22 Best Road Trips in America (Unmissable Stops + Helpful Tips!)

Looking for the best road trips in America?

The best road trips in the USA are scattered all over the country, so no matter where you plan to drive, you’ll likely find a scenic drive to explore,

Road trips are a popular way to explore the spectacular (and very diverse!) landscapes in the USA, which is criss-crossed by a network of interstate freeways, scenic byways, and historic routes, perfect for crafting an infinite number of itineraries to explore the country in depth.

“Hitting the road” is a cherished vacation tradition for many Americans, and iconic road trips like the Pacific Coast Highway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the American Southwest are often high on the wish list for many international visitors as well.

Monument Valley and the American Southwest are one of the most iconic road trips in the USA
The iconic road through Monument Valley

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In this article, we’ve rounded up the very best American road trips. No matter which part of the country you want to explore, you’ll likely find a road trip route here to suit!

So if you’re raring to fine-tune that playlist, load up the trunk, and hit the road, here are our suggestions for the most exciting US road trip itineraries!

1. California Coast Road Trip from San Francisco to San Diego

California Highway 1 officially stretches from Leggett in the north to Dana Point in the south, but most travelers opt to do a road trip between San Francisco and San Diego to explore the bulk of the very scenic California Coast.

Parts of the route are officially known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), but, confusingly, the whole road trip is also often known as the Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

By whatever name you choose to call it, the California Coast road trip is definitely one for the bucket list!

Big Sur, California
Highway 1 snakes along the Big Sur coast

We suggest one week at a minimum and 10 days ideally: there is so much to see and do on this California Coast road trip that you will want all the time you can afford.

Starting from San Francisco, drive south through Santa Cruz to the Monterey peninsula, which offers a plethora of beautiful beaches, charming towns to explore, a variety of outdoor activities, delicious California cuisine, and wine tasting.

Go whale watching, stroll historic Cannery Row in Monterey, take a tour of the heritage houses in Pacific Grove, do the scenic 17-Mile Drive, and be captivated by the seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Just south of Monterey is Big Sur, one of the most spectacularly scenic stretches of coast in the world. Hike the rugged coastal bluffs, look for purple sand at Pefiffer Beach, snap photos of Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls, and soak in the natural beauty all around you!

The towns of the Central Coast are charming, and you’ll have the delicious dilemma of deciding which ones to visit on your trip! Morro Bay offers birding, beaches, and fresh-caught seafood. San Luis Obispo has a lively little downtown and many topnotch eateries. Pismo Beach has a long pier and a large sandy beach.

Take a quick detour inland to tour the small towns of the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley before arriving in the elegant coastal city of Santa Barbara, with its red tile roofs and vibrant downtown.

Solvang, California
Strolling downtown Solvang

From Ventura, take a day trip by ferry to Channel Islands National Park before coasting down to Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

Depending on the time you have, there’s a lot to see and do in the Los Angeles area, from world-class museums like the Getty to Disneyland and Universal Studios.

Between LA and san Diego, you’ll find a string of beautiful beach towns from which to pick: go surfing in Huntington Beach, enjoy beautiful Crystal Cove State Park near Laguna Beach, and see the flower fields of Carlsbad if you visit in the spring.

San Diego offers beautiful weather year-round, and a variety of activities. Tour Balboa Park, go tidepooling at Cabrillo National Monument, enjoy the pristine beach at Coronado, and see the sea lions in La Jolla.

Sea lions in La Jolla, CA
Sea lions in La Jolla

While you can do this Pacific Coast Highway road trip any time of the year, spring and fall offer great weather and lower crowds than the summer.

Good to know: It’s tempting to rent a convertible, but we suggest a regular car. You’ll be pulling up and putting down the top way too much for it to be much fun.

Suggested by Dhara from Roadtripping California

2. The Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip

Created in the mid-1930s by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a way to protect America’s precious wilderness and create new jobs in the wake of the Great Depression, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a world-renowned scenic route that stretches 469 miles through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. 

A view from the Graveyard Fields Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
A fall foliage view from the Graveyard Fields Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Construction began in 1935 and was largely completed by 1966, but the 8-mile section featuring the engineering marvel known as the Linn Cove Viaduct (which winds around NC’s iconic Grandfather Mountain) took another 21 years to finish.

Today the Blue Ridge Parkway is widely considered one of the most epic road trips in America, not to mention the most widely visited unit in the US National Park System, attracting around 16 million visitors every year. 

The BRP was designed to connect two other extremely popular parks: Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina (which averages around 15 million visitors a year) and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where it turns into the equally impressive Skyline Drive.

It is the longest linear park in the country, winding its way through the Jefferson, George Washington, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests. 

While it is possible to drive the entire distance of the BRP in about 15 hours, doing so would miss the entire point of the journey.

There are 200 breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks along the way, offering access to some of the region’s most picturesque hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls, and mountain summits.

So most visitors spend anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

One of the most popular spots in North Carolina is Mount Mitchell State Park, whose dynamic 6,684-foot summit makes it the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River.

The park offers a wide range of hiking trails, exceptional panoramic views from the observation tower at the summit, and lots of places for picnics.

The aforementioned Grandfather Mountain is another can’t-miss attraction, offering challenging hiking trails (some of which require using ladders to ascend massive rock formations), breathtaking views, campgrounds, and the Mile-High Swinging Bridge of the privately owned Grandfather Mountain attraction (which charges a separate entrance fee).

In Virginia, Mabry Mill offers a more historical BRP experience, with buildings from the 1800s and a working mill that is the scenic route’s most frequently photographed landmark. 

Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway, considered one of the best road trips in the USA.
Mabry Mill is a picture postcard!

June is one of the best times to travel the BRP, as the weather is fairly warm, wildflowers (including rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and flame azaleas) are in bloom, and there are seasonal festivals and other fun activities.

Autumn is also a fantastic time to visit, when the leaves look like red, orange, gold, and green gems glistening against the brilliant blue sky. But fall is also the peak time to visit, and the road and parking lots can be considerably more crowded. 

You won’t find many Blue Ridge Parkway hotels right along the famous road, other than the historic Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland NC, the Pisgah Inn near Mount Pisgah, and the Peaks of Otter Lodge in Bedford VA.

But one of the best things about a BRP road trip is getting a chance to explore the countless charming mountain towns along the way, where you’ll find plenty of hotels, resorts, and B&Bs from which to choose.

Popular favorites include the Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock NC and Wintergreen Resort near Waynesboro VA. 

Suggested by Bret & Mary of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide

3. Route 66 Road Trip: The Mother Road

Route 66 is a legendary highway and the quintessential American road trip, offering historic sites and quirky roadside attractions.

Your trip begins in Chicago, Illinois, and ends in Santa Monica, California. While you can take weeks to drive this iconic route, allow at least seven days.

Because the route starts in the heart of downtown Chicago, one of the top cities in the Midwest to visit, you might want to schedule a few days to explore the city.

Once you’re on the road, your first major stop on Route 66 in Illinois is Springfield. It’s the state’s capital and home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Your next state is Missouri. Stretch your legs — and your neck — with a visit to Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis.

Gateway Arch National Park in Saint Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri

After a quick thirteen-mile jaunt in Kansas, you’ll be in Oklahoma. Stop by the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which honors the victims of the 1995 bombing. The museum is on the site of the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

In Texas, no Route 66 trip is complete without a visit to Cadillac Ranch. This unique art installation features a row of vintage cars half-buried nose-first in the ground.

Once you’re in New Mexico, visit another National Park: the Petrified Forest. You can hike through a forest of ancient trees that have turned to stone.

Route 66 in Arizona takes you through the Coconino National Forest. You can also visit the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered.

The stretch between Seligman and Kingman, AZ features several small towns and old autos that make for great photos. Among the many things to do in Kingman, do not miss the Historic Route 66 Museum.

In California, you’ll drive by Mojave National Preserve, where you can view stands of Joshua trees. Ghost towns dot the desert, along with roadside attractions like Elmer’s Bottle Ranch. You can also stop at the very first McDonald’s, now a museum.

Your journey ends at Santa Monica Pier, where you can ride the famous Ferris wheel and swim in the Pacific Ocean.

Route 66 Marker in Santa Monica, California
Pose for a photo at the End of the Trail marker in Santa Monica!

You can drive the Mother Road any time of year, although spring and fall offer the best weather. If you do it in the summer, be mindful of triple degree temperatures in the desert portions of the trip.

For unique places to stay, check out the Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Missouri, Red Horse Bed and Breakfast in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona.

Suggested by Theresa of The Local Tourist

4. The Overseas Highway Road Trip through the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is a great destination for a short ‘round trip’ road trip in the USA. Miami is a good place to start and finish the journey, with many rental car options being readily available at the airport. 

Old broken bridge in Bahia Honda State Park along the Florida Keys
Old bridge in Bahia Honda at sunset

What makes this road trip unique is that Highway 1 through the Florida Keys crosses 29 islands that are connected by a series of bridges! The longest bridge is 7 miles long, and connects Marathon to Little Duck Key.

It is approximately 112 miles one way, between Miami and Key West (224 miles return) with a straight through drive time around 3 hours 30 minutes. 

Five days would be the perfect amount of time for this road trip, with stops in Miami and Marathon and a couple of nights in Key West.

The stretch from Marathon to Key West has some fun things to stop and see. A popular stop in Marathon is the Dolphin Center.

Alternatively, the Turtle Hospital is a working sea turtle hospital and rehabilitation center that offers tours of the facility. They often share on their social media when they are releasing turtles back into the wild, which people can go and watch.

Big Pine Key is known for being home to the endangered ‘Key deer.’ They are the smallest species of white-tailed deer in North America and are native to the lower keys. The National Key Deer Refuge is a nature area where the deer can sometimes be spotted.

Key West, the southernmost key, has loads of things to do. It is one of the top places to visit in Florida.

Enjoy the nightly sunset celebration in Mallory Square, pose for a photo at the ‘Southernmost Point of the Continental USA’ marker, and tour Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, which has a beach and a fort dating back to 1845.

Southernmost Point Marker at Key West in Florida
Pose for a photo at the southernmost point in the USA!

December is a perfect time to visit, with temperatures still being pleasant, hurricane season over but before peak season prices kick in.

The Ibis Bay Beachfront Resort is a convenient hotel in Key West with free parking.

Suggested by Kylie of Between England and Everywhere

5. Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks Road Trip

If you’re looking to check out a few national parks in one epic American road trip, consider combining Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton and experiencing these fantastic areas all at once.

You’ll start in Glacier National Park and end in Grand Teton, stopping at Yellowstone along the way. The more time you have for these parks the better, but you should allocate at least 7 days for this road trip.

Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park
Sapphire Pool in Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park

Fly into Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, about 30 miles from the entrance to Glacier National Park, and fly out of Jackson Hole Airport, located inside Grand Teton National Park.

Your road trip begins in Glacier, an absolute gem of a park known for its epic landscapes and fabulous hiking. You cannot miss driving the length of Going-To-The-Sun Road, which is one of the prettiest routes in the country. Stop and take as many pictures as you can!

Everyone should also experience at least one hike while here. A fantastic choice is Trail of the Cedars, with an extension to Avalanche Lake for the more ambitious. If you want to spend some time on the water, head to Lake McDonald for swimming, paddle boarding, and kayaking.

From Glacier, head south to Yellowstone, the first and one of the most popular national parks in the country. You’ll need at least 3 days in Yellowstone, to do the place justice.

Don’t miss the popular attractions such as Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Hayden Valley for wildlife viewing.

You’ll have the opportunity to a variety of animals here, such as bison, elk, bear, wolf, moose, antelope, and much more.

After Yellowstone, drive to Grand Teton National Park. This is another park with majestic views and great hiking.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park in the fall

Drive Teton Park Road and make stops to see the Mormon Row Historic District, Schwabacher Landing, Snake River Overlook, J. P. Cunningham Cabin, and Oxbow Bend. You should also try to hike a trail or two as well.

The best time of year to do this road trip is between late June and September when all the roads are open and clear of snow.

Suggested by Stefanie of Open Road Odysseys

6. The Road to Hana Maui Road Trip

One of the shortest USA road trips in our round-up, the Road to Hana is one of the top attractions in Maui. It features outstanding tropical scenery, with lush greenery and many waterfalls.

The iconic drive is 52 miles, from Paia to Hana, and features 50+ stone bridges and more than 600 hairpin curves. Traffic can be exasperating in high season, and the drive is definitely not for the faint-of-heart driver.

Lush vegetation on the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii
Lush tropical greenery on the Road to Hana

If you prefer to sit back and take in the scenery without the hassle of driving and parking, book a tour. We booked a van tour on our first visit to Hana and do not regret it one bit, despite driving the road ourselves on later trips, with overnights in Hana.

You can either drive to Hana (and a little beyond to the Pools of ‘Ohe’o) and back the way you arrived, or you can keep going beyond the Seven Sacred Pools in a loop around the south side of the island to get back to your starting point.

Although many visitors cram the trip into one long day, it’s infinitely better to spread the road trip over two days, so you can take your time at the stops and enjoy the drive. Spend the night in Hana, where you will find restaurant choices for dinner.

There are many stops along the route, so you’ll want to download a stop-by-stop guide before you go.

If you visit in the winter, stop at the Ho’okipa Lookout to watch surfers ride the giant waves. The Garden of Eden Arboretum features ocean views and a variety of flora, including an ancient mango tree.

Stop for banana bread at the Halfway to Hana Stand, snap photos of the beautiful Upper Waikani Falls (also known as Three Bears), and Hanawi Falls.

Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of the top stops along the drive. Here you will find a gorgeous black sand beach! There’s a coastal trail you can walk, and an ocean cave you can walk through. You have to reserve ahead of time to enter the park.

The black sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park on Maui, Hawaii
The black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park

Spring and fall are the best times of the year to drive the Road to Hana. Hana is on the wet side of Maui, so expect some rain, especially if you visit between November and March.

Good to know: If you have your heart set on driving the Road to Hana as a loop, read the fine print to make sure your rental car agreement allows it, and be sure to rent an appropriate vehicle for the unpaved portion.

Good to know: Paia, where the Road to Hana begins, is about 30 miles from Lahaina, on the west coast of Maui. If your base is in West Maui, start as early in the morning as you can, to make the most of your day.

Suggested by us

7. Sea to Shining Sea USA Road Trip: NYC to Los Angeles

Coast to coast is the ultimate American road trip, and there are any number of routes you can take across the USA, depending on your interests and the time of year you take the trip.

We’ve described a route from New York City to Los Angeles here. You’ll want to allow as much time as you can: the more places you want to explore along the way, the more time you’ll need. We suggest at least 10 days to two weeks!

Before you set off on your road trip, you’ll want to visit some of the iconic sights in NYC, from Central Park and Times Square to Fifth Avenue and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

Central Park, New York, New York
Central Park is a must-visit when you are in New York City!

Be sure to take in the views from an observation deck like Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building, and take the Staten Island Ferry to see the iconic Statue of Liberty.

Your next stop is historic Philadelphia, where you can see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky, and try a Philly cheesesteak.

Then it’s on to the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., where you can spend a day walking around the National Mall with its many monuments and memorials. Peek at the White House and visit a museum or two.

In Louisville, Kentucky, visit Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum, and enjoy the Urban Bourbon Trail.

Next stop, St. Louis, where you’ll want to take in the views from the top of the Gateway Arch, stroll through Forest park, where art enthusiasts can visit the Saint Louis Art Museum, and admire the blooms in the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Spend time in nature in Colorado’s stunning Rocky Mountain National Park and make a detour, if you wish, to Moab in Utah to explore Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, before heading to the lights of Las Vegas.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado in the fall

Enjoy the many attractions on the Vegas Strip, from the High Roller observation wheel and the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign to the extravagant interiors of the many themed resorts along Las Vegas Boulevard.

En route from Vegas to LA, stop at the Mojave National Preserve, or Death Valley National Park, to enjoy the majestic desert landscapes.

Spring and fall are the best times of year to travel cross country. You’ll escape the worst of the harsh winters in the northeast and the equally harsh summers in the southwest if you stick to spring or fall.

Suggested by us

8. Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks Road Trip

Utah is a breathtaking and rugged state filled with majestic mountains, deep red cliffs, valleys and canyons. With five completely different national parks all within driving distance of one another, Utah offers the perfect landscape for a USA road trip!

Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks are some of the best places to visit in Utah.

Begin your Utah national parks road trip in the southern part of the state in the lush Zion National Park and end in the red clay desert of Arches National Park, close to the Colorado border.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

This entire trip can be completed in five days, but if you have seven days, it’s even better, and will give you more opportunities to explore in each park.

Starting with a stay at Under Canvas Zion is the ultimate way to kick off this epic road trip. Sleep in an oversized luxury canvas tent, complete with plush bedding and sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

On day one, drive just half an hour to enter Zion National Park. Arrive early before the crowds to experience the best of the park! Plan a few hikes: there are several from which to choose, ranging from easy to strenuous. The famous Angel’s Landing hike is right in the heart of Zion.

On day two, drive just under two hours to Bryce Canyon National Park. Spend the day exploring the hoodoos via the many overlooks, or hike the Rim Trail. 

Day three is the longest day in the car as you drive to Moab, but you will drive along the Scenic Highway 12 and pass through Capitol Reef National Park: try to spot the petroglyphs carved into the rock walls.

Days four and five will be spent in Moab, which is a great place to spend several nights. From Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are both easily accessible.

While these parks are close in proximity, they each offer a completely different experience.

Canyonlands has giant craters punched into the ground that appear as if a huge dinosaur has stepped through layers of crusty earth.

Rock formations in Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Sunset at Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Arches features over 2,000 natural stone arches throughout the park, including the famous Delicate Arch pictured on Utah’s license plate.

Due to the desert climate of this area of the US, the best time to visit these parks is in the spring.

While Bryce Canyon may still have a few pockets of snow on some peaks, the waterfalls in Zion will be flowing from spring snow runoff and the temperatures in Arches will still be pleasantly cool.

Suggested by Erin of Super Simple Salty Life

9. Highlights of Arizona + New Mexico: An American Southwest Road Trip

Take a road trip through New Mexico and Arizona to admire the quintessential landscapes of the American Southwest, including the majesty of the Grand Canyon, one of the top places to visit in Arizona, and indeed, the country.

This itinerary starts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and wraps up in Phoenix, Arizona. Allow about 10 days to 2 weeks to experience the highlights along the route. If you have more time, all the better!

In Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, wander the beautiful Santa Fe Plaza, and explore Canyon Road, the city’s historic arts district.

The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe

If you can afford the time, take a drive up to Taos, to admire the adobe structures and enjoy regional art at the museums and art galleries.

Then move on to Albuquerque, where the adventurous can take a balloon ride over the city. Stroll Old Town, take in the views from Sandia Peak (take the aerial tramway), join a kayaking excursion on the Rio Grande, and enjoy local cuisine.

Your next stops are a pair of natural areas in Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park, and Painted Desert, where the colorful badlands offer Instagram-worthy photo ops.

Drive north to Monument Valley, to do the super scenic Valley Drive, before making your way to Page, where you will want to book a tour of Antelope Canyon. The Upper Canyon doesn’t involve ladders and is therefore more crowded. If you can, we also suggest touring the Lower Canyon!

In Page, you’ll also want to stop at the famous Horseshoe Bend to snap photos of the unbelievable horseshoe shape of the Colorado River.

From here, it’s on to another natural wonder created by the Colorado River: the Grand Canyon, where you can do the scenic drives, walk some of the Rim Trail, and hike below the rim if you are able. As one of the wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon will be the highlight of your trip!

Next, travel to Sedona, yet another of Arizona’s marvelous natural areas. Take in the stunning beauty of the red rock formations on hikes and scenic drives, and have a spa treatment to relax!

Bell Rock, Sedona, AZ
Bell Rock, Sedona

End your road trip in the vibrant Phoenix-Scottsdale area, where you can stroll the Desert Botanical Garden, enjoy southwest cuisine, and visit topnotch museums. Architecture buffs will want to visit Taliesin West, the former winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Early spring and late fall are the perfect times to do this Southwest USA road trip, with great weather and lower crowds at popular attractions.

Suggested by us

10. Coastal New England Road Trip

Driving the coast of New England is one of the most exciting road trips you can take in the USA if you’re looking for charming small towns, the best seafood, picturesque lighthouses, and dramatic coastline views.

In fact, some of the most epic coastal views in the Northeast can be found in New England!

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Portland Head Light is one of the most photographed spots in New England!

For the ultimate itinerary, you’ll want to start in Mystic, CT, and end at Acadia National Park in Maine, one of the best places to visit in New England.

Ideally, you’ll want to plan about 10 days to explore all the little towns along the way, but it can also be done in as little as 5-7 days if you make fewer stops.

For your day in beautiful Mystic, CT, you’ll definitely want to add the Mystic Seaport Museum to your itinerary. This is a highly interactive exhibit that sits along the river, and you’ll get to climb aboard tall ships, walk through an authentic New England ship yard, and learn all about the fascinating maritime history.

Next on your road trip is the stunning city Newport, RI. Nicknamed The City by the Sea, this is where you can tour Gilded Age mansions once owned by the likes of the Vanderbilt family.

Enjoy stunning coastal views along Cliff Walk, and meander through one of the most picturesque harbors in New England for shopping and dining. 

As you make your way through historic Boston, with the option to also head over to Cape Cod, you’ll definitely want to consider stopping in Rockport, Massachusetts.

This unique little coastal town is packed with tons of character and is home to Motif 1, the most painted building in the U.S.! Grab a lobster roll from Roy Moore Lobster Company, and stroll through the art galleries and shops along Bearskin Neck. 

Making your way up through Maine, you’ll want to plan stops at Ogunquit, Kennebunkport and Portland before arriving in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, your final destination. 

Bass Harbor Head Light in Acadia National Park, Maine
Bass Harbor Head Light in Acadia National Park, Maine

The best time of year to explore coastal New England is in July and August when the weather is at its best, and all the seafood shacks and local shops are open.

If you prefer traveling in the shoulder season, June and September are also wonderful months to plan this road trip. 

Suggested by Samantha of New England Wanderlust

11. Road Trip The Oregon Coast

Buckle up as we map out an Oregon Coast journey from Brookings to Astoria.

If you aren’t driving up the California coast into Brookings, you can fly into the regional airport at Crescent City, CA, about 30 minutes south, or drive the 2.5 hours from the international airport in Medford. You can fly out of Astoria, which has a regional airport.

Beach in Brookings, Oregon
Enjoy the beaches in Brookings, Oregon

The Oregon Coast road trip from Brookings to Astoria is 7.5 hours. This distance could be covered in one sitting, but if you’re looking to enjoy the journey, consider taking four to six days to cover the route. 

Brookings is the perfect place for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. The city has it all – guests can enjoy their time on land hiking, biking, or golfing, or can relax near the water while swimming, whale watching, or just relaxing on the beach. 

Just 30 minutes north of Brookings, you’ll find Gold Beach, Oregon. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the scenic Rogue River, this area is home to thousands of acres of protected forest land.

If you’re looking for a quick hike or want to try your hand at fishing right out of the gate, swing by Gold Beach. 

North of Gold Beach, you’ll find Coos Bay, Oregon. Coos Bay is known for its outdoor activities like hiking, beaches, and camping.

Some highlights of the area include Shore Acres State Park, Cape Arago State Park, and Sunset Bay State Park.

Shore Acres State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon
The coastline at Shore Acres State Park

Coos Bay is a good first stop for this road trip. Best Western Holiday Hotel and The Red Lion Hotel are great places to stay overnight in Coos Bay. It is also a good base for visiting the Oregon dunes.

A little over 3.5 hours north of Coos Bay is Tillamook, Oregon. This town is best known for the world-famous Tillamook Cheese Factory. Be sure to swing by for a tour and some ice cream!

Cape Lookout State Park, Cape Meares Light, and Munson Creek Falls State Natural Site offer the best of Tillamook.

Harborview Inn & RV Park and The Hotel Garibaldi are excellent places to stay in Tillamook. 

The journey from Tillamook to Astoria, Oregon, is 1.5 hours and completes your journey. Astoria highlights include the Goonies House and the Columbia River Maritime Museum. 

Plan on doing the Oregon Coast road trip in the summer, when the weather is optimal for exploring outdoors.

Suggested by Candice of CS Ginger

12. Southern Alaska road trip

Dreaming of the “Last Frontier” adventure but only have 7 to 10 days for your Alaska itinerary?

Is it possible to experience the largest and wildest US state in such a short time? It’s not easy but doable if you pick a part of the state and craft a careful itinerary.

This Alaska road trip itinerary is recommended as a loop, starting and ending in Anchorage. This is the easiest and best way to experience the southern part of Alaska, with the Kenai Peninsula and Kenai Fjords National Park and Preserve.

Prince William Sound in Alaska
Stunning landscape at Prince William Sound

On day one, pick up your rental car in Anchorage. Take a walk and have lunch in downtown Anchorage. For delicious food, visit the Glacier BrewHouse or Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse. Admire the skyline at sunset from the Downtown Anchorage Viewpoint.

On day two, drive AK 1 S along the stunning Seward Highway to Girdwood. The drive takes about 1.5 hours.

Enjoy the view of Alyeska. The best way to get there is to take the Alyeska Aerial Tram up Alyeska Mountain. On the way, you’ll have the chance to see wildlife and take great photos of mountains and glaciers.

On day three, after breakfast, drive to Whittier. It’s about 2 hours of driving, and you must cross the Anton Anderson Memorial single-lane tunnel that alternates directional flow every 30 minutes.

Whittier is a town where 90% of the population lives in the same high-rise. This place is perfect for taking a glacier cruise in Prince William Sound or hiking the Emerald Cove or famous Portage Pass, a 4.2-mile out-and-back moderate hike.

From Whittier to Seward, the distance is 90 miles, but the route is so scenic that with some photo stops, it will take about 3 hours, so start your road trip early in the morning.

Seward is a gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park and Preserve. Stay here for two days to enjoy the area’s beauty.

An orca in the ocean at Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Look for orcas in the water at Kenai Fjords

Make sure to book in advance a half-day or all-day wildlife and glacier cruise to explore Kenai Fjords. This place is perfect for spotting wildlife, including sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, bald eagles, humpback whales, and orcas.

During your second day in Seward, go for a hike to Exit Glacier in the morning. In the afternoon, drive to Homer, as it’s at least 5 hours of driving.

On day six, explore Homer and the 4.5-miles-long Homer Spit, as it’s undoubtedly the most picturesque place in southern Alaska.

One of the best things to do in Homer is halibut fishing, as it’s the “Halibut Capital of the World.” Another option is strolling the beaches with a glacier view or taking a wildlife cruise on Kachemak Bay.

As the water of the bay is pretty calm, it is worth renting a kayak. Sightseeing should end in the iconic Salty Dawg Saloon with a local beer.

On day seven, the last day of your Alaska road trip, it will take 5-6 hours to return to Anchorage without stopping.

But along the way, it’s worth taking a break at Anchor Point, where you can watch bald eagles along the coast. Another exciting stop is Ninilchik, where you can admire the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1901.

A bald eagle in flight in southern Alaska
Watch bald eagles along the coast at Anchor Point

The best time for a road trip through Alaska is mid-June to the first week of September.

During this time, you’ll have the chance to see lots of wildlife, go on exciting wildlife viewing trips, and experience many activities such as hiking or kayaking.

Mid-September is the beginning of winter, and most facilities are closed in the winter. As summer is peak tourist season, you should start your preparation for the trip at the beginning of the year.

Suggested by Agnes of The Van Escape

13. Texas Hill Country Road Trip

A road trip through Texas Hill Country will leave travelers with wonderful memories of beautiful scenery, sunny swimming holes, plenty of history and culture, and many delicious southern meals.

Consider starting your road trip in Austin, wind through the small towns along the way, and then end in San Antonio. While this drive is less than 300 miles long, 7 days is highly recommended to really experience the area.

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas
The Riverwalk in San Antonio

Starting your road trip in Austin means that you’ll want to check out the city’s highlights, such as Zilker Park, a self-guided street art tour, live music in the Red River District, the historic Driskill Hotel, and the State Capitol Building.

Austin is one of the best places to visit in Texas, not just for its many sights, but also for its live music and food.

Make your way west to explore deeper in Hill Country with a stop in Marble Falls. Check out the adorable shops on historic Main Street and the incredible views of Lake Marble Falls.

Fredericksburg is a short drive away and a wine tasting tour here is a must. Grab a meal at the Leaning Pear, climb Enchanted Rock, check out the Marktplatz, and visit the Pioneer Museum to learn more about the German heritage of the city.

Wimberley is the next stop on your itinerary and it is a Hill Country gem. Visit Jacob’s Well and the beautiful Blue Hole – if it is hot, be prepared to jump in!

Main Street in Wimberley is a charming experience, and you’ll want to spot the artistic cowboy boots sprinkled around the city.

San Antonio rounds out a wonderful week with plenty to keep you busy.

Dinner at The Pearl, a visit to the Alamo and other missions along the trail, and a nighttime stroll along Riverwalk are all popular activities in San Antonio.

Also be sure to check out the Japanese Tea Garden and Historic Market Square for bakery treats at Mia Tienda.

Every season of the year has its benefits for a Hill Country road trip, from swimming holes to fall festivals to sweet Christmas towns.

However, if you must choose, spring is the most magical time of year. The rolling hills are green and covered in a rainbow of wildflowers and the many towns along the route offer an abundance of wonderful things to do.

Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush in bloom in the Texas Hill Country
Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush bloom in the Texas Hill Country in the spring

In Austin, a downtown hotel such as the Fairmont Austin will have you close to the action and loving the rooftop pool. Fredericksburg has lovely bed and breakfast options like the Behr House. Stay near the Riverwalk in San Antonio at the Hyatt Regency for a walkable stay.

Suggested by Sierra of Very Truly Texas

14. The Olympic Peninsula: Road Trip From Seattle, Wa to Astoria, Or

Setting off from Seattle, a drive around the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, ending in Astoria, Oregon provides some of the most diverse scenery for a road trip in the Pacific Northwest.

You can cram the highlights we’ll mention here into just 2 days, but you’d be rushed. You should allow at least 3 to 7 days to comfortably enjoy the highlights of the Olympic Peninsula, as there are plenty of stunning viewpoints along the way.

Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park Washington
Scenic Hurricane Ridge

You can pick up this road trip from just south of Seattle in Olympia and trek the whole of Highway 101 through Oregon and down to California.

Alternatively, begin your trip with a picturesque ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, with Port Angeles your first overnight stop on the loop road that circles around the Olympic Peninsula, largely encircling the Olympic National Park.

Olympic National Park is one of the top places to visit in the Pacific Northwest, with its many diverse environments.

Port Angeles is an excellent base for exploring the northern parts of Olympic National Park, from the peaks of Hurricane Ridge, which provides a stunning scenic mountain drive, through alpine forest to open meadows, perfect for tubing in the winter months!

From here you can also explore the stunning aqua sub-alpine waters of Lake Crescent and enjoy several easy-to-access waterfalls in Olympic National Park including Merriman Falls and Marymere Falls, or the slightly more challenging Sol Duc Falls, alongside the Sol Duc Hot Springs.

Merriman Falls in Olympic National Park, Washington
Stunning Merriman Falls

Next up, continue westward to the small town of Forks and the Pacific Ocean.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary encompasses over 70 miles of absolutely stunning, rugged beaches to explore. Some of the most beautiful and picturesque include Rialto Beach, La Push, and Ruby Beach.

Some beaches permit overnight camping or there are motel lodgings available in the small town of Forks.

On the western side of the national park, the highlight for hikers is the Hoh Rainforest. Dense greenery and a range of hikes from easy to difficult are ready to challenge outdoor enthusiasts in this temperature rainforest.

The Hall of Mosses in Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
The Hall of Mosses in Hoh Rainforest

Be prepared to snatch up a camp spot here early in the season, or head further south to Kalaloch or Lake Quinault if you’re road-tripping with your tents. 

You can continue to some of the more southern beach towns outside of the national park, such as Ocean Shores (though we admit not as pretty as their northern cousins).

Your journey ends as you cross the dramatic Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River to the picture-perfect little town of Astoria, Oregon.

En route, we’d recommend at a minimum stopping to base yourself at Port Angeles, Forks, and Lake Quinault to experience the different, very unique sections of the national park and coastline.

Note that if you want to stay in any of the national park lodges they will need to be booked well in advance.

Although the main 101 Highway remains open year-round and there’s a certain magic to seeing parts of the national park in winter, summer is by far the best time to undertake your Olympic Peninsula road trip.

From June to September you have the best shot at mild and relatively rain-free days (it’s the Pacific North West, so this is not guaranteed!).

Suggested by Keri of Our Globetrotters

15. Best of Georgia Road Trip

Georgia may not seem like the obvious choice for an epic USA road trip, but it’s full of hidden gems, beautiful scenery, and some great food! This road trip itinerary covers Atlanta, Helen, Athens, Savannah, and Jekyll Island.

To make it easiest, it’s best to turn this road trip into a loop starting and ending in Atlanta, since the largest airport in Georgia is ATL. You should allow a week for this road trip, although 10 days allows for a more flexible itinerary.

There is so much to do in Atlanta that you won’t ever run out of things to do, but for this itinerary two days is a perfect amount of time.

Visit the Georgia Aquarium, which is consistently rated one of the best in the country. See the unique topiary sculptures at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and be sure to walk Piedmont Park next door.

Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta, GA
The Atlanta Botanical Garden in bloom in the spring

For food, Ponce City Market has many options, although a favorite is Botiwalla, with Indian street food.

Next, drive up to Helen, Georgia’s Bavarian mountain town. Walk Main Street to see all the European-inspired architecture. Try German food, like schnitzel, at Bodensee!

Make your way down to Athens to spend one day in the home of the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Even if you are not a college football fan, Athens is known for its vibrant craft brewery scene and great southern food. Try The Place for chicken and waffles, The Last Resort for staples like fried green tomatoes, or Trapeze for their boiled peanuts!

After Athens, head to Savannah, Georgia where you’ll spend two days.

Visit Wormsloe Historic Site for a beautiful view of trees covered with Spanish moss, and learn about the lives of those enslaved on the plantation.

Savannah is known as one of the most haunted cities in America so take a ghost tour or visit Bonaventure Cemetery. Along River Street you’ll find historic places to eat and shop: try River Street Sweets and nearby Leopold’s Ice Cream.

Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA
Forsyth Park in Savannah

Finally, for your last day, visit Jekyll Island, which is part of Georgia’s Golden Isles. You can experience the best of Jekyll Island in one day, including Driftwood Beach, the Mosaic Museum, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

Once you’ve finished the itinerary, head back to Atlanta to complete the loop!

The best time of year to do this road trip is spring or fall. Georgia sees harsh summers and in the winter, the plants go dormant.

In Atlanta, stay at the Marriott Marquis, where The Hunger Games and Loki were filmed. In Helen, the Heidi Motel is a Bavarian themed stay with a working windmill.

In Athens, to get the college football experience, stay at the Graduate, a college-themed hotel chain only present in college towns. In Savannah, stay in The Marshall House for a haunted stay.

Finally, in Jekyll Island for a unique stay try the Jekyll Island Club Resort, or for a budget and beach-friendly option, the Days Inn is higher quality than usual!

Suggested by Alanna of Periodic Adventures

16. Florida Gulf Coast Road Trip from Destin to Fort Myers 

The road trip from Destin to Fort Myers involves nearly 8.5 hours of driving time. Plan to spend 5-7 days on your Florida Gulf Coast Trip, to enjoy all the fun places along the route. 

Destin boasts one of the best bluewater beaches in Florida, and is easily one of the best places to visit in Florida.

Destin is also known for fishing and golf courses. The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is a fun downtown area for entertainment and boat rentals.

Enjoy the beautiful beaches in Destin, Florida
A beach in Destin at sunset

Just shy of 5.5 hours southeast of Destin is Crystal River, Florida.

Crystal River is known for world-class fishing. People travel from around the world to experience fishing on the pristine waterways. Swim with the manatees, dine on fresh seafood, and bike the famous Withlacoochee State Trail.

Crystal River makes a great overnight stop on your road trip. Holiday Inn Express Crystal River and Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Inverness are splendid options. 

Just south is the Clearwater and Tampa area. There are lots of beautiful beaches in this area, as well as the Tampa Zoo, Busch Gardens, and the Tampa Aquarium.

From here, you can also make the 90-minute drive from Clearwater to Orlando to visit the renowned theme parks: Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando.

A little over 3 hours south of Crystal River is Fort Myers, and the islands of Sanibel, Captiva, and Cayo Costa.

Most people travel to the Fort Myers area to enjoy the beach (shelling is super popular!), but you can also paddle the Calusa Blueway, tour the Edison and Ford winter estates, and visit the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Great egrets at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, FL
Great egrets at the ‘Ding’ Darling Refuge

Before you head home from Fort Myers, detour a little over an hour south to Naples, FL, as well as Marco Island, FL. 

Naples is nestled on the Gulf of Mexico and is most known for miles of beaches, high-end shopping, and golf courses. Visit the Naples pier for fishing and dolphin spotting! 

Marco Island is considered to have some of the best beaches in the world. Tigertail Beach, in particular, is family-friendly, with miles of white sand beaches and stunning water. Golfing and shopping in the area are also excellent. 

While you will definitely want to include these highlights in your Florida Gulf Coast road trip, you’ll also want to leave time to wander to different stops along the way, to explore and have fun! 

Early spring, or fall, are the ideal times to embark on a road trip along Florida’s scenic Gulf Coast.

Suggested by Candice of Exploring the Gulf

17. South Dakota Black Hills Road Trip

The Black Hills road trip is an iconic USA road trip and the perfect way to experience the beauty of South Dakota!

Spend your days discovering the small towns in the Black Hills region, seeing iconic sights, hiking, and exploring national park sites in the area.

Start your 5-day road trip in Badlands National Park before heading west to spend the remaining days in the Black Hills. Fly in and out of Rapid City.

Badlands National Park is a must on any South Dakota itinerary. The park, with its otherworldly scenery, is a great place for hiking and wildlife viewing. Don’t miss the opportunity to watch a sunset over the park and stargaze at night.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota
A view of the badlands at Badlands National Park

On day two, head west to Keystone. This is where you can see the iconic Mount Rushmore and learn more about the presidents at the National Presidential Wax Museum.

Custer State Park with its three scenic drives deserves most of one day. It is a great place for wildlife viewing and hiking. The Sylvan Lake area is a highlight.

Finish off your day at Crazy Horse Memorial. There is a large museum of Native American art and artifacts as well as a light show on the monument at night.

This area of South Dakota has a large concentration of national park sites, including Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park.

Take at least a day to explore them. There are guided cave tours offered as well as hiking trails and scenic drives above ground.

Spend your final day heading to Wyoming to see the geological wonder Devils Tower. This impressive monolith juts 867 feet out of the ground. It is a unique sight to see.

Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming
Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming

Head back to South Dakota through Spearfish to see the beautiful waterfalls along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway.

The best time to visit the Black Hills is during the summer.

Spend the night at Cedar Pass Lodge within the Badlands to maximize your time there. Keystone is a centrally located town in the Black Hills that makes a good base for the rest of the trip.

Suggested by Caitlin of Twin Family Travels

18. Chicago-Madison-Milwaukee: Midwest Cities Road Trip

If you’re looking to take a road trip in the US, there are several great cities in the Midwest that make up an excellent road trip.  In each of these cities, you’ll find many attractions for everyone to enjoy.

This road trip starts in Chicago, heads north to Madison, and finishes in the city of Milwaukee. The recommended trip duration is 7 days.

Skyline in Chicago, IL
The Chicago skyline

Start off your road trip in Chicago, the ‘Windy City.’

Chicago is a dream for museum lovers!  You can’t go wrong visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, the famous Art Institute of Chicago, or the Field Museum (home to ‘Sue’, the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered). 

Chicago is also known for its incredible architecture, and taking an architectural river cruise is one of the best things to do here.

Next up is Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. 

A tour of the impressive Capitol building is a must, and the Capitol is free to visit. Be sure to climb up to the observation deck, where you can circle the dome and take in the panoramic views of Madison. 

The Olbrich Botanical Gardens are another top Madison attraction. Don’t miss the authentic Thai Pavilion!

Your trip ends in the city of Milwaukee. 

Visit Old World 3rd Street and dine on regional favorites such as bratwurst, fried cheese curds, and a local brew. 

The Riverwalk is one of Milwaukee’s top attractions – take a stroll and enjoy the public art, including the life-sized ‘Bronz Fonz.’ 

The river in Milwaukee, WI
Walking by the river in Milwaukee

Or spend some time visiting unique Milwaukee museums such as the world’s only Harley-Davidson Museum.

The best time of year for this road trip is late June or early July, since that is the timing of Milwaukee’s Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival!

In Madison, plan to stay at the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club. This hotel has a prime location right next to the Capitol building. 

In Milwaukee, stay at the Plaza Hotel. It’s centrally located, and all the rooms have full kitchens for added flexibility on your road trip.

Suggested by Lisa of Waves and Cobblestones

19. Miami to the Florida National Parks (+ Key West)

The “Sunshine State” of Florida is packed with things to do, and thanks to its warm weather, it is perfect for a road trip in the cooler months of the year.

This 7-day Southern Florida itinerary starts and ends in Miami and covers the key attractions in the area.

During the first two days of this road trip, explore some of Miami’s top attractions. Admire the colorful houses of the Art Deco district, stroll South Beach, and take a food tour in Little Havana.

A colorful lifeguard tower on South Beach, Miami
A colorful lifeguard tower on South Beach, Miami

On the third day, explore the Everglades National Park, where you can try to spot wildlife and birds.

Walk along the Anhinga Trail to see alligators, herons, turtles, and of course, anhingas! Join a range-guided canoe tour and wander the famous Everglades swamps.

Day four will see you driving along the Florida Keys to Key West.

Make sure to stop along the 120-mile stretch to admire views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Bring your snorkel equipment and go snorkeling in the clear waters.

Spend your fifth day visiting Key West, where Ernest Hemingway lived. Stroll Duval Street, check out the Southernmost Point Buoy, and take in the relaxed ambiance of the quaint town.

On day six, take a ferry (or the pricey plane!) to the Dry Tortugas National Park, composed of seven islands.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park

The main island is known for the 19th-century Fort Jefferson, a military post designed to protect the Gulf of Mexico. Snorkeling the turquoise waters around the island is also a popular activity.

On the seventh day, you will return to Miami, stopping en route at the Biscayne National Park on the Atlantic Coast. The lagoon mangrove forest, islets, and coral reefs are a natural habitat for turtles, dolphins, and pelicans.

The best time to visit Southern Florida is in the spring, after the winter crowds have departed and before the scorching summer temperatures arrive.

Suggested by Patricia of Ze Wandering Frogs

20. Northern Colorado Road Trip

Colorado’s scenic views and charming mountain towns make it the perfect setting for a road trip.

Start your drive in Denver and then head west toward Breckenridge. From there, you’ll head to Estes Park and then loop back to Denver.

Allow approximately 10 days to fully experience all that this area has to offer. This road trip is incredibly scenic, and you’ll surely want the freedom to pull over and admire the views often!

Hiking a trail near Breckenridge, Colorado
Hiking a trail near Breckenridge, Colorado

Spend your first couple days in Denver enjoying all that the city has to offer.

Check out the Capitol building with its mile high step, as well as the iconic Union Station. RiNo is an incredible place to admire street art and enjoy the city’s breweries.

Larimer Square is a great spot for a delicious dinner under the stars if the weather allows!

The drive to Breckenridge only takes a couple of hours, but be sure to stop along the way at Red Rocks and in Golden to take a stroll and enjoy the views.

Breckenridge is a beautiful town with a charming Main Street, plenty of delicious restaurants and many outdoor activities. You’ll want to spend three days here.

Taking the free gondola up to Peak 8 and riding the alpine slide is an experience that you won’t forget.

Take the short hike to visit the Breckenridge Troll and learn about the history of this mining town on the Iowa Hill Trail.

A short hike up to Sapphire Point will reward you with stunning views, as will renting bikes and riding from Breckenridge down to Frisco.

Estes Park is the final stop on your road trip, and it is well worth the wait.

Finish up your road trip by exploring Rocky Mountain National Park with its many overlooks and hikes. The hike to Emerald Lake is a must-do and Bear Lake offers gorgeous views with just an easy stroll.

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Look for wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park!

Drive the Alpine Ridge Trail above the tree line for unmatchable views and to shop at the highest altitude Visitor’s Center in the country.

Around dusk, drive slowly through the park to observe the elk, moose, and other wildlife.

This Colorado road trip can be completed in the winter with modifications, but as is, can be driven when the roads are clear of snow. This is typically May through September.

Denver is best enjoyed with a stay at a downtown hotel such as The Crawford Hotel or Hotel Teatro. The Lodge at Breckenridge is a solid choice for beautiful mountain views. The Stanley Hotel is a unique choice in Estes Park for fans of “The Shining.”

Suggested by Sierra of Island + Alpine

21. Road Trip the Cascade Loop in Washington State

Considered a National Scenic Byway, Washington state’s Cascade Loop follows along the coastline of the Salish Sea and winds through some of the most stunning mountainscapes you’ll find in the United States.

North Cascades, Washington
Peaks in the North Cascades

The road trip starts and ends in the town of Everett, just north of Seattle along the Puget Sound.

It clocks in at 440 miles, and you could theoretically drive this loop in a couple of days, but you should plan for at least 5 days, with any extra days allowing you to explore this incredible area more deeply. 

If you drive the loop counterclockwise, you’ll first pass through some cute mountain towns, like Snohomish and Index, and eventually will reach the mother of all cute mountain towns, Leavenworth.

This quirky village is full of Bavarian-style architecture, with tons of shops, wineries, and restaurants to enjoy.

Continuing on, you’ll pass through a few towns, like Cashmere and Wenatchee, that are known for their apple orchards. If you’re visiting in the late summer or fall, be sure to stop and pick a few!

You’ll head northward now to the town of Winthrop, yet another quirky town: this time with a Wild West theme.

Stroll around the antique boardwalks and stop at some of the charming businesses, like the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, which true to its name, is brewing up some delicious beer in a historic schoolhouse.

Heading west, you’ll start driving along the North Cascades Highway, through the highly underrated North Cascades National Park.

Here, you’ll find incredible hikes, like Cutthroat Pass or the Heather Maple Pass Loop, through some of the tallest peaks in the Cascade Mountains, as well as jaw dropping alpine lakes, like the Gatorade-blue Diablo Lake. 

Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park, Washington
Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park

Finally, you’ll reach the coastline and make your way south back to Everett. Be sure to carve out time to explore a bit of Whidbey Island, like the incredible Deception Pass State Park.

Here, you’ll find rocky beaches and dramatic cliffs, which offers one of the best vantage points for whale watching in Washington.

Summer would be a lovely time to make this road trip, but, for a really spectacular show, make the trip in late September or early October.

The fall colors in the North Cascades are gorgeous, thanks to their larch trees, a deciduous tree that turns vibrant gold each fall.

For a quirky place to stay en route, book a stay at the Rolling Huts in Winthrop. You’ll get to stay in one of the property’s many tiny homes, which offer one wall of pure glass, facing out to jaw-dropping mountain views.

Suggested by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

22. Northern California road trip from Crescent City to San Francisco

The golden state of California hit a jackpot of natural beauty and has a wealth of gorgeous destinations for travelers to enjoy. Road trips along the coastal Highway 1 have numerous spots to stop and take in the beauty.

This northern California coast trip from Crescent City located right below the Oregon border, to San Francisco is a must-do for road trip enthusiasts. This stretch of California coast needs at least 5 days to cover, and if you can afford a few more days, all the better!

Hiking a redwoods trail in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California
Hiking among the towering coastal redwoods

In Crescent City, start with a hike at the Boy Scout Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Don’t forget to kayak in the clear blue waters of Smith River!

Then move on to enjoy a unique experience walking on nets up in the sky in the middle of ancient redwood groves at the Trees of Mystery in Klamath.

Next, stop at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to walk through the incredible Fern Canyon, which was featured in the second Jurassic Park movie. The feel of this place is magical.

Don’t forget to make reservations to visit Fern Canyon as they are needed to visit here in summer.

Then drive on through the Avenue of the Giants, one of the most scenic drives in California. If you like, you can also drive through a humongous Chandelier tree in Leggett.

Check out the wonder of Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, where you can see colorful and shiny glass rocks on the beach. Sadly, there isn’t as much glass a there used to be, but it’s still worth a stop.

Stroll the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, where you’ll find something in bloom year round. In Mendocino, wander the cute downtown, hike Russian Gulch State Park, and admire the cute Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse in Mendocino, CA
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse in Mendocino

Just south of Mendocino, stop to snap photos of the picturesque Point Arena Lighthouse and view the boulders on Bowling Ball Beach.

Further south you’ll find the stunning Sonoma Coast, with charming little towns like Gualala, Sea Ranch, Jenner (where the Russian River flows into the Pacific), and Bodega Bay.

The coast is dotted with picturesque beaches, and there are numerous scenic overlooks, where you can park to enjoy the views.

Be sure to allow at least one day to explore the magnificent Point Reyes National Seashore, where you can hike Tomales Point Trail to look for tule elk, photograph the impossibly beautiful Point Reyes Lighthouse, and enjoy the coastal views.

End your trip in the City by the Bay, where you can walk or bike the Golden Gate Bridge, visit the infamous Alcatraz, and discover San Francisco’s many vibrant neighborhoods.

Spring and summer, and early fall, are the best seasons to go on this road trip, because the weather will be perfect for hiking the redwood groves. It can get wet and cold along the coast in winter and the redwoods make it even colder.

Mendocino Grove is a popular glamping destination in the redwoods along Highway 1 and this is a perfect spot to unwind and relax in nature and still have some creature comforts.

Suggested by Priyadarshini of Glorious Sunrise 

More US Travel Inspiration

Looking to explore the western part of the country? Check out our round-up of the most epic western US road trips to take. And if you want to road trip the eastern part of the USA, read our article on the most exciting East Coast road trips.

Want to get away for short breaks? We’ve compiled a list of the most exciting East Coast weekend getaways from which to pick your next escape.

And if you are looking for short escapes in the west, we have an article on the best West Coast weekend getaways and one on the best weekend getaways in California.

Want to do a western US road trip covering national parks? Check out this article on the great national parks in the west, from Yellowstone and Yosemite to Utah’s Mighty 5.

Love the vibrancy of US cities? Be sure to read our round-up of the best USA weekend trips, from New Orleans and New York City to San Diego and Las Vegas.

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Discover the most epic road trips in the USA from the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pacific Coast Highway to the New England Coast and the Florida Keys.


Dhara's travel interests are eclectic, spanning everything from natural wonders to history, culture, art and architecture. She has visited 22 countries, many more than once, plus almost all 50 states of the USA, and has amassed a hoard of cherished travel moments.

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