‘Get your motor runnin’! Head out on the highway!’
Whether you want to wind along the coast, cross the country, or just take in one state at a time, there’s a classic American road trip that is right for you.
We turned to NPS.gov, VisittheUSA, and Road Trip U.S.A. to select the most famous routes of all time. We’ve also included information on the length of each route, how much time you would need to explore them, and the best time to visit them
We tried to include a bit of variety so that you can find a road trip no matter where you’re starting from. Check out these ten road trips before you hit the road.
1. Great River Road, Mississippi River
Route distance: 2,069 miles
Suggested time: 1-2 weeks
Best time to do the drive: Fall
A great river deserves a great road to go with it. The Great River Road follows the mighty Mississippi through 10 states and for 3,000 miles. Start either in Minnesota or Louisiana and follow the river through the mid-west of America. Along the way, you can visit sites like the Mill City Museum in Minnesota and Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri. Or wander over to Potosi Brewing Company in Minnesota to refresh yourself before heading down to the Black Hawk State Historic Site in Quad Cities. You can do this trip in five days, but some people spend a full two weeks seeing all there is to see along this historic route. Get ready to tune in to some blues on your radio, catch stunning views of high bluffs through your windshield, savor delicious home-cooked meals, and, as always, have the comforting presence of Old Man River by your side.
2. Pacific Coast Highway, California
Route distance: 600 miles
Suggested time: 1 week
Best time to do the drive: Spring
The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, winds its way along the California coastline, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean along the way. At more than 600 miles, we suggest you set aside about six days to drive the whole route from San Francisco to San Diego. Along the way, check out Santa Cruz, Big Sur, Cambria, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and much more. Build in more time if you want to stop for pie at Linn’s Restaurant in Cambria or see the wildlife in Morro Bay. And thanks to California’s mild weather, you can take this trip just about any time you like, but spring is still the best choice.
3. Route 66, Illinois to California
Route distance: 2,448 miles
Suggested time: 2-3 weeks
Best time to do the drive: Lmid-May to mid-September.
There are few road trips as well-known or iconic as Route 66. The “Mother Road” stretches nearly 2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. While you could probably do it in less than a week, most people plan a two-week journey so they can enjoy the more than 250 buildings, bridges, roads and sites along the way that make the National Register of Historic Places. These include the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Cafe in Texas, first built in 1936, and the soaring Old Trails Bridge in Arizona. This route is rich with history, from Oklahoma’s Chandler Armory, built between 1903 and 1912, to the Kansas town of Galena, which sprang up in 1876.
4. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia to North Carolina
Route distance: 469 miles
Suggested time: 1 week
Best time to do the drive: Mid-May to mid-September
“America’s favorite drive” carves a path along the southern and central Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is less than 500 miles, but drivers are encouraged to take their time, so you can easily spend 12 hours or more on the route. It’s renowned for the beautiful biodiversity you can glimpse along the way. This includes Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States, and Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. You can also see the oldest river in North America, the New River, and the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon, the Linville Gorge.
5. Bold Coast National Scenic Byway, Maine
Route distance: 125 miles
Suggested time: 2 to 4 days
Best time to do the drive: Mid-May to mid-October
The 147-mile Bold Coast National Scenic Byway in Maine isn’t the longest drive on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less beautiful. Get the authentic Down East Maine experience with history, crashing waves and vast landscapes. Wander from Milbridge in the west to Cherryfield before dipping down to Jonesport along the coast. Keep following a meandering path to hit towns like Machias and Lubec before ending up at Eastport on the coast. Spend a few days exploring to get the most from this trip. If you go in spring, you’ll find plenty of flowers in bloom, but if you wait until fall, you may catch the dazzling display of the leaves changing colors.
6. Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, Utah
Route distance: 122.9 miles
Suggested time: 3 to 5 days
Best time to do the drive: March, April and October
Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 also known as s “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway” connects Wayne and Garfield counties with 124 miles of beautiful byway. You can do the drive in a couple of days, but why not take your time and explore the sights? There’s plenty to see along this short route, including Dixie National Forest, where you’ll find almost two million acres of plateaus, lakes, and valleys. That isn’t even the only national park. There’s also Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks. You can drive through the iconic red rock arches or check out Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There’s so much to see on this relatively short route that you might feel like it’s a lot longer than it actually is.
7. Florida Keys, Florida
Route distance: 180 miles
Suggested time: 1 week
Best time to do the drive: between December and March
The Florida Keys aren’t just a place to stop and lay on the beach. There’s also 180 miles of road trip to be had here. The Overseas Highway takes you from Miami to Key West, with lots to experience along the way. It can get really hot here, so you might want to plan a winter trip for this drive. No matter when you go, give yourself about a week so you can see all the attractions long the way, including the many beaches in your path and Bahia Honda State Park. You can explore the Key West Lighthouse and historic Ernest Hemingway House or see Dry Tortugas National Park. Or do it all by setting aside enough time to take in everything this route has to offer.
8. Going-to-the-Sun Road, Montana
Route distance: 49.71 miles
Suggested time: 2 days
Best time to do the drive: early July to late September
Going-to-the-Sun Road is a trip that takes some planning. It isn’t open all year, and the opening date can vary from year to year, so make sure you check whether the route will be open when you want to drive it. The 52-mile highway can take two days to drive because of all the things to explore along your way. It winds through Glacier National Park, with attractions like Logan Pass and Many Glacier Valley. Some people even travel the road in both directions, as you can get a very different experience going one direction and then the other.
9. Highway 50, ‘The Loneliest Road,’ Nevada
Route distance: 408.8 miles
Suggested time: 1 week
Best time to do the drive: Late summer, early fall
Loneliness isn’t always a negative, as the Loneliest Road proves. This journey across Nevada spans 400 to 500 miles and typically takes two to four days, though you can certainly take longer if you want to enjoy the sights. The name comes from a 1986 article that claimed there were no points of interest on the route and that travelers should be confident in their survival skills before driving it. While this road is certainly wide open, that has become part of its appeal. It leads to several worthwhile detours, such as historic mining towns and even state parks. You can see Great Basin National Park or enjoy towns like Austin, Eureka, and Ely, which are all packed with history.
10. The Oregon Trail, Oregon to Wyoming
Route distance: 2,170 miles
Suggested time: 2 to 3 weeks
Best time to do the drive: June to September
The name “Oregon Trail” is a bit misleading, as this trail actually stretches all the way from Cape Cod on the East Coast to the Columbia Gorge on the West Coast. That accounts for more than 2,170 miles – and that’s without the many worthwhile detours like Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. Many people start in the west and make their way back east, contrary to the historic purpose of the trail. And while this can be done in less than a week, many spend multiple weeks on this road trip. You can see Iowa’s Field of Dreams, stop for a break in Chicago or discover the beautiful Finger Lakes.
Take a Road Trip to Experience the Country
If you’re hankering for the open road, stunning views and historic sites, there’s no wrong road trip to pick off our list. A long drive is a great way to experience the country, whether you’re looking for national parks, a sun-drenched beach or a thrilling attraction. Plan your trip well in advance to get the most out of these drives. The time of year can impact some of these drives dramatically. Others are great all year round, but planning ahead can still let you plot out your stops so you get the most out of your adventure. Pack up the car and hit the road today.