When you hear the words “road trip,” you may conjure up images of neon-lit midnight diners along Route 66 or the palm-tree lined west coast of California’s Pacific Coast Highway. While these iconic trails are necessarily part of any thorough list of the best U.S. road trips, the vast diversity of geography and culture mean there are a plethora of lesser-known gems in every corner of the U.S.
Whether you head out for an afternoon sunset drive or take to the road for a few weeks, with our list of the best U.S. road trips and some of our amazingly cozy and practical travel accessories, you will be on your way to the adventure of a lifetime.
Epic roads, mist-shrouded cliffs, ghost towns, Spanish and Native American frontier settlements, towering peaks, a staggering variety of flora and fauna – the West has it all. Take your time exploring some of the most beautiful and adventurous roads in America.
Pacific Coast Highway – California Route 1
This is the road trip most people envision – cruising along with the top down in a convertible, twisting around the cliff-hugging route of the west coast. At 550 miles long, you will experience astonishing scenery, such as the largest trees in the world, an 80-foot waterfall gushing from a granite wall of rock onto the beach below, the Danish village of Solvang, and the most photographed bridge in California, the Bixby Bridge. It’s best to drive north to south so you are on the ocean side of the route the whole way, and take along one of our supremely comfortable travel pillows to ease some of the time along the long stretches.
Highway 12 – Utah
Nicknamed “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” this 124-mile journey of dazzling sandstone cliffs and archaic settlements has been mesmerizing adventurers since the early 1900s. The road takes you through pine forests, deserted Western movie sets, ghost towns, and the epic Zion Nation Park with its “fairy chimney” rock spires. It’s easy to see why this semi-obscure route is definitely one of the best road trips in the U.S.
High Road to Taos – New Mexico
At 52 miles, you can easily make a day trip through this land vibrant in its culture, art and history. Starting in Santa Fe, you meander through immense, well-preserved Spanish colonial encampments popping up out of the surrounding hard-packed earth and aspen and cedar groves before ending in Taos. You will most likely see flashes of elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and golden eagles soaring in the vast skies overhead.
Beartooth Highway – Montana & Wyoming
Though only open from late May to late September, the spiral switchbacks of this 64-mile span of Highway 212 is well worth waiting for. The shortcut Civil War general Philip Sheridan blazed in 1882 while looking for Yellowstone takes you through three national parks, over an 11,000-foot mountain pass and across numerous rivers ripe for fly-fishing. Moose, mule deer, grizzlies and marmots abound, and it’s best to drive this route east to west in the morning.
Monument Valley – Arizona & Utah
Though the 17-mile loop of the Valley Drive is the shortest course on our list of the best U.S. road trips, it is perhaps the most dramatic with its shining bronze-colored desert full of imposing sandstone buttes. Neither word nor photo can due justice to this ethereal landscape. The colossal Mittens Buttes, at 250-300 million years old, are the most legendary of all the otherworldly formations.
Two of our best U.S. road trips take you through rainbows of fall foliage, deep forests, and the untamed rocky coast of the Atlantic in the Northeast. No matter when you go, be sure to take along our Better Umbrella™ as New England weather is notoriously unpredictable!
For a kaleidoscope of autumn color, it’s hard to beat New Hampshire. And this 34.5-mile route known as the Kancamagus Highway (often pronounced Kang-ga-mang-us) is pristinely unspoiled by houses or gas stations. Halfway between Conway and Lincoln there is a quick, ½ mile hike to Sabbaday Falls, and at each year at the end of September, Lincoln hosts the New Hampshire Highland Games, the grandest Scottish cultural event in the northeast.
Lood Road, Acadia National Park – Maine
If you want to be one of the few people in the entire United States to experience the first rays of the sun each day, head to the 1,530-foot peak of Cadillac Mountain where it is said this is where the sunrise hits first (though two other places in Maine make similar claims – it depends on the time of year). Atop Cadillac, you have a 360-degree view of the dense woodlands and jagged shoreline of the Atlantic. You might catch sight of a rare moose and can watch gulls and cormorants gracefully diving over the island chains in Frenchman Bay.
The South is home to one of the all-time best U.S. road trips, Route 1 from Key Largo to Key West, yet you would be remiss if you skipped out on the wonderful journeys a little further north and west, where the roads themselves are your destinations. These routes are made for slow cruising and making exploratory stops; bring along our extremely comfortable and durable Litepack™ Travel Backpack for easy adventuring.
Overseas Highway – Florida
A jeweled necklace cutting through aquamarine seas, when you travel the Overseas Highway from island to island it is like “piloting a hovercraft across the ocean.” Often the water is just a few feet away on either side. The road is a slice of natural heaven, coral-reef parks interspersed with seafood dives, beach bars and strangely appealing tourist traps. Swim with dolphins on Islamorada Island and about 40 miles south, cross the famous 7-mile bridge
Skyline Drive & Blue Ridge Parkway – Virginia to North Carolina
Starting just two hours west of Washington, D.C., this scenic route traces the Appalachian Mountains along its ridges allowing for stunning, high-altitude views of the colorful valleys below. The most famous part, the Linn Cove Viaduct, is like a snake twisting through the highest treetops around Grandfather Mountain. The low speed enables you to fully soak up and relax into the scenery. To feel extra cozy, curl up in your car seat with our Fold ‘N Go™ Blanket & Case – a 4-in-1 blanket, pillow, seat & lumbar cushion.
Great River Road – Minnesota to Louisiana
Technically a portion of this route which traces the mighty Mississippi River runs through the midwest, but with Memphis and New Orleans as two of the major urban destinations along the way, it’s defined by its conclusion in the great delta. Driving the length of The Big Muddy will take you through 10 states of farms, upland meadows, dozens of national and regional parks, swamps, cliffs and lots of undulating terrain. There is quite a bit of industry on this 3,000-mile expedition, but not enough to spoil what is certainly one of the best U.S. road trips you can take.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in the Aloha state, you can not pass up a chance to drive the Hana Coastline on Maui, surely one of the U.S road trips with the best natural scenery.
Beaches of black volcanic sand, plunging waterfalls, roadside canteens full of fresh fruit, crystal clear pools ripe for swimming, the azure ocean on one side and luxuriant bamboo jungles on the other – all of this abounds on this 52-mile curvy strip hand-dug into the eastern coast of the island. With 600 loops turns and 59 bridges, it ends in the quintessentially Hawaiian village of Hana which is tucked into an emerald rain forest.
No list of the best U.S. road trips would be complete without mentioning the infamous Route 66. From Chicago to Santa Monica, this classic, all-Americana, 2,400 route is unpredictable and terrifically wild, taking you through abandoned gold-mining towns and groves of saguaro cacti.
You will certainly see neon signs and mom-and-pop diners, and, if you take your time, meet heartening, down-to-earth folks along the way. Be sure to stop at the Hackberry General Store which is a slapdash museum of historic Route 66 roadside collectibles. Also check out the Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma – its owner, Dawn Welch, was the inspiration for Sally Carrera, Lightning McQueen’s girlfriend in the movie Cars.
Hit the Road
With breathtaking mountain ranges, amazing natural features, historic buildings and settlements, and fun, open roads, our list of the best U.S. road trips has something for everyone. Make your road trip even better when you stay comfortable and cozy with our travel pillows and comfort products and pack efficiently with our rugged, space-saving accessories. Make your road trip better with Cabeau today!