mackinac Island.
Spend some time on this unique island where no cars are allowed and then continue south. On the way are some of Michigan’s top tourist attractions including Traverse City, Holland, Grand Haven, and Silver Lake Dunes area. We recommend stopping for a while in these towns, enjoying the local character and relaxing for a bit. The route then enters Indiana and take you through Gary – a deserted, abandoned town with empty houses and broken windows that firmly belongs in the Rust Belt. Next, the route goes through Indiana Dunes National Park. You can stop and camp here for a while and hike some trails before you get on your way back to Chicago.
On the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, you will find pretty lakeside communities and quaint lighthouses
Midwestern Winter Road Trip
Who would be crazy enough to do a Midwest road trip in winter? Us, right here at Dotted Globe. One Thanksgiving we took the whole week to drive through 10 Midwestern states and visited 10 major cities over the course of 10 days. This trip was all about urban exploration. The weather was perfect for exploring holiday events and Christmas lights and driving through the snowstorms, fog, and iced roads was fun.
We started from Chicago, drove all the way up to Detroit. In Detroit, we suggest checking out the art deco architecture, abandoned buildings, and street art. Check out the public art in downtown and if you wish, cross the bridge to Windsor, Canada. From Detroit, we drove to Cleveland, Ohio. In Cleveland, we recommend exploring the Downtown located on the shores of Lake Erie and visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Next up on our itinerary was Pennsylvania, especially Pittsburgh. We loved the hilly up and down streets and the views of Pittsburgh from the hilltops. We also drove a bit further from Pittsburgh to see Fallingwater, the famous house built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We both love FLW’s work and have visited several of his buildings in Illinois and Arizona. Seeing Fallingwater was a dream come true; the house is breathtaking in every way.
Next, we drove to Columbus. I enjoyed the wonderful bridges in this city and we also explored the Short North Arts District and the Scioto Mile area. Next up was Cincinnati with it’s pretty downtown, public art and Mt. Adams. We also crossed over into Kentucky for great views of Cincinnati downtown. Then we started driving West again and to Indianapolis. We checked out the big zoo with its zoo lights and explored downtown on foot. Des Moines, Iowa was our next stop. I especially loved the state capitol and surrounding area but we found Des Moines to be too quiet after all the previous cities.
Our second last stop, Minneapolis was charming with its sculpture garden and Mill ruins while St. Paul was also charming. We did some holiday shopping in the Great Mall of America and drove on to our last stop of Madison. We thoroughly enjoyed the university vibe and were ready to return to Chicago.
Beautiful Detroit Downtown in winter
Oregon Coast Highway 101
By Micki Kosman of The Barefoot Nomad
The Oregon Coast’s Highway 101 is at the top of road trip bucket lists for a good reason. It’s stunningly beautiful, there’s plenty of great food (and craft beer), and there’s a lot to do along the way. We started our trip in Astoria and drove South, but there’s no reason you couldn’t start at the California border and make your way North.
If Astoria sounds familiar, it’s for a good reason as its picturesque location and the striking steel frame architecture of the Astoria-Megler Bridge has attracted plenty of movies, including the Goonies and Kindergarten Cop. The pretty beach towns of Rockaway Beach and Garibaldi are just south of Astoria and house the historic Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. You’ll find the Tillamook Creamery just down the road. We stopped for a few days in Lincoln City, one of the most popular small towns along the coast. There’s plenty of pretty scenery, long beaches perfect for beach-combing, plus many cool shops.
Moving south, Depoe Bay is one of the best places in Oregon to watch whales, with a peak season from mid-December to mid-January. Leaving Depoe Bay, stop by the Devil’s Punchbowl for a spectacular display of the power of the Pacific Ocean. Nye Beach and nearby Newport are the perfect places to grab a bowl of fresh chowder or try the local specialty, Dungeness crab.
Heading south, Highway 101 has more spectacular views in store at Cape Perpetua, Florence, and the Heceta Head Lighthouse. If there are kids or adventure lovers in your group, you’ll want to stop at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, which is the largest stretch of coastal sand dunes in North America. Nearing the California border, you’ll find the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a stunning 12 mile stretch with spectacular stone formations like Arch Rock and Natural Bridges.
Stunning views along Oregon Coast Highway 101 (Photo: The Barefoot Nomad)
Amish Country Scenic Byway
By Jessica Norah of Independent Travel Cats
A great weekend road trip is the Amish Country Byway in Ohio. This 160-mile stretch has been officially designated as a scenic byway and is located within northeastern Ohio. In fact, every major road within Holmes County is part of a scenic byway, so you should be OK even if you make a wrong turn! This area is best known for its large Amish and Mennonite communities, rolling hills, and tranquil scenery of rural life and small towns. In addition to admiring the scenery, you can learn about the Amish culture, try traditional homestyle cooking, buy local arts and crafts, visit a petting zoo, tour a traditional Amish farmhouse, see the world’s largest cuckoo clock, and stay in cozy B&Bs. Check out our guide for things to do in Ohio’s Amish Country.
Although most popular in the summer, it is a great drive year round. In the autumn, it is a great place to enjoy the fall colors and in the winter, there are holiday events throughout December. We also recommend driving through the neighboring counties of Stark and Wayne for more scenery and things to do. The drive can be done in one day but it is recommended that you do it over 2 to 3 days to have time to really explore the area and stop at the attractions. Just be sure to take the road slowly and with caution as you will be sharing it with horses and buggies and people on horseback! This is a perfect weekend or long weekend drive and is great for families.
On this unique road trip, you will be passing Amish horse-drawn buggies and farmlands (Photo: Independent Travel Cats)
Northern California Road Trip
By Constance Panda of The Adventures of Panda Bear
It’s difficult to say which piece of the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) in California is most beautiful, but it’s safe to say that the drive from Mendocino via Fort Bragg to Humboldt Redwoods State Park is one of the most picturesque stretches in the United States. The dramatic coastal cliffs and the gigantic coastal redwoods are a sight to be seen! From San Francisco, the mileage on this road trip only covers approximately 260 miles but I recommend taking several days since you’ll be too busy hiking and taking in all the natural sights to road trip any quicker.
Driving north along the Highway 1, you’ll pass by the coastal towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg. Mendocino is a sleepy town with a cutesy downtown area full of shops and cafes. But it also has tons of natural sights to offer! For beautiful cliffside views typical of the Northern California coast, take a hike around Mendocino Headlands State Park. Don’t forget to check out the cute, little redwoods at the Pygmy Forest in Little River or the nearby lighthouse at Point Cabrillo.
Fort Bragg is home to the Insta-famous Glass Beach full of sea glass from previous generations’ poor decisions. Continue further north to Leggett for the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree and Humboldt Redwoods State Park for some beautiful redwood hikes and the Avenue of the Giants. The Avenue of the Giants is a 31-mile stretch of the old Highway 101 and takes you through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park and between some of the largest redwoods in California. Be sure to check out Founders Grove and Rockefeller Forest hikes where you’ll see insanely large trees both living and fallen.
Within this 100 mile piece of the Pacific Coast Highway, you can trek along the coast and hike amidst the redwoods. You can even drive further north to Redwood National and State Parks for some of the largest redwoods on the Earth. Definitely make this a part of your road trip through California!
Panoramic views of the Pacific from Mendocino Headlands State Park on a Northern California Road Trip (Photo: The Adventures of Panda Bear)
Southeast Coastal Road Trip
By Laurence Norah of Finding the Universe
The South of the USA is a fantastic place for a multi-day road trip, offering everything from historic plantations to visit through beautiful cities, fantastic food, and legendary hospitality.
My suggestion for a road trip of the south is to spend a few days exploring the south-east coast of the USA, specifically South Carolina, and Georgia. Start your trip in Charleston, a port city which was founded in 1670, and which is rich in history. With cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriage tours, this was also the place where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired. You can still visit the location of those shots at Fort Sumter, which is well worth the visit. More modern military enthusiasts will want to head to Patriots Point, home of a number of American military vehicles and vessels, including the massive WW2 era USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, which you can now tour.
From Charleston, you’ll want to head south down the coast. I can recommend stopping along the way at one of the beautiful plantation homes, perhaps Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, to learn a bit about this time in American history. Other highlights in the area before you head further south are Folly Beach and the ancient Angel Oak tree.
Next stop on your tour will be the city of Savannah, in the state of Georgia. This is another port city with a beautiful historic downtown area and plenty of attractions, including a wonderful old cemetery and lots of historic homes to visit. For more inspiration, see our guide to things to do in Savannah. From Savannah, it’s a fun day trip out to Tybee Island, a popular beach resort that also has a number of attractions. I’d then suggest heading further on down the coast to some of the beautiful islands along the coast, such as Jekyll Island, to complete your trip.
On your southeast coastal road trip, take a horse-drawn carriage tour around historic Charleston (Photo: Finding The Universe)
Portland to Yellowstone
By Cath at BattleMum
Two places in Northwest America we wanted to visit were Portland and Yellowstone. Initially, we thought we’d need to visit them separately. That was until I checked a map and saw that they weren’t a million miles away from each other, just over 800 miles to be exact and could be combined in a road trip from Portland to Yellowstone. But with a young child in tow, it was too far to travel in one run. So, we broke the first trip into two days, getting to Yellowstone as fast as we could.
On our road trip from Portland, we stopped in Richland, Washington overnight to break up the drive. We passed through some amazing scenery and drove big roads, big for us Europeans. We drove along the Columbia River Gorge, passed by the stunning Coeur d’Alene in Montana, and soon got our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains as we approached Yellowstone.
After a few unbelievable days in Yellowstone, it was time to make the return trip to Portland. This time we planned to take it slower and our first port of call was in Missoula, Montana. We had planned to visit Lolo National Park, but forest fires had closed it and we had to find other things to occupy our few days in this surprising town.
Next up was another overnight in Richland before making our way to Portland. However, the whole journey back to Portland was one spent driving through smoke. And we had to change our route into Portland as the Gorge drive was closed due to fires. It did mean we got to see some of Mount Hood as we drove around the mountain into the city. It was an epic two weeks and has given us a bug for road trips.
Madison River in Yellowstone National Park (Photo: Battlemum)
Alaska Road Trip
By Patricia Pagenel of Ze Wandering Frogs
When it comes to exploring some of the most stunning landscapes in the US, Alaska should be on the top list of any road trips. Where else can you experience small seaside communities, a chance of getting close to glaciers, either by hiking, flightseeing or cruising, and opportunities of admiring incredible wildlife in their natural habitats? Of course, the weather is a crucial element when exploring Alaska. While winter a is a great time to experiment extreme cold, it’s also perfect for the adventurers who want to snowmobile and dog sleds over the frozen terrains. Summertime offers a broader range of travel opportunities, where the roads can be driven without any problem from June to September.
The longer you will stay in Alaska, the more you will appreciate it, but even if you have limited time, you can still see some of the top attractions in the state. For a short Alaska 7-day itinerary, we recommend the following route. On Day 1, drive from Anchorage to Denali and admire the scenic landscape along the way. Spend Day 2 in Denali National Park hiking or exploring with the park bus, or take a local flight close to Mount Denali. Day 3 will see you driving back from Denali to Anchorage. On Day 4, take the time to explore Anchorage, by visiting the Anchorage Native Heritage Center or the Anchorage Museum, and shopping for Alaska homemade products. Day 5 takes you to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, and along the way, visit the Alaska SeaLife Center or Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, or hike the national forests of the peninsula. While in Seward, plan your Day 6 to explore the Kenai Fjords National park, where you can hike to Exit Glacier, go on one of the ranger-guided programs, cruise along the Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay, or go on a flightseeing tour to see the glaciers from high above. Lastly, Day 7 takes you to Whittier, the place to go on a cruise in Prince William Sound and explore Portage Glacier, before returning to Anchorage.
Thanks to the long hours of summer, plenty of lights will let you travel the vast distances. Be mindful of the wildlife and respect all safety guidelines national parks or local authorities are provided, as much for your own safety as for the animals that need to stay wild.
Awesome views while driving through Denali National Park (Photo: Ze Wandering Frogs)
Highway 2 across Montana
By Lisa of TheHotFlashPacker
One of the longest stretches of roads across any one state is Highway 2 across the northern part of Montana. I wasn’t sure how many miles there were before undertaking this massive drive, but the last mile marker I saw was 667. The drive from west to east starts in the wildlife-rich area of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and has many things to do across the state. You will drive through old logging towns and through Kalispell, the largest city in Montana that’s on Highway 2.
Next, you will reach the grandeur of Glacier National Park. Highway 2 does not go thru the park but crosses the southern border of the park. It’s well worth the detour to visit the national park, and for a few short months every summer you can traverse the Going to the Sun road thru the middle of Glacier Park. Driving east, you will be on the high flatlands with magnificent views of the Rocky peaks in your rearview mirror for many, many miles.
The eastern 2/3 of the state is primarily wheat fields. Watch for antelope and coyotes. There’s not a massive number of things to do in the eastern part of the state but look for roadside attractions like the Cut Bank Penguin, the Underground city in Havre, and dinosaur statues outside of Glasgow. Lastly, don’t miss the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs in the northeastern part of the state. It’s the only hot springs in this part of the country.
Highway 2 across Montana has views of snow-capped Rocky Mountain ranges (Photo: TheHotFlashPacker)
Which of these road trips have you been on? Where would you like to go next? Let us know in comments!