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Forget Route 66, This Is Actually America’s Greatest Road Trip

Fodor's Logo By Chantel Delulio of Fodor's | Slide 1 of 11: Ride the Dunes and then Cozy Up to a Bonfire

We’re (highway) number one! We’re (highway) number one! Route 66 has long-enshrined itself as the Gold Standard American road trip. Sure, it’s nice to have your bragging rights and know that you drove across the contiguous U.S., but really the accomplishment isn’t so much as making it across the U.S. but making it to the other side without tossing your traveling companions (or yourself) out of the car. Once you hop on Route 66 (or, in reality, Interstate 40), you’re greeted only by the occasional mega church or abandoned gas station to distract you from the endlessly unspooling Whole Lotta’ Nothing. Whether you’re behind the wheel of a classic roadster or an economy rental, a road trip is only as good as the pit stops you take along the way. And by this metric, it seems that it’s time for Route 66 to abdicate the Great American Road Trip throne to the Pacific Coast Highway. Though a mudslide caused a large swath of the central coast to close for repairs for 18 months, the stretch of highway between Carmel and Cambria reopened to road trippers this summer. Now there’s nothing to get in the way as you explore all the beautiful beaches, charming towns, and adventures that await along the coast of the Golden State. Here are the best places to pull over and appreciate everything the gateway to the Pacific has to offer.

© Thomas Barrat / Shutterstock

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