Is there anything more all-American than a good old fashioned road trip? Exploring the open road with the freedom to hop out the car and discover a new spot is one of the best ways to travel. Luckily the USA is home to some of the most scenic drives in the world. There are quite literally millions of kilometres of road to discover in the USA. If you think you’ve seen all that this country has to offer, think again!
Here are our top 9 favourite road trip routes in the USA – ranging from day drives to journeys that’ll take you the best part of a month to complete.
1. Route 66
Chicago to California
It doesn’t get more classic than this. Route 66 is the road trip of nostalgic dreams. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy all the attractions this route has to offer. It’s doable in 2 weeks, but to fully enjoy it, give yourself a month! If you only have a weekend to spare and still want to experience a bit of the Route 66 magic, do the route from St. Louis to the edge of Texas, it only takes 2 days and is the best stretch by far. Make sure you try some of the famous St. Louis-style ribs on your way.
2. Pacific Coast Highway
The entire coast of California
Live out your teenage fantasy with the roof down and the car stereo blaring your ultimate road trip playlist.
“Driving down the 101, California here we come..”
The 101 highway, or Pacific Coast Highway, is a beautiful stretch of road that links the North of California to the South. It’s best to allow at least 5 days to do the entire stretch of road, as there is much to see along the way. There’s a photo opportunity to not miss at Big Sur, where the road winds around towering cliffs, with crashing waves just below.
3. Great River Road
Minnesota to New Orleans
The Great River Road, or GRR as it’s commonly known, follows the course of the Mississippi River. It’s not the fastest way to get from Minnesota to New Orleans by any means, but it is the most scenic. It’s 50% longer than the interstate that does the same route, meandering through towns, forests, meadows and crossing the river at every opportunity. In the case of the GRR, the journey is the destination.
To do the entire Great River Road is a massive feat. It’s 3,000 miles and passes through ten states of the United States. It takes around 36 hours of straight driving from start to finish, so most people aim to do it in around 2 weeks to allow for a few break days from driving and to savour the stops along the way. If you don’t have 2 weeks to spare, do the shorter route between Memphis and New Orleans which you can do in a few days (and is the best bit anyway!)
4. Alaska-Canadian Highway
Dawsons Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska
The Alaska Highway is a paved road of 1,382 miles long. Taking around 5 days to drive, you’ll see all sorts of wildlife along the way. This is the land of bears and moose and it is not uncommon to spot them through the landscape of mountains and lakes. Due to its northern positioning, the best time to drive the Alaska-Canada Highway is in June and July. The days are long, perfect for making the most of your driving time. Although the weather might be a little wet, it’s still a great time of the year to go off the path for some hiking and fishing.
5. Blue Ridge Parkway
Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina
Along the way you’ll pass some of the oldest mountains in the world, the oldest river in North America and the highest waterfall east of the rockies. Spot the Great Smoky Mountains from your car window and make sure to leave enough time to explore the Shenandoah national parks. If you take the road on during the winter, don’t forget your skis as there are plenty of fantastic ski resorts along the way.
6. Road to Hana
Kahului to Hana, Hawaii
Not for the faint-hearted, the road to Hana features 600 curvy bends (most of them with blind spots) and 50 single-lane bridges. The road is slow, busy and sometimes dangerous – but the beautiful coastal cliffs, plunging waterfalls, dense jungle, and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean make it all worth it! It takes around 12 hours to drive, but there is an option to just go halfway if you haven’t got much time in Hawaii.
7. 17-Mile Drive
Pacific Grove to Carmel, California
Contrary to its name, this 17-mile drive is actually less than 10 miles long. The road is a wonderful scenic route that runs through the Del Monte forests in California. The entry fee to this private road is $10.25. Seeing the spectacular sunsets and the harbour seals bathing in the sea make it worth every cent.
8. Overseas Highway
Key Largo to Key West, Florida
The Overseas Highway is the long stretch of road connecting the Florida Keys. Back in the 1920’s, before the highway was built, the keys were only accessible by water. Cruise along with ocean views on both sides. The Seven Mile Bridge is one of the longest in the world, and hangs quite literally ‘overseas’. Stop off to dip your toes in the ocean and enjoy white sand beaches and colourful coral reef parks.
9. Beartooth Highway
Southwest Montana to Yellowstone National Park
How could you not be intrigued by a road called the Beartooth Highway? This Montana to Yellowstone National Park route is a mystical alpine wonderland – just as its name suggests. The road takes you deep into thick forests, past glistening glacial lakes and into the path of rogue wildlife. Open exclusively in the summer months, make sure to plan your road trip accordingly.
Rent the car of your dreams to give your road trip that extra va-va-vrooom. When planning your next trip, remember to leave some wiggle room for unplanned adventures too! Read our tips for avoiding the most common road trips mistakes before you head out, and you’ll be good to go!