The United States is a vast country filled with diverse landscapes and incredible natural beauty, making it the perfect playground for road trip enthusiasts. From winding coastal drives to scenic mountain routes, there’s no shortage of breathtaking journeys to embark upon.
Best Road Trips in the USA
Some iconic road trips you can’t miss include the picturesque Hana Highway in Maui, the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway in the Carolinas and Virginia, and the historic Route 66 spanning from California to Illinois. Each journey offers a unique set of sights, experiences, and opportunities for adventure.
Whether you’re a seasoned road tripper or a first-time explorer, these unforgettable routes will leave you in awe of the USA’s natural beauty and the memories you’ll create along the way.
1. Pacific Coast Highway, California
One of the most iconic road trips with scenic views in the US is cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in California. This storied route snakes along the stunning coastline, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and unique attractions at every turn.
A Pacific Coast Highway road trip will take you through a plethora of picturesque spots and cities. From the towering redwoods of Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the bustling streets of San Francisco, there’s something for every traveler to enjoy. Here are a few must-see stops:
- Big Sur: Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Big Sur is a nature lovers’ paradise offering spectacular coastal views and rugged cliffs.
- Monterey: The charming town of Monterey is known for its waterfront restaurants, incredible aquarium, and picturesque wharf full of sea life.
- Santa Barbara: This vibrant beachside community is renowned for its laid-back atmosphere and Mediterranean-style architecture.
- Half Moon Bay: This quaint coastal town is the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of California’s great whales.
- Santa Cruz: With its stunning beaches, amusement parks and iconic boardwalk, Santa Cruz is a great place to relax and have fun.
- San Francisco: No trip would be complete without visiting this beloved city known for its world-class dining, vibrant nightlife, and iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge.
Best Time to Go
The Pacific Coast Highway can be enjoyed year-round, but the ideal time to embark on this epic drive is during the warmer months, from late spring to early fall. This ensures better weather, more sunshine, and easier access to attractions along the route. If you prefer to avoid the peak tourist season, consider planning your trip for late spring or early fall for milder temperatures and fewer crowds.
2. Great River Road, Minnesota to Louisiana
The Great River Road showcases unparalleled views and captivating culture along the mighty Mississippi River. This picturesque road trip stretches approximately 3,000 miles from Minnesota to Louisiana, offering travelers a unique glimpse of America’s heartland.
A few captivating stops along the Great River Road include:
- Headwaters, Minnesota – where the Mississippi River begins its journey to the Gulf of Mexico
- Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota – a bustling urban hub with a vibrant arts and dining scene
- Lake Pepin, Wisconsin and Minnesota – a natural lake formed by the Mississippi River featuring charming small towns and recreational opportunities
- Dubuque, Iowa – a historic river town with a rich cultural heritage and stunning riverfront vistas
- St. Louis, Missouri – home to the iconic Gateway Arch and a range of exciting attractions
- Memphis, Tennessee: The birthplace of blues music, Memphis is a must-see destination for music lovers.New Orleans, Louisiana – the vibrant and eclectic Crescent City, known for its world-famous cuisine and nightlife.
- New Orleans, Louisiana: Make a stop in The Big Easy for some delicious creole and beautiful jazz music!
Best Time to Go
The best time to embark on the Great River Road trip typically depends on your interests and weather preferences. Spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) are ideal for milder temperatures and fewer crowds.
During these seasons, you can also witness the beauty of the region’s foliage and flowers in full bloom or the vibrant autumn colors alongside the river. For those seeking more outdoor activities, summer (June to August) is the peak season with warmer temperatures, but it also brings larger crowds and higher accommodation rates.
Winter (December to February) is less popular due to the cold and potential for snow, but it offers a quieter, more serene experience and lower lodging prices for those who enjoy the seasonal ambiance.
3. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is an iconic 469-mile scenic drive that stretches from Northern Virginia to Southwestern North Carolina, traversing a stunning range of natural landscapes and cultural attractions.
During your road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll discover:
- Scenic overlooks with panoramic vistas
- Lush forests, vibrant wildflowers, and wildlife
- Historic sites and local mountain culture
Notable points of interest include the picturesque Lynchburg and Natural Bridge and the James River to Roanoke section, which offers a 56-mile driving experience with inspiring natural beauty.
Best Time to Go
Each season brings its unique charm to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the most popular times to go are:
|Spring||Experience the burst of colorful wildflowers and blossoming trees|
|Summer||Enjoy warm temperatures and verdant-green landscapes|
|Fall||Witness the vibrant autumn foliage, creating a picturesque backdrop|
While the parkway is accessible year-round, be aware that some sections may close during winter due to inclement weather or snow.
4. Route 66, Illinois to California
Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, is one of the most iconic road trips in the United States. Stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, this historic route spans 2,400 miles and offers an unforgettable journey through the heart of America.
Some of the must-see attractions along Route 66 include:
- The Joliet Area Historical Museum and its Route 66 Welcome Center in Illinois
- The Meramec Caverns in Missouri, which were once used by the infamous outlaw Jesse James
- The Cadillac Ranch in Texas, a public art installation featuring painted vintage Cadillacs buried nose-down in the ground
- The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, home to 200 million-year-old petrified logs and stunning painted desert landscapes
- The Santa Monica Pier in California, marking the end of Route 66 and offering breathtaking ocean views with a historic amusement park
Route 66 provides plenty of opportunities to explore quaint roadside towns, sample delicious local cuisine, and admire incredible roadside attractions and natural wonders along the way.
Best Time to Go
The best time for a Route 66 road trip, according to Independent Travel Cats, is from late April to early October, when weather conditions are generally favorable, and most tourist attractions are open. It is essential to plan and book accommodations in advance and be prepared for the occasional detour, as some sections of the original highway have been rerouted or replaced with newer roads.
5. Overseas Highway, Florida
The Overseas Highway is one of the most stunning scenic drives in the USA, stretching for 127.5 miles from Miami to Key West through the beautiful Florida Keys. This iconic road trip will take you on an unforgettable journey across incredible turquoise waters, vibrant ocean views, and the famous 42 Florida Keys bridges*.
Traveling along the southernmost leg of U.S. 1, the Overseas Highway connects the mainland to some of the most beautiful stops in the Florida Keys, making it a must-see adventure for every road trip enthusiast*.
Some of the most popular places to visit during your cruise along the Overseas Highway include:
- Key Largo: The first of the Florida Keys, offering spectacular coral reefs and plenty of activities for everyone*.
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: A preserved underwater wonder providing excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities*.
- Seven Mile Bridge: The longest bridge of the Overseas Highway, offering breathtaking panoramic ocean views*.
- Bahia Honda State Park: A stunning park boasting some of the most picturesque beaches in Florida*.
- Key West: The southernmost point in the continental USA, famous for its vibrant culture and captivating history*.
Best Time to Go
The ideal time to experience the Overseas Highway is during late winter and early spring when the weather is typically warm and sunny. Avoiding hurricane season, which typically occurs from June through November, will ensure better and safer driving conditions*.
6. Hana Highway
The Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii, is an enchanting road trip filled with breathtaking scenery and unforgettable experiences. Stretching for more than 60 miles along the island’s northeastern coast, this picturesque route boasts stunning views, lush landscapes, and a plethora of natural wonders to explore.
As you embark on your journey along the Road to Hana, prepare to be captivated by the plethora of unforgettable sights and stops. Some of the top attractions include:
- Waterfalls and freshwater pools
- Bamboo forests and tropical hikes
- Panoramic coastal views
- Historic bridges and hairpin turns
With over 620 curves and 59 bridges, be prepared for an adventurous drive that showcases all the beauty Maui has to offer.
Best Time to Go
While the Hana Highway can be enjoyed year-round, there are a few factors to consider when planning your trip. The dry season, which typically lasts from April to October, offers the most reliable weather conditions for exploring the island’s natural wonders. However, during the wet season, particularly from November to March, expect the lush green landscapes to be even more vibrant and dramatic due to increased rainfall.
Keep in mind that the Hana Highway can become quite congested during peak tourist seasons, particularly in the summer months. For a more peaceful and leisurely experience, it may be beneficial to embark on your journey during weekdays or the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October.
7. Nevada Route 50, The Loneliest Road in America
Embark on an unforgettable journey through the great expanse of Nevada on Route 50, also known as The Loneliest Road in America. This iconic highway offers an adventurous and serene road trip experience, taking travelers through the desert and several historic towns.
One of the many highlights of Nevada Route 50 is the chance to explore Sand Mountain, a 600-foot tall sand dune that beckons off-roaders and campers alike. Drive further and you’ll reach the breathtaking Great Basin National Park, home to striking mountain peaks and incredible stargazing opportunities.
For a more structured adventure, consider following a 24-stop itinerary that encompasses the best sights and experiences along the route, from ghost towns to charming eateries that offer hearty local cuisine.
Best Time to Go
The ideal time to traverse Nevada Route 50 largely depends on personal preferences and the activities you have planned. For those who relish the heat and plan to engage in desert off-roading, the summer months provide optimal conditions. However, if you’re keen on milder temperatures and want to hike or stargaze at Great Basin National Park, spring and fall are your best bets.
Before embarking on your adventure down Nevada Route 50, double-check weather conditions and ensure all stops on your itinerary are accessible. With careful planning, you’ll make unforgettable memories exploring the vast beauty of this lesser-known highway.
8. Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a picturesque 444-mile drive that stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Rich in history and natural beauty, this scenic route offers a unique road trip experience through the heart of the American South.
Along the parkway, numerous points of interest showcase the region’s cultural and natural attractions. Some highlights include:
- Leipers Fork – A charming village with antique shops, art galleries, and country restaurants
- Fall Hollow Falls – A beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush forests
- Tupelo, MS – The birthplace of Elvis Presley and home to the Tupelo Automobile Museum
Best Time to Go
The ideal time to embark on a Natchez Trace Parkway road trip mostly depends on your preferences. Each season offers its own unique attractions:
|Spring||Wildflowers in bloom, pleasant temperatures, and fewer crowds|
|Summer||Longer days, warmer weather, and more opportunities for outdoor activities|
|Fall||Colorful foliage, mild temperatures, and harvest season at local farms|
|Winter||Quiet solitude, cooler temperatures, and the possibility of snow in some areas|
No matter when you choose to explore the Natchez Trace Parkway, you’ll be treated to unforgettable landscapes and a truly immersive experience in the American South.
9. Grand Teton National Park to Glacier National Park
Grand Teton National Park and Glacier National Park are two of the most spectacular natural wonders in the American West. Spanning across Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington, these national parks offer visitors a chance to explore incredible landscapes that have remained unchanged for thousands of years.
The Grand Teton National Park features breathtaking mountains, clear alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. Some of the highlights include:
- Jenny Lake – An amazing glacial lake with spectacular views of the Teton Range
- String Lake – A beautiful mountain lake surrounded by wildflower-filled meadows
- Glacier National Park is home to some of the most stunning scenery in North America, including impressive glaciers, pristine lakes, and towering peaks. Highlights of the park include:
- Going-to-the-Sun Road – A jaw-dropping 50-mile drive with sweeping vistas of mountains, valleys, and waterfalls
- Lake McDonald – The largest lake in the park surrounded by vibrant wildflowers
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks is in the late spring or early fall. These seasons offer milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and optimal conditions for exploring the outdoors. Be sure to pack appropriate clothing for layering, as temperatures can vary dramatically depending on elevation.
No matter when you go, a journey through these two national parks will be an unforgettable experience that you’ll never forget. From the grandeur of the Teton Range to the stunning glaciers of Glacier National Park, this road trip promises a truly awe-inspiring adventure.
10. Northern Michigan
Explore the beauty of Northern Michigan and Lake Michigan with a drive along the Northern Michigan Circle Tour. This classic road trip route is perfect for anyone who wants to experience this amazing region’s unique wildlife, culture, and natural attractions.
Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore some of northern Michigan’s most spectacular sights. Some of the highlights include:
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Green sand beaches, spectacular waterfalls, and breathtaking lake views
- Mackinac Island – An historic island at the northernmost tip of Michigan with a charming downtown and 19th-century fort
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Sand dunes, freshwater beaches, and lush forests
Best Time to Go
The best time to explore Northern Michigan is in the late spring, summer, or fall. This season offers mild temperatures, blooming flowers and trees, and longer daylight hours for sightseeing.
11. Washington DC to Asheville, North Carolina
Experience the culture and history of two amazing cities on a road trip from Washington DC to Ashville, North Carolina. Along the way, you’ll be treated to some of America’s most famous monuments and attractions and stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains.
The route between these two cities has plenty of highlights for travelers to enjoy. Some of the key stops include:
- Washington DC: A world-renowned capital city filled with iconic monuments, popular museums, and impressive architecture
- Shenandoah National Park: A stunning park with more than 200,000 acres of pristine wilderness
- New River Gorge National Park: An incredible natural wonder with rugged cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains
- Blue Ridge Parkway: A 469-mile scenic highway that hugs the spine of the Appalachian Mountains
- Asheville: An eclectic city with vibrant art galleries, trendy restaurants, and craft breweries
Best Time to Go
The best time to take this road trip is in the late spring or early fall. This season offers mild temperatures, fewer crowds, and optimal conditions for outdoor activities. Be sure to pack appropriately for the changing weather, as temperatures can vary dramatically depending on elevation.
12. The Mighty 5 in Utah
Explore the beauty of Utah on a road trip through its five incredible national parks. From awe-inspiring cliffs and canyons to jagged mountains and desert landscapes, this road trip promises plenty of stunning scenery and unforgettable experiences.
The Mighty 5 National Parks have plenty of highlights for travelers to explore. Some of the key stops include:
- Canyonlands National Park: A spectacular desert landscape of canyons, mesas, and buttes
- Arches National Park – Explore this ancient landscape of more than 2,000 sandstone arches and other unique geological formations
- Bryce Canyon National Park– Hike through a breathtaking natural amphitheater full of red rock spires
- Zion National Park – Climb the incredible cliffs of Zion Canyon and explore its narrow slot canyons
- Capitol Reef National Park – Admire the unique geology of this vast desert landscape
Best Time to Go
The best time to take this road trip is in late spring or early fall. During these months, temperatures are mild and the natural beauty of Utah is at its peak. Be sure to bring plenty of supplies and be prepared for changing weather conditions. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss any of the stunning views!
13. Cross Country Road Trip via I-90
The I-90 is the longest road in America, crossing a massive 3,000 miles of terrain from Boston to Seattle. It offers breathtaking views as it winds through some of the country’s most stunning northern regions. It’s one lengthy cross country road trip at 3,000 miles!
Make some unbelievable stops such as Niagara Falls, Chicago, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Yellowstone National Park on this awe-inspiring road trip through America. Taking a cross-country drive might appear intimidating; however it will be one of your most unforgettable American journeys.
Best Time to Go
The best time to embark on a cross-country road trip is in the summer. During this season, temperatures are mild and the days are long for sightseeing. However, be sure to prepare for any weather along the way as conditions can change quickly. Also, plan for a few extra days if possible, so you can make unexpected stops along the way.
Tips for Planning Your Road Trip
Create an Itinerary
Before embarking on your USA road trip, it’s crucial to map out your route and list the attractions you want to visit. Spend time researching interesting spots, local eateries, and picturesque landscapes to embrace the journey fully. Consider the time you have available to estimate the duration of each stop properly.
Stay flexible with your schedule, allowing room for spontaneous side trips, but also be realistic about drive times and rest stops. Plan overnight stays in intriguing places where there’s plenty to see and do, ensuring proper relaxation between drives (source).
Prepare your vehicle by conducting routine maintenance checks such as oil changes, tire rotations, and brake inspections. Bring a spare tire, jack, and necessary tools in case of an emergency. Pack a first aid kit, flashlight, and extra water and food supplies to ensure a safe and smooth trip.
Driving during daylight hours is not only safer, but also allows you to appreciate the scenery better. Remember to take breaks every couple of hours to stretch, rest, and refuel.
Essential Apps and Tools
Technology can greatly enhance your road trip experience. Various apps can provide route planning, navigation, and local attraction information. Check the weather forecast for your route using apps like Weather.com to avoid hazardous driving conditions.
- Roadtrippers: A complete trip planner including attractions, accommodations, and food options.
- GasBuddy: Finds you the cheapest nearby gas to save on fuel costs.
- Waze: Real-time traffic information and alternative route suggestions.
By properly preparing and utilizing helpful tools, you can maximize the enjoyment of your beautiful USA road trip!
The USA is blessed with some of the world’s most spectacular road trips, offering unforgettable experiences and the chance to explore hidden gems along the way.
Whether you choose a coast-to-coast adventure or an epic mountain journey, there are endless possibilities when it comes to creating your own unique American road trip. Be sure to plan ahead, stay safe, and take plenty of photos to remember your journey forever!