Best Road Trips in the USA That Are Bucket List Worthy

Of the 208 million adults in America, who will travel this summer, 80 percent of this group will go by car on a U.S. road trip. Although short and cross-country road trips have always been known as fun adventures throughout North America, they’ve grown more popular since the pandemic as people are ready to get out and make up for lost time.

People feel freedom with their cars and do things like moving across the country and taking more road trips. Whether you’ve dreamt about hot springs or always yearned for the East Coast, there’s a road trip in your future. Perhaps the state parks are on your bucket list, or you’re knocking out all 50 states.

With so much to see on an American road trip, it’s hard to pick just one place, which is why most people map out their road trip routes based on what they can see along a defined route, with a little time for wandering along the way!

Ten Best Road Trips in the USA

Whether you seek scenic drives through small towns in New England and want to drive the Kancamagus highway during fall foliage, or you fancy sites with lighthouses in Massachusetts, there are always new places to explore.

If hiking trails are more your thing, consider road trips in Montana, Colorado, Maine, or New Hampshire. There’s something for everyone with this guide to the ten best road trips. Your adventure awaits.

1. West Coast (San Diego to Seattle)

The West Coast boasts beautiful sand beaches, and the stretch from San Diego to Seattle uncovers unexpected vistas through the nooks and crannies of the cities along the way. Sites on this route include Big Sur, and not far from San Diego is Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The Pacific Coast Highway offers spectacular views. The total trip is a 1500-mile stretch that runs from San Diego to Seattle.

2. Oregon Loop Road Trip (Portland to Portland)

Known as “The Fruit Loop,” The Oregon Loop trip takes you on a scenic tour for 650 miles. Start in Portland, and you’ll go through the Columbia Gorge. Sites along the way include the snow-capped peaks of Mount Hood and the small town of Bend, Oregon.

The loop finishes with a drive up the coast that takes you right back where you started, in beautiful, artsy, and music-friendly Portland.

3. The Road to Hana (Kahului to Hana)

Love waterfalls? The Road to Hana is a scenic trip in Maui, Hawaii, and has over 15 waterfalls, nourishing rainforests, and seascapes fit for a postcard. Although you can drive the road yourself, with 620 curves on this road trip and a series of bridges, even seasoned road warriors opt for a guided tour.

4. Gulf Coast Road Trip (Lafayette, LA to Crystal River, FL)

Consider a road trip that starts where life moves just a little bit slower — at the Gulf Coast Road Trip that runs from Lafayette, LA — where the New Orleans creole cuisine can’t be beat. Go south to Crystal River, FL – where manatees rule and visitors come each year for the Three Sister Springs.

5. Overseas Highway (Miami to Key West)

Called one of the best scenic road trips in all of Florida, this coastal road that leads to the Florida keys spans about 120 miles and takes about four hours to drive. In the Florida Everglades, you’ll find pristine beaches, a wide array of tropical bird species, and wildlife.

6. Route 66 (Chicago to LA)

The writer, John Steinback, may have put Route 66 on the map, as they say, through his famous storytelling. He highlighted this long stretch of highway in his book, The Grapes of Wrath, giving it the distinctive name “The Mother Road.”

Besides that, what made it famous? Route 66 was known to be a road of hope, as countless migrant workers made the trek from the Midwest to California in search of work and a better life.

7. Blue Ridge Parkway (VA to NC)

This drive connects two wonders of beauty –the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park. Clocking 469 miles, this trip goes from Cherokee, North Carolina, to Rockfish Gap, Virginia, with many worthy stops along the way, including the Natural Bridge. More than one million people seek out Shenandoah national park to visit every year.

8. Parks Highway (Anchorage to Fairbanks)

This road trip has been described as “short and epic.” Stretching just 22 miles on this 360-mile drive, opportunities abound for hiking, picnics, and taking Alaska scenery, such as landscapes and wildlife — moose sightings are common.

9. Great River Road (Minnesota to Mississippi)

Named an All-American road, this scenic byway, this 565-mile stretch provides six destination areas to stop, take in the scenery, listen to the loons, and watch for the bald eagles. The Great River Road is majestic, and due to its location, is rich with wildlife and gorgeous sunsets.

10. Lincoln Highway (New York to San Francisco)

If you’ve got some time on your hands, take the road trip that runs through 11 states, and get a taste of history along the route. Named after Abraham Lincoln, this famed road has numerous stops along the way and takes you through historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah, just to name a few.

Road Trip FAQs

What Should You Pack?

Before heading out like a road warrior, you’ll want to pack some essentials. Here’s a short list of must-have items you should bring along on your road trip, in no particular order – all are important.

Driver’s License, Registration, and Car Insurance – Few things dampen the mood of a road trip more than getting pulled over by the police. Keep an up-to-date driver’s license on you at all times and ensure your vehicle insurance is current, with the most recent insurance paperwork.

Roadside assistance – Whether it’s a check engine light, a leak, or a flat tire, having roadside assistance is a great safety precaution that’s worth the money if you’re planning a road trip. Also, check to see if you have a spare tire in tow before hitting the road.

Snacks and bottled water – Whether you’re driving alone or have a partner who's getting hangry, stocking the car with healthy snacks, such as nuts, fruit, popcorn, or beef jerky, goes a long way when it’s been hours since you’ve eaten. Also, bring along more bottled water than you think you’ll need.

Maps – Phones are great for directions — until you have no signal. It happens. Bring a hard copy of a map to stay on your intended path. That’s right — bring an old-school paper map. This puts you in control of your trip if, for some reason, you can’t get a wifi signal while traveling, or worse, forget your phone at the diner 50 miles back.

Blankets – In a worse-case scenario, if your car breaks down, it’s always good to have blankets in the vehicle. No matter where you’re traveling, temperatures in unfamiliar places can be unpredictable at night — even in the desert.

How To Plan?

Although getting on the road with the wind in your hair may inspire your inner free spirit to just “wing it” and start your road trip without a concrete plan, it’s a good idea to thoroughly plan your road trip route, including a road trip itinerary.

That said, if you’re an adventurous soul, it’s also highly advised to allow some extra time for exploring, meandering down the road less traveled, and leaving some room for your trip to evolve.

How To Budget Your Road Trip?

Be sure to include any necessary car maintenance in your road trip budget. Once that’s done, take into account how many people are embarking on the adventure, and draft an expense budget that includes lodging, meals, gas, and set aside a small amount for unexpected expenses — even if that means buying the snakeskin moccasins in Arizona you never knew you needed.

How To Get Your Car Home?

If your road trip is a multi-stop adventure, and you’re driving to a destination and then flying somewhere, one option is to have your car shipped back home. This is a great plan when you want to drive on the first leg of the trip but don’t want to double back on the way home.

Plan the ultimate adventure, and ship your car back for flexibility. RPM offers affordable car shipping options with a user-friendly app that’s easy to use and convenient.

The Bottom Line

Road trips are on the rise and are top of mind for Americans. No matter your level of adventure, lead with safety first by planning your trip ahead of time and bringing your essential list of items to pack.

When choosing a location for your trip, you’re only limited by your imagination and desire to see new places. Use the top ten list as a starting point, give yourself options, and save time by shipping your car back using RPM. Get a quote today!

208 Million American Adults (81%) to Travel for Summer 2022 With 80% Planning to Road Trip According to a Survey by The Vacationer | PR Newswire
Life on the Open Road | Smithsonian
The History of Shenandoah National Park | Shenandoah National Park Trust

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