Want to go on a safe and healthy summer road trip while still practicing social distancing? Here are the best places in the USA to plan a road trip this holiday season including remote and inaccessible destinations, hidden gems, and stunning natural areas. You might also like our post on Essential Tips to Plan a Safe and healthy Road Trip this summer.
There is nothing more American than a road trip. From Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ to Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’; the cross country road trip has played a major part in shaping our recreational goals. In fact, what was the Oregon Trail but a long and perilous journey in wagons and carriages!
And now, suddenly all travel is on the verge of a complete stop due to the global crisis. Well almost. Things are slowly opening up and airlines say it is safe to fly but many prefer not to take the risk of being in close contact with others at the moment. And hence, road trips continue to be one of the safest ways to travel this summer.
You can sit in the comfort of your car, safe with the people you know. You can pack your own food and cookout in the open. You can sleep under the stars and not worry about whether your bed was sanitized before you arrived. You can call your RV your home and take it to exotic places and landscapes. You can get out in the wilderness and stay miles away from everyone else – forget the minimum 6 feet distance!
You can teach the kids about Planet Earth by seeing unique geological formations, spotting wildlife, and going on scavenger hunts. Much better than being cooped up at home with a TV screen. You can take a relaxing break and indulge in much-needed self-care while still being safe. Only if you could find such a remote place and keep it a secret!
Best Social Distancing Family Vacations & Road Trips Ideas
Thankfully, many such destinations exist in the USA and almost all of them are perfect for a safe and healthy road trip this summer. Are you looking for ideas and suggestions as well as detailed road trip itineraries? We got your back! Here is the ultimate list of parks, memorials, and states to visit this summer for a post virus road trip:
South Dakota’s Black Hills and Badlands
Our eternal favorite. On our first trip, we simply fell in love with South Dakota. This is a hidden gem of a state and has many bucket list attractions including the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Badlands National Park. If you are looking to find a place that everyone isn’t going to, Then you can do no better than South Dakota.
Drive the scenic Badlands Loop Road and hike the Notch trail to see beautiful badlands formations. Then camp in Custer State Park and see amazing wildlife on the Wildlife Loop Road. For some adventure, drive through the granite tunnels of Iron Mountain Road and go rock scrambling near the Needles Eye on Needles Highway.
Finally, visit the iconic Mount Rushmore and be inspired by its history. Walk on the Avenue of the Flags and find your state. See how the carvings were made at the Visitor Center. And oh yes, definitely try the vanilla ice cream based on Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe!
If you have more time visit other attractions like the Wall Drug, Mitchell Corn Palace, Sioux Falls Park, and Crazy Horse Memorial. Read our South Dakota road trip itinerary to plan this trip.
Northern California Road Trip
If you’re living in California and wondering where to go for a summer vacation, then try the less visited and remote north coast. This is a totally different part of California, one that will blow your mind away. It is perfect for those living in the Bay Area as you simply have to take Highway 1 and 101 up north for as long as you want.
Go hiking at Point Reyes and eat the oysters in Tomales Bay. Go on a romantic road trip in Mendocino and Fort Bragg. To see the majestic coastal redwoods visit the redwoods national and state parks up north. Drive on the Avenue of the Giants Scenic Byway and hike the prehistoric Fern Canyon. Explore hidden beaches and coves along the Northern California coast.
But this trip need not be just about the coast. You can also visit the Cascade ranges in Northern California, one of the least visited outdoor attractions in the state. Spend a delightful day in Mount Shasta City. Hike to waterfalls and take panoramic pictures of the landscape.
This is an area of intense geothermal activity. Road trip Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway and explore attractions such as Lava Beds National Monument and Lassen Volcanic National Park. You can see everything from active volcanoes, lava caves, craters, and hot mud pools. While you’re in the area see the cascading Burney Falls, a beautiful waterfall in MacArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.
Throughout your trip, you will see very few other visitors, just stunning nature and wildlife for miles. To plan this epic road trip through the Redwood trees and volcanoes, read our ultimate Northern California road trip guide now.
Washington’s Olympic Peninsula
Yet another less visited tourist attraction on the West Coast! Washington’s Olympic Peninsula lies across Puget Sound from Seattle and contains the Northwesternmost point in the country. This trip is perfect for those in the Pacific Northwest. You can even make an easy day trip from Seattle or go on a multi-day road trip covering the Olympic Peninsula Loop Road.
On the Olympic Peninsula, you will find miles and miles of wild Pacific Coastline, spectacular beaches, amazing marine life and wildlife, and a wide diversity of natural attractions from hot springs to ice-cold lakes and from sea stacks to ice-capped peaks. Enjoy glorious sunsets on the beaches such as Shi Shi Beach, Ruby Beach, and Rialto Beach.
Try a white variety of seafood and tour charming lighthouses. Visit the Makah Reservation Museum to understand the Makah Indian culture and hike out to Cape Flattery. Wizard delightful coastal towns such as Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks. Camp by the lakeside at Lake Crescent and see the Roosevelt elks at Lake Quinault.
And of course, you must visit the stunning Olympic National Park. Take a dip in the Olympic Hot Springs or see the spectacular wildflowers and mountain views at Hurricane Ridge. Then see the highlight of the entire Olympic Peninsula, the Hoh Rainforest. This rainforest is filled with giant trees that grow over 300 ft and thick mosses that drape everything in sight. The rainforest is an enchanting place and a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that! Hike the Hall of Mosses trail to see the rainforest in a short time.
To plan a stunning loop road trip around the Olympic Peninsula that covers all the above attractions as well as the Washington State Capitol at Olympia, read our Olympic Peninsula Loop Road Trip itinerary.
Lake Tahoe Summer Vacation
Yet another California road trip! Visit the stunning Lake Tahoe and take a loop road trip around it. This beautiful freshwater lake is located on the border of California and Nevada and is a great road trip for those living nearby. Plan a romantic weekend getaway at Lake Tahoe or go on a fun family vacation to enjoy the beautiful lake.
Lake Tahoe is gorgeous: its crystal clear water, amazing beaches, hiking and biking trails, and scenic drives are perfect to spend time outside in the fresh air and destress yourself. But it’s not just about nature. You will also find fine dining, nightlife, entertainment, and even casinos on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
While you are there you must definitely drive the loop road. Lake Tahoe is huge and has over 70 miles of shoreline. The route passes near the shore in some places and high above the lake in others. So you can see the lake from several different vantage points. Bring along a camera to take panoramic shots of the lake.
Hike along the rim trail to experience more stunning views. Many state parks are located along the lakeshore including Van Sickle Bi-State Park and Emerald Bay State Park. You can also kayak or paddleboard on the lake or go fishing. Parasail over Lake Tahoe to see bird’s eye views of the emerald lake.
Texas Gulf Coast road trip
If you want to plan a beach vacation but still stay away from the crowds, then plan a road trip along the Gulf Coast of Texas. This area is popular for its beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, charming coastal towns, and lots of water sports.
Keep in mind that the beaches get more beautiful as you go south. That means the Galveston Island State Park Beach and the Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula are nowhere near as beautiful as the beaches at Mustang Island State Park and Padre Island National Seashore.
Along the way, you will find several natural areas including Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. You can spot alligators, deer, dolphins, sea turtles, and birds including cranes, ospreys, and pelicans. See charming lighthouses along the coast including Lydia Ann Lighthouse in Aransas Pass and the Port Isabel Lighthouse which is open to tours.
And of course, at the southernmost point, you will find South Padre Island, an amazing resort city with great family-friendly beaches. There are many things to do on the island and neighboring Port Isabel including dolphin watching tours, birding trails, building sandcastles, and camping over sand dunes.
Grand Tetons National park
Visiting Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is a life-changing adventure. Due to its remote location and proximity to more popular national parks, this park is often overlooked and is perfect for a camping summer vacation. All the park roads are open in the summer making this a perfect time to visit the park.
The National Park has beautiful alpine scenery with craggy mountain peaks, pretty lakes, and flower-filled meadows. It is a paradise for hikers, photographers, and nature lovers. The park also has abundant wildlife and you can easily spot deer, bison, and elk in the park. Take a drive along the scenic Teton Park Road to make the most of the park in a short time.
And you need not even keep it limited to Grand Teton National Park. You can easily combine the Tetons with Yellowstone and Jackson Hole for an amazing week-long road trip. However, bear in mind that Yellowstone stone is one of the most popular national parks in the country and it’s most popular attractions including old faithful might be very crowded.
Central Texas road trip
Living in Houston, this is one of our favorite road trips when we can’t travel to other destinations. In Central Texas, you will find plenty of charming towns, outdoor activities, and opportunities for water sports.
We love starting our trip in Brenham and seeing the beautiful murals and the historic downtown. Then visit the Blue Bell Creamery and see Independence Hall in Washington-on-Brazos, the birthplace of Texas. Brenham is technically not in Central Texas but so beautiful that you must visit.
Then go to Austin and see the State Capitol. Usually, we would recommend seeing the Bat Bridge and enjoying the city’s music and nightlife, but if you prefer being outdoors right now then visit the Hamilton Pool or Turkey Creek Trail. Then visit Fredericksburg, famous for its German heritage.
North of Fredericksburg, you will find Enchanted Rock State Scenic Area. You can go hiking, rock climbing, and just enjoy the outdoors. If all the Texas heat is making you long for water, then go river tubing in New Braunfels. Or hike the waterfalls at Pedernales Falls State Park in central Texas.
End your trip in San Antonio, right by the Riverwalk. Take a cruise along the San Antonio River, stroll hand in hand with your partner over the Riverwalk bridges, and enjoy a Tex-Mex dinner with tableside guacamole at one of the Riverwalk restaurants. Finally, visit Alamo and immerse yourself in Texas’s history.
Coastal Oregon Road Trip
Another great social distancing road trip in the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon Coast is filled with beautiful state parks scenic drives and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, sand dunes, crabbing, and clamming. It is the ultimate destination for outdoor lovers.
The Oregon Coast is a strange beast. It has everything from the redwoods trees and coastal cliffs to wide expansive beaches and towering sand dunes. On a road trip along the coast, you will be rewarded with unique geological landforms such as Thor’s Well, Devil’s Churn, and Spouting Horn. You will spot a lot of marine life including whales, seals, and sea otters.
However, the coast is not just for backpackers and RVers. It is also for city people, those who like to stay in charming hotels, see cultural and family-friendly attractions, and eat haute cuisine. Plan a getaway in the romantic coastal town of Cannon Beach or spend a weekend in Newport. For history lovers, nothing is better than the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park at Fort Clatsop.
If traveling from the south, go all the way north to Astoria and then turn inland towards Portland. Explore this vibrant city and its amazing culinary scene. then take a day trip down the historic river Columbia Scenic byway and visit the highlight of Oregon, Multnomah Falls. To plan this road trip along the Oregon coast, read our Oregon road trip planner here.
Florida’s Tamiami Trail
If you are wondering if there’s any place in Florida that won’t be crowded and can be visited now, then Tamiami Trail is your answer. This two-lane road trail connects Florida’s Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast in the southern part of the peninsula.
The official road is Highway 41 and the route is 275 miles long. It starts in Tampa, where you should begin your visit. Check the city’s attractions, then take a detour to nearby Tarpon Springs, a charming Florida town with Greek heritage. We absolutely love the vibrant atmosphere, sponge boat tours, and Greek food in this town.
Then head south of the Tamiami Trail. Take a detour at Sanibel Island. Enjoy the shelling beaches and the Sanibel Island Lighthouse. We spent two fun days on Sanibel Island and loved this charming holiday destination on Florida’s Gulf Coast. You can also take a day trip to nearby Captiva Island and go beachcombing. Then turn eastwards at Naples.
Here the Tamiami Trail passes through the Everglades National Park and its northern border. In this stretch of the road, you will see signs for several airboat tours inside Everglades National Park. You will also come across the Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park. Get down, walk a boardwalk trail, and spot an alligator or two before getting back on the road. You can also see many birds including ospreys, cranes, and pelicans in the park.
At the end of the road is the vibrant city of Miami. Enjoy the beaches, Art Deco architecture, and the neighborhood of Little Havana. If you want to spend more time on the road, drive down the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West. You will find stunning snorkeling beaches, enjoy the Caribbean vibe of Key West, and can visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the most remote national parks in the country.
Southern Utah road trip
Utah is one of the most beautiful states to hike, explore, and road trip in the US. The state is famous for its Mighty Five national parks, however, this is not the time to visit most of them.
Skip the extremely popular Zion National Park and Arches National Park for now and try visiting the less-visited Canyonlands National Park or Capitol Reef National Park. Or give the national parks a miss entirely and try to seek solitude at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
Canyonlands is a great national park to visit. Take the scenic drive through the park and see the panoramic views from Mesa Arch and Grand View Point Overlook. Capitol Reef is famous for its whitish Navajo sandstone dome shapes that resemble state capitol domes. Hike through the Fruita section of the park to discover its unique landscape, see the historic buildings, and while you are there pick fruits from orchards planted by pioneers.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a never-ending, rugged wonderland of canyons, arches, and cliffs. You can take scenic drives through the main canyons as well as hike the beautiful slot canyons. That’s right, Antelope Canyons aren’t the only slot canyons in the American Southwest. For amazing views of the park, drive the Hells Backbone Scenic Byway.
Catskill Mountains road trip, New York
Remember that episode from Mrs. Maisel where they all went to the Catskills for a whopping 2 months?! There was a time when the rich and wealthy of New York congregated in the Catskill Mountains every year. Then cheap air travel happened and summer meant a Europe trip. But this year, the Catskills might regain their former glory.
Located just a couple of hours northwest of Manhattan, the Catskill Mountains are a perfect vacation for anyone in the Tri-State area. They have plenty of outdoor activities to offer for most visitors including biking, hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and river tubing.
But the Catskills are not just about recreation. The mountains have provided inspiration to writers, poets, painters, artists, and musicians for decades. The famous Hudson River School art movement originated here. Throughout the region, art lovers can visit small museums and art centers as well as the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in the town of Catskill.
Glen Canyon Recreation Area, Utah
Most people associate the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah with a cruise on Lake Powell, Rainbow bridge National Monument, and the nearby Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. However, the reserve is massive. It covers over 1.25 million acres in Utah and Arizona and has plenty of underrated attractions which almost no one visits.
You can actually take a kayaking trip to see the waterside of the Antelope Canyons. This won’t actually take you in the most famous part of these canyons however you will be able to see them from a rarely seen vantage point. Just you, a kayak, the waters of Lake Powell, and the beautiful swirling canyon walls. Perfect for social distancing!
You can also rent your own boat for the day to spend time on Lake Powell. Or visit the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook to see this beautiful concrete arch-gravity dam. Similar to the Hoover Dam but without the crowds!
You can also drive along scenic backcountry roads however, you will need a 4WD vehicle for this. Take the scenic Burr Trail through the Henry Mountains or follow the footsteps of the pioneers along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
Ozark Mountains Road Trip
Go on a road trip through the Ozark Mountains in Missouri and northwestern Arkansas. The Ozarks are an amazing travel destination and we first fell in love with them while living in Bentonville, Arkansas.
While the mountains are actually spread over the 4 states of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, the Missouri and Arkansas regions have the most attractions and are the best for staying away from the crowds. The Historic Route 66 also passes through the Ozarks.
There are many things to do in the Ozark National Forest from hiking, river tubing, water sports on the Lake of the Ozarks, and sleeping in nature in beautiful campgrounds.
The Ozark ranges also have many scenic drives including the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway that passes through the Boston Mountains, the Pig Trail, US 67 aka the Rock n Roll Highway, and Scenic Route 7. Many charming mountain towns and cities are located in the Ozarks. Some of the must-visit destinations include Branson, Eureka Springs, Osage Beach, and Bentonville.
The Great River Road in Missouri
Missouri is a great place to visit this summer. Usually, it is passed over for more popular destinations like California and New York, but this summer is a perfect time to take a road trip in the state. Drive the Great River Road along the banks of the Mississippi, one of our favorite road trips in the country.
The highlight of this road trip is the town of Hannibal, the homeplace of Mark Twain. It is located 2 hours north of St. Louis and visitors can check out the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. You can also explore the Mark Twain Cave Complex, mentioned in numerous of his books.
Then make your way down to St. Louis and see the magnificent Gateway Arch. You can spend more time in the city seeing attractions such as the Art Museum or spend time in nature at the Mastodon State Historic Site. Here you can see fossils and skeletons of the extinct Mastodons.
Last but not the least, visit the southeast Missouri wine country located on banks of the Mississippi. Stroll through the vineyards, attend a wine tasting, and enjoy the romantic ambiance. Finally, follow the road all the way down to Caruthersville.
Monument Valley road trip
While Monument Valley is popular, it is still massive and you can easily go on scenic drives and backcountry hikes in the area while still staying away from most people. Located in the western corner of the Utah-Arizona border, Monument Valley is a panoramic landscape known for its sandstone buttes, mesa formations, and beautiful desert landscape.
You can take a scenic drive through Monument Valley’s most iconic sites in a few hours or take an entire day or two to explore all its sites. The Tribal Park Loop is the 17-mile long main drive through the major attractions. The drive has many scenic viewpoints. You can also see restricted sites including Totem Pole formation on guided tours.
While you are in Monument Valley, explore the nearby Four Corners Monument. This is the only place in the country where 4 states meet together. Visitors can place a limb each in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico at the historic marker.
Lake Michigan Circle Tour & Upper peninsula
If you are in the Midwest, consider a road trip along Lake Michigan and in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region. Living in Chicago, we have done this trip several times and love the nature and wildlife along the lakeshore.
Lake Michigan is the only one amongst the Great lakes that is completely located in the USA. You can easily loop around the shoreline without entering Canada. While the route is most spectacular in the fall, it is also great in the summer.
While you can visit attractions such as Door County in Wisconsin, Illinois Beach State Park, the beautiful city of Chicago, and Indian Dunes National Park in Indiana, the highlight of this road trip is the attractions in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Follow the US 2 across the communities of Escanaba and Gladstone. Make a stop in charming Mackinac Island, a nature paradise where no cars are allowed. Admire the architecture of the historic Mackinac Bridge.
Consider a detour to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore located along the shores of Lake Superior. This road trip is full of wildlife encounters, fresh seafood, lighthouses, and beaches!