A Mississippi River road trip is an awesome – and affordable – way to travel the breadth of the country. Follow the Great River Road National Scenic Byway from the Mississippi’s headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico to experience the mighty river’s influence on nature, history, and culture in the United States.

You can even use your mobile device to follow our itinerary for this magnificent Great River Road route.

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.

1. Lake Itasca, Minnesota

Your road trip along the Great River Road Byway will begin where the Mississippi River, itself, begins: Lake Itasca, Minnesota. You’ll find Lake Itasca in the aptly named Itasca State Park in the northern portion of the state.

2. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

From its headwaters, your Mississippi River road trip will take you a little over 200 miles south and east to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s the largest metropolitan area on the Mississippi, and it’s a superb spot to learn a little more about the river and the road you’re taking.

3. Alma, Wisconsin

From Prescott, you’ll remain on the Wisconsin side of the river and wend your way down, along Lake Pepin – a large natural lake caused by sediment flowing into the Mississippi from the Chippewa River – to the riverfront town of Alma. Alluring Alma is an arty enclave that makes for a perfect pit stop.

4. Harpers Ferry, Iowa

Just beyond Fountain City, you’ll cross the river back into Minnesota and follow the Great River Road Byway south into Iowa. Make the small town of Harpers Ferry your next stop.

5. Galena, Illinois

Just north of Pikes Peak State Park, you’ll cross from Marquette, Iowa to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. From there, you’ll continue south to the disarmingly charming town of Galena, Illinois.

6. Hannibal, Missouri

From Galena, you’ll zig-zag across the river a few more times before arriving in Hannibal, Missouri.

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7. Paducah, Kentucky

Your next stop will be the charming city of Paducah, Kentucky, which is located just east of the Great River Road on the Ohio River.

8. Memphis, Tennessee

After leaving Kentucky, you’ll continue downriver to Memphis, the legendary hub for barbecue and the Delta blues, home to Elvis Presley, and a key site in the U.S. Civil Rights movement.

9. Helena, Arkansas

The quintessentially Southern town of Helena, Arkansas is the next stop on your journey down the Great River Road Byway.

10. Natchez, Mississippi

The city of Natchez, Mississippi is the next destination on your great heart of the USA road trip along its most important river artery.

11. New Orleans, Louisiana

The last official stop on the Great River Road Byway is the Big Easy – New Orleans, Louisiana.

Congratulations! You’ve now traveled the breadth of the country on this Great River Road route, and you’ve seen amazing places and done amazing things. What will your next incredible USA road trip be?

Here Are 17 Iconic, Scenic Road Trips To Experience In The United States

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More to Explore

The Great River Road Scenic Byway

How long is Great River Road?
The Great River Road route follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles. It passes through ten states starting in Itasca State Park in Minnesota and ending at the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans.

What are some iconic places along Great River Road?
With 3,000 miles of road from Northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, a Great River Road road trip will take you past some pretty special places. Here are a few iconic places along Great River Road:

  • Frontenac State Park, Red Wing, MN: There is a natural stone arch in Frontenac State Park named In-Yan-Teopa. It is a Dakota Indian phrase meaning "rock with opening" - which is a spot-on name for this cool rock formation. To get to the arch, take Bluffside Trail with gorgeous views of the Mississippi River about 400 feet below.
  • Fulton Windmill, Fulton IL: Another stop along the Great River Road is the charming town of Fulton. With a rich Dutch heritage it is no surprise that they have an authentic windmill constructed in the Netherlands and brought here to the US. If you are a windmill aficionado you'll enjoy the museum dedicated to this beautifully crafted Dutch windmill.
  • Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center, Tunica, MS: You can't travel through the state of Mississippi along the Mississippi River without stopping in Tunica for a little blues music celebration. You could even take a side journey along the Blues Highway 61. Stop at this cool little museum to learn how the Blues were born in the Mississippi Delta and even record your own blues song!


All these places make for a great road trip destination all on their own. The next time you plan a road trip, enjoy the luxury of a spacious RV without a huge upfront cost by renting one from RVShare.