No country in the world does road trips quite as well as the United States.
Seriously, hitting the road is almost a way of life. You’re very unlikely to meet a single person in America who hasn’t made at least a few road trips throughout their life!
Thanks to its incredibly vast size (over 4 million miles of road!), and wide variety in terrain and landscapes, no two United States road trip is ever alike.
From driving through seemingly endless deserts to following the Pacific Coast in search of the best beaches and driving around glaciers, one could easily spend an entire lifetime dedicated to road-tripping the country and never find themselves getting bored!
If you’re currently on the lookout for ideas for your next family road trip but find yourself at a loss when choosing which road to hit next, here’s the ultimate list of fabulous American road trips to truly immerse yourself in the landscapes and flavor of specific regions all over the United States!
18 Best American Road Trips
- 18 Best American Road Trips
- 1. Miami to Key West Overseas Highway (Highway 1), Florida
- 2. Anchorage to Valdez, Alaska
- 3. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), California
- 4. Utah Mighty 5 National Parks Road Trip, Utah
- 5. New York City to Five Finger Lakes, New York
- 6. Skyline Drive, Virginia
- 7. Trail Ridge Road, Colorado
- 8. Windward Coast Scenic Drive, Oahu, Hawaii
- 9. Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington State
- 10. Million Dollar Highway (San Juan Skyway), Colorado
- 11. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
- 12. Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway, Oregon
- 13. South Dakota Road Trip
- 14. Historic Route 66
- 15. Great River Road
- 16. Appalachian Trail
- 17. America’s Longest Drive (Route 20)
- 18. America’s Loneliest Road (Route 50)
- More Incredible Drives From Around The World
1. Miami to Key West Overseas Highway (Highway 1), Florida
As one of the most mesmerizing and classic American road trips, Highway 1 is a must on any traveler’s bucket list.
This route will take you all the way from Miami to the alluring Florida Keys, with a huge portion of the road being set over the sea! A huge part of the highway is made up of bridges connecting the Keys, which allows you to drive over the ocean without having to use a ferry or boat to get to the next island.
Needless to say, the scenery along the way is spectacular no matter where you look. As you go from bustling Miami past Coral Gables, Key Largo, and Islamorada before arriving at your final destination at Key West, you’ll be treated to glorious ocean views and beautiful white sandy beaches.
To top it all off, there are several state parks and tons of historical attractions scattered throughout, making this palm-dotted highway a wonderful way to get the best of all worlds. Seriously, there’s literally something worth seeing or stopping the car for every mile of the way, so make sure you plan at least a few days to complete this American road trip.
A few stops worth adding to your road trip bucket list include the underwater Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Bahia Honda State Park, the Dolphin Research Center, and beautiful Islamorada.
2. Anchorage to Valdez, Alaska
This splendid drive is probably the most overlooked of American road trips, and that’s probably only due to its distance from the continental USA rather than its lack of beauty. Throughout the road trip, you’ll be treated to almost 300 miles of pristine glaciers, towering snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, and lush valleys, making it an absolute must on your bucket list if exploring the raw wilderness of Alaska sounds like your type of adventure.
As you slowly make your way to Valdez, you’ll be treated to many scenic vistas, ranging from mountains to glaciers. A few stops worth making include the Chugach State Park, the Eklutna Historical Park to see the area’s oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan settlement, the Matanuska Glacier, and the Dall Sheep Viewing at Sheep Mountain, where you can see large numbers of wild sheep!
A few miles before Valdez, you’ll see the Worthington Glacier Recreational Center. This is one of the few places in Alaska where you can walk on a glacier on your own, so make sure to stop and walk a bit to touch the blue ice!
Valdez is known as Little Switzerland because of its stunning beauty and gorgeous landscapes. Backdropped by the snow-capped Chugach Mountains, this quaint city offers visitors incredible coastlines, tidal water glaciers, interesting museums, and a good variety of restaurants and bars to help you cap off the road trip in an epic way!
3. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), California
It’s hard to beat the Pacific Coast Highway when it comes to incredible coastal scenery.
Boasting spectacular views of the Pacific every mile of the way, this coastal highway is one of the most spectacular American road trips. Even though the route can be extended to the states of Oregon and Washington, this itinerary will take you along the California portion of the drive from San Francisco to San Diego.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to some of the best attractions California has to offer, get to visit several state parks, pass through picturesque seaside towns, and of course, have options aplenty to stop at several beaches!
Even though you could easily complete this road trip in a day or two if you were to barely make any stops, this drive is all about the journey rather than the destination.
This is especially true once you find yourself in the Big Sur area, a 90-mile stretch of the road that starts in the charming seaside town of Carmel-by-the Sea and ends in San Simeon and passes some of the most jaw-dropping natural wonders in the area.
We need an entire blog post to describe every single attraction worth stopping for at Highway 1, but a few favorites to include in your itinerary are the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, the city of San Jose, the laid-back seaside village Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Monterey. Other amazing spots are Hearst Castle and the Danish-style town of Solvang!
- We have a detailed guide here to tackling the Big Sur section of Highway 1 or heading to the north, these are the best stops San Francisco to Seattle
4. Utah Mighty 5 National Parks Road Trip, Utah
The Utah National Parks Road Trip is one of the best American road trips to complete if raw desert magic is what you’re after.
This road trip is all about exploring all five of Utah’s national parks and a few extra attractions scattered throughout, each of which comes with unique features but is equally beautiful as the last and provides desert adventures in massive doses.
Start out at Zion National Park, where you’ll find jaw-dropping vistas, desert terrain, unique sandstone cliffs, and lots of interesting desert wildlife to observe. Next, make your way to Bryce Canyon National Park, where you’ll find a large collection of striking red hoodoos and tons of trails that will allow you to hike amid a desert landscape that looks almost like it should belong on Mars.
Other fantastic parks on the list are Capitol Reef to feel as though you’re exploring a different planet, Monument Valley for its legacy of Native American and Old West history, and Dead Horse Point State Park to feel as though you’re in a true cowboy setting in the middle of the Moab desert.
From there, Arches National Park is an easy ride (and yes, you’ll find more than 2000 natural arches and rock formations here!)
Last but definitely not least, on this amazing American road trip is a stop at Canyonlands National Park, where you’ll find a desert landscape so vast that you could easily spend an entire year exploring and never get to do the same thing twice. Here, you’ll find sweeping canyon views, whacky-looking rock formations that come in all shades of red, and a vast array of hiking trails and adventures for you to explore at your own pace!
5. New York City to Five Finger Lakes, New York
Taking you from one of the most iconic cities in the United States into the Finger Lakes region, this beautiful road trip will show you some of the best New York State has to offer beyond the Big Apple.
Set out from the bustle and hustle of New York City and head northwest towards Cayuga, where you can take a little detour at the Cayuga Wine Trail, the oldest running wine trail in the country! There’s more to this trail than *just* wine, so if possible, try taking a couple of days to fully take everything in.
Don’t miss out on seeing the beautiful glass creations at the Corning Museum of Glass – you can even create your own to take back home with you!
Next, drive over to the town of Watkins Glen, where you can explore a quaint village before heading out into nature to chase waterfalls and hike a few trails at Watkins Glen State Park.
The rest of your time will be spent checking out the finger-shaped lakes that gave the region its name, all of which you’ll find spread across the highway. Each of the lakes comes with its own charm; Cayuga is famous for its wine scene, Taughannock Falls, Seneca for scenic hiking, and Keuka Lake for fishing.
No matter which lakes you choose, water sports, relaxation, and fun are always guaranteed!
6. Skyline Drive, Virginia
The Skyline Drive in Virginia is one of the most cherished American road trips, especially for those looking for a relatively short drive that still provides a ton to see along the way.
Taking you all the way from the busy capital into the heart of the mesmerizing Appalachian Mountains in just over an hour, this drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.
As you move further along the road, you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, as well as get plenty of opportunities to park your car and head out for a hike to get closer and personal with the landscape around you.
- We have further suggestions below on how you can extend this drive along the east coast, plus the most stunning scenic drives in Virginia to extend your journey through the state
7. Trail Ridge Road, Colorado
The Rockies are one of the most strikingly beautiful mountains in the United States, and even though this “road trip” is more of a scenic drive than anything, we still thought it needed to make it to the list due to its unparalleled beauty!
Cutting straight through the Rocky Mountains, the Trail Ridge Road reaches an elevation of over 12,000 feet, which means the top views are absolutely unbelievable.
You’ll want to start your journey at Estes Park, a picturesque mountain town that features incredible hiking trails, great dining, and fine shopping. From here, you’ll start driving upwards all the way to the national park, passing through groves of golden aspen trees, a few trailheads, and glorious vistas all over. Be sure to stay on the lookout for elk, bighorn sheep, and moose, which are easy to spot from the car!
As a tip, this is one of the best American road trips to take for fall foliage, so keep that in mind if you’re still looking for ideas on where to go next fall!
- You’ll find more ideas for epic Colorado mountain drives over here!
8. Windward Coast Scenic Drive, Oahu, Hawaii
Also dubbed “The Gathering Place,” Oahu is one of the main islands in Hawaii and the most populated and visited one of them all.
The Windward Coast Scenic Drive along the eastern coast will take you from lively Honolulu to some of the best laid-back coastal towns and secluded beaches in the North Shore area of the island.
As soon as you start driving the Pali Highway, bustling Honolulu will give way to lush natural landscapes as you begin entering the Koolau Mountain Range. This extreme change in landscape will make you feel almost as though you were teleported into a different time!
As you wind along this lesser-traveled Windward Coast road, you’ll see the ocean turn from a turquoise shade to a deep dark blue as the landscape becomes lusher and greener. With its spectacular panoramic views of the Windward Coast and the Koolau Mountains, Nuuanu Pali Lookout is a great spot to make a quick stop to stretch your legs.
Right across from the island, you’ll find Kualoa Ranch, a privately owned ranch where some scenes of “Jurassic Park” and “Lost” were filmed. Of course, you’ll also want to stop at a few of the many secluded beaches that dot the road, so make sure you dedicate at least a few days to this epic road trip in order to be able to make “serendipitous” stops as you go along!
9. Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington State
Imagine seeing a rainforest, snow-capped mountains, a lake, and the Pacific Ocean, all on the same day!
Taking you all around the 3,500 square miles that make up Olympic National Park, this amazing loop will have you wondering your way around one of the most diverse national parks in the entire United States, making it a great short road trip to take if a little variety is what you’re after.
While the list of things to do at Olympic National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), is pretty much endless if you’re short on time, we recommend making a stop at Ruby Beach for some beachside fun, hiking the Hoh Rain Forest, and having a picnic at Crescent Lake!
- See our complete road trip itinerary for the Olympic Peninsula here, along with a great selection of Washington scenic drives for those who’d like to delve further into the raw beauty of the Pacific Northwest
10. Million Dollar Highway (San Juan Skyway), Colorado
Featuring some of the finest Rocky Mountain views in Colorado, the San Juan Skyway is one of the most mesmerizing road trips to take in the United States.
The San Juan Skyway begins and ends in the mining town of Durango, where you can ride horses, but also the old gauge railroad, which is still functioning to date! From Durango, head north to Silverston and get ready for a change of scenery as views of the Weminuche Wilderness start taking over.
Stop at Molas Pass and the Dallas Divide before arriving at the town of Telluride, which is a gorgeous mountain locale boasting Victorian-era homes that offer prime skiing during the winter, glorious hiking year-long, and hosts some of the best festivals in the state during the summer months.
- With no shortage of incredible mountain drives, here’s where you’ll find some of the best views in Colorado
11. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
As the only road that crosses the entirety of Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most incredible US road trips that will have you gawking at melting glaciers, staring at still blue lakes, passing alpine meadows, and getting glorious views of carved valleys and cascading waterfalls.
Also dubbed the “Crown of the Continent,” this Montana road is considered an engineering marvel, especially when you consider it was built without explosive blasts in order to preserve the landscape!
Even though the road is pretty short at just over 50 miles long, opportunities for interesting stops abound on this immensely scenic drive in Montana.
Make sure to pinpoint the following places: Avalanche Creek for dreamy lake views, The Loop for glorious vistas of Heaven’s Peak, the Jackson Glacier Overlook to gawk at the seventh-largest glacier in the park up close, and the Wild Goose Island Overlook to see a tiny island nestled in a lake that feels almost as though it should belong in a storybook!
Top Tip: Going-to-the-Sun Road now requires a timed entry permit in peak months – make sure to apply early if you plan to tackle this drive in summer.
12. Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway, Oregon
If you’re after the most sensational natural beauty in America, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more enchanting drive than the 80-mile-long Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway (the first road in America specifically built for auto-touring).
Following the I-84 east from Portland on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, “The King of Roads” is lined with lush temperate rain forests, mossy canyons, intermittent river views, and most famously, the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America (77, to be precise!)
Not just natural beauty, the Columbia River Highway has some of the most beautiful bridges in the country too. Besides the famous Multnomah Falls, some of the highlights of this drive include Vista House and catching the sunset at Crown Point, Bridal Veil Falls, hiking the Eagle Creek Trail, Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, and the Dalles Lock and Dam.
Oh, and don’t forget the numerous wineries and microbreweries that dot the area too. This is natural and man-made beauty combined at its best in the Pacific North West.
Top Tip: During the peak summer season, permits may be required for Multnomah Falls and the Waterfall Corridor. Check here if timed permits are required.
- Find all our favorite scenic drives in Oregon – the spectacular Oregon Coast was very unlucky not to get our top billing in this list!
13. South Dakota Road Trip
South Dakota is a vast state full of natural wonders and heritage. The population is small, and the terrain wide, making it a dreamy destination for an outdoor-focused American road trip.
Begin at Sioux Falls, the largest city in the state and a great base point for visiting Falls Park to check out the waterfalls that dwell within. Upon your return to the city, you can stroll along the Big Sioux Riverwalk all the way to the downtown area, where you can sit at a few restaurants that overlook the river, check out a few local shops, or count how many wall murals you can find!
The next day will be all about exploring Badlands National Park and the varied terrain it covers. Here, you’ll get to see colorful buttes and pinnacles and suddenly blend into the largest mixed-grass prairie in the United States. Prairie Dog Town is a cute spot on the western end of the park, home to prairie dogs eager to be cuddled!
After exploring Badlands National Park’s vastness, continue to Rapid City, where you’ll find plenty of lodging and dining options -undoubtedly one of the best family vacation spots in the Midwest. If you want to sightsee a bit, you can complete the City of Presidents Walk, which passes by life-size bronze statues of former U.S. Presidents.
The last stop on this Midwest road trip is Black Hills National Forest, which boasts a seemingly black mountain range, many hiking trails, and iconic attractions like Mount Rushmore and the famous Presidents’ heads carved in the stone walls!
These next few American road trip suggestions are much longer! Crossing state borders are some of the USA’s longest and most iconic drives; you’ll want to try at least one of these in your lifetime!
14. Historic Route 66
No road speaks louder about classic American road trips than the famous Route 66, especially if you’re keen to feel as though you traveled back in time to old America.
Starting in Chicago and ending in Santa Monica, this road trip has nostalgic Americana written all over it. Back in the day, this USA road trip was a favorite for families and friends to venture the road to see the West Coast, and even though the route is not as popular anymore, it remains a dream to complete for many!
Although some parts of Route 66 have been overrun by freeways, large parts of it are still used, and citizens who live in the towns along the way have made huge efforts to revive it. Route 66 is all about nostalgia, resilience, quirky highlights, and fantastic scenery.
Iconic stops along the route are the Gemini Giant, Route History, the Gateway Arch, Meramec Caverns, the giant Blue Whale, Pops Diner, The Leaning Tower of Texas, Cadillac Ranch, the Santa Rosas’s Blue Hole, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest National Park, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, and the Mc Donald’s Museum.
If this list seems long, trust me, the real one is a lot longer, so make sure you plan for plenty of time to make the most out of Route 66!
15. Great River Road
They don’t come much mightier in America than the Great River Road, following the Mississippi River through 10 states. From the headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota all the way through to the mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, the GRR is a wonderful showcase of the best the Midwest has to offer.
Far more than just flat farmland, there are dozens of interesting stops and side turns you can make on this 3,000-mile-long route. Some unmissable stops include the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, the picturesque town of Dubuque in Iowa (baseball fans will want a side stop to Field of Dreams), and Gateway City, St Louis.
Heading further south, Memphis is a must-stop, along with the National Civil Rights Museum and Graceland, followed by the Mississippi River State Park in Arkansas and the old port town of Helena. New Orleans is, without a doubt, the crowing highlight of the GRR before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
Top Tip: The official GRR route is about 50% longer than taking the Interstate; You may choose to mix and match the original route – marked with a green steamboat wheel on road signs – with the Interstate to save some time.
16. Appalachian Trail
If you’re not big into hiking but still dream of following the Appalachian Trail, fear not; there is a road trip version you can take that shadows the 2,100-mile route all the way from New England to the Deep South.
This epic scenic drive will take you through 14 states. You’ll witness some of the most contrasting landscapes on the east coast of the USA. Fascinating and wealthy historical towns give way to former mill towns, mountains to plains.
The Appalachian Trail drive will briefly take you through Maryland and West Virginia before you commence the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. You can even take on the 11-mile stretch through Tennessee and North Carolina is known as the Tail of the Dragon (motion sickness sufferers may want to seek an alternate route! )
This epic east coast drive concludes in Georgia – Springer Mountain, to be precise; we’d also add a stop at Tallulah Falls to complete your itinerary.
17. America’s Longest Drive (Route 20)
Fancy heading coast to coast? America’s Longest Drive (Route 20) takes you more than 3,300 miles from Boston to Newport, Oregon, traversing the country in an almost straight line through megacities and small towns.
Highlights along the route, often nicknamed “Big Daddy,” include the Baseball Hall of Fame, driving through Chicago, checking into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland and the kids will definitely want a day at Cedar Point Amusement Park.
The journey continues westward with incredible nature and history stops to work into your itinerary, including Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Park, Yellowstone National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. Your journey through Oregon isn’t complete without a stop at Bend on the Deschutes River and finishing your journey on the incredibly picturesque Oregon Coast.
If you’ve got plenty of time to spend and want a true taste of North America, this is the most spectacular drive to take with your family for “the Great American Road Trip.”
- Check out our complete guide to road tripping coast to coast, New York to California
- We detail all the fascinating stops from Yellowstone and through Oregon here
18. America’s Loneliest Road (Route 50)
Whilst many of the American road trip routes we’ve described here are famous for their unbridled beauty, there’s something truly unique and fitting about finishing our listing of the best road trips in the USA with U.S. Route 50.
This major east-west highway takes you from Ocean City, Maryland, across the country to West Sacramento, California. Over 3,000 miles long, you’ll traverse some of the most rural parts of America, including the 287-mile stretch between Ely and Fernley, Nevada, dubbed “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in 1986.
The moniker has certain stuck, and the Nevadian take pride in this claim to fame. If your family loves a challenge, pick up an “Official Highway 50 Survival Guide” and get it stamped at every town you pass!
Other awesome stops along the entirety of Route 50 include Washington DC, Kansas City, the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado, Moab, Utah (add in the Utah Mighty 5 we describe above!), and crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Whilst you could plow straight through and complete the cross-country drive in under a week, it would take months to properly explore; we recommend at least three weeks for this ultimate American road trip!
America’s Best Road Trips
We hope this list of the best American road trips inspired you to pick a place and hit the road. Even though listing every road trip worth driving in the United States would be an impossible feat (seriously, there are so many of them!), these are a few great ones to start exploring the country!
Why not set yourself the goal to try one of these per year until your child turns 18?
Each of these drives is so vastly different from the next that choosing one is a pretty hard task, so we’d love to know which one sparked your interest the most and why!
More Incredible Drives From Around The World
If you’ve completed many of these epic driving routes in the USA and are now scouting for your next adventure, you may also be interested in
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