Skip to Content

15 Best Road Trips in the USA

We take pride in providing authentic travel recommendations based on our own experiences such as unique images and perspectives. We may earn a commission when you purchase a product or book a reservation. Learn more ›

Are you fond of road trips? Do you prefer domestic travel over international vacations? If yes, here are the best road trips in the USA to satisfy the wanderlust.

Often, while swooning over Asian travel destinations or European holiday spots on Pinterest, you tend to forget that there are many beautiful places in the US, too. However, you’re not alone. Most travelers completely ignore discovering new places in their own country.

Luckily, the USA has stunning national parks, state parks, and winding roads stretching for miles. Why not take advantage of the situation and take a road trip to an unknown place in the US?

The Most Scenic & Best Road Trips in the USA

If you’re unfamiliar with some of your country’s hidden gems, let me introduce you to your next cross-country trip destination from our best road trips in the USA.

1. Columbia River Highway, Oregon

Columbia River Highway

The Columbia River Highway is a 74-mile road trip that begins from Portland and spans the Columbia River Gorge. It is a concurrent winding road route extending to Oregon Route 35 and Route 30.

When you’re on this route, prepare yourself to be fascinated by the wonders of nature and a really fun drive. Waterfalls, bridges, and rivers border the whole road – an incredible gray spaghetti ribbon winding through beautiful Oregon.

It’s a shorter road trip that can be over in a flash if you gun it, but read on, and you’ll find why the journey is better broken up into smaller portions, perhaps spread over 2 or 3 days if you want to dawdle. You can also be selective about which stretches you want to drive.

For instance, you can take the 48-mile route from Portland to Hood River. Covering this distance will merely take a few hours of your day.

However, to make things more interesting, stay at a campsite at night. Most campgrounds in the region charge less than $50 for the night, which isn’t too bad. The Columbia River Highway is among the best family road trips because it has many beautiful sights and wildlife.

Your surroundings enhance the awesomeness of this driver’s road, as you’ll be traveling among mountains, surrounded by nature on all sides. Also, you can enjoy free attractions, such as Horsetail Falls and numerous hiking trails, to keep the trip budget-friendly.

See Related: Things to Do in Seaside, Oregon

2. State Highway 82, Colorado

State Highway 82, Colorado 

Colorado is known for everything outdoors, and road-tripping is one of them. The state highway is the perfect spot to travel and discover during the summer. While you’re on the road, don’t miss the Independence Pass.

Running across 32 miles of the region’s mountainous terrain, the Independence Pass is a popular spot for tourists and a fantastic stretch of road for people who enjoy driving.

State Highway 82 in Colorado may be one of the best driving roads in the US. It has endless twists, turns, rises, sloped corners, and breathtaking scenery for days. There are also tons of places along the way where you can peel off and park up to admire your surroundings.

Since the roads close during winter, your only chances to explore this route are during late spring (weather and conditions permitting), summer, and fall.

If you’re unsure about the right time to take this road trip, take my advice and head out in the fall—there’s little likelihood of severe ice or snow on the roads, and the autumnal colors are biblical in their beauty.

There’s something divine about the leaves changing color against a scenic route of stunning mountain ranges that you won’t want to miss.

See Related: Colorado Spring Itinerary

3. The Big Five in Utah

Checkerboard Mesa on Mount Carmel Hgihway, Zion National Park
SKPG_Arts / Shutterstock

If you’re interested in fiery geography, this is among the best road trips in the USA. The country’s Southwestern region is a popular attraction for local and international travelers due to an abundance of national parks.

Since the region has five national parks, it’s called ‘The Big Five.’ These include Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Zion National Park, and Capitol Reef National Parks.

While all these parks are equally stunning and popular, I know some interesting facts about the Arches National Park. Did you know the park gets more than 1.5 million visitors annually? The major attraction in the national park is the Delicate Arch.

It’s such an iconic geographic landmark that you’ll see it pictured on the state’s license plates. Also, if you happen to spend the night on your road trip, you’ll see the most beautiful sky. Since there’s little light pollution and better air quality in the region, the stars shine much brighter than anywhere else.

Keep in mind that the weather can be quite harsh in Utah. Make sure you stay hydrated and bring enough drinks along. Moreover, if you’re camping, keep all your van camping equipment handy to deal with the fluctuating weather.

See Related: The Ultimate Grand Circle Road Trip

4. Pacific Coast Road Trip

Pacific Coast Road Trip

If you love the ocean, why not spend 655 miles traveling along the vast Pacific? The Pacific Ocean road trip is quite long, so it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

However, this West Coast highway has much more to offer than the shining sea of the Pacific Ocean. It also has tons of beaches, such as Pismo Beach, and historical landmarks, like Hearst Castle.

Those of you who are into reality shows must know about Laguna Beach. Yes, it’s an actual beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. Quite close to the beach is the Laguna Art Museum, which is a perfect chilling spot for art lovers. Today, the museum has over three thousand art pieces from Californian artists.

Here’s another place for MTV enthusiasts to travel: Malibu. Yes, the same Malibu that Miley Cyrus sang about. You can visit the Malibu Farm or stop there for lunch. Alternatively, the sunsets at Zuma Beach make for a delightful experience. Check out these other amazing California road trips to experience.

See Related: Minnesota to California Road Trip Itinerary

5. Route 66

Historic Route 66 Sign

The chances are that you’ve heard about Route 66 but maybe never tried it. The best stretch of this legendary highway runs from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River, but since it’s a longer road trip, you can break it up into smaller parks or take the whole journey if you’re up for an adventure.

The road passes through multiple states. These include Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, and California. If you’re searching for the best road trips from Chicago, here’s a quintessential option.

If you’re traveling during the winter season, you’re in luck. Chicago holds the Winter Wonderfest in December. The festival offers different kinds of entertainment and seasonal attractions.

Since the event is indoors, you won’t be cold out in the open. Also, you’ll be surrounded by more than five hundred Christmas trees, snow slides, and carnival rides.

Therefore, it’s among the best family road trips since there will be an attraction for everyone in the Windy City. If you pass by Olean, Missouri, you may experience the Testicle Festival. Yes, you read that right.

As the name indicates, the festival is characterized by consuming battered or fried animal testicles. Yum. However, don’t be too bummed if your taste buds can’t stand the flavor of testicles – although most people who try them can’t get enough of them! The festival also includes other local non-testicle-based cuisines, family events (that may or may not involve testicles), and music.

Apart from these, there are plenty of other Midwest festivals that you can enjoy while you’re on a road trip on Route 66. Being such a famous and celebrated highway, it’s little surprise that Route 66 has several museums dedicated to it.

Surprisingly, all three are in Oklahoma, so if you’re passing through, you should check out (at least) one of them to learn more about one of the most famous roads in the world!

See Related: Best Midwest Road Trips

6. Highway 7, Arkansas

Highway 7, Arkansas 

Arkansas isn’t as often talked about as it should be. The area’s scenic beauty is hard to beat, and this is one of the best US road trips. Highway 7 stretches up to 290 miles and takes you through the state’s hardwood and pine forests. You’ll also drive along rolling hills and magnificent rivers.

If the driving exhausts you, stay in the small towns in the region. There are plenty of accommodation options along the way. You can also visit the Ozark National Forest, which looks like a botanical work of art during spring.

If you want to stay the night, you should consider one of the many lodges in the state. While most lodges start above $100, tent sites are a cheaper option.

Most of them are under $30, even during the weeknights, which is quite a steal. However, the price per night may be higher if you travel during peak season during the summer months.

See Related: Road Trips in the World

7. Hawaii to Hana

Hawaii Road Trip

If Adam Sandler and Jason Segel’s movies have taught us one thing it’s that Hawaii is the best place to be if you want to get away from it all, sit back, and relax. The trip from Hawaii to Hana is indisputably one of the most aesthetically pleasing trips you’ll ever take and worlds apart from anything you can experience in the continental United States.

Worlds apart? Just how different is it? Much of the route is flanked by incredible bamboo forests along the winding roads to Maui. The 64-mile road can take some time. Ensure you have your travel essentials, such as water, snacks, travel humidifiers, sunscreen, chargers, and electronic accessories.

Also, the route can be tricky, considering the largely unmetalled road gets narrow and has many blind corners. If you’re not an expert driver, let someone else take over the wheel.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Utah

8. Olympic Peninsula Loop, Washington

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Highway 101 forms the Olympic Peninsula Loop, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For that reason alone, even if you can only travel across the region for a short while, it will be worth it. Don’t forget to walk through the Hoh Rainforest when you’re there.

Also, the Loop has many coastlines and hiking paths you can enjoy if you like to take on little adventures. However, the most thrilling part of the journey is the scenic drive. The route offers the sight of Washington‘s wildlife, massive mountains, and heart-pleasing waterfalls.

You won’t want to blink for a single moment of the trip. If you make it snappy, you can travel the route in three days. But if you want a full experience, visit every attraction a bit longer. For instance, you can spend an hour or two at Lake Crescent. The lake is presumably thousands of years old and is crystal clear.

Another popular attraction in Olympic National Park is the Staircase. It is located in the park’s southeastern corner, covered by giant Douglas firs. Visitors can hike up a trail or admire the flora.

See Related: Best Camper Accessories for Travel

9. Great River Road

View of Great River Road

The Great River Road expands along the Mississippi River, spanning ten states. The Minnesota side of the mighty Mississippi River is extremely scenic and runs the furthest.

Along the way, you’ll spot many wildlife resorts, such as the Yazoo Refuge. Additionally, you can eat or spend time in the river towns, such as Rosedale.

You can also sleep at Greenville before continuing on the route. If you take the full journey, you’ll soon find yourself in New Orleans, where you can enjoy pleasing jazz music and interesting local food.

Since it’s a long journey, take the best cooler for a road trip along with the ride. After all, you won’t take a sip from the Mississippi River, are you?

See Related: Things to Do in St. Louis, Missouri

10. Ocean City to California

Nobody out on the Beach along the Atlantic near Ocean City Maryland
Christopher Boswell / Adobe Stock

While some routes are considered the best US road trips because of the versatile entertainment options on the way, this particular path might make you crave company because of its loneliness and quietness.

That said, this monster road trip is a real All-American adventure that will show you one of the most diverse cross-sections of the United States!

Stretching from Maryland to Sacramento, California, this road trip is for people who love scenic beauty and are interested in the United States. It takes you through four state capitals and twelve states in total—twelve!

For miles upon miles, the constant tableau of the highway will be augmented by ever-changing views of mountains, forests, lakes, prairies, and deserts, and you may go hours before seeing another vehicle on the road.

That’s where the route tends to get a bit quiet. As a result, it’s best to take a buddy along and a few good driving playlists to turn a road trip into an expedition. However, the isolation is worth it, as this road trip will also introduce you to some of the most beautiful places in the United States.

The Great Basin National Park is the top place to visit on this road trip. Once you reach Nevada, you’ll be glued to your camera since every sight along the way is worth capturing.

See Related: Best Things to See in Wyoming

11. The Minnesota North Shore Drive

Aerial of the North Shore of Minnesota

A North Shore drive in Minnesota is a fantastic way to see some of the northernmost tips of the continental United States, enjoy a healthy dose of Minnesota culture and the outstanding countryside the region is famous for, and see breathtaking vistas of Lake Superior.

This road trip is best taken at the start of fall when you’ll see the leaves turn and the forests lining the North Shore explode in a celebration of reds, oranges, and yellows.

Starting at the northern port city of Duluth (one of our favorite cities in Minnesota) and ending around Grand Marais (another one of our favorites), pretty much all this 110+ mile road trip is done on State Highway 61 alongside Lake Superior.

And what a road trip! Duluth is a surprisingly lively town with legions of great restaurants, local landmarks, interesting attractions, and top-notch accommodations. In winter, it is a hub for winter sports such as ice fishing or even dog sledding. From there, you’ll head north on Highway 61, with the lake to your right, as you wend your way to Two Harbors.

The last big(ish) town on your journey north, Two Harbors is famous for its two lighthouses: the Split Rock Lighthouse, which you’ll see on tons of Minnesota postcards, and Two Harbors Light Station, the last operational lighthouse in Minnesota.

It’s also home to beautiful Gooseberry Falls State Park. Further, along the way, there are a number of charming small bay towns, such as Silver Bay and Beaver Bay, each one worth a stop. This trip also easily reaches the Lutsen Mountains, so if you’re traveling in winter, consider booking a room at the ski resort.

Finally, you’ll reach Grand Marais, a darling lakeshore town that feels like it’s on the very edge of the world. Here, you can stay in cozy cabins, hike the trails, go fishing, or brave the wilderness and go camping and kayaking along the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway in the Boundary Waters further north!

See Related: Things to Do in Eugene, Oregon

12. The I-15 Desert Dash from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Las Vegas | attractions in Las Vegas

Another great road trip for buddies is the desert dash along I-15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. This is a great road trip for a truly American adventure with your buddies, defined by awesome, action-packed starting and finishing cities and haring across the deserts of California and Nevada.

You’re starting in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world and a great place to go on a friend’s vacation in and of itself. The journey from start to finish is about 4-5 hours. It’s a good road trip to be split up over a few days or done in one go with the pedal to the metal, roof, and windows down.

Your vehicle vibrates from the stereo’s bass as you screech across the harsh, barren beauty of the flat desert, possibly without seeing another car for miles under a scorching sun.

It’s not all flat, though, as there are several sections of the stretch that will wind through cacti-encrusted canyons and rocky passes, making for a varied and entertaining drive. If you aren’t planning on doing the dash in one go, there are plenty of things for you and your buds to see and do along the way.

There’s the Calico Ghost Town, one of many abandoned mining towns that sprang up in California in the late 19th Century and existed for less than 20 years. Today, it serves as a regional park and a fascinating open-air museum. You can also find the world’s largest thermometer in Baker, California.

One of the best last stops on your trip to Sin City is Primm, Nevada, just over the CA/NV border. Fallout gamers will no doubt recognize this quirky little resort town in the middle of the desert, instantly recognizable from I-15 from the giant Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Casino and the snaking Desperado roller coaster attached to it.

Finally, your road trip lands you in one of the most incredible party towns on the planet, Las Vegas, where you and your high-roller pals can top off an excellent adventure at the tables, taking in a show or exploring sites like the Hoover Dam!

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Las Vegas?

13. George Parks Highway & Denali National Park, AK

Jeep parked on Denali Highway, Alaska
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Alaska is arguably home to the most beautiful scenery in North America, and none of it is more beautiful than what can be found at Denali National Park.

That’s not to say getting there wastes time, either! Much of Alaska’s inherent beauty may be admired from Parks Highway (also known as George Parks Highway), the main road that connects Alaska’s two largest cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

It’s a long stretch of road winding through the stunning and largely unblemished wilderness. The journey between the two cities is about 350 miles, meaning it should be broken up over several days, especially if you want to make the most of Denali Highway and Denali National Park.

One thing I will say about driving in Alaska, in general, is that it can be tough going, and renting a rugged 4×4 like a Land Rover, Range Rover, or Jeep is best for tackling the unfinished roads.

If trying to access the park, there are a number of decent turnoffs and access points along George Parks Highway. Denali National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring parks in the nation, and if you have the time, you should spend a few days here losing yourself; make sure you’re prepared!

Denali Highway is a much shorter stretch of mostly graveled road, above the treeline which affords incredible views of the Denali area and a rewarding if tricky drive.

Although it’s by no means the longest stretch on this list, it is recommended that you spend at least one night in one of the lodges or camps along the way, as the winding gravel road can be taxing.

See Related: Things to Do in Denali National Park and Preserve

14. Maine Coastal Road Trip

Maine during Fall Colors

There are many reasons to visit Maine, and one of them is a road trip along its coastline. One of the most popular routes is from Portland to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.

The drive can be completed in less than 3 hours, and a round trip can easily be done in a day, but that’s hardly the way to experience the best of Maine! We recommend making the most of State Highway 1 and seeing how many Maine lighthouses you can spot, splitting the road trip up over several days.

Starting in the hipster port city of Portland (the one in Maine, not Oregon! *Editor; ain’t it funny how they’re both hipster towns?*), head along the coast to the historic town of Brunswick for lunch and then onto the gorgeous little seaside town of Camden for the night.

The next day, push on to Acadia National Park. In this outstanding area of incredible natural beauty, you can hike, bike, camp, fish, and take some snaps of this breathtaking New England Nirvana.

After you’ve had your fill of nature (although in Maine, I’ll wager that’ll be a while), end your journey in the relaxing historic resort town of Bar Harbor and stuff your face with fresh-caught lobster.

See Related: Best Travel Puzzles

15. The Florida Keys

Key West, Florida

From Key Largo to Key West in Florida, a stretch of road certainly deserves a place on the best road trips in the USA. It’s known to locals as the “Road to Paradise,” but you might know this stretch of driving heaven as the Overseas Highway.

The mind-boggling Overseas Highway links up the various islands of the Florida Keys and is surrounded by beauty on all sides, from the sand and palm trees on the coast on one side and the sparkling blue sea on the other.

One notable section of this amazing road is the Seven Mile Bridge, one of the longest road bridges in the world, which runs low enough over the water that you might forget you’re driving and feel like you are sailing.

This is the ideal road trip for laid-back drivers who enjoy cruising under blue skies. It’s also the ideal road trip for anyone interested in the finer things in life, as the Florida Keys are rife with expensive hotels and fine eateries.

See Related: Things To Do In Miami, Florida

How to Plan a Road Trip in America

In most cases, all you need to do is to rent an RV on platforms like RVShare. You can also take your car, pack some snacks, and create a playlist that you can jam to. After you’ve got your ride sorted, next figure out where you’re going and find yourself a great starting point and any major cities, state parks, or scenic byways you want to see.

For example, are you considering a trip on a different route? Here’s our guide for taking a famous route in Vermont for your family getaway. Now calculate how long you plan to be on the road; e.g., is it a weekend or weeklong road trip? Once that’s arranged, you’re ready to take on the best road trips in the USA and start mapping your route.

What direction do you want to take? There’s a lot of ground to cover in the US.

  • Do you want to see New York City, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Santa Monica, Big Sur, and The Florida Keys? The list goes on and on.
  • Which parks do you want to explore along the way? Many options exist, such as Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, Acadia National Park, Gunnison National Park, etc.
  • What about some national parks in the western parts of the US, such as Big Bend National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park?
  • Will you see old abandoned mining towns? Art galleries? Maybe dunes or hot springs?

The possibilities are almost endless, so the United States is one of the world’s best places for road trips.

See Related: Best Christmas Vacations in the United States

Tips for Enjoying the Best Road Trips in the USA

If you’ve never taken a road trip because you fear overspending, here are a few tips for successfully driving across the United States without breaking the bank.

  • Set a budget for the whole journey. If you’re traveling with family, ensure everyone sticks to the budget limit – it’s easy to start snowballing once you exceed the limit.
  • If your relatives or friends live in the States you’ll pass during the road trip, ask them if you can stay the night. Besides helping you save money that you’d otherwise have to spend on a campsite or a lodge, you’ll also learn about new spots to explore from a local’s perspective and have the chance to bond with a normally far-flung friend.
  • Instead of taking your kids to expensive entertainment sites like carnivals and amusement parks, keep them busy with road trip books or travel games.
  • Pack food from home for one—or two-day trips, preferably food that will travel well. You’ll save a lot by not eating out. To help you with your savings, you might want to check out our article on the best travel coolers you can find now. Also, if you’re going camping, many MRE-type camping meals are very light, meaning you might be able to carry more.
  • Don’t buy equipment if you don’t have to. Instead, ask a friend or family member if they can lend you their tent or camping gear. Likewise, you can also rent stuff.

Wrapping up, I can confidently say that this guide covers some of the best road trips in the USA for families and solo travelers, including one or two lesser-known ones. We can suggest much more, like focusing on exploring the Midwest, which is fun like any other road trip.

Whether you prefer the bright lights and bustle of big cities, the beating sun, and the frigid nights of the desert, or love the sound of crashing waves against a rocky shore, there’s an option for you on the list.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *