The Top 5 Road Trips to Take in the U.S.
The U.S. offers so many different experiences and places; it would be a shame not to hit the highway and enjoy some amazing sights. From rocky cliffs to lighthouses and canyons, you can find the perfect road trip and enjoy some time away from responsibilities and work. Before you leave, you need to figure out where you want to go.
We found the five best road trips spanning dozens of states and crisscrossing America from the coasts of Maine to California. The trips follow great bodies of water as they make for the most picturesque views, although we tossed in a few other places for those looking for an escape with views of the mountains.
Find your perfect slice of heaven without stepping foot on a plane. Stay on after for some helpful tips to make traveling a more enjoyable experience. Grab your keys, and let’s go!
1 – Bold Coast Scenic Byway, Maine
Take a scenic tour of the northeast coast on the Bold Coast Scenic Byway in Maine. If your dream trip includes views of lighthouses and crashing waves, this is the trip for you as it offers picturesque views, boats lining the water, and gorgeous trees peppering the coast. Depending on the time of years, you can even see brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow sweeping toward the Atlantic.
Along the way, experience natural historic New England sites, sea life, beautiful sunsets, and glorious night skies filled with stars. The byway stretches up the coast 125 miles for a leisurely day trip you can easily stretch out for a few more days with stops in various towns for antiquing, fresh seafood restaurants, and gorgeous landscapes.
As you drive north, take some time to enjoy the spectacular coastlines and many activities available from swimming, fishing, hiking, etc. Don’t forget to stop at farmers markets for fresh blueberries and cranberries either or perusing antique shops. Enjoy an off day exploring the many coastal islands and towns.
Take some time to check out Lamoine State Park between May to October for easy access to lighthouses, rocky islands, and camping or kayaking. People looking for art, culture, biking, hiking, boating, or wildlife watching can all find incredible excursions for weeks worth of adventure. Finally, extend your trip for a jaunt down 295 to checkout incredible culture in Portland and Kittery, the oldest town in Maine.
2 – Great River Road
The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River and takes you up through our great country right from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to Minnesota. While it doesn’t drop you off at the Canadian border, it does take you through ten states. The mighty river and the road run 3,000 miles with thousands of places to visit and stop for food too.
Drive over scenic bridges, hike through national parks, experience landmarks, and tour museums. Start in Louisiana with a day in historic New Orleans and drive north for days. If you like to gamble, find a casino hotel along the route right on the river for exciting nightlife. You can even enjoy sports at professional stadiums, whether you prefer baseball, football, basketball, or hockey.
Take a day trip on a river cruise in several states, although try to stay below Illinois to avoid dams and smaller pools of water. If you want to stay out of the water, try museums like the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul or the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Even visit the Archaeological State Park in Arkansas.
Of course, the route is filled with charming small towns, mom and pop restaurants, and even fun festivals and fairs depending on the time of year. Finally, you can even enjoy nature too, with options for camping, hiking, kayaking, and so much more. Find out what makes the river the lifeline of the country.
3 – The Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
Escape up the pacific coast for breathtaking views of the ocean. Nowhere else in America can you cross massive bridges overlooking the coat or winding roads nestled into mountains with impressive sky views as well. The route starts in San Diego and borders the coast straight up to Seattle. While the highway only travels three states, it goes practically from Mexico to Canada and the trip begs for a convertible with warm weather and ocean scapes.
Spend 655 miles on route one headed either north or south, but the best views are in mid to northern California, including Big Sur with a rugged rocky coast ready to steal your breath away. It’s so breathtaking, Apple named their newest operating system after the gorgeous view. Find hidden beaches with waterfalls and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Stop in Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, making sure to explore the hidden coves and glorious water. If you fancy a break, enjoy some local cafes or set off in hunt for popular sports like golfing or whale watching. When you reach San Simeon, take a break to tour Hearst Castle and the Enchanted Hills or Moonstone Beach for views you can’t find anywhere else in the world, including elephant seals.
As you make your way up the coast, find the little Danish town Solvang nestled in a valley with unique architecture and even a replica of the Little Mermaid statue, or try some unique edibles too. The highway opened up in the 1930s and remains one of the most astounding trails in the country with more options than you can imagine. You may want to take a full week to enjoy this trip properly, although you could easily space it out a month if your budget allows!
4 – Big Sky Country Wyoming to Montana
Take a trip through Big Sky Country, traveling from Wyoming to Montana. Take this trip if you want to focus on big views and hours of solitude. Enjoy wide-open spaces, natural wonders, and quiet. Especially if you loving in a bustling city, you need this trip to reconnect with yourself and nature.
Take one to two weeks off and enjoy twelve hundred miles of soul-searching space. When you crave a little noise, head to Bozeman with a mix of art and culture with easy access to outdoor activities like fly-fishing, all with a backdrop of dramatic mountains. From there, head to Glacier National Park for flawless mountains and over 700 lakes where you can spot elk, deer, and bears stopping for a drink.
While at Glacier National Park, enjoy a short drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road for views of the lakes and cedar forests. Don’t miss the iconic West Tunnel with observation windows for more spectacular views like the weeping wall and waterfalls. When you are ready to move on, you still have two more national parks to visit, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton down south for more impressive scenery.
Drive toward Idaho next to visit the iconic Shoshone Falls, also known as the Niagara Falls of the west. See rainbows cascading over raging water. Make sure to take in the Rocky Mountains and stunning displays of nature and vast sky. Choose this location if you want to enjoy winter sports or even hiking through ranch lands for a taste of old America.
5 – Overseas Highway
As most of the trips on the list chase water, we found one more to take you to a new world on the Overseas Highway. Instead of the coast, head down south to a strip of the highway just below Florida. Start in Miami and enjoy a short drive of 106 miles unlike any other strip of highway in the country to Key West.
Drive across massive strips of the ocean where the Gulf of Mexico kisses the Atlantic Ocean in depth-defying landscapes. Take in sights like Key Largo and a total of 44 islands while scoping seagulls and pelicans. It’s where wildlife and nature go out to sea to visit mangrove forests and the only living barrier reef off the continental U.S.
Like many other iconic roads, this one began construction in the 1930’s and includes the Seven Mile Bridge, the most famous section. You may have even seen this stretch of road in the movies like in James Bond License to Kill and 2 Fast 2 Furious. However, you do need to check the weather before visiting this stretch of sea as it can lay victim to hurricanes.
Take your camera with you for dramatic sunsets in brilliant hues of orange, pink, and purple. Many parts of the highway includes bike trails with a 90-mile stretch if you want to road trip from a saddle seat. Also try fishing, local restaurants, beaches, snorkeling, and even visit Hemingway’s House of cats. No other place in the country feels so out of the world as a sprawling road-tripping across the ocean.
How to Plan a Road Trip
Planning a road trip requires a few things unless you have the patience and cash to wing it and go where your heart leads you. Take a look at some of the key aspects to make a road trip more successful and enjoyable.
Depending on the length of your road trip, you will need to budget enough for gas, a rental car, plane tickets, food, souvenirs, and excursions. You can work with what you have by doing less or eating cheaper or doing more of the drive yourself. If you can and don’t mind putting miles on your car, skip the rental too.
For a more successful trip, figure out your budget before you go, so you have time to decide what to skimp on to make the trip more affordable. Use the internet and book hotels ahead of time to save, and don’t forget to see if you can use your frequent flyer points or other deals to save a little more.
Do not forget to plan your vehicle before you go. If you get an RV rental, you only need to budget the costs as the rental company will take care of the rest. However, if you are taking your car, make sure to get it checked out before you go. Check the liquids, engine, and tires before going to make sure the car won’t breakdown when you are a couple of hundred miles away from home.
You should absolutely eat at mom and pop restaurants on your trip, but you can save money on snacks and lighter meals meant to spend on the road. Save calories and upset stomach with healthy snacks and a cooler. Don’t waste your money on fast food when you can save the budget for tasty treats in a sit down local frequented by locals.
Taking adults on a road trip requires electronics and a suitcase. If kids are going, you need a minivan with built-in TVs, a giant cooler full of juice and snacks, a blanket, pillows, and toys. Plan accordingly and make sure to find car seats with tons of cushions to avoid discomfort and whining.
Road trips require stops for some fun activities like hiking, fishing, snorkeling, wine tasting, or museums. Planning ahead not only makes these excursions more affordable but helps to ensure you don’t miss the activities you want to try. Find coupons online or apps to help buy tickets as you reach your destination. Take out the guesswork and help prove your destination. Finally, planning can save a ton because you can bring your own fishing pole or other necessities since you will have room in your car.
Questions About Planning a Road Trip
What music should I listen to on the road?
No longer do you need to make CDs for your road trip, but you can plan out an epic road trip playlist on your phone. Also, consider purchasing an audible book to break up the music when you don’t want to sing but need a distraction. With the improvements in technology, you can even download podcasts or talk shows too.
What essentials do I need to make a road trip more comfortable?
A travel pillow and sunglasses are essential. If your car tends to get cold, take a blanket too. Make sure to have a way to keep your phone close and visible without needing to keep in your hands too. Don’t forget some non-messy snacks, too, to save money and prevent buying junk at the gas station.
How many sites should I stop and see?
Make sure to allow time for visiting sites comfortably as nothing is fun when it’s rushed. Try to plan a day per each excursion if you can fit it in your schedule unless its a short outing like visiting a museum or a wine tour. For nature excursions, plan an extra day if possible for the best experience.
Continental America offers many incredible sights to see, which is right for you is a decision only you can make. No matter what trip you pick, you will have an incredible time with proper planning. We highly suggest trips close to large bodies of water for brilliant views and exciting adventures. Find your perfect road trip today.