15+ Best Road Trips in the USA (Ideas and Inspiration)

15+ Best Road Trips in the USA (Ideas and Inspiration)

Last Updated on 11th March 2024 by Sophie Nadeau

The road trip is one of the most classic ways to explore the USA, and today we’re revealing to you the very best road trips in the USA that you’ll want to embark on ASAP. From driving through lush green jungles to traversing wide desert landscapes, there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery to discover.

If you’re about to go on a road trip, be sure to also check out our top road trip tips.

15+ Best Road Trips in the USA (Ideas and Inspiration)15+ Best Road Trips in the USA (Ideas and Inspiration)

Contents

  • Best road trips in the USA
    • Route 66
    • New York to Los Angeles
    • Utah’s Mighty 5, Utah
    • Overseas Highway (Miami to Key West), Florida
    • Death Valley, California
    • Road to Hana, Hawaii
    • Million Dollar Highway, Colorado
    • Pacific Coast Highway, California
    • Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
    • 17 Mile Drive, California
    • Columbia River Scenic Highway
    • Black River Scenic Byway, Michigan
    • Skyline Drive, Virginia
    • Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
    • The Loneliest Road in America, Nevada
    • Route 12, Utah

Best road trips in the USA

Route 66

Of all US road trips, Route 66 is undoubtedly the most famous (not to mention that it’s also one of the most searched for road trips online in the entire world).

Covering a staggering distance of over 2000 miles, Route 66 passes through eight states as it snakes across the US between Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California. 

This is the kind of American road trip which finds its history all the way back to the 1920s (the road itself was commissioned in 1926 to be precise), though it wasn’t fully paved until the 1930s.

The road covers a total distance of 2,448 miles. Travelling along Route 66 one way takes around two weeks if you want to make the most of your trip and see more than just highways.

Please note that, unfortunately, as of 2022, the majority of Route 66 road painted signs have been painted over as it was found to be too dangerous to keep them. Too many people were posing for photos in unsafe road situations, and so now very few (if any) of the signs remain to this day.

Here are some of the highlights you can expect to see

route 66route 66

New York to Los Angeles

Of course, the longest road trip route in mainland US would be to drive all the way from the West Coast to the East Coast, or vice versa. The total distance is at least 3000 miles and will take several weeks.

Along the route, you can see a lot of the best of what the US has to offer, and if you’re willing to go a little bit out of the way, then you can also see some National Parks en route.

If you don’t stop at all, then the drive along will take over 40 hours, which just goes to show that you’ll need to give yourself ample time to truly enjoy the route.

los angeles sunsetlos angeles sunset

Utah’s Mighty 5, Utah

So-called thanks to the fact that this road trip passes through Utah’s 5 distinctive National Parks, this Utah route covers a distance of around 900 miles and will take at least a week to ten days to complete (depending on how long you give yourself to stop off at major sightseeing spots along the way).

Particular highlights of the Mighty 5 include Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, and Zion. Each National Park has a variety of trails, meaning that it has hikes for every level from beginner to expert. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our suggested Utah road trip itinerary.

Utah's Mighty 5 road tripUtah's Mighty 5 road trip

Overseas Highway (Miami to Key West), Florida

One of the best American road trips you can possibly take is that of Miami to Key West. The most famous of the islands, Key West, is the most Southerly point of mainland USA and once there you can expect to find plenty of palm trees, an azure blue sea, and lots of history, including Ernest Hemingway’s former home.

Embarking on a self-guided road trip of the Keys with your own vehicle will allow you to enjoy other islands at your own pace, rather than just having to spy them while passing by. Highlights and some of the best things to do between Miami and Key West include the town of Marathon and being able to see the Seven Miles Bridge. 

Miami to Key West: An Easy Day trip to the Florida KeysMiami to Key West: An Easy Day trip to the Florida Keys

Death Valley, California

Situated in eastern California, USA, Death Valley is a renowned national park with a harsh climate, arid terrain, and fascinating geological formations that span more than three million acres.

It boasts several tourist hotspots like Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

A road trip through the valley will lead visitors to popular viewpoints such as Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, and Artist’s Palette, as well as historic sites like Scotty’s Castle and the Harmony Borax Works.

Hiking, camping, and stargazing are some of the other activities to enjoy here, but visitors must remain cautious during the summer season when temperatures can go beyond 120°F, and drink plenty of water!

For even more inspiration, be sure to check out our suggested Death Valley road trip itinerary. A trip to Death Valley can easily be combined with a visit to Joshua Tree, which is around a four hour drive away.

death valleydeath valley
Death Valley/ Dan Sedran/ Shutterstock

Road to Hana, Hawaii

Visitors of Maui who wish to embark on a road trip to further soak up the ambiance of the island should absolutely head out on the Road to Hana. Encompassing intense waterfalls, scenic views, and plenty of twists and turns en route, there’s quite literally something to see at very twist on the Road to Hana highway. 

The Road to Hana stretches for 64.4-mile-long and incorporates Hawaii Routes 36 and 360. If you really want to make the most of the journey, with the chance to stop off at various spots on the way, then you should plan to stay overnight along the route. You’ll also want to bring your bathing suit so that you can visit the black sand beaches and bathe in the crystal clear waters en route.

Waianapanapa state park Hawaii USAWaianapanapa state park Hawaii USA

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

The road leads between two historic mining towns of Silverton and Ouray. There is no consensus on exactly how this 25 miles (40 km) route got its name.

However, the two leading theories are either because it cost so much to build the road, or because the views that drivers and passengers of the highway get are ‘worth a million dollars’.

Million Dollar HighwayMillion Dollar Highway

Pacific Coast Highway, California

Yet another road trip in the USA which will allow you to enjoy gorgeous scenic coastal views is that of the Pacific Coast Highway in California. Stretching a distance of 1055 km, the State Route 1 goes from North to South and offers plenty of attractions and things to do en route.

Particular highlights of this road trip route include the Glass Beach, and Big Sur. Of course, the best time to take this road trip is from the late spring to the early fall as this is when you’ll have the least chance of encountering rain.

Please note, however, that the roads can get particularly busy during peak season (July and August) and you may be slowed down by various events taking place in the areas your drive through.

Pacific Coast Highway USAPacific Coast Highway USA

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia

Best seen during fall in the USA when the leaves of the forest turn beautiful golden hues, the Blue Ridge Parkway takes visitors through the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah (the two greatest National Parks in this area of the USA).

Running a total distance of 469 miles across 29 counties, particular highlights of a USA road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway include Mabry Mill (an early 20th-century wooden gristmill) and Rough Ridge, where there’s a protruding rock known as “Lion King rock”.

Blue Ridge ParkwayBlue Ridge Parkway

17 Mile Drive, California

One of the best things to do in California is to embark on the 17 Mile Drive road trip. As its name would suggest, this is a 17 mile road trip which offers visitors the chance to visit Pebble Beach and Lone Cypress (in fact, it’s the only way to get to either of these destinations). Please note that you’ll have to pay $11.25 per vehicle to drive the road trip route.

17 mile drive17 mile drive

Columbia River Scenic Highway

There is no better way to discover the treasures of the Columbia River Gorge than by taking a road trip along the Columbia River Scenic Highway. After all, as its name suggests, the road was literally built so that people travelling by car could enjoy incredible views from their vehicles.

The highway stretches around 75 miles and takes visitors between Troutdale and The Dalles. Built between 1913 and 1922, the best time to visit is April through to June and in September or early October.

This will ensure that you get the best weather, all the while beating the crowds and getting the chance to see wildflowers in the spring or beautiful fall foliage in the autumn.

Columbia River Columbia River

Black River Scenic Byway, Michigan

Located in Michigan, the Black River Scenic Byway is around 14 miles long and follows County Road 513. The true highlight of this USA road trip is that it offers fairly easy access to a number of different waterfalls. Great Conglomerate Falls, Potawatomi, Gorge, Sandstone, and Rainbow Falls are all located along the Scenic Byway.

Black River Scenic BywayBlack River Scenic Byway

Skyline Drive, Virginia

Located along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, Skyline Drive is a route that is a 105-mile drive National Parkway. Please note that the Shenandoah Entrance Fee is $30 per vehicle.

Along the route, there are plenty of stunning lookout points where you can see the mountains laid out before you. Hands down, the best time of the year to do the drive is during the fall when the leaves turn a thousand shades of burnt umber, oranges, yellows, and reds.

Skyline DriveSkyline Drive

Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Best driven in the fall when the leaves are beautiful and golden, the New Hampshire Route 112 runs for just over 56 miles and takes around 2-3 hours to complete. A drive along the Kancamagus Highway can be done as part of a longer New England road trip.

Kancamagus HighwayKancamagus Highway

The Loneliest Road in America, Nevada

So called because most of the area you’ll drive through is largely uninhabited, the Loneliest Road in America is otherwise known as Route 50 and traverses from 375 to 500 miles.

The route encompasses mining towns, state parks, and small roadside stops. At night, you’ll be rewarded with some of the clearest views of the stars and the night sky to be found anywhere in the USA.

The Loneliest Road in AmericaThe Loneliest Road in America

Route 12, Utah

Often touted as one of the ‘most beautiful highways in the world,’ Route 12 (also referred to as Scenic Byway 12) covers just over 120 miles and connects Wayne County to Garfield County. Highlights of the route include Capitol Reef National Park, Larb Hollow Overlook, and The Hogback Area.

Route 12Route 12

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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

Last Updated on 11th March 2024 by Sophie Nadeau The road trip is one of the most classic ways to explore the USA, and today we’re revealing to you the very best road trips in the USA that you’ll want to embark on ASAP. From driving through lush green jungles to traversing wide desert landscapes, there’s…

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