Want to road trip the US? If you are looking for some inspiration for your next great American road trip, I have put together a list of the best road trips in the USA that need to be on your US bucket list according to some of my fellow travel bloggers.
Best Road Trips in the USA
Historic Route 66
Route: Chicago to Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles
Distance: 2,448 miles
Suggested Duration: Approximately 2 weeks
Best time to go: The best time to go is from May to October, with peak season during June, July and August.
Route 66 is a historic road that traverses 8 states across USA and one of the most famous road trips in the world. It was one of the country’s first transcontinental highways that originated during the Great Depression. During these tough economic times, hundreds of families moved to California following what is now the historic Route 66. This road tells the quintessential story of freedom and the American Dream. Highlights of this route include Cadillac Ranch in Texas, an art installation that has become a must stop and Santa Fe, with its Spanish-influenced old town and adobe architecture. It is also worth taking a bit of a detour to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona. – Contributed by Theresa from Brogan Abroad
Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)
Route: Leggett, California to Dana Point, California on California State Route 1
Distance: About 659 miles
Suggested Duration: At least a week depending on stops
Best Time to Go: Any time of the year
Tip: If you have more time, explore the entire West Coast by extending the road trip to Seattle (see West Coast Road Trip below).
A Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) road trip is one of best road trips you can take in the USA and is a good way to explore the California coast. While the CA State Route 1 starts in Leggett, California in the North, some people skip the northern portion and start the trip in San Francisco. CA State Highway 1 ends in Dana Point which is in Orange County but you can extend your trip to San Diego or end the trip in LA.
If time is short, the leg between Monterey to Cambria is one of the most beautiful portions. Click here to read about must see Pacific Road Trip stops.
West Coast Roadtrip
Route: San Diego to Seattle (HWY 1 + 101 up to Seattle)
Distance: Around 1300
Suggested Duration: 1-2 weeks depending on stops
Best Time to Go: This trip is great in the Spring, Summer or Fall.
A trip up the West Coast is not to be missed. Starting in San Diego, and heading north to Seattle will take you to some awesome places. San Diego to Los Angeles is filled with beautiful beaches and great surf. Head north towards San Francisco, and spend some time in the Bay before heading to the Redwoods. In Oregon, you can typically find some exciting sea life just off the shore. There’s lots of forests and great lookout spots all the way up into Washington just before the end of the coast in Seattle. Notable stops along the way include the Hollywood Sign, Big Sur cliffs, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Space Needle, along with several beautiful spots along the coast.Be sure to get out of the car and explore! Don’t forget to hit the Northeastern most point of the 48. – Contributed by Sara from the blog Our Kind of Crazy.
Route: Portland to Portland loop
Distance: 774 miles
Suggested Duration: 5 days
Best time to go: Oregon remains pretty cool year-round, so it’s best to stick to warmer months. The best time to go is late spring to early fall.
Oregon is one of the most beautiful states in the US. With a rugged coastline, epic waterfalls, and stunning mountains, it makes for one of the best road trips in the country!Start in Portland and work your way (via coastline if you have enough time) to Klamath Falls to Running Y Ranch, which features horseback riding, a spa, incredible views and an 18-hole Arnold Palmer gold course. Work your way from Klamath Falls to Crater Lake National Park, America’s deepest lake (be sure to fill up your tank there isn’t gas around for miles)! Oregon may be well known for it’s waterfalls and mountains, but Bend is a stark contrast from the rest of Oregon with it’s desert landscape. Be sure to get up for sunrise at Smith Rock State Park and stick around to climb at of the country’s best climbing destinations, or a take in the views with a hike.
From Bend, head to Mt Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Whether you plan to ski it, hike it, or just drive to it, Mt Hood’s size will take your breath away. Visit must-see spots Rowena Crest and Multnomah Falls before heading to Portland.
Portland is a city where they love to keep things weird. You’ll find all kinds of obscurities throughout the city. A great time to visit is summer for their brew-fest, as the city has some of the best micro-breweries in the US.
Read more about this great Oregon road trip here. – Contributed by Valerie Joy Wilson of Trusted Travel Girl
Utah National Park Road Trip
Route: Starts and Ends in Salt Lake City, Utah (but can be modified to start and end in Las Vegas, Nevada)
Distance: 900 miles
Suggested Duration: 7 days
Best time to go: This Utah road trip is best done in early fall or late spring. The weather is nice but not super hot.
Tip: Plan in advance and get permits to hike in Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park. Try to camp in each of these parks – it is a unique experience.
Utah is the land of national parks. The state has 5 national parks all within a half-day drive of each other. From Salt Lake City, head to Moab and spend two days exploring the unique stone pillars of Canyonlands National Park along with world’s largest concentration of arches in Arches National Park. From there head over to Capitol Reef National Park and take a scenic drive and enjoy some pie. Bryce Canyon National Park is next. Hiking in this park takes you in and around the hoodoos. This is one of the best parks for sunrises. The last stop is Zion. Zion National Park is the place to push your fears and take an epic hike up to Angels Landing. – Contributed by Jennifer Melroy from National Park Obsessed
Grand Canyon Road Trip
Route: Start in Phoenix, Arizona; hit up the Grand Canyon; Antelope Canyon; and Sedona, before heading back to Phoenix
Distance: 639 miles
Suggested Duration: 5 days
Best time to go: Late spring or fall
Is there anything more American than a Grand Canyon road trip? This stunning natural wonder is located a few hours from the closest major airports, making for the perfect road trip destination. Staring in Phoenix, take an afternoon to drive four hours north to Grand Canyon Village, watching saguaro cacti tower over you as you speed off into the sunset. The next morning, wake up to catch the sunrise over Yaki Point and take the day to hike around the South Kaibab trail, which will take you deep down into the colorful striated walls of the canyon. The next morning, head on over to Paige, Arizona, about a two hours drive north, where you can spend the afternoon kayaking on Lake Powell or exploring Antelope Canyon, famous for its striped, narrow walls. In the evening, there’s no better place in the world to watch the sunset than Paige’s Horseshoe Bend, an incised meander of the Colorado River, where the sinking sun casts a violet glow on the towering canyon walls. The following day, head three hours due south to Sedona, renowned for its breathtaking red rocks, incomparable hiking trails, and distinctive New Age vibe. Take your time breathing in the views of Sedona’s landscape, while conquering world-class hikes like Devil’s Bridge or Cathedral Rock. Finally, it’s time to make your way back to Phoenix, as you say goodbye to those saguaros and the stunning beauty of the American Southwest. – Contributed by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Washington State National Parks Road Trip
Route: Seattle – Seattle
Distance: 700 Miles
Suggested Duration: 8 days
Best time to go: Summer or fall is definitely prime time for this road trip that way you can experience all the great nature, hiking trails, and wild berries in bloom.
Tip: This is highly recommended to experience as a camping trip so you can immerse yourself in the 3 national parks however there are options just outside these national parks if camping isn’t your thing.
This route lets travelers experience 3 different national parks in Washington in 1 week. What makes this special is the raw nature and the quality food. The entire country’s national parks are beautiful, but Washington’s are one of a kind. Washington has this beautiful combination of jagged mountains, temperate rainforest, and lush coastline not to mention the fact that the state produces some of the most delicious fruits, veggies, and artisan foods you’ll ever taste. Don’t miss famous Pikes Place in Seattle and it’s quaint islands like Bainbridge, accessed via ferry. Hike though alpine meadows in Mount Rainer National Park or through mossy trees in the Hoh Rainforest. A stop at the Fairhaven farmers market is a must especially if you love good food. Explore the Bavarian town of Leavenworth and get views of the San Juan Islands at Deception Pass State Park. Read more about taking a Washington State National Park road trip here. – Contributed by Robyn from Nomads With A Purpose
South Dakota Road Trip
Route: Sioux Falls – Rapid City
Distance: about 550 to 600 miles
Duration: 4 to 7 Days
Best time to go: The best time to go on a road trip through South Dakota is during the summer.
Tip: Drive along the Badlands Loop Road to see the beautiful eroded landscape and hike the Presidential Trail to see the sculptures from up close at Mount Rushmore. In Custer State Park, drive along the Wildlife Loop Road at dawn to see the park’s bison herd, burros, deer, mountain goats, and other animals.
The road trip from Sioux Falls to Rapid City along the I-90 takes just 5 hours without stops but there are so many things to see and do along this route that even 4 to 5 days will fly by. The highlights of this road trip are Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Another must is driving through the granite tunnels, pigtail bridges, and needles formations of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, which is among America’s 10 Most Scenic Byways. Other amazing attractions along this route include the Corn Palace at Mitchell, the Wall Drug Store, Custer State Park, and Crazy Horse Memorial. – Ketki from the Dotted Globe
Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone National Park
Route: Portland, Oregon to Yellowstone National Park (Highway I84 – I90 – US287)
Distance: 811 miles
Suggested Duration: 2 Days (to get there, total road trip duration was 14 days)
Best time to go: Summer from June to early September
Getting to Yellowstone National Park from Portland, Oregon is easy enough and taking the I90 brings you through some stunning scenery. From the Colombia River Gorge to the vast farming plains of Washington State, past the beautiful Coeur d’Alene lake and on through the edges of the likes of Lolo National Forest, it’s a great road trip to take. The scenery is constantly changing, with plenty of small towns and bigger cities to stop along the way.One of the towns worth noting along the way is Missoula, particularly if you are traveling with kids. There are plenty of things to do around the town to keep kids entertained and there are a host of hotels and family-friendly restaurants for food. If you are looking to break up the journey into more manageable chucks, a stop in Missoula is worth considering. Another place to consider stopping for an overnight stay is Richland in Washington state, where the TownePlace Suites by the Marriott will ensure you have a comfortable night’s sleep. Read more about this road trip here. – Contributed by Cath – Passports and Adventures
Best of Idaho Road Trip
Route: McCall to Salmon (McCall – Boise – Twin Falls – Ketchum – Stanley – Salmon)
Distance: 497 Miles
Duration: 1 week (9.5 hours total driving time)
Best time to go: Idaho is a fantastic destination year-round, but if you’d like to hike or camp along your road trip (highly recommended!) summer and early fall will give you the best chance of trails and roads being open for adventuring.
Tip: Idaho is a perfect place to try fly fishing, sample local craft beers, hike in the Sawtooth mountains and camp next to storybook hot springs.
With untouched wilderness, secret hot springs, cute towns, snowcapped mountains and deserts, taking a week-long road trip in Idaho will prove this state is one of the most underrated destinations in the United States. The best part of exploring Idaho is you can enjoy the natural beauty without the crowds you’ll find in neighboring states.Start in the charming lakeside town of McCall and make your way to Idaho’s hip and up-and-coming capital city. Explore Boise by bicycle and sample all the craft brews you can find. Twin Falls is the start of the Snake River Canyon, the majestic Shoshone Waterfalls and a popular place to watch BASE jumpers leap from the town’s famous bridge. Heading north, you’ll pass through the cute town of Ketchum where Ernest Hemingway is buried. It’s also home to Sun Valley, a ski resort where the first chair lift was invented.Continue your road trip through the jaw-dropping Sawtooth Wilderness, a hiker’s paradise. Explore the adorably tiny town of Stanley (and be sure to stop at the famous bakery!). End your road trip with a drive up Highway 93 toward the Western-style town of Salmon, and spend the night camping beneath the stars at Goldbug Hot Springs. – Contributed by Katie Diederichs from Two Wandering Soles
Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe Road Trip
Distance: 462 miles
Suggested Duration: 10 days
Best time to go: Fall for fabulous fall colors and reasonable temperatures in Death Valley NP
Must-do experiences: Watch sunrise at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley for an experience you will never forget. Cruise beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Tip: The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth Lakes, is a comfortable place to base yourself in the mid-point of the trip
Las Vegas offers fabulous experiences not related to gambling or partying, including world-class culinary experiences and luxurious spas and shopping. The route from Las Vegas to South Lake Tahoe is lined with stunning scenery, from the desert vistas of Death Valley National Park to the beautiful lakes and mountains of the Eastern Sierra. You can hike, enjoy boating or canoeing on the lakes, or visit some scenic wonders such as the tufas of Mono Lake or Bodie, the ghost town. The whole route provides awesome photo opportunities, especially in the fall. At the end of the route, you will enjoy Lake Tahoe, the huge alpine lake with crystal clear waters. This is a must-do road trip for anyone that loves nature and natural beauty. – Contributed by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Route: Red Lodge, Montana – Cooke City, Montana
Distance: 68 miles
Suggested Duration: 4 – 5 hours
Best Time to Go: Due to weather, the best time to drive Beartooth Highway is mid-June through mid-October.
When compared to epic road trips like Route 66 or the Pacific Coast Highway, Beartooth Highway is a hop, skip, and a jump. However, don’t let its short mileage fool you. This scenic drive packs a lot into its 68 miles. The late Charles Kuralt called it “the most beautiful drive in America,” and one trip through its mountainous terrain will verify that claim. It’s a gorgeous trek surrounded by three National Forests and next to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, with enough switchbacks to make your head spin. There are a few pullouts that allow you to get a stationary look at the landscape, and the Rock Creek Vista Point Rest Area and Interpretive Trail provides a panoramic view.
Lodging is available in Red Lodge and Cooke City, and there are several campgrounds in the National Forest. The biggest nearby attraction is Yellowstone National Park. Beartooth Highway will take you right to the northeast entrance. – Contributed by Theresa from The Local Tourist
The Great River Road
Route: New Orleans, Louisiana – Le Claire, Iowa
Distance: 1049 miles
Suggested Duration: 3 weeks
Best time to go: Summer which for some might not be ideal as it’s hot and humid, but at least it guarantees good weather.
For lovers of USA road trips, The Great River Road (GRR) makes an epic journey following the course of the mighty Mississippi River from bottom to top or vice versa. The GRR is a series of roads and highways marked with green pilot wheel logo signs, showing off 10 states from Minnesota to Louisiana and all the river towns and cities in between. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Vicksburg, Memphis, St Louis and Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain. The route is strewn with iconic attractions and activities like the Budweiser Brewery tour (St Louis) and a range of visitor centres focusing on Slavery, Civil War battlefields, ancient Indian Burial Mounds and of course the Blues Music Trail.
The marching Peabody Ducks at Memphis’s Peabody Hotel is a particularly quirky attraction. Every day at 11 am the trained ducks are given the red carpet treatment and brought down from their rooftop enclosure to paddle in the lobby fountain. They return at 5pm and draw crowds of onlookers to watch the spectacle. – Contributed by Sharon from What The Saints Did Next
Blue Ridge Parkway
Route: Rockfish Gap, Virginia – Cherokee, North Carolina
Distance: 469 miles
Suggested Duration: 7 days
Best time to go: Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway between May and September to make the most of the campgrounds and hiking opportunities. For fall foliage viewing, the best time to visit is mid to late October.
Tip: Blowing Rock, North Carolina is located directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is worth more than a passing glance. Stay at the Hillwinds Inn, which is right downtown, and be sure to explore Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and North Carolina’s oldest tourist attraction, The Blowing Rock.
The world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway travels 469 miles along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains through Virginia and North Carolina. In 2017, the Parkway attracted more than 16 million visitors, and it’s widely known as America’s favorite drive.
The entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway is devoid of commercial ventures. There are no billboards, gas stations, or strip malls to compete for attention, just endless vistas, cool historical sites, eight public campgrounds, and more than 350 miles of hiking trails.
Highlights of a Blue Ridge Parkway road trip include touring several 19th-century farms and buildings, exploring the engineering marvel that is the Linn Cove Viaduct, walking the mile-high swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain, and hiking to Linville Falls, North Carolina’s most photographed waterfall.
On average, there is a Blue Ridge Parkway campground every 50 miles. Each campground is strategically located to take advantage of the Parkway’s most interesting sites, and at $20 per night, it also makes for a budget vacation. – Contributed by Tara from Backroad Ramblers
Route 61 – following the Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans
Route: Memphis to New Orleans
Distance: 411 Miles
Suggested Duration: 5 days
Best time to go: If you want to enjoy Halloween in New Orleans, plan this trip for the end of October. It is also a good time of year when it’s not too hot.
Get a bit of rock ‘n’ roll and a whole lotta soul on this trip through the deep south from Memphis to New Orleans. Beginning in the home of Elvis, get to know in Graceland and the legend of Elvis along with the origins of rock and roll at Sun Studios. At the same time, head down Beale St for a boot full of Blues.
Further south, following the mighty Mississippi, the first stop is Clarksdale, home to Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blue Club. Visit the battle of Vicksburg to reflect on the civil war before continuing south to Louisiana’s Baton Rouge. A short side trip will have you face to face with gators in Lafayette or continue to the lively French Quarter in New Orleans.
Stay at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale for live music and stay in roughly restored sharecropper shacks. As the sign says out front, the ‘Ritz we aint!’- Contributed by Warren Dobe of Sling Adventures
Deep South Road Trip
Route: Gulf Shores, Alabama -Huntsville, Alabama
Distance: 450 miles
Suggested Duration: Under 7 hours (8 hours if you add Helfin)
Best time to go: Avoid the heat of summer
For a different trip take a deep south road trip through Alabama. Start in Gulf Shores Alabama with its great food and beautiful beaches.
Head north to the capital Montgomery for some great civil rights history sites like the new Legacy Museum, the lynching memorial, and the Rosa Parks museum. Take a side trip to Tuskegee to visit the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Learn about the black men who defied the prejudice that they could not learn to be fighter pilots.
End in Huntsville Alabama where America’s rocket program and race to space was created. Tour the museum there with one of the only remaining Saturn V rockets or sign up for Space Camp. While you are in town also visit the largest private art space in the country at the converted cotton mill Lowe Mill.
And because this is an Alabama road trip take some side trips off the interstate for some good home cooking and some odd Alabama exclusives like a haunted chicken house in Heflin, Alabama. – Contributed by Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler
Exploring the Small Towns of Central Texas
Route: Starting in Brenham, Texas and ending in Fredericksburg, Texas. In the middle, there’s Round Top, La Grange, Schulenberg, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, and Luckenbach. The route covers part of US 290, but also runs parallel to it on smaller state and county highways to avoid the city of Austin
Distance: About 235 miles
Suggested Duration: 5 days
Best time to go: This road trip is perfect any time of the year, but it can be quite hot in summer. We love it in the early autumn when it is still warm enough to swim in the natural pools at Jacob’s Well and other popular swimming holes, but not so brutally hot that you think you’re going to melt.
Tip: The painted churches should not be missed. The Cotton Gin Village bed and breakfast makes a great base for the end of the trip while you explore Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, and the Hill Country.
This road trip will broaden your mind of what Texas is all about. It’s also a dream for foodies. There’s the gourmet Blue Bell ice cream in Brehham, the best-in-the-world barbecue at Salt Lick, plus wonderful wines of the Texas Hill Country. We discovered the beautiful painted churches that were constructed by German and Czech immigrants that look like they were just lifted out of Europe and plopped down in the fields of Texas. There are natural springs for swimming and even a visit to LBJ’s ranch, known as the Texas White House. Read more about this Texas Road Trip here. – Contributed by Lance and Laura Longwell of Travel Addicts
US Gulf Coast Road Trip
Route: Lafayette, Louisiana – Crystal River, Florida (Recommended Stops: New Orleans, LA; Mobile, AL; Gulf Shores, AL; Tallahassee, FL; Wakulla Springs, FL; Crystal River, FL)
Distance in miles: 685 miles
Suggested Duration: 10-15 days
Best Time to go: May through September
Tip: Stay at Mouton Plantation in Lafayette, LA and The Plantation on Crystal River in Crystal River, Florida
The southern US Gulf Coast from Louisiana east to central and south Florida has some of the most scenic landscapes in the country, not to mention great history, local culture, and a whole lot of fresh seafood! It’s also a laid-back part of the country and outside the norm of traffic and congestion, especially during the hot summer months, which makes it a great destination for a Gulf Coast road trip.
Starting in Lafayette, Louisiana, you’ll quickly know you’re in for a treat road tripping in this part of the country. Lafayette has vibrant Cajun culture, born from the Acadiana who emigrated from French Canada centuries ago. Today, the French influence is felt in the music and dance, and peppered in just about every kind of local food. Just an hour away in nearby New Orleans, the party really starts and lasts for days. An hour east of New Orleans is lovely Mobile, Alabama which deserves a few days of eating amazing Alabama shrimp and oysters. Further east another hour is Gulf Shores, where you can relax for days on some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the country.
From here, head to Tallahassee, the capital of Florida and explore the Spanish history the state was founded on. Just 20 miles south of Tally is Wakulla Springs, a natural warm spring where you can relax overnight and swim in the crystal clear waters. Finally, the road trip ends in Crystal River, Florida, where summertime is bay scallop season, and you can snorkel and gather up your own feast for dinner! – Contributed by Lori from Travlinmad
Jacksonville to Charleston, South Carolina Road Trip
Route: Jacksonville, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina
Distance: 239 miles
Suggested Duration: At least 1-2 Days
If you want to do a fantastic road trip that combines gorgeous landscape, historic cities and charming towns to visit then you might want to consider a trip from Jacksonville to Charleston, South Carolina. This road trip can be an easy short getaway or an extensive travel journey depending on your interest in visiting many of the fascinating places attractions and landscapes along highway I 95 that covers all the three states. Or get off the main highway and travel slowly on the coastal roads that go through smaller southern towns and beautiful landscapes of low country.
Fantastic places to discover along the way on your road trip include Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach in northern Florida and into Georgia visiting the coastal towns St. Mary’s, Brunswick and islands at St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Sapelo Island and finally to beautiful Savannah. The city is historic and filled with gorgeous squares, stately homes and stunning architectural buildings in the historic center of the city. On the way to Charleston in South Carolina, you can stop by stunning southern towns like Beaufort and uber trendy Hilton Head and Kiawah Island. Charleston spared by the civil war is a Southern gem exudes all the wonderful and elegant architecture, landmarks and attractions in the historic district and is worth spending more time to enjoy the beauty and magnificent details of this beautiful city.
You can also do this road trip from Charleston to Jacksonville and both locations are served by mid scale airports that service many different airlines. It is also easy to find a variety of rental car agencies directly at each airport.- Contributed by Noel from Travel Photo Discovery
Route: Miami to Key West on US1
Distance: 182 km long
Suggested Duration: 4 hours
From Miami to Key West, you have to take the Overseas Highway or US 1 which connects all the islands of the Keys. There is lots of fun things to do during this roadtrip.
Along the road we made a short sidekick to visit the Everglades, but after that we took the US 1 and passed bridge after bridge after bridge. The scenery is spectacular. There’s water on you left and right and in front of you appears one island after another. The road is about 182 km long but it takes you about 4 hours to get there. The final destination is Key West, a cosy town filled with bright coloured wooden houses.
If you are looking for a nice place to stay, I can highly recommend Truman Hotel. It’s a boutique hotel in the center of town with a small inner courtyard that looks like a tropical rainforest with a pool.
If you want to explore the island, book a ride on the Conch Tour Train. You will pass east Martello Tower, early conch houses, Sloppy Joe’s (Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bar), Bahama Village and much more. – Contributed by Wendy by WorldWideWendy
Hopefully, this post has inspired you to take an American road trip. And to make sure you pack everything you need before you get going, check out my road trip packing list.
Have you done a road trip in the United States? What do you think are the best road trips in the USA?
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