Who’s Up for driving one of the best American Road Trips?
Road tripping across the USA has to be the ultimate way to see the country. Having your own vehicle gives you the freedom to go where you want, when you want. If you are looking for inspiration for your next big American road trip, from the dramatic California coast to the history-lined thoroughfares along the East coast and all those in between, look no further. I’ve asked 18 other road trippers their favourite American road trip to take and this is what they said. Enjoy, and see you out on the road somewhere!
DON”f FORGET: Drive on the right side of the road in America.
San Francisco to Yellowstone National Park
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
This road trip starts in the great city of San Francisco. It then takes you through several lesser-known, other-worldly locations, before ending with two major US National Parks. Spread over 5 driving days, you’ll drive an average of 5 hours a day. You’ll want to add a few days to enjoy each of the National Parks as well.
First stop – Reno, NV! This town often doesn’t get enough credit. If you can, time your trip to see the Great Reno Balloon Race where hundreds of hot air balloons lift into the morning sky. Then drive just over six hours to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Bonneville, Utah. This stop is a little out of the way, but these salt flats are where land speed records are broken. You can walk out on them, or on a dry day, actually drive on them.
From Utah, head to Craters of the Moon National Preserve. Bring your headlamps, you can climb through the lava tubes here. NASA astronauts have actually trained here to simulate time on the moon. Check out our full guide: Walking on the Moon: Exploring Craters of the Moon with Kids.
Spend the night in the nearby town of Arco, Idaho before continuing on to Grand Teton National Park, which is just under 3 hours away. We stayed in Jackson, WY to explore the park, before heading north to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is a massive park and we recommend at least three days to explore it.
Contributed by Cynthia Mathews von Berg of Sharing the Wonder
Big Sur, California
Selfie Time along Big Sur
Big Sur had been on my mind ever since my Mac pinged me to download the new installer. Jokes aside, I was reminded of my bucket list travel intentions for the year, and so I grabbed my best friend and jumped in the car. From gorgeous Carmel-by-the-Sea to the charming little town of Cambria, taking Highway 1 down the Pacific Coast was stunning. Because the coast can be temperamental, the best time to go is actually in the spring, March through May, when the fog isn’t as prominent as other times of the year.
The whole trip is about 100 miles in distance. Technically it can be done in about 2.5 hours. The idea is to take a long weekend, spend a couple of days in Carmel-by-the-Sea and a couple of days in Cambria. This allows visiting the parks of monarch butterflies, Pfieffer Beach, the many elephant seals beached in San Simeon, and the famous Bixby Bridge. We loved this road trip because we had the ocean and dramatic cliffs on one side, and mountains covered in wildflowers on the other. A surprisingly similar look and feel to my Northern Spain Road Trip – if you ever get a chance!
Contributed by Mariana of Road Trip Euro Guide
Denver to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver
One of the best road trips in the USA is from Denver to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. While in Denver, be sure to take in a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It is famous for its gorgeous rock formation and world-class concerts. Then grab a meal at Root Down.
Next, drive 40 minutes, or 29 miles, before stopping in Boulder. It’s a college town that is also an outdoor mecca. Here you can try hiking to Flagstaff Mountain or exploring the Flatirons Vista Trail before doing some rock climbing in Eldorado State Park. Then, drive 48 minutes, or 38 miles, to Estes Park, Colorado. Spend the night at Della Terra Mountain Chateau so that you can wake up early and explore Rocky Mountain National Park.
While there are a ton of amazing hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Highlights include a hike up to Emerald Lake for sunrise or a more challenging hike to Sky Pond. Take the Trail Ridge Road to drive from the eastern to the western side of the park. It delivers stunning, high-alpine views and is 48 miles long, one-way. In total, the drive will take around an hour and 45 minutes to complete.
Note: Trail Ridge closes in mid-October and doesn’t open again until around mid-June, depending on the weather. So, try to visit around late September to enjoy the area’s mesmerizing fall foliage.”
Contributed by Meg of Fox in the Forest
New York City to Orlando
A road trip from New York to Orlando is a perfect way to discover a lot of beauty on the East coast. It’s a 21 day route and we drove it in the Summer, which was perfect.
With over a 1000 miles, there’s so much to see and do. Start with exploring NYC, the city that never sleeps, then head South. Start with Philadelphia and the second stop is Washington DC, both iconic cities with world class museums.
Time for some nature after those 3 big cities! Explore Shenandoah National Park. Then drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and end with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The mountains have so much to offer with mesmerizing views, hikes and attractions, enough for days.
Head further South and explore the historic Savannah. Be stunned at the Kennedy Space Center. End your road trip in Orlando with Disney World and Universal Studios.
This road trip offers so much with famous, big cities, to history and beautiful nature and theme parks. I loved the diversity on this road trip and that we got to see a lot of the US.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels
Cadillac Range along Route 66
One of the best road trips in the USA is Route 66! This US road trip is 2448 miles long and stretches from Chicago, all the way to Los Angeles. It passes through 8 states: Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. How long does it take to do Route 66? Ideally it’s best to take at least 2 weeks. There is so much to see and do you could easily take twice as long to complete it! Our total drive time was 85 hours (including stops). There were a couple of days where we were on the road for 12 hours getting from A to B!
Some highlights of the route include the giant roadside attractions. The Blue Whale in OK. Cadillac Ranch in TX where 10 Cadillac cars are half buried in the ground that people are able to spray paint. Staying in a concrete wigwam in AZ and finally, the Oatman Highway segment. The Disney Pixar ‘Cars’ movie is based on real life people and places along the route, which brings another fun element to the road trip!
It’s very easy to add side trips while driving along Route 66. Many people opting to visit Santa Fe in New Mexico, the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas.
Contributed by Kylie from Between England and Iowa
The Texas Triangle
San Antonio Missions
Road trip the Texas Triangle to experience the best of the Lone Star State. Experience its cowboy culture, Texas BBQ, wide-open pastures and friendly cities. I recommend at least a 7-day itinerary to drive the 710 miles The Texas Triangle covers passing through Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. The best thing? With the road trip path being a triangle, you can fly to the most convenient airport for you.
Walk around each city’s distinct downtown and art districts and try Texas BBQ at least once. In your Houston itinerary, marveling at the Gerald D Hines Waterwall Park and visiting the inspiring NASA Johnson Space Center is a must for all ages. At Dallas, learn the history of JFK’s assassination and legacy at The Sixth Floor Museum. In the warmer months, find swimming holes like Barton Springs or float the San Marcos River near Austin. Don’t forget the Alamo and stroll along the riverwalk in San Antonio. On the way back to Houston, stop by the unassuming Painted Churches before wrapping up a road trip of the Texas Triangle.
Contributed by Catherine Xu from Nomadicated
Oregon Coast (Highway 101)
Devil’s Punchbowl State Park
The Oregon coast will cast its magic over you as you cover 363 miles (584kms) of rugged scenic beauty. It will leave little doubt why the 101 Highway is considered the most beautiful scenic drive in Oregon – and in the USA!
You can theoretically drive the whole coast in a full day of driving – around 10 hours. But where would be the fun in that? We suggest 3 days to a week or two. This gives time at the top attractions, exploring some of the smaller beach trails as you go, and enjoying the picturesque small towns you pass along the way. Newport is a popular midway point to stay with lots of accommodation options. If you’re looking for a smaller town, try Depot Bay or Yachats.
Whilst it’s possible to complete the Oregon coastal drive year-round, summer will see less rain in the Pacific North West and much bigger crowds. The northern part of the coast, particularly Seaside and Cannon Beach (think Haystack Rock and the Goonies!) are busier at weekends as they get day-trippers from Portland.
Rather than the time of year you choose to drive, watching your daily tides can be more important. You’ll want the perfect time to undertake epic beach trails and witness some of the natural phenomena en route such as Devils Punchbowl and Thor’s Well at their impressive best.
We always have a preference for traveling north to south along the 101, starting at Astoria and ending at Bandon on the southern coast. The laybys and turnouts are largely on the right this way making, it easier with the traffic flow.
Contributed by Keri from Our Globetrotters
San Diego to Pheonix
This is what to expect when you road trip from San Diego to Pheonix
If you are specifically going from San Diego to Pheonix the most popular way would be to fly. This is because it’s a cheap flight and a bit too far to be considered convenient. However, if you have some time on your hands and want to enjoy some of the unique and scenic stops then drive the 355-mile route on I-8 from San Diego to Pheonix.
If you choose this 5.5-hour drive, it can be done comfortably in a day. Split it up a bit more and you’ll have time to enjoy each stop. It can be best done over a long weekend from Thursday to Monday.
One of the first stops to make is early in the morning before it gets too hot is on Sunrise Highway in eastern San Diego. Here there are plenty of hiking options. But there is a quick 2-mile option, Garnet Peak Trail, which has incredible views of Cleveland National Forest.
Your next stop is under an hour away in Jacumba, California. Visit the Desert View Tower and Boulder Park. In the last half of your journey, the most notable stops with things to do include hiking the Goat Trestle Canyon, photographing the Imperial Sand Dunes (the largest in California), and enjoying milkshakes made from dates in Dateland. Oh look, you made it to Pheonix!
Contributed by Chelsey from Chelsey Explores
New England’s Coast (Boston, Rhode Island, Maine)
New England Coastline
One of the best road trips in the US is traveling along New England’s coast, through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine! This coastal road trip starts in Newport, Rhode Island, and ends in Portland, Maine. The total distance is 186 miles, and includes stops in Boston, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, along the way.
This road trip is popular in the summer and fall. In summer you can enjoy the beaches along the coastline and in the fall the gorgeous foliage. If you’d like to take your time stopping at each destination, plan to spend at least ten days on your coastal road trip through New England.
Some highlights include touring the Newport Mansions, strolling along the Cliff Walk in Newport, and exploring the Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth. You shouldn’t miss the chance to walk The Freedom Trail in Boston. Go on an Italian-style food tour in the North End, and take a stroll through the Boston Public Garden. In Portland, don’t miss the chance to marvel at the Portland Head Light and enjoy a local beer and lobster roll at Allagash Brewing Company.
Contributed by Brittany
San Diego to Los Angeles
Dramatic Coastline on a San Diego to Los Angeles, USA road trip
A road trip from San Diego to Los Angeles is one of the best weekend getaways if want to enjoy some of the best beaches in California without driving too far. The road trip is about 120 miles and takes an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes. If you have never taken this road before you would spare your entire day.
One of the main stops along the way is Orange County, a crown jewel of Southern California. It offers some of the best weather in the country with plenty of sunshine and perfect temperatures. Orange County boasts 42 miles of stunning coastline with secluded beaches, gorgeous coves, and many hidden spots that are perfect if you need a break from the busy areas of Southern California. The area is home to many coastal towns, each with its unique identity and great things to do, from culture to outdoors. For example Dana Point, a small sea side town that has been dubbed “the whale capital of the west” offers daily boat tours if you want to see these iconic animals. Another spot that is worth your attention is Laguna Beach, home to the stunning Crystal Cove State Park with unspoiled beauty and rich marine wildlife.
While a short stop in Orange County probably will not be enough to cover everything, it will give you an amazing opportunities to enjoy one of the best places in SoCal.
Contributed by Daria from the Discovery Nut
Miami to Key West
Lots of Water to Enjoy between Miami and Key West
One of the best USA road trips is from Miami to Key West. It takes between three and a half and four hours and is an easy drive along US-1 S, also known as the Overseas Highway. It’s also a scenic drive, as you drive from island to island over 42 different bridges. One of the bridges is seven miles long! Overall, the drive from Miami to Key West is roughly 160+ miles.
The best time to make the drive is during the winter time, when temperatures are cooler and there is less humidity. In reality though, you could make the drive at any time of the year. We’ve visited Key West at all different times of the year and we’ve always had a great time.
There are a lot of fun things to do in Key West. Walk along Duval Street and you’ll find bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries, and museums. There are also historic sites like Ernest Hemingway’s home, the Key West Lighthouse, and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. All fun things to do along the drive as well. The islands of Islamorada and Marathon both have attractions and restaurants worth visiting.
Contributed by Vicky from Buddy The Traveling Monkey
Alabama Gulf Coast
Plenty of bird life on Dauphin Island along the Alabama Gulf Coast road trip
Are you looking for a new and exciting road trip destination in the USA? Then consider the Alabama Gulf Coast. This beautiful region offers plenty of activities and attractions to keep you entertained. From miles of beautiful sandy beaches to impressive state parks, there’s something for everyone on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Starting in Mobile, Alabama, head south to Dauphin Island. Spend two days here hiking in the coastal forest enjoying the beaches before taking the Mobile Bay Ferry to Fort Morgan. At Fort Morgan, head east towards Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Enjoy the beautiful beaches, coastal forests with miles of boardwalks, and beach towns along the Gulf for another day or two.
From the barrier island of Dauphin Island to the sandy beaches of Gulf Shores and beyond, this 80-mile stretch is packed with awesome things to see and do. Whether you’re into fishing, birding, hiking, history, or just lying on the beach, there’s something for everyone in coastal Alabama. So, load up the car and hit the open road! Spring and summer are great times to hit the beach and road trip the Alabama Coast.
Contributed by Ashlee from The Happiness Function
Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Skyline Drive is a 105-mile scenic roadway through Shenandoah National Park that brings visitors close to nature and wildlife. The drive follows the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains through Virginia from Front Royal south to the town of Waynesboro (where the Blue Ridge Parkway begins). Along the way, 75 overlooks offer stunning views, and hikers can access over 500 miles of trails through the natural beauty. Visitors flock to Skyline Drive during fall foliage season, but this is a year-round destination.
Stop at a mix of overlooks including Hazel Mountain, Pinnacles, and Jewell Hollow to enjoy both eastern and western views. There are many trails to choose from, but you’ll get a quick payoff with a short hike to Stony Man Summit, Dark Hollow Falls, or Hawksbill Mountain. Be sure to stop at Skyland or Big Meadows Lodge for a meal and some souvenir shopping.
While Skyline Drive is only 105-miles, the speed limit is 35 MPH and there are many stops to make. Allow at least 3.5 hours to drive the entire length one-way. Better yet, allow 2 to 4 days for your road trip and stay at one of the park’s lodges, cabins, or campgrounds.
Contributed by Julie of Fun In Fairfax VA
Las Vegas to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park
Plenty of red rocks in Zion National Park
The road trip from Las Vegas to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks is a fairly short but epic trip through red rock country. First stop is the incredible Valley of Fire State Park, less than an hour / 50 miles from Las Vegas. The park was easy to see, with a drive through the incredible fiery rock formations and a short hike to stretch my legs.
Then it was a straight shot to Springdale (2.5 hours/ 130 miles), which is the gateway to Zion National Park. Most of Zion is closed to vehicular traffic – instead there’s a free shuttle through the main section of the park. I hiked the Narrows (where you hike in a river through a narrow slot canyon) and Observation Point. Skipping Angels Landing because I’m afraid of heights, but it’s the most famous hike in the park (tip: you need a permit).
After a few days in Zion, I drove up the canyon wall and through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel (there a few pullouts along the way with breathtaking views), and then on to Bryce Canyon National Park. It took 2 hours (87 miles), which gave me most of the day in Bryce Canyon. The park is home to thousands of sandstone spires called hoodoos – it’s like no other place on earth. It’s small, but I did some great hiking in my two days there.
I completed the loop back to Vegas by taking the scenic route on 143 and 14. It’s not the quickest route (the driving took 5 hours / 265 miles), but goes via the Dixie National Forest and there were several scenic overlooks along the way. This road trip didn’t have a lot of driving, and had some of the most stunning scenery in the entire country along the way!
Contributed by James from Parks Collecting
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
Plenty of colourful leaves in Autumn along Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
One of the most memorable road trips I have ever been on was a drive along Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia to North Carolina. This epic fall road trip begins at the edge of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia near Waynesboro. It takes you through four mountain ranges, past the modern mountain town, Asheville, and down to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The best time to drive it is during the autumn season. This when the leaves change colors into magnificent yellows, oranges, reds, and browns. Plus, because the elevation changes dramatically throughout the multi-day drive, you’re guaranteed to see the fall color whether you take your road trip in the beginning of October or the end.
Blue Ridge Parkway takes a solid 2 days to drive. You can go from Waynesboro, VA to Fancy Gap, VA on day one and then onto Great Smoky Mountains National Park on day two. Highlights of the trip include the picturesque Mabry Mill near milepost 176. It’s a beautiful, serene stop where you can take a break watching the water spin round. I was stunned at the many viewpoints and waterfalls around every turn as well!
Contributed by Alanna from Periodic Adventures
San Francisco to Death Valley
Entrance to park on Mount Whitney
The Eastern Sierras are one of my favorite places. And a road trip from San Francisco to Death Valley showcases all the outdoor adventures this area has to offer. The drive from Yosemite to Death Valley covers approximately 501 miles, and would take about 11 hours straight through. However, you’ll really want to take at least a week, if not more, to fully explore all the amazing destinations on this road trip.
Starting from San Francisco, head straight to Yosemite National Park. I highly recommend doing this trip in summer or early fall, because Tioga Pass closes in the winter, causing a much longer detour to get to Yosemite. While in Yosemite Valley, my favorite hikes are Half Dome and Clouds Rest.
After Yosemite, I would head to Mammoth Lakes, my favorite mountain town. It offers so much to do from hiking to mountain biking to climbing. It has lots of great breweries, too! Then I would make my way down 395 to Lone Pine. For a serious challenge, you can hike Mount Whitney, and visit the highest point in the contiguous US on the 14,505 foot summit. It’s a seriously tough hike, but it made me feel like I was truly on top of the world.
Finally, I would continue south to Death Valley and go to Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level, so this road trip really goes from one extreme to the other.
Contributed by Allison from She Dreams of Alpine
Nashville to Savannah
Forsyth Park, Savannah
This USA road trip starts in Nashville, then hits Asheville, NC, Charleston, and finally Savannah. You’ll hit some of the very best locations in the southeastern US! Spring and fall are the best times to do this trip, when the weather is much more pleasant than the hot and sticky summers. Ideally, I would plan 10 days (2 in Nashville, 2 in Asheville, 3 in Charleston and Savannah each) and the total driving time is 10.5 hours.
You’ll see a lot of varied and beautiful sites on this trip! In Nashville, explore the Country Music Hall of Fame, the murals and cafes on 12 South. At the The Honky Tonk Highway you can hear live country music from every restaurant/bar.
Asheville is a mountain town, with lots of trails to explore, such as Bearwallow Mountain, Craggy Pinnacle, and Triple Falls. Definitely visit Biltmore, an 1800’s mansion that rivals almost any chateau in Europe.
Charleston and Savannah are classic low country cities. Charleston is colorful, with candy-colored houses all around town. Visit Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started, do shopping on King Street, or visit a nearby beach. With three days in Savannah, you can visit the 22 historic squares, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, historic Bonaventure Cemetery, and admire the moss-draped oak trees everywhere around town.
Contributed by Stephanie The Unknown Enthusiast
Los Angeles to Death Valley
One of the best USA road trips is through Joshua Tree and Death Valley from Los Angeles. This fun California national park road trip can take as little has four days and as many as a week to complete. But this is dependent on how much time you want to spend in each place.
The weather in this part of California makes it possible to do this road trip any time of year. Though he best time is fall or spring when the temperatures in the parks are warm enough to enjoy but not so hot that you will be miserable.
Start out in Los Angeles and head out to Joshua Tree National Park. You can easily spend just one day in Joshua Tree. If you have extra time, you can stop in Palm Springs to enjoy the beautiful homes and towering palm trees. Once at Joshua Tree, don’t miss the hike to Arch Rock and the Joshua Trees along Park Boulevard. Take an off road adventure down Queen Valley Road and enjoy sunrise or sunset in the Cholla Cactus Garden.
Next it is time to hit the road again to drive to Death Valley National Park. This one can also be done in just a day or in a few days. While you are there, you must see the Mesquite Sand Dunes and the Badwater Basin salt flats. Drive through Artist’s Drive and visit Zabriskie Point for a beautiful view. End your road trip by circling back to Los Angeles.
Contributed by Christine from Live Love Run Travel
Best American Road Trips to Take
I hope you have enjoyed these road trips in the USA and are now inspired to get out on the road and enjoy some of them. If you have been on one of these road trips I would love to hear in the comments following.