USA May 22, 2023
by Megan Shute Here Are 17 Iconic, Scenic Road Trips To Experience In The United States
There is little more enticing than the thrill of the open road, and America is well-known for its incredible road trips: Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though the landscapes you’ll see along these iconic roads vary, they are among the best road trips in the United States.
Nine of ten OnlyInYourState readers agree that their preferred travel method is by car, according to our 2022 Spring Travel Study , and no matter where you live in the United States (or where you plan to travel), there is an incredible road trip calling your name this year. Carefully curated by our local travel experts who have collectively written more than 3,000 road trip articles across all 50 states, here are 17 of the absolute best road trips in the United States, from winding mountain roads to scenic drives that hug the coastline.
Want to discover more USA road trips? You’ll love OnlyInYourState’s newest series,
On The Road, which explores magnificent routes across America catered to nature lovers, foodies, budget travelers, adventurers, and more.
Best Road Trips In The United States
Cross-Country United States Road Trips 1. Route 66 Location: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California Length: 2,448 miles Perfect For: Nostalgics Hidden Gem Pit Stop: 66 Drive-In
There is perhaps no road trip more iconic than America's Route 66. Built in 1926 to connect the Midwest to the West Coast, from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 was one of the United States' first continuous stretches of paved highway and attracted thousands of road trippers throughout the years, with motels, roadside attractions, and communities popping up along the route.
Though the road was decommissioned in 1985 and is no longer considered a major roadway, Route 66 is still a bucket-list experience for many. Nostalgics will want to start their journey with a trip to the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac, Illinois, where you will discover all sorts of murals, photos, license plates, and so much more.
2. The Oregon Trail Location: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington Length: 2,170 miles Perfect For: History Buffs Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Bruneau Dunes State Park
An east-west wagon route and emigrant trail connecting the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon, the Oregon Trail is one of the most iconic historic road trips in the United States. This 2,170-mile route begins in Missouri before passing through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Laid by fur traders and trappers from 1811 to 1840, this route was passable only on foot or horseback.
Today, major highways, including Interstate 80 and Interstate 84, follow parts of the original course westward and pass through historic towns established to serve those using the Oregon Trail. One of the most scenic drives you can take, adventurers will witness towering mountains, wondrous waterfalls, hiking trails, historic sites, and even prehistoric fossils.
Northeastern United States Road Trips 3. Kancamagus Highway Location: New Hampshire Length: 36 miles Perfect For: Fall Foliage Fans Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Lincoln Woods Trail
Heading to New England, the Kancamagus Highway is a treasure trove of stunning scenery -- especially when surrounded by fall foliage, a sea of red, orange, yellow, and gold taking your breath away along every turn. Rolling through historic covered bridges, past cascading waterfalls, and into the heart of the White Mountains, this 36-mile road is simply spectacular.
On either end of the scenic byway, you will discover shops, hotels, cabins, condos, and other unique attractions. Near Conway, New Hampshire, you will enjoy ample shopping opportunities, and on the other side of the highway, near Lincoln, New Hampshire, Loon Mountain offers skiing in the wintertime and other activities year-round.
While you could complete the entire drive in less than two hours, we suggest making a day of it to enjoy the sights and sounds of this New England gem.
Southern United States Road Trips 4. U.S. Route 1
No tropical paradise in the United States is more enticing than the Florida Keys, and we know just the way to experience it. While U.S. Highway 1 meanders along the east coast from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, the Florida stretch of this wonder begins at the Georgia border along the St. Mary's River.
This Florida road trip will lead straight to the sea, allowing beach lovers to experience the most scenic views in the state and countless incredible small towns, unique natural wonders, scrumptious restaurants, and historic gems. A long weekend gives you enough time to make the drive, but we suggest an entire week of adventure, especially if you want to experience Biscayne National Park and spend time in the Florida Keys.
5. Bluebonnet Trail Location: Texas Length: 40 miles Perfect For: Wildflower Admirers Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Sugar Ridge Winery
A glorious spring adventure awaits in central Texas, where bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, bloom en masse through the rolling hills during the entire month of April. While you can experience bluebonnets across the region, the best way to witness the wildflowers is along the breathtaking Bluebonnet Trail, which includes 40 miles of mapped driving trails sponsored by the Ennis Garden Club.
Time your visit around the annual Bluebonnet Festival that celebrates this Texas treasure with food, arts and crafts, farmers market, a car show, kids' activities, and live music. Don't forget to bring your camera -- the opportunities for gorgeous photographs are endless!
6. Blue Ridge Parkway Location: North Carolina & Virginia Length: 469 miles Perfect For: Mountain Lovers Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Craggy Pinnacle
Connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders 469 miles, not over or through the mountains like many of the mountain passes in the West, but along the spine of the ridge.
With jaw-dropping views in every season, there's never a bad time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. This National Parkway and All-American Road is America's longest linear park and is known for its incredible scenic beauty and countless overlooks. Stop for the night at the Mount Pisgah lodge or campground or opt for a meal at the restaurant.
Located at 5,000 feet above sea level, this is a magical spot for a getaway -- and you'll even get to see the fall colors early. To extend your road trip another 100 miles or so, continue along Virginia's Skyline Drive within Shenandoah National Park.
Midwestern United States Road Trips 7. Lake Superior Drive Location: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin Length: 1,300 miles Perfect For: Aquaphiles (Water Lovers) Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Artist Point, Grand Marais
The Great Lakes are truly wondrous, though we must admit that Lake Superior has our hearts. As the world's largest freshwater lake, Superior contains 10 percent of the planet's fresh surface water. There's something stunningly serene about driving along the water, and the entire 1,300-mile Lake Superior Tour is heaven for Midwestern aquaphiles.
While the route passes through the United States and Canada, it still secures a spot on our favorite American road trips for its jaw-dropping waterfront views, one-of-a-kind attractions, and vibrant port cities. You'll see some of the most scenic spots in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin along this route, including Split Rock Lighthouse, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and Black Beack.
If you're looking for a detour from Lake Superior in Minnesota, might we suggest the incredible Gunflint Trail? In any season, this Minnesota road sparkles.
VIDEO 8. Hocking Hills Scenic Byway
Ohio might not be the first state that comes to mind when discussing American road trips, but our readers agree that the Hocking Hills region is one of the most spectacular for a remarkable road trip. The 26-mile Hocking Hills Scenic Byway might not be a long drive, but it sure does pack a punch when it comes to natural splendor, leading to six incredible destinations within Hocking Hills State Park.
You won't be surprised to hear that Hocking Hills Scenic Byway is especially popular come autumn -- just look at this fabulous foliage. If you're looking to slow down and truly enjoy the journey, the Hocking Hills area is as serene as they come. Bonus points if you can score a reservation at this brand-new, epic
Northwestern United States Road Trips 9. Going To The Sun Road Location: Montana Length: 50 miles Perfect For: Dedicated Hikers Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Hidden Lake Overlook
Another outstanding national park route, Going To The Sun Road, is one of the best ways to experience Montana's Glacier National Park. Bisecting the park west to east and crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, this 50-mile scenic route is a winding two-lane highway with hairpin turns that will lead adventurers past impressive glaciers, breathtaking valleys, wondrous waterfalls, towering mountain peaks, and colorful wildflowers in the spring.
Wildlife sightings are common as well along the two-hour drive, and interestingly enough, many suggest traveling in both directions -- as the road from one side of the road is quite different from the other.
Due to the route's mountainous terrain, it is open only seasonally, though opening and closing dates depend on the weather. It is one of the most difficult roads in North America to snowplow in the spring and is a true engineering marvel.
10. Avenue Of The Giants Location: Northern California Length: 31 miles Perfect For: Tree Afficianados Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Dyerville Lookout
The towering redwoods of Northern California are truly spectacular, a bucket-list destination in all respects. And one of the best ways to experience these gentle giants is the magnificent 31-mile Avenue of the Giants. Named after the coastal redwoods that tower over the route, this scenic highway runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
A former alignment of U.S. Route 101, it takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive the route. You'll want to spend a half-day exporting when you add photo and hiking opportunities. Start early before the road fills up with eager tourists, though there's never a bad time to visit the grove. This is often considered one of the finest forest drives in the world, and we certainly aren't going to argue.
11. Olympic Peninsula Loop
Defining the perimeter of Olympic National Park, the Olympic Peninsula Loop is one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of Washington State. From mountains and waterfalls to rainforests, wildlife, and endless overlooks, this 300-mile scenic drive is truly one for the memory books.
This unique drive will allow adventurers to experience the park's six unique eco-systems, including coastal and lowland forests, temperate rainforest, montane forests, subalpine, and alpine. The rainforests can receive up to 50 inches of rain in the winter, so we suggest visiting spring through fall for optimal sightseeing: the landscapes found within the park are lush and vibrant with life come late spring.
12. Tioga Pass Location: Northern California Length: 64 miles Perfect For: Budding Geologists Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Olmsted Point Overlook
A mountain pass within the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, Tioga Pass serves as the eastern entry point for Yosemite National Park at the Tioga Pass Entrance Station. At an elevation of 9,945 feet, Tioga Pass is the highest-elevation highway pass in California and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
An enormous conglomerate of granite bodies called a batholith, the Sierra Nevada Mountains were formed in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods when a Pacific plate was subducting under North America.
While stunning views abound throughout the drive, you will love seeing Mount Dana to the east and Gaylor Peak to the west. This area is rural and staying within Yosemite National Park is the best way to experience this one-of-a-kind road trip.
Southwestern United States Road Trips 13. Pacific Coast Highway Location: California Length: 655 miles Perfect For: Thalassophiles (Ocean Lovers) Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Carmel-by-the-sea
If you feel happiest near the water, there is no better road trip than the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching along Highway 1 for 656 miles, the Pacific Coast Highway begins in Orange County, just miles south of Irvine and Long Beach, and runs to Mendocino County in the northern part of Northern California.
Marvelous mountains, towering trees, and breathtaking beaches abound on this drive, which is often considered one of the most scenic routes in America and the world. Following approximately three-quarters of the California coast, the Pacific Coast Highway is the longest state route in California and the second-longest in the US after Montana Highway 200. Stop at endless beaches along the way, and the small towns are as charming as they come.
To discover the best things to do and see along the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, check out our video here:
VIDEO 14. Grand Circle Route Location: Utah, Arizona Length: 1,000 miles Perfect For: National Park Enthusiasts Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Zion Ponderosa Ranch
If you're a national park aficionado, there is no better road trip than the Grand Circle Road Trip, which leads to not one, but five incredible national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon National Parks. Though the trip is predominantly in the state of Utah, you'll cross into Arizona as well.
If you spend two days in each national park, you can make the trip in two weeks, but you could spend more than a week exploring each of these national parks. Don't forget to add in a visit to the Grand Escalante Monument and Antelope Canyon. Drop-dead gorgeous desert landscapes, some of the best hiking trails in the world, and endless scenic views, this road trip is one for the books.
To learn more about one of the epic stops along this route, Arches National Park, check out our video below:
VIDEO 15. Million Dollar Highway Location: Colorado Length: 25 miles Perfect For: Orophiles (Mountain Lovers) Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Trimble Spa and Natural Hot Springs
Stretching between Silverton, Durango, and Ouray in Colorado is the Million Dollar Highway, part of the San Juan Skyway Colorado Scenic Byway. Featuring mountain, valley, and gorge landscapes galore, it reportedly cost a million dollars a mile to build this feat of engineering and some say the gravel used to pave the road contained gold.
We've also heard rumors that the highway received its name for the figurative price of those signature San Juan Mountain vistas. Experience hot springs, ghost towns, hiking trails, and so much more on this epic day trip destination. With dramatic views at every turn, this southern Colorado gem is almost considered a rite of passage for Colorado road trippers.
Non-Continental United States Road Trips 16. Hana Highway Location: Hawaii Length: 64 miles Perfect For: Chasing Waterfalls Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Kopiliula Falls
We're leaving the contiguous United States for this one, but trust us, it's worth it. Meandering along Maui's rugged coast for 64 miles between Kahului to Hana is popular not for the destination but for the incredible journey it takes to get there. Featuring approximately 620 curves, 59 bridges -- many just one-lane wide -- the Hana Highway is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Along the way, you will find awe-inspiring views, with pristine beaches in a variety of colors towards the ocean, and lush tropical rainforest on the other. When you stop by incredible state and national parks, white, black, and red sand beaches, cascading waterfalls, and snack stands along the way, this day-long journey is one you'll never forget.
17. Anchorage to Valdez, Alaska Location: Alaska Length: 300 miles Perfect For: Rugged Adventurers Hidden Gem Pit Stop: Matanuska Glacier
If you're going to experience Alaska by car for the first time, there is no greater route than the one that leads from Anchorage to Valdez. Along the way, you can visit historic sites, chase waterfalls, hike on a glacier, and experience the best of Alasak's wildlife: Dali sheep, Musk Ox, and even reindeer.
No matter where your next American road trip takes you, you must be prepared with all the essentials. Our
Ultimate Road Trip Packing List details all our favorite on-the-road essentials, from additions to your car emergency kit to organization gems and fun travel extras. It’s the perfect list to take along on the best US road trips.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article.
The OIYS Visitor Center
Best Road Trips In The United States
March 01, 2023
What is the most beautiful drive in the United States?
In addition to the magnificent road trips listed above, beauty is found along many of America's incredible roads. If you find happiness near the Ocean, there are no better drives than Hawaii's Hana Highway, Florida's U.S. Route 1 from Miami to Key West, and California's Pacific Coast Highway. If you prefer the mountains, you won't want to miss the
North Cascades Scenic Drive. Forest lover instead? The Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia is a must-experience. Truly, there are hundreds of breathtaking, postcard-perfect scenic drives in the United States.
Where is the best place to take a road trip?
There are countless incredible places to take a road trip, no matter where you live in the United States. While you can certainly drive cross-country or fly anywhere and rent a car, if you live on the east coast, there's no route better than
Virginia's Skyline Drive, which winds 105 miles through Shenandoah National Park or along the Outer Banks in North Carolina. In the western United States, U.S. Route 191 in Arizona offers incredible windshield views, and the Highway of Waterfalls through Oregon – also known as Highway 138 – is a dream for anyone who loves chasing waterfalls.
What is the best scenic byway U.S. road trip?
One of the best – if not highly underrated – scenic byways in the United States is the
Great River Road National Scenic Byway that follows the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to where it meets the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Littered with charming small towns and natural wonders, this scenic byway is incomparable.
Administered through the Federal Highway Administration to recognize, protect, and promote the most incredible roads in the United States, there are more than 180 national scenic byways and more than 1,250 state-designated scenic byways scattered across America. To be designated as an All-American Road, a route must exhibit one or more of these six intrinsic qualities – natural, scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, or archaeological – that offer a unique travel experience
Is Route 66 still worth doing?
Route 66 is absolutely worth doing – perhaps more so today than it has ever been before. While the road was officially decommissioned in 1985 and is no longer considered a major roadway, Route 66 became wildly popular after the Pixar movie Cars was released in 2006. States have added new signage and paving along the route, and towns along the route have sprung back to life. Whether you enjoy small towns, chasing sunsets, or exploring the great outdoors, Route 66 deserves a spot on everyone's bucket list.