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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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