Road trips are great adventures that allow us to slow life down, savor the ride, and customize every stop along the way to make the journey as notable as the destination! From foodies to history buffs, there’s a road trip for everyone, just waiting to be undertaken.
If you’re looking for some tried and true trails that will be worth the price of gas, read on! These are the 10 best road trips in America.
1. Virginia To North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Those road trippers seeking a gorgeous, color-soaked trip to see the leaves change will get everything they hope for and more on this trek along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Any time of year is a great time to plot along the east coast, but the best colorscapes happen as leaves begin to fall in late September and early October.
Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great way to visit Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina along the way. Soak in the deep reds of the dogwood, sourwood, and black gum tree leaves making their annual transition, and sit in awe of the yellows and oranges that paint the landscape as you drive past acres of poplars, hickories, and maples.
Interested in learning about more foliage-rich destinations? Read “5 Beautiful Places To Vacation In The Fall.” Also, don’t miss our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway road trip: the perfect five-day itinerary.
2. New Mexico
State Trail Of The Ancients
If you want to take a scenic glimpse into part of our nation’s Native American history, you can experience the over 600-mile state trail that twists and turns through tribal lands of the Navajo Nation and Zuni territories. Along the way, you can visit a UNESCO World Historical Site — the Chaco Culture National Historical Park — which is the world’s newest international Dark Sky Park, one of only four to receive this special distinction.
Whether you take in the Native lands in New Mexico during the day to enjoy the beautiful rock formations and cultural heritage, or travel through it at night to bear witness to the stunning nightscapes, it will be an unforgettable trip on the State Trail of the Ancients!
The Bourbon Trail
Whiskey lovers rejoice! If you’re in the mood for a slow and steady road trip with plenty of pit stops to snift and sip, take the Bourbon Trail from Lexington to Louisville, Kentucky. Enjoy the sounds of bluegrass and grab a drink at over 10 famous bourbon distilleries along the trail to learn a bit more about America’s famous spirit.
This road trip will vary in mileage depending on your planned distillery visits, but schedule three to five days. You’ll want to make plenty of visits on this trip, so you should leave time to drive safely! Make sure to stop at Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, and the rest of these nine fantastic Kentucky distilleries to visit along the way.
4. California To Washington
Pacific Coast Highway 101
Beyond Hollywood and the famous Santa Monica Pier, your trek along California’s balmy coast will give you plenty to write home about. Highway 101 sprawls along the gorgeous vistas of California’s Pacific coast, showcasing some of the most unforgettable sunsets you’ll see on any road trip.
From the beauty of West Coast beaches to the breathtaking splendor of Big Sur’s sprawling cliffsides, and beyond to the ancient Redwoods of Northern California, there will be plenty to see on every leg of this drive. If you’d like to extend your trip beyond the Golden State, you can drive the entirety of Highway 101’s 1,540 miles up to Oregon and end your journey in the beautiful green state of Washington. All in all, it will be a stunning trip!
Planning your California PCH road trip? These nine amazing must-stop spots belong on your list.
The Cheese Trail
Cheese lovers, rejoice! If bourbon in Kentucky wasn’t your thing, you can take in the dairy air in a tailored trip around Wisconsin, where you can sample every type of cheese imaginable against the backdrop of charming Midwestern towns.
From Madison to Milwaukee, travelers can enjoy over 600 different types of cheese (and some beers too, another Wisconsin claim to fame) from local cheesemakers for an epicurean adventure that may just require some stretchy pants for the drive home! Budget at least three days to tour the state’s various breweries, cheese shops, and restaurants to experience all that the Wisconsin Cheese Trail road trip has to offer.
Read more on Wisconsin’s food culture: cheese, chocolate, and beer here.
6. North Carolina, Alabama, And Beyond
The Civil Rights Trail
Recently launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of MLK, this trail puts together the sprawling and significant history of the American Civil Rights Movement. Spanning over 14 states, you can plot your own course to walk in the footsteps of history. Pass through Selma, Alabama, along the Edmund Pettus Bridge and take a seat at the Woolworth’s counter in North Carolina where one of many now-famous sit-ins took place starting in 1960.
Depending on what sites you want to visit, your course could take three days or more, but the new Civil Rights Trail website makes it easy to see what happened where and plan ahead.
7. Illinois To California
Perhaps the most iconic road trip you can take in North America, Route 66 is known as the “Mother Road” of the nation, stretching from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California. With over 2,000 miles of natural beauty, kitsch, and even some roadside oddities, a drive along what remains of this great highway offers something for every traveler.
You can stop and try to eat a 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas (and cool off in its Texas-shaped pool!), or pose in front of the big blue whale in Catoosa, Oklahoma. Those seeking less kitsch can still enjoy miles of Midwest scenery and wide open desert landscapes along the way.
The Zydeco-Cajun Prairie Scenic Byway
Zigzagging through the state of Louisiana is the Zydeco-Cajun Prairie Scenic Byway. Over the course of about 276 miles, you can experience the Deep South in a new way. While driving without stopping would take you about 9 to 10 hours, you can take a few cultural detours to enjoy Cajun cuisine and music, expansive Southern mansions, Civil War battle sites and reenactments, or put your feet up at a local B&B.
If you’re more an outdoorsy type, you can also take an airboat ride, go fishing or camping to break up your travels, and enjoy the bogs and bayous of the Pelican State for yourself.
9. Colorado, New Mexico, And Arizona
National Park Loop
Start your journey in the Mile High City of Denver, and work your way down. Along the route, you can explore the Mesa Verde National Park or head into Arizona, stopping at Flagstaff for some good food and mountain town vibes before making the jaunt to the Grand Canyon.
If you’d like to loop back, you can spend some time in New Mexico, retreat to Durango, and explore Colorado’s most scenic town — Silverton. Take a dip in Pagosa’s hot springs and explore Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve when you loop back to Colorado.
Interested in Colorado’s great outdoors? Read up on Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Light House Trail
If you’re up for gorgeous views and quaint historic lighthouses in coastal towns, taking a few days to traverse the coast of Maine will leave you breathless. With over 5,000 miles of winding coastline (yes, even more than California), Maine is a must-visit destination to explore for its food, historic lighthouses, and beautiful shorelines.
With over 65 historic lighthouses, fresh and abundant seafood, and Acacia National Park, it’s no wonder that Maine is a top road trip destination for travelers. If you’re planning a visit, give yourself at least four to five days to enjoy all the state has to offer.
We hope this article gave you some inspiration for your next great American road trip. You certainly don’t have to fly to visit someplace special. Happy trails!