Are you planning to road trip the US in a top-down car this summer? Then read our epic list of best convertible drives in the US: including Apache Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Death Valley, Napa Valley, Overseas Highway, and many more! All these drives are the perfect excuse to roll down the top and feel the breeze as you enjoy the magnificent scenery.
Also Read: 10 Best Fall Drives in the US
First a little about why we are obsessed with top-down cars: growing up in India, the hubby’s and my first road trips as teenagers were on motorbikes and scooters. We drove through the beautiful Western Ghats, stopped at roadside shacks and eateries, and had fun on the open roads. After moving to the US, we transitioned to car road trips and our love for the roads continued unabated. However we both loved and missed the feeling of wind in our hair, being able to smell the fresh air, and panoramic views on our surroundings – and that’s when it hit us – convertible road trips!
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Now when the fancy hits us, we rent a convertible car and let down our hair. We have had some great roof down road trips including the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Dunes Drive in White Sands National Monument, Tamiami Trail in Florida, Overseas Highway road trip, and Las Vegas to Death Valley drive. Recently we went on a quest to find the prettiest roads for convertible trips and I enlisted the help of my fellow bloggers to find the best convertible road trips in America.
Single lane bridge on the Apache Trail (Photo: One Trip at a Time)
APACHE TRAIL NEAR PHOENIX, ARIZONA
By Stacey At One Trip At A Time
The Apache Trail runs for about 40 miles east of Phoenix towards Apache Junction along the edge of the Superstition Mountains to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam and is one of Arizona’s most scenic drives. Whilst the drive is relatively short, it packs a lot of punch. Moreover, the road is unpaved for about half the length, so progress is probably not as rapid as you might think. The trail starts around the Ghost Town of Goldfield which is a reconstruction of a gold mining town from the 1890s. From there the road is still paved and easy going until you get to Canyon Lake. At Canyon Lake, you will encounter the first of a few single-lane bridges that you will traverse.
Tortilla Flat, the last surviving former stagecoach stop on the trail, is now a Wild West themed tourist attraction offering a restaurant, saloon and gift shop. Leaving Tortilla Flat, the road starts to climb and it’s just before its highest point that the pavement abruptly ends and you find yourself driving on an unpaved road. For us, this was where the fun of the trail really started! With great scenery and the roof down on the car, we could enjoy everything that was around us and found ourselves looking in all directions to take in the amazing beauty of the mountains. The road stayed like that until we arrived at Theodore Roosevelt Dam and lake. From the lake, you can visit the Tonto National Monument, a short drive away.
We had originally planned to head back to Phoenix via the highway but we spontaneously decided to drive the Apache trail again in the opposite direction. We were soon glad we did this because the sun was now much lower in the sky and the sunlight reflected on the mountains looked stunning. For us, this made the scenery on the return drive even better than the way out.
Beautiful views along the Apache Trail (Photo: One Trip at a Time)
NAPA VALLEY AND SONOMA, CALIFORNIA
While we have been lucky enough to drive around Napa Valley in a friend’s convertible, we have never taken this classic road Sonoma coast road trip through manicured vineyards, crumbling buildings, shining lakes, and gorgeous beaches. And that’s why I’m happy to include this by Shweta, who actually did the drive in a convertible and considers it to be one of the most scenic drives in Northern California.
By Shweta Singhal of Zest in a Tote
On a recent trip to US West coast, we were spending a weekend in northern California’s wine country in Napa Valley and Sonoma. We had booked a car at the San Francisco airport and to our delight were upgraded to a convertible. Not just any convertible, but a brand new Mustang! Talk about luck! After putting our light luggage in the boot and strapping our 7-year-old daughter, we were all set to go. The initial drive on the freeway with cars zooming across on both sides was a bit rattling in the convertible but we soon realized the benefits of having the top down once we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The views of the San Francisco Bay and the hills in the distance were so amazing with the top down.
Then we cruised down California State Route 29 and the views became even better as we turned towards Sonoma. Think vast grasslands interspersed with terraced vineyards and rolling hills. The beautifully landscaped grounds and historic buildings looked picturesque from the car. The sunny weather was perfect to drive with the top down. Wind in my hair, sun in my eyes, I will always remember this drive through Sonoma County and Napa Valley.
Roads through the vineyards of Napa Valley are perfect for a top-down car
BIG SUR AND CARMEL, CALIFORNIA
by Chris at Explore Now or Never
There’s perhaps no better way to enjoy a sunny day with the top down than meander along California’s world-famous and stunning central coast. It’s a bucket list drive for sure. If you’re looking to rent a convertible, you can find one in the walkable little college town of San Luis Obispo. Once on the road, it’s three hours past crashing waves and sea lions from to the unforgettable Big Sur.
After being recently closed for 18 months due to mudslides, Big Sur is now open for through traffic once again, which means brisk business at its world-famous coastal resorts. What makes this drive so memorable are the awesome 180-degree views — the brilliant Pacific Ocean framed against the spectacular and jagged central coast — as you watch the waves crash below from high up on the cliffs and drive over incredible bridges. We recommend making time for a short day hike to McWay Falls at a minimum. You can also choose from dozens of other delightful hikes. Or make a hard right off California One into the giant redwood forest. (Tip: Visit any time besides May and June to avoid being fogged in!)
Stunning views of the Pacific Coast on a Big Sur road trip (Photo: Explore Now or Never)
Then continue north to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where the rich and famous stay and play. (While you’re on your way north, consider stopping for a walk through beautiful Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.) Carmel is home to cute flowered and thatched cottages, luxury shopping, and art galleries galore. Also memorable restaurants! (Stop for a pre-dinner drink at Clint Eastwood’s famous rustic dive, The Hog’s Breath Inn.)
But most of all, don’t miss the epic and worldwide renowned 17-mile drive that links Carmel and Monterey and is home to the famed Pebble Beach golf course. You’ll pay a fee to drive this super scenic stretch — and see the famous Lone Cypress tree standing sentry over the ocean — but you’ll also receive a map guiding you to all the can’t-miss points of interest along the way, like Restless Sea, Bird Rock, and the Inn at Spanish Bay. The Big Sur to Carmel stretch of California’s Highway 1 makes the perfect convertible weekend or one-day road trip.
Also Read: 20 Classic American Road Trips
The incredible Road to Hana in Hawaii (Photo: The World Pursuit)
ROAD TO HANA, HAWAII
By Natasha At The World Pursuit
There definitely isn’t a better road trip to take in the US in an open car than the Hana Highway on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The Road to Hana is a famous drive to the small town of Hana. It showcases the beautiful and stunning coastline of Maui and winds through amazing forests. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of waterfalls, unique gems, and great road trip stops to check out. This road trip is best done in a convertible so you can get some sunshine and fresh air along the way!
The Road to Hana is at the minimum a full day adventure and I would recommend leaving early in the morning so you have enough time to enjoy each stop. Plan in advance where you want to stop at the points of interests as it would be impossible to see everything in a day. Or take a couple of days to cruise on this route. I would also recommend bringing food along as there are not many restaurants along the road. Lastly, leave before 9 so that you get ahead of the crowds and tour buses.
Read more about 10 Cool Road Trips in the world at The World Pursuit
There is nothing better than being on the open roads in an open car!
BLUEBONNET TRAIL, TEXAS
Bluebonnets are the Texas state flower and every spring we go on a road trip to find fields full of the baby blue blooms. While the official Bluebonnet Trail is around Ennis, we have explored far and wide around Texas hill country and San Antonio in search for big flowering fields. Along with the Bluebonnets, you can also see other Texas wildflowers including Indian paintbrushes and primroses. The Texan landscape looks stunning with the colorful wildflowers and the road trip experience is magnified with an open car.
With the roof down, this drive is the ultimate countryside adventure. The spring breeze is perfect in the hair and the views of endless fields of wildflowers take your breath away. Along the way, you will also encounter undulating hills, abandoned buildings, Texas ranches and horses, cattle, unused railroad tracks, pretty lakes, and vineyards. Having the top down you can enjoy the tranquil views and incredible photo ops from the comfort of your car.
On the way, you will find quaint towns full of character like Brennan, Fredericksburg, and Burnet. We suggest stopping in these places and eating with the locals. You can also step in into the local bars and have a cold beer. There are many inviting B&Bs, farmhouses, and rustic cabins to stop for the night. The next morning, you can continue your quest for OMG fields of blooming wildflowers. If you plan your trip right you can also attend the Ennis Bluebonnet Festival, one of the best spring festivals in Texas. The perfect time to take this trip is from March to May when the flowers are in bloom.
Field full of Bluebonnets in the Hill Country of Texas
SCENIC HIGHWAY 30A, FLORIDA
Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A is located parallel to the Gulf Coast along Florida’s panhandle. The road literally hugs the coastline and connects excellent beach after beach in South Walton including Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, and Panama City Beach. The length of this drive is just 24 miles but it has enough to keep you busy for a weekend. This stretch of Florida’s coast has beautiful white sand beaches. Coastal dune lakes present along the shoreline are also a great tourist attraction. The towns located along the byway are vibrant communities with colorful local life and vivid architecture.
The scenery along this road is beautiful with turquoise water views, swaying plan trees, and state parks. The state parks, nature reserves, and other natural areas are great for wildlife sightings. Also along the way are restaurants and bars serving fresh seafood and refreshing drinks. The colorful beach communities have a bevy of eclectic shops, markets, and cafes that cater to all tastes.
View at Grayton State Park along Scenic 30A
OVERSEAS HIGHWAY, FLORIDA KEYS
Without a doubt the most stunning trip in the US, the Overseas Highway is even more fun in a convertible. We drove from Miami to Key West road trip in a Mustang convertible and thoroughly enjoyed the ocean winds and the fresh breeze. We were also privy to some exceptional views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Coast.
Read More: How to plan the Overseas Highway Road Trip
The Overseas Highway goes through some of the most beautiful landscape of the Florida Keys and unique roadside attractions are present at regular intervals. We suggest snorkeling at John Pennekamp in Key Largo and taking in the colorful marine life of the archipelago. The Keys are full of beautiful state parks like Bahia Honda where you can hike, swim, and relax.
The Seven Mile Bridge is where you will be really glad to have the car with its top down. This is the longest bridge on the Overseas Highway and very scenic. The bridge has beautiful views of the crystal clear blue water as you drive across it. We could have almost 180-degree views from the comfort of our car and enjoyed cruising down the bridge as we listened to some great music.
Key West is the end of the road but the fun has just begun. Enjoy the nightlife of Duval Street and see the sunset in Mallory Square. Explore the old town of Key West and eat a good old Cuban sandwich. Drink some Cuban coffee and take a photo with the southernmost mile buoy. Good times are up ahead!
Turquoise waters on an Overseas Highway Road Trip
PETER NORBECK SCENIC BYWAY, SOUTH DAKOTA
One of the most underrated scenic byways in the country, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, should ideally be done on a motorcycle. The next best option is a sporty convertible that will easily conquer the twisting turns and tunnels of this Scenic Byway. Considered among the top 10 scenic byways in America, this road actually consists of 3 routes: Iron Mountain Road, the Needles Highway, and Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park.
The Iron Mountain Road is an engineering marvel, hugging the tight sloped and contours of the Black Hills of South Dakota. It has looping bridges and narrow tunnels that make driving it a sheer delight. A convertible will help you a lot here: the powerful engine will make the turns a breeze and the top down car will make you appreciate the road structure and location. The Needles Highway passes through breathtaking geological formations which look stunning without the interruption of the car roof.
Read More: South Dakota road trip itinerary
The wildlife loop is however where we will recommend keeping the top closed all the way unless you want a bison or deer nosing inside the car. Located inside Custer State Park, this stretch of the scenic byway has incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. If you have a convertible in this part of South Dakota, we also suggest adding in Badlands Loop Road to your itinerary and fully enjoy the rental car.
The sheer beauty and wildness of Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is simply better in a convertible
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
The Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is highly regarded as one of the best American road trips. The parkway looks spectacular in all seasons but truly shines in the fall and this is when driving through the area in an open roof car is so worth it.
Also Read: 10 Amazing Fall Drives in the US
The Blue Ridge Parkway has frequent lookovers and pull out stops, waterfalls and scrambling hikes, and attractions like the Grandfather Mountain. Driving along the parkway at a leisurely pace in a convertible, you will be the envy of everyone else, with your access to beautiful views and foggy and windy atmosphere. The parkway offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge mountain ranges.
The many communities located along the drive have festivals and events in fall and a vibe that is casual yet trendy. Many charming lodges and cottages are located along the parkway and are perfect for spending a night.
Blue Ridge Parkway looks spectacular in fall
LAS VEGAS TO DEATH VALLEY
If you have to rent a convertible, Las Vegas is actually one of the cheapest places to do so – which works out perfectly because the Grand Circle area surrounding the Sin City is full of dramatic landscapes and beautiful roads. However, one of my favorite road trips from Vegas is outside the Grand Circle and to Death Valley National Park.
Your first stop on this trip will be at Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. I suggest walking across the dam and admiring its skilled engineering. Then drive across the new viaduct bridge across the Hoover Dam, read the interpretative information exhibits, and take in the fine views. Spend some time at Lake Mead if you want then get back on the road towards Death Valley.
Exploring the dramatic landscape of Death Valley National Park
The road to Death Valley is quite dramatic and passes through the Nevada desert, abandoned ghost towns, and casinos located in the midst of nowhere. Inside Death Valley, you will drive along the Badwater Road. The road goes on over undulating hills for miles and the panoramic view from a convertible is brilliant. Next, you can visit the Mesquite Sand Dunes area to view the glistening sand dunes or drive along the Artist’s Drive Loop and explore the vividly colored walls of the canyon, aptly named the Artist’s Palette.
Do you know of any other spectacular roads that are just made for cruising in a convertible car? Let us know in comments!