Road trips are the best way to see the country. Traveling by car immerses you in the landscape of America and gives you the freedom to pull off to the side of the road and make as many stops in as many places as you please. There’s no set rule as to where you can go travel on a road trip. If you can drive there, you can go. But there are some routes that are better than others. So what are some of the best USA road trips that you can drive?
We’ve gathered some of the best USA road trip ideas and routes that will take you through some of the most scenic areas of the country. Whether you have a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. Whether you love visiting big cities, exploring national parks, or seeing weird roadside attractions. There is an amazing road trip route for everyone.
There are no shortage of US road trip routes you can take, but there is something special about taking any one of these multi-week great American road trips, traversing one of the many scenic byways, or driving through a picturesque national park. Ready to plan your next road trip? Read on to find some of the best USA road trip ideas and routes.
- Best USA Road Trip Ideas and Routes
- Classic Great American Road Trip Routes
- Scenic Byways
- Best Drives in National Parks
- More USA Road Trip Ideas and Routes
Best USA Road Trip Ideas and Routes
Classic Great American Road Trip Routes
The classic great American road trips are the best of the best when it comes to driving routes. These iconic trips will take you on epic journeys that traverse the country and take you through amazing scenery, history, small towns, and big cities. If you’re looking for the ultimate car trip, these are the best USA road trip ideas for you.
48 State Ultimate USA Road Trip
The most ultimate US road trip to take is a journey that visits all 48 contiguous US states in one go. There’s no set route for this one. You can plan this trip in any way you want, visiting cities, national parks, roadside attractions, or whatever your heart desires. There are no rules! If you do want a plan, a data scientist mapped out the perfect 48 state road trip with a stop in every state!
Get your kicks on this classic USA road trip route. Historic U.S. Route 66 (AKA US 66, the Will Rogers Highway, Main Street of America, and the Mother Road) was established on November 11, 1926. It was the primary road that travelers took while moving west during the dust bowl. Covering around 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, Route 66 took travelers through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Although Route 66 was removed from the United States Highway System in 1985, it is still a popular road trip route for travelers looking for a sense of vintage nostalgia. Visit weird roadside attractions, classic diners, retro hotels, and more!
Pacific Coast Highway
Perhaps the most scenic drive in America, if not the world, the Pacific Coast Highway runs along the stunning coastline of California from San Francisco to San Diego. The road runs for 600 miles through California, with amazing Pacific Ocean views along the way. Plan to take the drive slow. Take in the views and stop for delectable dining, gorgeous beaches, fun attractions, and breathtaking. Want even more adventure? Continue driving northward through Oregon and Washington.
The Great River Road
Drive the length of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles through ten states on The Great River Road National Scenic Byway. Running from the Canadian border to the Gulf Coast, this classic road trip route winds through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Explore beautiful views, history, and small river towns along the way. Just follow the designated pilot’s wheel road signs, and you’ll be on your way!
The Loneliest Road
U.S. Route 50 is a transcontinental highway that spans over coast to coast over 3,000 miles. In July 1986 Life magazine called the stretch of Nevada’s Highway 50 the “Loneliest Road in America.” They claimed there was nothing to see, no points of interest, and that you’d need “survival skills” to make the journey in full. But you shouldn’t always listen to what others way. Drive this lonely road and find ghost towns, state parks, hot springs, and Sagebrush Saloons
The Oregon Trail
The historic Oregon trail took thousands of travelers on a dangerous 2,000-mile trip from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon. But you probably know it best from the 1970s computer game. You can follow in the footsteps of those who came before you in a modern-day Oregon Trail road trip. You can travel the original path from Missouri to Oregon or extend your journey to a cross-country road trip from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Cannon Beach, Oregon. Mostly following US-20 you’ll find an array of different stops along the way, from national parks to historic sites to big cities. And you probably won’t have to worry about dying from dysentery along the way.
Travel from coast to coast the southern way. The Southern Pacific road trip spans 3,000 miles following the old US-80 and other contemporary equivalents. This route will challenge your senses in the best way, with a widely diverse and ever-changing range of sights, sounds, and tastes along the way. You’ll see Southwestern deserts, bayou swamps, and New Mexican plains. You’ll eat Tex-Mex, Cajon, Creole, and barbecue. You’ll hear honkey tonk, and the blues. Take plenty of pit stops to savor it all.
The Great Northern
The Great Northern Road Trip will take you from Washington to Maine following U.S. Highway 2 most of the way. Along the route you’ll also traverse Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, and even dip your toes into Canada. Though this road trip got its name in memory of the pioneer railroad that parallels the western half of the route, it truly is the greatest northern US road trip you can take.
The Road To Nowhere (US-83)
US-83 is otherwise known as “The Road to Nowhere.” It was once the only paved road that connected Canada to “Old Mexico.” While there are now quite a few more paved options, this is still the shortest route to take from Swan River, Manitoba to Brownsville, Texas to Matamoros, Mexico. Though much of the time it might feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, there are still plenty of sights to see. You’ll pass the Sitting Bull Memorial in South Dakota; Liberal, Kansas (home of OzFest), and The Alamo in San Antonio’s
The Appalachian Trail
At 2,200 miles, the Appalachian Trail is the longest continuously-marked trail in the world. It’s a famous trail that takes enthusiastic thru-hikers months to walk the fourteen states from Georgia to Maine. But if you don’t feel like breaking in a pair of hiking boots, you can take an Appalachian Trail road trip instead. The driving route runs parallel to the hiking trail and you can even hop out of the car for a few day hikes if you’d like.
An Atlantic Coast road trip can take many different forms. You can follow I-95 down for a speedy urban trip or stick closer to the coast for a more leisurely, scenic drive. Nearly 2,000 miles of roads run parallel to the Atlantic Ocean across a plethora of eastern coastal towns with charming buildings, luscious nature, historic sites, lighthouses, and beaches. Drive to Miami or continue a journey down all the way to Key West (taking another must-do USA road trip route, The Overseas Highway).
Border to Border (US-93)
A drive on US-93 takes you border to border, from Canada, through the US, and on to Mexico, with many amazing spots in between. The trip starts north at Jasper National Park, passes through the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park, Bitterroot Valley, Sun Valley, Snake River Plain, Great Basin Desert, all the way to Nogales, Mexico. Save some time for a stint in Las Vegas. Just try not to gamble away your road trip budget.
A National Scenic Byway is a road recognized by the United States Department of Transportation for having one or more of their six defined intrinsic qualities: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. Basically, the road should be considered a destination all on its own.
More than 180 places across 48 states have been given this recognition. And, if you’re looking for the best or the best of these scenic journeys, those dubbed All-American Roads have to have at least two of those six qualities. Many of these scenic byways can be driven in just a few hours without stops. But their true beauty often lies in pulling over and taking your time. Explore some of the best scenic byways in America below, and find a full list here.
Beartooth Highway is a 67-mile road that takes you from Red Lodge, Montana to Yellowstone National Park. Named a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, it was also once dubbed, “the most beautiful drive in America” by American journalist and The CBS Evening News “On the Road” correspondent, Charles Kuralt. Due to extreme weather conditions, this road is only open a few months per year but, when it is, it is worth a drive. Reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation, you’ll see alpine lakes, glacial cirques, mountain peaks, and pine forests. Just be careful, with all the twists and turns this route takes, it has also been named the one of the most dangerous routes in America.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Known as “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway spans 469-miles through Virginia and North Carolina. The Parkway follows the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and connects Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. This is a slow-paced road trip, with speed limits rarely climbing beyond 45 miles per hour. And there are plenty of mountainous landscapes, hiking trails, and charming small towns to explore. Plan to spend around three to six days on the drive to take advantage of all the stops along the way.
Coastal Connection Scenic Byway
Alabama’s Coastal Connection is a nationally designated scenic byway that allows travelers to explore the southern tip of Alabama and the state’s coastal Gulf Coast region. Rich with the natural beauty of beaches, wildlife preserves, historic sites, and downtown areas, you’ll be immersed in both Deep-South traditions and the laid-back island lifestyle. Save room in your itinerary and your stomach for fresh-off-the-boat seafood delicacies.
High Road To Taos
The 56-mile High Road to Taos is a scenic byway that runs through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Santa Fe and Taos. While this road trip would makes a short day trip from Santa Fe, be sure to take your time to explore the variety of landscapes and architecture along the way. You’ll see desert, mountains, forests, and small farms, along with Native American pueblos and Spanish villages on your journey.
If you’re planning a fall leaf peeping road trip, Kancamagus Highway known for being one of the best destinations in the US to see fall foliage. The Kank (as locals call it) is a 34.5 mile scenic drive along New Hampshire’s Route 112 that takes you through the White Mountain National Forest and offers spectacular views of the White Mountains, the Swift River, Sabbaday Falls, Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge. You can drive this route any time of the year but you’ll be in good company in autumn when visitors flock to see the brilliantly colored trees.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway runs 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, crossing through 3 states (Alabama included) along the way. The modern road was created in the 1930s but it follows the path of the Old Natchez Trace, that served as a Native American trading route. Look for untouched scenic views, historic markers, opportunities for recreational activities.
Outer Banks Scenic Byway
A road trip on the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway in North Carolina consists of 138 miles of driving, two ferries, 21 coastal villages, and multiple islands. It will take you around stunning coastlines and beaches, through history (the Wright Brothers took their first flight here), and to lighthouses, shipwrecks, and more.
U.S. Route 163 is a 64-mile path that from the Arizona border through Monument Valley in Utah. Explore the red-sand desert lands of the Navajo Indian Reservation, red monoliths and spires, and extraordinary rock formations, including the prominent Mexican Hat. Also pull over for Forrest Gump Point (also known as Forrest Gump Road or Forrest Gump Highway), the scenic spot from the film where the title character stops his epic run.
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway
The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway is a 272-mile drive that takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Nebraska. The road, also known as Nebraska Highway 2, runs from Grand Island on the southeastern end to Alliance on the northwestern end. Along the route you’ll experience the beauty of the sandhills: a region that combines mixed-grass prairie and stabilized sand dunes. You’ll also wind through rock formations, parts of the Nebraska National Forest, more than 30 local communities, ghost towns, and even Carhenge.
San Juan Skyway
Colorado’s San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway stretches 233 miles around the San Juan Mountains. You’ll travel through historic mountain towns like Durango, Silverton, Telluride and Ouray. You’ll stop at hot springs, Insian pueblo ruins, And you’ll get million dollar views on the Million Dollar Highway, which is part of this longer road trip (see below). This scenic byway is one of six All American Roads recognized for roadways with a combination of notable scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities.
Alaska’s Seward Highway holds a unique triple designation: USDA Forest Service Scenic Byway, Alaska Scenic Byway, and All-American Road. The 127-mile road takes you from Anchorage the seaside community of Seward and along the way you’ll see the Chugach Mountains, the Turnagain Arm shore, waterfalls, lakes, and wildlife. The uninterrupted scenery is unmatched.
Utah Highway 12
If you don’t have the time to do an entire Grand Circle road trip (see below), Utah Highway 12 (also known as State Route 12 or Scenic Byway 12) is a 123-mile-long state highway that takes you through some of the most incredible views in the US. This All-American Road can be driven in just three hours without stops. But what is the fun in that? Highway 12 connects you to state parks like Kodachrome Basin, Escalante Petrified Forest, and Anasazi State Park Museum; Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks, and Dixie National Forest, to name a few possible detours.
Best Drives in National Parks
National Parks ares of the US that the national government has set aside for the preservation of the natural environment. Because of this, they offer some of the most breathtaking views of the country. It’s no wonder that national parks make popular road trip destinations. But your road trip doesn’t end when you arrive at the park. These road trip routes take you through some of the best national parks in America.
Grand Circle Road Trip
The Grand Circle Road Trip is the ultimate bucket list journey for any serious national park lover. Traversing Utah and parts of Arizona, this national parks road trip takes you to six national parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef), Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and a plethora of other points of interest.
Majestic Mountain Loop
The Majestic Mountain Loop allows travelers to visit three of California’s best national parks in just three days (though you can also take as long as you want): Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Yosemite National Park. This highlight pack packs a punch for those short on time or new to exploring. On your road trip you’ll see the largest living tree, caves, waterfalls, and high sierra vistas.
Acadia Park Loop Road
Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park is only 27-miles around, but there is so much to see on this small stretch, you’ll spend hours on the road. Park Loop Road is the main access point for navigating the park. From your windshield you’ll see forests, lakes, and mountains and will be able to pull off to see popular attractions like Sieur de Monts, Sand Beach, Otter Point, Jordan Pond, the Bubbles, and Cadillac Mountain.
The “Crown of the Continent,” Going-to-the-Sun Road is the iconic 50-mile journey that takes you through the heart of Glacier National Park. The drive is a highlight of the trip for any national park lover visiting the park. The scenic drive takes you through the Rocky Mountains and crosses the Continental Divide. On the way you’ll witness breathtaking views of valleys, glaciers, mountains,wildflowers, and wildlife.
Olympic Peninsula Loop
Olympic Peninsula Loop circles the perimiter of Olympic National Park in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Say that ten times fast. The 350-mile loop takes you on the most scenic journey in Washington, with mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, viewpoints, wildlife, and an ocean coastline. Be sure to save room in your road trip itinerary for a stop at Cape Flattery, the northwest-most point in the continental US.
Skyline Drive is the only road that goes through Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. The 105-mile journey is ripe with impressive views of the Blue Ridge Mountains you’re driving through. Without stops, the entire drive should take around 3 hours. But with over 70 overlooks, 500 miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, visitor centers, and picnic areas, you’ll want to plan to stay a while.
More USA Road Trip Ideas and Routes
There is no limit to where you can drive on a US road trip. Here are more USA road trip ideas and routes to take next time you’re in the mood for a car trip.
The 1,387 mile-long Alaska Highway is a bucket list road trip. Running from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska, you’ll drive past scenery, wildlife, and destinations unlike any you’d see in the lower 48. Once you reach Delta Junction, continue on Richardson Highway all the way to Fairbanks.
Avenue of the Giants
Avenue of the Giants is a 29-mile road that you takes you through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The scenic drive takes you through a forest of Sequoia sempervirens, better known as California redwoods or coastal redwoods. These massive trees can grow over 300 feet tall. 29 miles might seem like a short drive but plan to spend at least a few hours if not an entire day hopping out of the car to explore the many trails, points of interest, and scenic overlooks.
Blues Highway (US-61)
The “Blues Highway” denotes a stretch of US-61 between Nashville, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana seeped in the history of this distinctive musical style. Visit all the great blues landmarks along your way. On this journey you’ll find birthplaces of celebrated artists, recording venues, landmarks, and live music.
The Road to Hāna/The Hāna Highway (HI-360)
The Road to Hāna (The Hāna Highway) in Maui is one of the most scenic drives in Hawaiʻi, if not the entire US. The 64.4 mile-long adventure takes you to rainforests, waterfalls, pools, beaches, fresh food stands, and dramatic seascapes. But the more than 600 turns and 50 one-lane bridges can make this a stressful and challenging drive, not for the novice or faint of heart. It’s nicknamed “The Divorce Highway” for a reason. Due to the strain on resources and dangers of the road, the island of Maui encourages visitors wishing to experience the road to Hāna to do so through a permitted tour led by professional guides.
I-90 Cross-Country Road Trip
Stretching 3,020 miles from Seattle, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts, I-90 is America’s longest interstate highway. While most good road trips are all about getting off the highway, sometimes they’re about staying in the fast lane. I-90 weaves through many major cities in the US: Buffalo Cleveland, Chicago, and , Missoula to name a few. So there are endless opportunities to hop off to explore a city, visit a monument, or find a weird roadside attraction (like Pinkie the Pink Elephant, Corn Palace, or the Jolly Green Giant).
Million Dollar Highway
The Million Dollar Highway runs for only about 25 miles between Silverton and Ouray in western Colorado. The short stretch is part of a larger road trip route (the San Juan Skyway) but is infamous for its spectacular views and unguarded roads. Drive to the highest point of the highway, 11,018 feet at the peak of Red Mountain Pass and stop at ghost towns, hot springs, lakes, and forests along the drive.
The Overseas Highway is a 113 mile road that goes, you guesed it, over the sea. This incredibly long roadway consists of 42 bridges that connect mainland Florida to the Florida Keys. The southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1, takes you over the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and is the only way to reach Key West by land. Take the beautiful (though maybe anxiety-inducing) road trip, and relax with a cool cocktail and key lime pie at your destination.
Vermont Route 100 cuts through the state, running 21.6 miles from north to south, making it the longest state highway in the state. Located in the Green Mountains you’ll pass through charming New England villages with shopping, fining, and lodging as well as a plethora of natural wonders. Yankee Magazine named this one of the best summer road trips in New England. Of course, it is also one of the best fall road trips for leaf peeping when the leaves are changing to reds, yellows, and oranges.
Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country was created by several rivers that carved through Edwards Plateau, creating a vast landscape of rolling hills, green river valleys, and limestone cliffs. Start at Austin and San Antonio and drive the 400-mile loop around the area to experience the beautiful scenery, visit the small towns on the way, eat fantastic barbecue, and stop at one of the more than 100 wineries in the area. This Texas road trip is especially nice in the spring, when bluebonnets and wildflowers abound.