20 American Road Trips to Take Before You Die from 20 American Road Trips to Take Before You Die
20 American Road Trips to Take Before You Die
20 American Road Trips to Take Before You Die
Road trip is the perfect way to travel, especially if you feel like going on a getaway vacation. You just grab some food and water, fill up the tank and hop in the car. Considering how cheap gas is these days, there is nothing stopping you from cranking up the music and hit the open road. Criss-cross the country via its most iconic roads. You have to see what the hype over the ultimate American trip, featured in many legendary movies, is all about. Witness first-hand why the Going-to-the Sun Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Seward Highway are on travelers’ bucket lists.
This is the ultimate American trip – the legendary 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. It has been featured in just about everything – TV, music, movies. Many places still keep the original two-lane highway. The most popular locations along the trip are in the Southwest, but Illinois has something to offer as well. Stop by Pontiac and visit the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum. Along the way you’ll also find stunning panoramas, charming towns, rocky cliffs, and beautiful deserts and parks. If you really want to see what it’s like to be “alone” on the road, go west from Kingman past the saguaro cacti and loose boulders. You’ll get to Oatman, an old gold-mining town. Don’t forget to visit the Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is 50,000 years old.
Nevada State Highway 375, officially renamed Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996 for the many UFO sightings along this lonely stretch of road, stretches for 98 miles from US-93 in the southeast to US-6 in the northwest. This is definitely an off the beaten path road trip. The highway crosses three large high desert valleys in south central Nevada. You’ll see just a few ranches along the way, but you’ll be very close to the mysterious Area 51, a super-secret Air Force test facility. People have reported seeing many unidentified and strange objects, especially at night, near the base.
Red Rock Scenic Byway
This may be one of the shortest road trips of your life – just about 15 miles – but every minute of it is worth it because of its incredible sights of unbelievable views of the famous Red Rock Country of Sedona and adventures along the way. You can hike, bike, golf, and join tours to see just why the Red Rocks are unique (they are comprised of sediment layers deposited over many millions of years). The byway starts in Sedona, on the southwest edge of the Colorado Plateau, the largest in the country.
This iconic 50-mile trip doesn’t have a single mile without a scenic view. The road cuts the Glacier National Park in half and it’s a National Historic Landmark. You will see forests, lakes, deep ravines, and a variety of wildlife in one trip. Don’t be intimidated by the tall mountaintops surrounding you. But don’t look up so often because the road can get quite narrow at times. If you stop at the St. Mary Lake, the second largest in the park, you’ll be able to take startling photos of the 100-foot Virginia Falls.
Beartooth All-American Highway
Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road. It’s just about 70 miles and it winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming, making its way across the rugged Beartooth Mountain Range and leading into Yellowstone National Park. The road is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies and provides dramatic views, unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities, and unparalleled wildlife watching. Make sure you also stop at Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower and Lake Creek Falls Bridge.
Road to Hana, Hawaii
The Hana Highway is by far Hawaii’s most famous, and treasured road. It is almost 65 miles of pure beauty and thrill. You’ll drive by steep sea-cliffs, see flourishing mango trees, and stop to soak in views that look like they are from the Jurassic Park movies, with breathtaking waterfalls and swim holes along the way. If you go all the way, you’ll make more than 600 turns and drive through shorelines, bridges and hills.
Amish Country Byway: Holmes County
This is a laid-back drive to back in time. The 160-mile Amish Country Byway boasts views of natural panoramas along twisting curves and rolling hills. Drive there for some fine Amish cooking, as well as historic sites featuring the history of Amish and German people. See the lifestyle of a place and people who defy modern conveniences from up close while enjoying the simple pleasures of farm life and country living.
New York City to Pennsylvania
Photo Modified: Flickr / Andy Arthur / CC BY 4.0
This is a trip for the winter. Go on a magnificent 7-day 348-mile long drive through nature. You can go skiing along the way too. Enjoy the view of forests (possibly covered in snow), or ice-skate on a frozen pond. Visit the Norman Rockwell countryside. Get on Route 6 if you want access to 19 state parks, six forests and the Allegheny National Forest, along with the state's own Grand Canyon.
Perfect road trip, according to science
Photo: Randal Olson
The trip would take between two and three months to complete. Seeing that many of the stops are close to other incredible sights and activities, it could easily take you week. The algorithm didn’t look at every possible route, but instead came up with the best route of many, many different trials. Click here to see where this road trip will take you.
Pacific Coast Highway
If you want to go beach hopping, this is the road trip for you. The Pacific Coast Highway will take you to some remarkable beach towns – some can even be great for surfing – eventually leading to the famous Big Sur, a rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon. Drive Big Sur’s length via twisting Highway One. The Bixby Bridge is a favorite spot for photos. Another one is McWay Falls, a cascade that falls about 70 feet to a remote beach.
This is strictly for old enough admirers and anyone who would like to know more about this unique American beverage. Explore the bourbon capital of the world – Kentucky. You can make this trip, a perfect guys getaway, as long as possible, depending on how many distilleries you visit. You will get an idea of the scientific process behind making this native to America spirit while also enjoying the stunning setting in the Bluegrass State. There are plenty of other bourbon experiences in Louisville, Lawrenceburg, Bardstown or Clermont. Some even offer classes on how to make your own bourbon.
Nevada to Utah though Zion National Park
Fly to Las Vegas, have some fun there for a night or two, and rent a car going to the park. It’s just about 240 miles in one direction. Spend about a week driving through the desert to reach the high cliffs of Zion, Utah's first national park. While you’re at it, visit the Bryce Canyon and see how hoodoos and forests are mixed together, a spectacular view in the winter.
Route 50 in Nevada: Loneliest Road in America
It’s only 350 miles. If you want remote roads, this is the trip for you. Even certificates “I Survived the Loneliest Road in America” are available to make it official. Buy qualifying cards at the Ely or Fernley (north of Silver Springs via U.S. 95) and make sure you “check in” on your way. You’ll pass Dayton, which back in the day was a Pony Express station and where Nevada’s first gold strike took place. You can stop where Mark Twain used to work as a journalist. Just when you start to feel a bit startled because of all the sagebrush and sand all around you, you’ll come across Fort Churchill, the abandoned army post from 1860.
Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee
This is the Lookout Mountain Parkway. See waterfalls and canyons in one 120-mile trip. Stop by the Rock City Gardens to see some rare foliage and unusual sandstone formations. Rock City is near Ruby Falls. It’s off Rte. 157 in Georgia, just south of Tennessee. The mountain is just about 10 miles wide but it has plenty for you to see such as various plants, oaks, maples, poplars and dogwoods. Along the way you’ll also see rural byways with lots of cascades, canyons, and caverns. Stop on your way to see the Little River Canyon and the Noccalula Falls Park. Definitely stop at Point Park. At its highest point – 2,126 feet – you can see the Tennessee River, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia. So bring binoculars.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Designed as a recreational drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides both stunning scenery and close-up looks of the natural beauty through the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks, which are especially beautiful in the spring. The road is about 500 miles long and busting with colorful trees, forest canopy if you go in the summer, and meadows. If you want to snap an amazing picture of the famous Mile High Swinging Bridge, go to Grandfather Mountain.
Minnesota to Wisconsin
This is another trip best taken in the winter. Want to see some amazing ice caves? Get on Route 13 from Duluth and head to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The trip can take you between three and six days because it’s about 250 miles, including coming back. You can go hiking into out-of-this-world icicles. Nordic skiing is another thrilling option if you chose to go on this road trip. It’s long, the 107-kilometer Birkebeiner trail system.
If you're looking for whales and waterfalls, blue glaciers and sharp-toothed mountains, calm trout ponds and stormy ocean fjords, there's enough visual overload along the Seward Highway in Alaska to fill a hard drive with digital pictures, according to National Geographic. This road trip is about 130 miles. Make sure you stop at Chugach State Park where you’re sure to witness moose, Dall sheep, and bald eagles. You can pull over anywhere along the route to go hiking. Some of the glaciers are accessible by foot or boat.
The Santa Fe Trail
Embark on a historic journey dating back to 1821, when the Santa Fe Trail was a commercial highway between western Missouri and New Mexico. The trail, which is about 400 miles, crosses Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. See Old West-style prairies, mighty-looking volcanoes, and almost-deserted towns. Don’t forget to stop by the famous Philmont Scout Ranch, the Sugarite Canyon State Park to see the early 20th-century coal-mining camp, and the Capulin Volcano National Monument.
San Juan Highway
Experience the Rocky Mountains from a car instead of on skis. You may be surprised at how refreshing and adventurous it can be. The road of a total of about 160 miles is filled is zigzagging routes and sharp turns, which is great if you only want to see unique and odd natural rock formations. In 2012, Travel + Leisure named San Juan Skyway one of "America's Best Spring Drives" for its million-dollar views. Make sure you drive the segment from Ouray to Silverton, which is called the Million Dollar Highway, for some of the most breathtaking views you can see on any road.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park
You can start from Front Royal and drive all of the 105 miles on the Skyline Drive, north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park. This is the only public road through the park. Mornings are going to be frosty but beautiful. Waterfalls crystallize in the winter and the more enthusiastic of you can get to them by snowshoeing or skiing. There are many picnic areas along the route. Many prefer the Elkwallow and South River because of the opportunities to “meet” with raptors and many animals.