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19 of the Best Road Trips in the USA

Caroline Makepeace logo: MainLogo Caroline Makepeace 6/22/2022 Caroline Makepeace

Pack your car, prepare your playlist, wind down the windows, and get ready for stunning views and adventures on an epic United States road trip.

We’ve been taking road trips in the USA since 2004 before we had kids, and for the past 4 years in-depth with our kids, including a 10 month RV trip across the Western part of the USA.

We’ve put together a list of what we think are the best road trips in the USA. We’ve experienced almost all of them (we threw in a couple at the end we haven’t done yet but know are worthy of making the list).

We want to hear your favorite USA road trips in the comments!

In this post, we have included those road trip routes that incorporate multiple stops or destinations. They are usually longer than a day trip or scenic drive. But don’t worry, we have written a post of the best scenic drives in the USA. Some of those scenic drives are part of these suggestions below or may be the entire length of the drive.

We’ve also given an estimated recommended time frame for each road trip. To be honest the longer the better, but I know your time may be limited.

Road Trippers, are you ready to see why America is one of the best road trip destinations in the world? First, be prepared with your …

Road Trip Rentals

Grand Circle Road Trip, Southwest USA

  • START | END: Las Vegas
  • DISTANCE: 1,000+ miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2 – 3 weeks

The Grand Circle Road Trip is one of the most famous National Parks road trips in the USA. It’s where most people will focus there time when exploring the American Southwest.

Expect a kaleidoscope of colors, rock formations, canyons, buttes, mesas, arches, and fairy tale kingdoms.

It’s WOW moments all round as you visit multiple national parks (don’t miss the lesser visited, just as good state parks) with epic views out your window on every mountain turn and straight desert road.

The Grand Circle Road Trip is about 1,000 miles long depending on how many detours you take. This region is full of epic detours and scenic drives and is predominantly within the state of Utah but crosses into Arizona as well.

Highlights of the Grand Circle Road Trip:

This road trip includes the below mentioned national parks. Click on each link to help you plan your trip:  

Plan Your Trip

Other unmissable moments to include in this region include:

Itineraries for the Grand Circle Road Trip

We have you covered for this American road trip with our Southwest itineraries. We recommend 3 weeks to do this trip properly, but we have 10 day, 2, 3 and 4 week itineraries for you (goes all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico). They are free to members of our free VIP email tribe. We regularly create useful guides for them. Sign up in the form below.

Mountains National Parks (CO, WY, MT)

  • START | END: Denver | Glacier National Park
  • DISTANCE: 953 Miles

Talk about one of the best American road trip routes! This journey through the spectacular Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana will take you to some of the top national parks in the USA!

The Rocky Mountains National Park is the perfect place to start your exploration of this mountain range that goes all the way into Canada. We loved the many hikes we did in this national park and seeing the source (just a trickle) of the mighty Colorado River was amazing.

The Grand Teton Range offers some of the most dramatic views of mountains rising out of the valley floor you’ll ever see. It’s also one of the best places to see moose in the wild.

Yellowstone National Park has to be one of the coolest places in the world. There is nothing quite like that swirling, bubbling, geyser shooting land where bison, wolves and bears roam.

And Glacier National Park is filled with stunning glacial views, adventurous hikes and the exhilarating Going to the Sun Road, one of America’s most loved scenic drives.

Keep the window clear as the views as you drive between these USA national parks will be just as good as the destination stops.

Rocky Mountains Highlights

  • Denver
  • Rocky Mountains National Park: Bear Lake, Alberta Falls, Trail Ridge Road, Moraine Park
  • Jackson (Don’t miss the Cowboy Bar!)
  • Grand Teton National Park: Mormon Row, Jenny Lake, Moose Pond
  • Yellowstone National Park: Lamar Valley, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs / Boiling River, Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful
  • Glacier National Park: Going to the Sun Road, Upper Grinnell Lake Hike, Avalanche Lake Hike

Plan Your Trip

Road to Hana, Hawaii

  • START | END: Paia | Hana | Seven Sacred Pools
  • DISTANCE: 45 miles
  •  TIME RECOMMENDED: 1+ days

One of the most famous road trips in Hawaii is the 45-mile Road to Hana.

With 617 hairpin turns and 56 one-lane bridges, you’ll need a bit of stamina for this drive, especially for the long winding return road home.

The road starts in Paia and is embedded on the side of the high jungle cliffs plunging into the sea revealing panoramic Pacific Ocean views, bamboo jungle and Norfolk pines, sacred waterfalls and swimming holes, lava tubes, tropical flowers and roadside food stands.

Set aside a full-day for this drive and start early!

It’s one of the few scenic drives in this post that’s also a road trip experience and can be one in one day. You could break this up into a multi-destination road trip staying in different places along the way.

Road to Hana Highlights

  • Twin Falls
  • Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden
  • Upper Waikani Falls
  • Wai’napanapa State Park
  • Hamoa Beach
  • ‘Ohe’o Gulch’ – The Seven Sacred Pools

PLAN YOUR TRIP with our in-depth guide to the Road to Hana Scenic Drive

Video: The Road to Hana with kids

New England Road Trip in the Fall

  • DISTANCE: Varies depending on where you visit
  •  TIME RECOMMENDED: 5-7 days

One of the best USA road trips for spectacular fall colors is through New England.

Think scenic drives and hikes amongst maples, alder, and birch trees bursting with vibrant hues of ruby, gold and amber; exploring charming New England towns; picking apples on a crisp Fall day; and cozying up beside a crackling fire with hot cider or a glass of red.

Typically late September to mid-October is considered the best time to visit New England to see the fall foliage. It can be a bit of a challenge to time your visit for peak viewing of the leaves in their blaze of glory. Check out this fall foliage map or this one for a guide.

New England consists of six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Maine will start their Fall colors first so plan carefully.

It’s also a great opportunity to incorporate historical experiences into this road trip (Check out this Revolutionary War road trip guide).

See all our tips here on planning a New England road trip.

New England Highlights

  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • The Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire ( Stunning Scenic Drive )
  • Covered Bridges
  • Stowe, Vermont
  • Manchester, Vermont
  • Vermont Route 100 Scenic Drive (“Vermont’s Main Street)
  • The White Mountains. New Hampshire
  • Salem, Massachusetts
  • Boston
  • You may even want to check out Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard

Fall Foliage Tours:

If you don’t want to drive your own car, or even rent a car, Viator offers a one day fall foliage tour from Boston.

Or, to go in-depth, a 10 day New England fall foliage tour including Cape Cad.

Plan Your Trip:

Video: Driving the Kancamagus Highway

Florida Keys and the Overseas Highway

  • START | END: Miami | Key West
  • DISTANCE: 113 miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1+ weeks

Hop island to island via bridges of the crystal clear waters of the Florida Keys. It’s an American road trip to remember and also makes our best USA scenic drives list.

The entire Overseas Highway carries US. Route 1 through the Florida Keys to Key West.

Spend a few days in each of the keys to experience the different flavors of this tropical region. Craig and I road tripped the Keys in 2005 and loved snorkeling at John Pennekamp and cruising the bars of Key West.

The Florida Overseas Highway is an All American Road.

Florida Keys Highlights

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • The Seven Mile Bridge
  • Sombrero Beach, Marathon
  • Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West
  • Duval Street, Key West
  • Dry Tortugas National Park

Read more places to visit in Florida, including Florida Keys highlights.

Cascade Loop Road Trip, Washington

  • START | END: Seattle
  • DISTANCE: 440 miles round trip
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: At least 5- 7 days.

Touted as Washington State’s Ultimate Road Trip, the Cascades Loop encompasses pristine mountains, grand rivers, picturesque islands, and rolling river valleys.

The route contains three of Washington’s designated scenic byways—the Stevens Pass Greenway, North Cascades Highway, and the Whidbey Scenic Isle Way.

There is hot debate over which direction it is best to drive the Cascades Loop.

We drove in a clockwise direction, merely because we were not completing the loop but continuing into Idaho, so it made sense for what we wanted to see and do in the Cascades region.

North Cascades National Park is one of our favorite in the USA. It’s much lessor-known national parks and has more glaciers than any of the Lower 48 states! The Sahale Glacier Hike was one of our most epic adventures in the USA!

Cascade Loop Highlights

  • Orca watching in Everett
  • LA Conner
  • Deception Pass (state park)
  • North Cascades National Park: North Cascades Highway (scenic drive), Sahale Glacier Hike
  • Leavenworth (Bavarian style village)
  • Lake Chelan
  • Stevens Pass
  • Seattle


Extend the beauty of this Washington road trip by visiting Mt Rainier. Mt Rainier is one of five active volcanoes located in the Cascade Range, east of Seattle, Washington. The other four are Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens.

Standing more than 4,300 meters above southern Washington, Mt Rainier is strikingly beautiful – we could see its awesomeness from Seattle. It’s an easy day trip from Seattle. Check out this day trip from Seattle.

Plan Your Trip:

Cross Country – Route 66

  • START | END: Chicago | LA
  • DISTANCE: 2,000+ miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2 – 3 weeks

Figure out what gets your kicks and take it on Route 66. This iconic USA road trip starts in Chicago and ends in Santa Monica, LA and crosses 8 states and passes through many old, once-thriving small towns, and scores of historical sites.

Whether you love whiskey, jazz music, history, hole-in-the-wall experiences, quirky roadside stops, flashing neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, or barren landscapes, Route 66 has you covered.

Since we have driven from North Carolina to LA we have followed near to the Route 66 for some way dipping in and out of the road from the I-40 (the now major interstate).

The National Park Service’s Route 66 site is the best place to start your planning as is our friend’s Honeytrek’s guide to driving the Route 66 – they did the whole thing!

Route 66 Highlights (and easy detours)

South East Coastal & Culture (NC, SC, GA)

  • START | END: Outer Banks | Savannah
  • DISTANCE: 537

Again, one of our favorite road trips on repeat! This South East Coast drive will take you to some of the most beautiful beaches and barrier islands in the USA, incorporating the country’s first national seashore, endless lighthouses, wild horses, and some of the best sunrises we’ve seen in the world.

It also includes some of our favorite historical and charming Southern cities and towns, adding a cultural perspective to this trip.

Be prepared for delicious seafood, unique Southern dishes, and a friendly, relaxed vibe as you cruise through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

South East Coast Highlights:

  • Outer Banks: Kitty Hawk, Corolla Wild Horses,
  • Beaufort NC: Shackleford Island wild horses
  • Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach: Surfing and movie vibes
  • Myrtle Beach: Huntington Beach State Park
  • Charleston: history tours, carriage tour, Boone Hall
  • Beaufort SC: Hunting Island State Park, Old Pointe Neighborhood
  • Savannah: Squares, History tours, River St, Tybee Island

Plan Your Trip

Pacific Highway 101 Oregon

  • START | END: Gold Beach | Astoria
  • DISTANCE: 375 miles round trip
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 7-10 days

Spanning 363 miles, Highway 101 is an All American Road that winds down the entire Oregon Coast to the California border, hugging the Pacific coastline the entire time.

You’ll experience a dramatic rocky coastline of sea stacks and fierce cliffs and opportunities to explore evergreen forests, seaside dunes, marine ecosystems, and small coastal towns.

It’s a choose your own adventure kind of experience. Let’s not forget this is also home of the Goonies!!

It’s also important to note that the Oregon Coast is really not for swimming due to rough waters and pretty cold temperatures! Take note of all the warning signs – this is not a drill.

Highway 101 Highlights

  • Jet Boating the Rogue River
  • Quad biking the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
  • Tidepooling (Florence up to Astoria)
  • Yachats Brewing + Farmstore
  • Ecola State Park
  • Cannon Beach
  • Goonies Trail, Astoria
  • Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor 


Revolutionary War Road Trip, VA – MT

  • START | END: | Shenandoah National Park
  • DISTANCE: 469 miles

Travel is not always about the beast beaches, wild adventures, and sunset cocktails. It can also be a journey of learning and diving deep into culture and history.

One great way to do that – especially if you are traveling with kids – is to create a road trip theme around historical events. (This is also perfect for homeschooling families.)

One that our family has enjoyed, especially as Australians learning about what makes up the spirit of Americans, is to visit the places and experiences that tell the story of the Revolutionary War. We love how this road trip takes in the amazing US cities of Washington D.C., Boston and New York City!

Ditch the text books, jump in the car and head to the areas along the east coast were the story was born.

Revolutionary Highlights

  • Greater Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield & American Revolution Museum
  • Washington D.C.: Washington Monument, Declaration of Independence, Mount Vernon
  • Philadelphia: Independence Hall, Historic District, the Liberty Bell
  • Boston: Freedom Trail Walking Tour, Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House.
  • Lexington Battle Green
  • West Point & Saratoga

Plan Your Trip

Civil Rights Trail Road Trip, The South

Another important historical road trip is following the Civil Rights Trail through America’s South.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a collection of over 100 attractions across 15 states.

The attractions include churches, courthouses, schools, museums, and other landmarks in the Southern states and beyond that played a pivotal role in advancing social justice in the 1950s and 1960s, shifting the course of history.

It’s an educational and immersive connection of the events, the people, places and stories that defined the movement.

Visiting the museums and attractions on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail helps us to see how far we’ve come, but also how much further we have to go. It opens up important conversations with our children about how we can keep working for diversity and inclusion.

Use this official website to help you plan your trip as it covers such a diverse region. Even if you don’t take this road trip specifically (or parts of it) be sure to add some of these Civil Right’s experiences whenever you visit any of the applicable regions.

Plan Your Trip

Below you’ll find information on some of the Civil Right’s experiences we have had:

Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

  • START | END: Seattle
  • DISTANCE: 375 miles round trip
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 6-9 days

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is in the state’s northwestern corner and is one of the premier road trip destinations in the Pacific Northwest coast.

A large part of this region is made up of the Olympic National Park, one of the most diverse national parks in the USA.

Choose your own adventure from this pristine region of ancient cedar spruce trees, glacial lakes, sub-alpine meadows, mountain ranges, verdant old-growth rainforests, and remote and rugged coastlines.

Highway 101 forms a 300-mile loop around the peninsula. It’s easy to start and end this pacific northwest road trip in Seattle.

Olympic Peninsula Highlights

  • Olympic NP: Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, and the Hoh Rain Forest. Do not miss the wild rugged coastline section as well.
  • Port Townsend is a pretty and charming historic Victorian seaport bordered by Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It actually made our favorite small towns in the USA list.

Mount Rainier National Park is also close by and an easy addition to this road trip.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: The Diverse and beautiful Olympic National Park

Video: Olympic National Park

Mountains and Music Road Trip (TN & LA)

  • START | END: Asheville | New Orleans
  • DISTANCE: About 832 miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 6-9 days

Let’s take you on one of our favorite road trips in America from Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee to New Orleans, Louisiana. We have done this countless times and will continue to do so

It combines two things we love: mountains and music. This is a Southeast road trip that incorporates beauty, soul, history and culture. The focus is on music and natural beauty, but you can add other things into this experience while in the various destinations, like beer food and small town historical charm.

It also incorporates the Blues Highway (Route 61), which takes you to some of the most some of the most storied music spots in the USA.

Music Road Trip Highlights

  • Smoky Mountains National Park: Cades Cove, Grotto Falls, Clingman’s Dome, Morton Overlook
  • Nashville: Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Cafe, Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Broadway
  • Franklin: Puckett’s Grocery at Leiper’s Fork
  • Memphis: Beale St, Graceland, Sun Studios, Stax Museum
  • Jackson, MS – blues music
  • New Orleans: Live Jazz and Mardi Gras (Feb/ March)


To save time you can drop the Smoky Mountains National Park and start in Nashville instead. If you want more mountain experiences consider detouring to Chattanooga. If you want more music and you are traveling in September] October, you can drive to Raleigh for the annual World of Bluegrass Festival. Asheville, NC is also is a great music town.

Plan Your Trip

Blue Ridge Parkway (NC – VA)

  • START | END: Great Smoky Mountains NP | Shenandoah National Park
  • DISTANCE: 469 miles

Ready for what’s labeled as America’s favorite scenic drive? The Blue Ridge Parkway travels 252 miles through the North Carolina mountains with ample exits for weekend getaways from Asheville to Boone. The total length of the parkway (469 miles) extends into Virginia

There are mileposts (MP) along the way as handy reference points with plenty of places to stop for hikes, viewpoints and wildlife spotting. 

It’s a panoramic drive year round, but many flock here during Autumn for the spectacular Fall colors. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also an All American Road.

Blue Ridge Parkway Highlights

  • Chimney Rock State Park: Don’t miss Lake Lure!
  • Biltmore Estate: Don’t miss the winery!
  • Asheville: Breweries and outdoor adventure
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Grandfather Mountain
  • Linville Falls
  • Roanoke: Cool Virginia mountain town
  • Peaks of Otter: Sharp Top Mountain Hike


Why not extend the beauty of this United States road trip by visiting Shenandoah Valley National Park in Virginia and doing the Skyline Scenic Drive? It picks up the baton of beauty from the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and continues for another 105 miles.


Pacific Coast Highway, California

  • START | END: San Francisco | Los Angeles | San Diego
  • DISTANCE: 500+ miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2 – 3 weeks

California is one of the best road trip destinations in the USA. Where do you even start with this spectacular road trip experience along California’s Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)?

The fabled Highway 1 is a scenic drive that runs along the length of most of the Pacific Coast. The Pacific Coast Highway road trip stretches 500 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles, or stretch it further to San Diego.

It is best to drive this from north to south so you have the dramatic coastal views right next to your car! Apart from the stunning ocean views be prepared for waterfalls, surfing beaches, small towns, large cities, and fun vibes.

The 90-mile Big Sur stretch of Highway 1 made our top USA scenic drives list.

Highway 1 Highlights

  • San Francisco
  • Monterey and the 17-Mile Drive
  • McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  • The All American Road: Big Sur National Scenic Byway
  • Day trip to Channel Islands National Park
  • San Simeon Seals + Hearst Castle
  • Surfing at Santa Cruz or Pismo Beach
  • Santa Barbara
  • Los Angeles
  • Huntington Beach (one of our favorite California beaches!)
  • San Diego


Salmon River Scenic Byway, Idaho

  • START | END: Boise | Salmon
  • DISTANCE: 167 miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: At least one week

One of my favorite USA road trips is through the spectacular Salmon River Scenic Byway in Idaho.

Steaming natural hot springs beside the rushing river, craggy mountain peaks, sparkling glacial lakes, and endless starry skies are just part of the reason to make this road trip.

Running through Central Idaho, the Salmon River Scenic Byway follows a section of the 425-mile Salmon River, protected by Congress as one of America’s first Wild and Scenic Rivers.

You’re surrounded by spectacular views at every turn and have endless opportunities for hiking, biking, river activities, wildlife viewing, and exploring the ghost towns of the Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area.

This area is also said to have some of the most spectacular Fall colors in Idaho. It would be best to start and end this Pacific Northwest road trip in Boise. See this guide I wrote on Visit Idaho.

Salmon River Highlights

  • Hot Springs: Goldbug & Snake Pit
  • The Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area (ghost towns)
  • Whitewater rafting the Salmon River
  • Sawtooth National Recreation Area: Horseriding and hikes
  • Redfish Lake: One of our favorites in the US
  • Boise: A capital city worth exploring

Video: Salmon River Scenic Byway


Natchez Trace Parkway

  • START | END: Nashville | Natchez
  • DISTANCE: 444 miles

The “Old Natchez Trace” is a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents.

It’s now a great USA road trip that is managed by the National Parks Service and passes through three states (Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi) and 10,000 years of history.

It’s a beautiful scenic drive that also offers a rich array of wildlife, gorgeous waterfalls, memorable hikes and historic sites.

It’s especially beautiful and popular in the Fall with its explosion of colors. We have driven a small section of it at Leiper’s Fork Tennessee. I’m ready to do the full road trip!

Our friend’s Kristen and Scott from Camels and Chocolate have explore the Natchez Parkway in depth. Use their Natchez Parkway guides to help you plan.

Great River Road National Scenic Byway

  • START | END: Minnesota | Louisiana
  • DISTANCE: 3,000+ miles

Time to follow the Mississippi River as it flows 2,340 miles from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico through a vast delta southeast of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway passes through 10 states and hundreds of river towns. It’s probably America’s longest Scenic Byway, telling an important story of this rive that takes up 1/8th of the country.

This epic road trip will take you to lesser-known destinations you may not typically think to visit, but will also pass through those big cities like St Louis, Memphis and New Orleans.

This may be a road trip you’ll want to break up into sections.

Alaska Highway

  • START | END: Dawson Creek | Anchorage
  • DISTANCE: 2,323+ miles
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: Several weeks

High on any adventurers list is a summer road trip along the Alaska Highway. The highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and travels through the Yukon to Delta Junction in Alaska.

Opened in 1948, the Alaska Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The journey promises pristine wilderness, plentiful wildlife, and a feeling of history and freedom in wide open spaces.

Prepare and plan well and have a sturdy off-road vehicle as many parts of the road are only gravel. Check out the guide our friend’s Honeytrek wrote on their Alaska road trip and this helpful post on the driving the ALCAN by Getting Stamped.

Comment: Okay, your turn! What’s makes your best road trips in the USA list?

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