11 Best American Road Trip Routes

America is a country made for road trips. With such a vast territory to cover, thousands of acres of public lands to explore throughout the country’s national park system and a unique flavor to each of the 50 states, it’s easy to understand how the “Great American Road Trip” is so iconic. America’s roads will take you along windy mountain passes, to old Spanish churches, through forests of bright fall foliage. The only question is where to begin.

Here we’ve rounded up eleven of the best American road trip routes, from famous must-sees like Big Sur to those a little bit off the beaten path like the High Road to Taos.

1. Big Sur, California

Big Sur
One of the most iconic and recognizable drives in the U.S., the coastal stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur tops our list of best American road trip routes. Not only is the drive beautiful with its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean along the California coast, there’s so much to explore on this route from Carmel to Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.

Sample itinerary: Classic West Coast Road Trip

 

2. Highway 12, Utah

Highway 12 Utah Courtesy of Visit Utah

Highway 12, Courtesy of Visit Utah

Highway 12 is the beautiful connection route between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks. It only takes about three hours to drive the whole road, but if you break it up over a few days, you’ll begin to see everything Utah has to offer: red arches in Red Canyon, layered sandstone “steps” in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and hairpin turns through the Dixie National Forest.

Sample itinerary: An Odyssey Through Utah’s National Parks

 

3. Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway Photo Credit: Reinhard Schön (wikimedia)

The Million Dollar Highway is a section of US Route 550 stretching between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado. The road winds through the San Juan Mountains, from the deep Uncompaghre Gorge to three high altitude mountain passes.

Sample itinerary: Luxury Family Adventure in Colorado

 

4. Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway, Courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourism

This road crosses three states (Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee) and 444 miles of the American South. In autumn, this route is the perfect showcase of the area’s colorful fall foliage. The trip is well worth it outside of fall as well for its beautiful scenery of waterfalls, cypress swamps and mysterious mounds in Mississippi.

 

5. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Highway

Kancamagus Highway

Lovingly known as “the Kanc,” Kancamagus Highway is a scenic drive through New Hampshire, well known as prime viewing for the area’s famous fall foliage. Spanning 34.5 miles between North Woodstock and Conway, this route opens up the best of the White Mountains, from camping to hiking.

 

6. Beartooth Pass Highway

Beartooth Pass Highway

Beartooth Pass Highway, Courtesy of Visit Yellowstone Country

Ever since opening to car travel in 1932, Beartooth Pass Highway has welcomed people into the beauty of the Yellowstone area in Montana and Wyoming. Gaining 5,000 feet in elevation and spanning 68 miles of mountainous terrain, suffice it to say that Beartooth covers a lot of ground. Expect every component of a mountain wonderland along the way: alpine lakes, meadows and snow clinging to the peaks.

Sample itinerary: Yellowstone and Grand Teton Road Trip

 

7. The Cascade Loop, Washington

Cascade Loop Washington

The Cascade Loop, Courtesy of Seattle Magazine

Passing from the ocean through the mountains along rivers and lakes, the Cascade Loop comprises the best of the state of Washington. The loop is a total of 440 miles long and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to explore. This route treats you to Washington’s delicious diversity: you’ll encounter sweet mountain towns, lush lowlands and high-altitude passes.

 

8. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana

Going-to-the-Sun Road Glacier

Going-to-the-Sun Road spans the width of Glacier National Park in northern Montana. Built in 1932, the road is considered somewhat of an engineering marvel with its twisty curves hugging the mountain and high passes. On this 50-mile road, you’ll also pass cedar forests and glacial lakes.

Sample itinerary: Glacier National Park, Pack Trip and Luxury Ranch

 

9. High Road to Taos, New Mexico

High Road to Taos

High Road to Taos, Courtesy of Visit Taos

The High Road to Taos is a scenic byway that provides a unique glimpse into New Mexico’s “Old Spain” past. You’ll find lots of traditional adobe architecture and old churches, with the Jemez Mountains and surrounding badlands as a backdrop. The High Road is 105 miles and would take just two and a half hours driving straight through from Santa Fe to Taos. Of course, we recommend stretching it out and seeing everything the area has to offer.

Sample itinerary: Back to the Future in New Mexico

 

10. Highway 50

Highway 50 Loneliest Road

From sea to shining sea, Highway 50 is one of the best cross-country routes there is to explore the United States. It’s quite the undertaking, spanning more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to Washington D.C. Cutting straight across the continental U.S., it’s the perfect way to get a taste of America’s many flavors. It follows the old routes of the Pony Express through the Sierra Nevadas, weaves through the mountain towns of the Rocky Mountains, meanders across the Midwest’s wide open plains and finishes in an area of rich history on the East Coast.

 

11. Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Courtesy of Blue Ridge Parkway

Spanning from Virginia to North Carolina, Blueridge Parkway is a slow-paced and relaxed route through the beautiful landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. Known not only for its 469 miles of panoramic views, the drive provides a peak into America’s early history, from early European settlement to even prehistoric times.

 

Interested in planning your own luxury American road trip?

Get in touch to speak with a Destination Specialist and begin planning your own custom road trip.

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