There is something therapeutic about taking a long drive, even if it’s to no particular destination. Few things in life are more liberating than a road trip. Whether you're racing the sea breezes along a coast, following the tempting aroma of barbecue, or enjoying the beauty of verdant landscapes, hitting the open road is one of the summer's greatest pleasures.
Of all the wonderful traditions that define America, none combines our love of automobiles with our wandering spirit like the road trip. Loading up the car, cranking the music, and pointing the hood towards the horizon is to pay tribute to the nation's long, proud history of travelers. The land itself was founded by travelers, be it the settlers who made their way west across the plains, the colonists who sailed across the Atlantic, or the prehistoric tribes that wandered across the Bering Strait during the last ice age. Thus, this wandering is not just a favorite summertime habit, it can be said to be woven into the very fabric of the American Dream.
Thus goes the road tripper’s mantra: Pack the car, prep your playlist, and hit the gas—America awaits. In the spirit of this all American road trip, here are 25 of the best road trips to take across the United States:
25 Route 66's Singing Road
A drive on the Mother Road is often at the top of a road trippers’ bucket list, but the iconic route has a twist. A bit of “musical road” was installed near the village of Tijeras, east of Albuquerque.
A series of rumble strips on the highway is calibrated so if you drive the speed limit (45 mph), the vibrations in your car buzz to the tune of “America the Beautiful.” The road only plays music if you’re driving east, so be sure to start in Albuquerque and not the other direction. (Source: SmithsonianMag)
24 Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway
Reminisce on Jurassic Park on this route that loops through Utah and Colorado, taking in some of the West's top dinosaur sites, including some killer scenery. Start your trip on the Colorado side, in Grand Junction, and drive northwest to the aptly named town of Dinosaur.
Spend a few hours at Dinosaur National Monument, where you can see live digs and a paleontology lab. Continue west where you can visit the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. Kids love the museum’s garden of life-size dinosaurs. Finish your trip in Moab, where the Museum of Moab has more dinosaur displays. (Source: Codot)
23 Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail
This National Scenic Byway traces the 54-mile route followed by civil rights demonstrators in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March. Start in Selma, spending a few hours exploring the small Alabama town that took center stage in the fight for voting rights.
Then follow U.S. 80, cross the arched Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the clash known as Bloody Sunday. The drive to Montgomery continues east through rural countryside, passing farms and churches that served as campsites for the marchers. The final five miles of the route follow busy streets through Montgomery to the Alabama State Capitol. (Source: NPS)
22 The South's Last Stand In Virginia
About 150 years ago, Confederate General Robert E. Lee fled from Petersburg, Virginia, with Union troops in hot pursuit. His journey, which ended in surrender at Appomattox, is now a well-marked driving route. Start at the Petersburg National Battlefield Park Visitor Center to pick up a map of the route. Here you can learn about the 9-month siege that caused 70,000 casualties.
The route then meanders west through farmland, past more historic sites such as Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier. The drive ends in Appomattox, where you can visit the famous courthouse where the general surrendered 150 years ago. (Source: WashingtonPost)
21 Coast To Coast On I-90
If you’re going to drive across the country, you might as well take the long route: I-90, which connects Boston to Seattle along the longest interstate in the U.S. You’ll pass through thirteen states, dropping down around the Great Lakes, then up across the Great Plains and the Continental Divide.
You could do the drive in about six days, but it’s best to take your time and make detours to some of the nation’s top sites along the way, including Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone National Park. (Source: RoadTrippers)
20 Join The Party In Sturgis
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally transforms a small South Dakota town into a biker mega meet-up. If you’ve got a bike, the ride to Sturgis is an epic road trip in itself. But you don’t have to be a rider to check out the events.
Plan a South Dakota road trip from Rapid City through the Black Hills to Sturgis, with stops at Custer State Park, where you can spot buffalo and other wildlife and Deadwood, an old-timey Wild West town that’s getting a luxe new look with a boutique, hotel, and spa offerings. (Source: EastCoastSurgis)
19 Catch Aloha Spirit On Oahu
If you're itching for an Oahu escape, be sure to set off on a road trip around the eastern half of the island, which takes you into a more authentic Hawaiian setting, where local communities, shrimp shacks, and surf spots dot the road. Leave the city and drive east around Diamond Head and Koko Head.
The road then turns north and hugs the island’s windward coast, where you’ll see spectacular beaches and some scenic offshore islands and green pali (cliffs). The road doesn’t circle the whole island, so cut inland at hippie town Haleiwa and head back to Honolulu. (Source: PlacesWeGo)
18 Florida's Presidential Trail
Florida’s Presidential Trail strings together an impressive lineup of historic sites relating to former presidents. Start in Pensacola, where Andrew Jackson served as Florida’s first governor after accepting the land from Spain.
Onward in Central Florida, you’ll find some tributes to America’s leaders at Walt Disney World’s Hall of Presidents and Clermont’s The Presidents Hall of Fame. Over on the Gulf Side, check out where presidential hopefuls gathered in Tampa for the 2012 Republican National Convention. This route covers almost the entire state so if time is tight, you might want to focus on one section.
17 Lake Champlain Byway
A fresh, green summer escape from muggy East Coast cities, this route skirts the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in northwest Vermont. Driving south to north, the landscape rolls through scenes of farmland, mountains, small towns, and, of course, big, blue Lake Champlain.
Hiking and swimming options abound—the Champlain Islands at the north end of the byway are a prime spot for water. Stop in Burlington to fuel up on the region’s local food at Farmhouse Tap & Grill and be sure to try some local beer. (Source: VermontVacation)
16 Seward Highway Alaska
If you fancy something a little different, then taking a road trip to Alaska might just be for you. While you’re on the Seward Highway you’ll see plenty, from whales and mountains to glaciers and waterfalls. One thing you won’t see much of is civilization. You’ll come across a few small towns, but this is mostly a sightseeing trip.
The trip spans approximately 127 miles which you could drive in 3 hours. However, you won’t want to and you’ll probably find yourself taking days to complete the round trip and rightly so. (Source: Jalopnik)
15 Puerto Rico's Beaches
You could start in cosmopolitan San Juan, where you can explore the ancient fortifications of historic Old San Juan by foot. Once on the road, head to the marinas of Fajardo to spend the day sailing, or, if it's a clear evening, set out in kayaks in the bioluminescent bay, where the waters glow in the dark.
Southward, explore the fishing village of Naguabo, then finish in placid Dorado Beach, a favorite with families, and gourmands for celebrity chef Jose Andres' Mi Casa restaurant at the Dorado Beach Ritz Carlton Reserve.
14 Empire State's Great Lakes
Starting in Dunkirk, NY this 315-mile long road trip takes you on a tour of the north of the state of New York and the great lakes that populate the area on the border, eventually ending at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River at Cape Vincent.
The trip begins at Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse, takes you up to the world-renowned Niagara Falls and along the southern coast of Lake Ontario and up to the Canadian border at Cape Vincent. There’s plenty to see on the trip and plenty of places to stop off and take in a little history if that’s your thing. (Source: WBLK)
13 Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway has one unique characteristic, the dense aromatic forest that throng it. It connects Shenandoah National Park situated in North Carolina and Skyline Drive in Virginia.
On the way, you can pop in at the Poor's Farmer’s Market at mile 178, a great spot to pick up a quilt while the Blue Ridge Music Center is a must to appreciate Appalachian music. Take in the best views at Waterrock Knob and be sure to explore towns such as Blowing Rock, Little Switzerland, Charlottesville and Asheville; which are worth a day or two each. (Source: RoadTrippers)
12 Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific coast highway is one of the United States’ most iconic drives and always makes for a great road trip. You could choose to start in what was once the capital of California, Monterey, to uncover the state's Spanish and Mexican past. Do not forget to pop into the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.
You can pull over to observe the kingfishers and pelicans at Carmel River State Beach. Continue on to stunning cliffs of Big Sur and sea otters at Soberanes Point. The drive ends in Morro Bay State Park Museum, known for Morro Rock and its panoramic views. (Source: Weather)
11 Coastal New England
Many people who visit New England tend to prefer the foliage that comes with fall. However, summer has also proven to be a prime time for exploring the region. You can visit the Museum of America and the Sea.
The galleries, historic wooden ships, and recreation of a 19th-century maritime village are a great way to steady your sea legs. Do not leave without taking some lobster right at the harbor. Head to Boston next and take a walk along the city's Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walk through famous sites from the American Revolution. (Source: Fodors)
10 Maui's Hana Highway
Be sure to pack your bathing suit for Maui's most scenic drive. Sprawled along highways 36 and 360, picturesque coastlines and verdant jungles await at every twist and turn, along with black sand beaches, waterfalls, and roadside fruit stands.
Plan on a full day in order to enjoy the various stops, such as the surfing stop Jaws and the chilly cascades of Twin Falls. A great detour for hungry travelers is in Paia at the Mama’s Fish House. Once you reach Hana, the gorgeous black sand Wai’anapanapa Beach is perfect for relaxing after the day's drive. (Source: RoadToHana)
9 Southern Barbecue Trail
Work up an appetite and pace yourself for the best BBQ the south has to offer. Starting in South Carolina, the “dark” and “light” pork with the house mustard sauce of Sweatman's makes for the perfect starter.
Next, it's Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to the iconic The Shed. Here, take in live blues with your pork ribs before continuing on to New Orleans, where you can digest several days of history, music, food, and fun. Your last stop is in Austin for two barbecue landmarks; the Salt Lick and Franklin BBQ, hailed by many as the best BBQ the U.S. has to offer. (Source: AndrewZimmern)
8 The Eastern Shoreline
You can begin along the Garden State Parkway at the New Jersey shore in Asbury Park, which is recovering well post-Hurricane Sandy with a brand-new boardwalk. When you move on south, Atlantic City unveils several new non-gaming hotels for those who don’t fancy gambling.
Farther down, you have Cape May which is known for its quiet beaches, quaint charm, and historic lighthouse. If you are into watersports, then Fenwick Island to the south is the spot for you. It is also home of the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum. (Source: RoadTripUsa)
7 Cruise Under Montana's Big Sky
Beartooth All-American Highway was once described as the most beautiful drive in America. Though only 64 miles, this scenic drive, which winds through Montana and Wyoming, is meant to be leisurely, so expect it to take at least three hours and be prepared for weather changes.
Keep your eyes open for wildlife while enjoying the breathtaking scenery—20 mountain peaks and 10,000 stunning lakes. You are in mining country and several outdoor activities can be found along the way, from rafting to hiking, especially at the Cooke City terminus, which borders Yellowstone National Park. (Source: VisitMT)
6 Pacific Northwest's Wine Country
Be sure to start your trip in Salem, where over 200 vineyards await just outside the city limits in the Willamette Valley. Don’t forget to put the biodynamic winery Montinore Estate on the agenda.
Then, get a taste of the big city in Portland and grab a casual bite at one of the city's many food cart “pods.” If passing through on a weekend, visit the riverside Saturday Market – which also runs on Sunday, the area's largest outdoor arts, and crafts market. (Source: PDXMonthly)
5 Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway
Why play a video game when you can drive through one? Everything about this route feels like it was created off a Need for Speed video game. Guaranteed to get the kids off their screens, the roughly 30-mile ride through Badlands National Park transports travelers into an out-of-this-world landscape of twisted canyons, striped rock walls, native grasslands, and fantastic spires.
It may look like a regular state road, having just two lanes, but the route all but makes up for it in the beautiful sights you are bound to encounter. (Source: BlackHillsBadlands)
4 East Narragansett Bay
From Narragansett Bay to the Atlantic, this route does well to showcase the coastline that the state has to offer. Ease into historic Newport from points north on RI 114, a more local and scenic alternative to I-95 or I-195. On the 30-mile drive, visit Bristol’s Colt State Park to walk the bayside trails and experience 18th-century farm life at Coggeshall Farm Museum.
In Middletown, try the Portuguese fish chowder at Anthony’s Seafood and tour Newport Vineyards’ winery. Only use this route for the scenery, not if you have a deadline to meet. (Source: Adventure.HowStuffWorks)
3 UFO Stopover Loop
If you are an X-Files (or Gillian Anderson) fan, then this route is definitely for you. Go full X-Files with Travel Nevada’s new tongue-in-cheek itinerary for intergalactic visitors.
All life-forms are welcome to make the 487-mile (or 8.284e-11 light-year) trip, which includes driving Lincoln County’s Extraterrestrial Highway north of Area 51 (the off-limits military base at the center of many UFO conspiracies) and hiking the Mars-like landscape at Valley of Fire State Park in Overton. Just be sure not to freak out at the green little man with a sign saying “welcome earthlings”. (Source: USAToday)
2 Top Of The Rockies Scenic Byway
Seldom dropping below 9,000 feet, the Top of The Rockies Scenic Byway is the highest road in the USA. Take in towering Rocky Mountain peaks, blue alpine lakes, and two crossings of the Continental Divide in 122 scenic and breathtaking miles.
Stop for pizza at High Mountain Pies in Leadville – which has an elevation of 10,200 feet and was a former hub for silver mining. You can also take time to visit the National Mining Museum while you are at it. (Source: Losapos)
1 Snowy Range Scenic Byway
It was christened the “Great Skyroad” when it opened in 1926 and it surely is a sky-high feast for the eyes. The east-to-west drive provides the more scenic first glimpse of 12,013-foot Medicine Bow Peak rising above Lake Marie.
You can stay overnight at Saratoga’s historic Hotel Wolf, a former stagecoach stop, then go for a dip in the public hot springs. The route is closed for half the year during winter and spring and its opening usually signifies the beginning of summer. A little heads up though, you might want to pack your winter coat. (Source: SenecaCreekStudios)