Horseshoe Bend, Page, United States

25 Epic USA Road Trips for Your Bucket List

One of the most epic ways of visiting the US is a road trip allowing you to see some amazing and diverse landscapes with all the freedom only a car or a camper can give! Discover this list of the most iconic and scenic USA road trips and choose your next adventure!

Related articleBest National Parks to visit this summer

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USA Road Trip

 

1 – Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Redwood National Park, USA Road trips

Where: Washington, Oregon, and California

Start: Olympia (WA)

End: San Diego (CA)

Length: 2,695 Km – 1,650 miles

How long: min 4 max 8 days

Best period: late September-early October

Choose it if: you are searching for some Instagram-friendly places and you like natural landscapes

Unmissable stops:

  • Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Park (OR): spend a full day discovering the stories of some famous American explorers;
  • Redwood National and State Parks (CA): you’ll need at least a weekend to fully enjoy the many trails among the giant trees;
  • San Francisco (CA): this vibrant city deserves 1 day of sightseeing;
  • Point Sur State Historic Park (CA): save at least a couple of hours to take some pictures of the coast from the best viewpoints of the park;

2 – Route 66 – Mother Road

Cadillac ranch, Route 66

Where: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California

Start: Chicago (IL)

End: Los Angeles (CA)

Length: 3,940 Km – 2450 miles

How long: min 8 max 10 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Galena (IL): half a day to only visit downtown and 1 full day to also take a bike tour along the nice river trail;
  • Meramec Caverns (MO): a 2h stop is what you need to visit them;
  • Cadillac Ranch (TX): watch this famous art installation reminding of the hippie era and the 70s;
  • Painted Desert (AZ): the scenic drive through the desert takes about 2h;

Best period: May or September

Choose it if: you’ve always dreamed about this iconic road trip along one of the first American highways.

3 – Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA Road Trips

Where: Virginia and North Carolina

Start: Shenandoah National Park (VA)

End: Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC)

Length: 754 Km – 468 miles

How long: 1 weekend

Unmissable stops:

  • The Natural Bridge: stop at this natural stone bridge above a steep gorge;
  • The Blowing Rock: named after the strong winds that blow here every day, this high cliff is worth a stop and some pictures;
  • Beacon Heights: these rocky platforms are a natural outlook;
  • Oconaluftee (NC): visit the museum and its exhibitions to learn more about Cherokee culture;

Best period: summer

Choose it if: you are planning a relaxing summer weekend road trip in the mountains

4 – Great River Road

New Orleans, Great River Road, USA Road Trip

Where: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana

Start: Lake Itasca (MN)

End: Venice (LA)

Length: 3,330 Km – 2070 miles

How long: min 6 max 10 days

Best period: autumn

Choose it if: you want to see the many colors of the Mississippi River Valley

Unmissable stops:

  • Fort Snelling (MN): this visit deserves at least 2h;
  • Cahokia Mounds (IL): another couple of hours shall be dedicated to this archeological site featuring an ancient native necropolis;
  • Natchez (MS): the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River is worth a day of sightseeing thanks to its old-style architecture;
  • New Orleans (LA): spend 2 or 3 days in this cosmopolitan city where American, French, and African cultural roots are mixed together;

5 – US Route 50

Lake Tahoe, USA Road trip

Where: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland

Start: Sacramento (CA)

End: Ocean City (MD)

Length: 4,946 Km – 3,070 miles

How long: min 10 max 15 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Placerville (CA): half a day is enough to visit this ancient gold rush town;
  • Lake Tahoe (NV): a relaxing day by the lake or taking a boat tour;
  • Colorado National Monument (CO): you can drive around all day long;
  • Salisbury (MD): save at least a couple of hours to hike in the Pemberton Historical Park or rent a kayak for a day trip on the river;

Best period: spring

Choose it if: you’ve always wanted to do a “coast to coast” road trip and feel like a pioneer

6 – US Highway 2 Road Trip

Acadia National Park

Where: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

Start: Everett (WA)

End: Houlton (ME)

Length: 3,404 Km – 2110 miles

How many days: min 8 max 15

The unmissable stops:

  • Acadia National Park (ME): you shall spend at least 3 days here to be able to fully enjoy the natural wonders of this national park at the heart of the New England Region;
  • Hiawatha National Forest (MI): an unmissable camping site to sleep under the stars;
  • Lake Spokane (WA): save at least half a day for a boat tour;
  • Seattle (WA): spend a weekend in the Emerald City to visit its museums and its many parks. Don’t forget to climb up to the top of the iconic Space Needle;

Best period: late spring

Choose it if: you want to spend several days into the wild.

7 – Oregon Trail

Chimney Rock, Nebraska

Where: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon

Start: Independence (MO)

End: Oregon City (OR)

Length: 3,218 Km – 1,380 miles

How long: 1 week

Unmissable stops:

  • Chimney Rock (NE): one of the most iconic points of interest of the whole trail;
  • Devil’s Gate (WY): stop to watch this landmark that was an important place for the first pioneers going westward;
  • Three Islands Crossing State Park (ID): save 1 full day to go hiking in the park and visit its cultural center;
  • Hat Rock Loop (OR): a great hike and a perfect place to stop for a picnic;

Best period: late spring

Choose it if: you are searching for a road trip mixing driving and hiking.

8 – Great Northern Road Trip

Glacier National Park, US road trip

Where: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Québec, Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington

Start: Acadia National Park (ME)

End: Seattle (WA)

Length: 5,793 Km – 3,600 miles

How long: min 15 max 22 days

Best period: summer

Choose it if: you want to go on road trip to escape the city and dive into some pristine nature

Unmissable stops:

  • City of Rocks National Reserve (ID): spend a weekend hiking the geological interpretative trail and try some rock climbing too;
  • Glacier National Park (MT): save another weekend to hike among glaciers;
  • Munising (MN): stop for a couple of hours to admire the lovely Munising Falls just outside the town;
  • Mackinac Island (MI): a weekend there is what you need to explore the natural beauties of the island such as the Arch Rock or the Conservatory of Butterflies;

9 – Appalachian Trail

Bash Bish

Where: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia

Start: Baxter State Park (ME)

End: Springer Mountain (GA)

Length: 3,540 Km – 2,200 miles

How long: min 8 max 10 days

Best period: spring

Choose it if: you like hiking and nature

Unmissable stops:

  • Bash Bish Falls State Park (ME): the highest waterfall in Maine is worth a hike and a picnic;
  • Crawford Notch State Park (NH): half a day is enough for a scenic and easy hike;
  • Shenandoah National Park (VA): save 1 full day for some hikes in this unmissable national park;
  • Tallulah Gorge State Park (GA): if you’re running out of time, save only a couple of hours for an easy hike;

10 – Atlantic Coast Road Trip

South Beach, Miami, Florida

Where: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

Start: Kennebunkport (ME)

End: Key West (FL)

Length: 2,574 Km – 1,600 miles

How long: min 8 max 15 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Boston (MA): a full day is barely enough to get an overview of this city. Follow the Freedom Trail and relax in the Boston Public Garden before experiencing the American Revolution inside the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum;
  • New York City: if New York City is on your bucket list don’t miss spending a day or two in the city that never sleeps discovering some of the best things to do in New York;
  • Hatteras Island (NC): spend a weekend surfing and swimming;
  • Savannah (GA): a weekend in this lovely Southern city is always a good idea. Don’t miss its perfectly preserved historic district;
  • Miami: it deserves at least a weekend since it is full of things to see and do. Explore the colorful Wynwood Art District, do some shopping downtown and relax on the iconic South Beach;

Best period: early summer

Choose it if: you want a road trip that will take you through some beautiful coastal cities and to also enjoy some beach life now and then.

11 – Route 93 – Border to Border

Horseshoe Bend, Page, United States

Where: Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alberta Canada

Start: Nogales (Mexico)

End: Jasper National Park (Canada)

Length: 3,612 Km – 2245 miles

How long: min 5 max 10 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Great Basin National Park (NV): it requires at least a couple of days to visit Lehman caves and enjoy some scenic hikes;
  • Crater of the Moon National Monument (ID): spend at least a couple of hours in the place where the first astronauts trained before landing on the moon. When you’ll see this weird landscape, you’ll understand why they chose it!
  • Grand Canyon (AZ): if you just want to take some pictures and enjoy the view, you can spend half a day driving around
  • Jasper National Park (Canada): end your trip with a weekend in Canada to admire the famous Maligne Canyon and spot some local wildlife

Best period: early summer

Choose it if: you want to experience American wilderness in all its forms

12 – Road to Nowhere

Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Where: Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Manitoba Canada

Start: Matamoros (Mexico)

End: Swan River (Canada)

Length: 3,300 Km – 2,050 miles

How long: 1 week

Unmissable stops:

  • Knife River Indian Villages (ND): spend a couple of hours learning more about native tribes and their everyday life;
  • Sitting Bull Memorial (SD): pay tribute to this iconic historical character;
  • Land of Oz (KS): don’t miss a short visit to the Dorothy’s House in Liberal;
  • Utopia (TX): if you’re a biker, stop to visit the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum;

Best period: spring or autumn

Choose it if: you like the most “out-of-the-beaten-paths” itineraries

13 – US 80 – Southern Pacific Road Trip

Arizona, USA road trip

Where: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia

Start: San Diego (CA)

End: Savannah (GA)

Length: 5,632 Km – 3,500 miles

How long: min 8 max 15 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Santa Monica (CA): enjoy a weekend by the sea in this fancy town;
  • Tobstone (AZ): step back in time and experience the atmosphere of the Old Wild West;
  • Roswell (NM): don’t miss a stop at the International UFO Museum and Research Center to commemorate the historical Roswell incident;
  • Montgomery (AL): spend 1 day visiting all the most important places linked to the Civil Rights Movement (Legacy Museum, Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Martin Luther King Home etc.) and learn more about all the main characters of that period;

Best period: early summer

Choose it if: you want a varied road trip itinerary including beaches, entertainment, culture and history.

14 – Hana Highway Road Trip

Waterfall, Maui, Hawai

Where: Maui Island, Hawaii

Start: Kahului

End: Hana

Length: 103 Km – 63 miles

How long: min 5h max 2 days

Best period: spring

Choose it if: you are on holiday on Maui island and you want to explore some of its natural beauties and go on a road trip.

Unmissable stops:

  • Maui Nui Botanical Gardens: spend at least 2h wandering through the different species of local plants and flowers;
  • Twin Falls: take a break a have a swim in this tropical paradise;
  • Haipua’ena Falls: this secret sport is often unknown by tourists, so you can spend a couple of hours in peace;
  • Waianapanapa State Park: the shortest hike requires about 1h30;

15 – Chicago to Shawnee National Forest Road Trip

Garden of the Gods, USA Road trip

Where: Illinois

Start: Chicago

End: Shawnee National Forest

Length: 563 Km – 350 miles

How long: 1 weekend

Best period: spring

Choose it if: you are a nature lover and you love camping and hiking

Unmissable stops:

  • The Garden of the Gods Trail: a 1h hike that’s quite easy and full of wild flowers;
  • Trail of Tears: learn more about the story of the Cherokee tribes exiled to the government-designated lands;
  • Inspiration Point Trail: a short trek by the river with some amazing views;
  • Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area: the best camping area of the park;

16 – 17Mile Drive

Pebble beach, California road trip

Where: California

Start: Pacific Grove

End: Pebble Beach

Length: 27 Km – 17 miles

How long: 1h

Best period: late spring

Choose it if: you are searching for a romantic gateway.

Unmissable stops:

  • Spanish Bay Beach;
  • Fanshell Beach Overlook;
  • The Lone Cypress;
  • Pebble Beach: spend a relaxing day off playing golf or sunbathing on the beach;

17 – US 1 Florida Keys Road Trip

Seven Mile Bridge, Key West, United States

Where: Florida

Start: Miami

End: Key West

Length: 181 Km – 112miles

How long: min 1 max 5 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Key Largo: spend an entire day snorkeling in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park;
  • Seven Mile Bridge: everybody stops on this old bridge to take a picture on their way to Key West! That’s the symbol of this iconic highway running above the ocean;
  • Bahia Honda State Park: for a relaxing day on the beach, choose this State park which is also a peaceful place in the low season;
  • Key West: you can easily spend a whole weekend (or more) here among its beaches, souvenir shops, traditional wooden houses, and typical restaurants and bars;

Best period: winter

Choose it if: you want to experience driving above the ocean and swim in a tropical environment, spending some time at the beach.

18 – Route 12 Road Trip

Chicago, United States

Where: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

Start: Aberdeen (WA)

End: Detroit (MI)

Length: 3,998 Km – 2500 miles

How long: min 8 max 15 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Minneapolis (MN): spend a weekend exploring the city and its many parks;
  • Gary (IN): if you are a music fan, stop at the house where Michael Jackson and his siblings were born!
  • Chicago (IL): it deserves at least a weekend of sightseeing thanks to its innovative architecture. Don’t miss the Millennium Park and the Magnificent Mile;
  • Detroit (MI): if you’re running out of time, save at least 1 full day to visit a couple of museums like the Detroit Institute of Arts or the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation;

Best period: spring

Choose it if: you are interested in doing some sightseeing

19 – Bluebonnet Trail

Bluebonnets in Texas

Where: Texas

Start: Burnet

End: Johnson City

Length: 106 Km – 66 miles

How long: 2h or a whole weekend

Unmissable stops:

  • Burnet: the perfect place to stay overnight, since it’s nicknamed the “capital of bluebonnet”;
  • Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: spend at least a couple of hours in this idyllic landscape to take plenty of pictures;
  • Fredericksburg: spend a couple of hours in one of its many wineries or stay overnight for some sightseeing;
  • Johnson City: spend a couple of hours visiting the house where President Lindon Johnson spent his childhood;

Best period: late March – early April

Choose it if: you want to see the blooming of the bluebonnets in the Texan countryside

20 – North Shore Drive Road Trip

Hollow Rock Road, Grand Portage, MN, USA

Where: Minnesota

Start: Duluth

End: Grand Portage State Park

Length: 239 Km – 148 miles

How long: min 3 max 6 days

Best period: September – October

Choose it if: you want to admire the Autumn foliage by the lake.

Unmissable stops:

  • Two Harbours: stop for a couple of pictures of the majestic Lake Superior;
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park: reach the waterfalls with an easy hike that will take about half a day;
  • Black Beach: also called “onyx beach” for its black color, it’s a perfect spot for a picnic;
  • Lutsen: spend a weekend in the mountains and don’t miss a ride on the Mountain Tram!

21 – Trail Ridge Road

Colorado, USA Road trip

Where: Colorado

Start: Estes Park

End: Grand Lake

Length: 77 Km – 48 miles

How long: 2h

Unmissable stops:

  • Farview Curve Overlook: one of the best spots for your pictures;
  • Gore Range Overlook: to admire the highest peaks of the range;
  • Many Parks Curve Overlook: it’s often the busiest lookout but it’s worth a stop;
  • Alpine Ridge Trail: it’s quite hard but the wonderful view from its top is really worth it!

Best period: summer

Choose it if: you want to admire the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

22 – Kancamagus Highway

Falll foilage in New Hampshire

Where: New Hampshire

Start: Lincoln

End: Conway

Length: 90 Km – 56 miles

How long: min 1h max 4h

Best period: late September – early October

Choose it if: you want to take some Autumn pictures in nature and see fall foilage.

Unmissable stops:

  • Albany Covered Bridge: stretch your legs walking across this ancient wooden covered bridge;
  • Swift River: the most Instagram-friendly place along the road;
  • Russel Colbath Homestead: you’ll need about 30 minutes to visit this old house telling you some ancient stories;
  • Champney Falls: a 2h hike will lead you to these spectacular waterfalls that are worth a stop for some pictures;

23 – Going-to-the-Sun Road

Logan Pass, United States

Where: Montana

Start: West Glacier

End: Logan Pass

Length: 80 Km – 50 miles

How long: min 3h max 4 days

Unmissable stops:

  • Grinnell Glacier: a 2-day trek will lead you up to this glacier where you’ll be able to spot some icebergs on the lake!
  • Weeping Wall: streams falling from a cliff and forming a thaw waterfall in spring and summer;
  • Hidden Lake: spend at least 1h hiking up to this beautiful lookout;
  • Logan Pass Visitor Center: visit its exhibitions and learn more about the history of Glacier National Park;

Best period: from late June to early August

Choose it if: you feel like admiring some alpine landscapes and some glaciers.

24 – Death Valley Scenic Drive Road Trip

Death Valley, best road trips in the US

Where: California

Start: Olancha

End: Dante’s View

Length: 209 Km – 130 miles

How long: min 3h max 1 full day

Unmissable stops:

  • Badwater Basin: hike for a couple of hours in this iconic place located -86m below sea level;
  • Zabriskie Point: spend some time taking pictures in one of the most scenic places of the Death Valley;
  • Artist’s Palette: a weird rocky formation seeming colored by a painter that’s worth a quick stop;
  • Dante’s View: end your trip with an easy hike leading you to the top of this rocky formation at almost 2,000 ft (1500m);

Best period: autumn

Choose it if: you like rocky and desertic landscapes.

25 – Olympic Peninsula Loop

Vance Creek Bridge, Shelton, United States

Where: Washington

Start/End: loop in the Olympic Peninsula National Park

Length: 529 Km – 330 miles

How long: 1 weekend

Best period: late winter

Choose it if: you like snowy landscapes and wild forests.

Unmissable stops:

  • Brementon: stop for a couple of hours to visit the USS Turner Joy Museum Ship;
  • Ruby Beach: the perfect place to watch the sunset;
  • Cape Flattery: save at least 2h for this hike overlooking the ocean and passing through a pine forest;
  • Sol Duc Falls: a 1h hike will lead you to these beautiful waterfalls;
25 Epic USA Road Trips for Your Bucket List

About the author

From Italy, Chiara is a travel designer, writer and freelance travel consultant. She works with travel professionals worldwide, helping them with content creation, research activities, and other travel-related tasks. When she’s not writing, she’s out and about visiting World Heritage Sites around the world.

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