Road Trippin' 101: The Best Road Trips in the US
by Daniel | Last Updated August 25th, 2019
About 22 percent of all American vacations is via road trip.
That's because there's nothing quite like a true road trip. Exploring the country by car gives you an intimate experience and a connection to people and places you just don't get from flying. There's always a small town or a roadside stop that's not in travel books, that often can make the best memories.
But, America is made of 164,000 miles of freeways, so it's no surprise if choosing the "perfect" route doesn't come easily.
That's why I've compiled this list, to give you options that you won't be disappointed with. Here's my list of some of the best road trips that the United States has to offer.
The Best Tour of the American West: Southern Utah and Northern Arizona
This trip is the quintessential tour for those seeking vast desert landscapes, unreal geological formations and all things American-West. This is a National and State Park heavy road trip, perfect for those who need to check a few off of their bucket list. Have your camera ready, there will be jaw-dropping landscapes around every corner.
There are dozens of amazing interest points of this road trip. In Arizona, the most prominent are the Grand Canyon National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Route 66, Petrified Forest National Park, Meteor Crater, and Kayenta, a city in the Navajo Indian Reservation. This area is made up of ranges from Ponderosa pines to sandy deserts.
In Southern Utah, you have sites like Monument Valley, Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase, Zion National Park, Kanab, and St. George. The main attractions for these sites are natural landmarks, hiking, and other outdoor activities common at National Parks. This region also offers some of the most remote regions on this list.
Traveling Through the Wild West
With a lot of time to spare, you could easily hit almost every major stop listed above making a large loop. For this trip, it's best to fly into either Salt Lake City or Flagstaff, Arizona by way of Phoenix. It all depends on the amount of time you have to spend, and what your essential stops are.
As mentioned above to hit every single one of these locations would require a lot of time available for the trip. While it's possible to see everything in one or two weeks, many of the points-of-interest are not just roadside attractions to look at. Depending on your fitness and adventure level, you may want to spend some time hiking in places like the Grand Canyon or Zion.
The best time of year to make this trip is fall and spring, typically late September - November, and late February to late April or early May. This area experiences extreme levels of heat in the summertime, that's physically not safe to expose yourself to. In the winter, some of these areas experience significant snow, which can be beautiful to see if you are prepared but can make driving dangerous for RVs and other non-equipped vehicles.
This trip is friendly for everyone from families, groups, and friends of all ages. It's is a very typical road trip, there are a ton of guides, campings spots and places to stay available. Although some areas feel vast and abandoned, you're never too far from help or civilization.
The Ultimate Tropical Getaway The Florida Keys
It's hard to believe you're still in the United States as your cruising along Highway 1, staring at the sparkling Carribean blue ocean. This road trip is for beach-loving, water playing, wildlife loving types. At its southernmost tip, the keys are only 330 miles from Cuba, and its furthest eastern tip is only about 260 miles from the Bahamas.
This trip will take you to Miami, Everglades National Park, Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and Key West. Along the way, you'll find dozens of wildlife refuges, beach bars and restaurants, beaches, coral reefs with snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, and boating and other water sport activities. This is another trip that's outdoors-heavy, so bring your sunscreen!
If you don't want to have to put a ton of work into planning your route, it doesn't get much easier than this. All of Florida's keys are connected by one major highway, Highway 1, which stretches from Miami to Key West. You would have to put a huge effort into trying to get lost, it's pretty much impossible.
On The Road from Miami to Key West
The drive straight from Miami to Key West is just about four hours with a little traffic. You could spend a month exploring this region, or a weekend, the opportunities are endless, but it's doable if you don't have a lot of time to spare.
In Flordia June through November is typically hurricane season, so it's best to avoid this trip during that time of year. Not to mention that the summers in South Florida can be uncomfortably humid. March through May is seen as the ideal time of year to visit, since temperatures are mild, and the water and weather conditions are good.
This is another road trip that's truly great for everyone. Couples can find romance, friends can find fun, seniors can find relaxation and families can find endless activities the whole crew will enjoy. Just note that most of the points-of-interest are outside, so loving sunshine is a must.
This trip is especially good for people who don't want to be in areas that are too remote for too long. At the very least there is always an inn or restaurant within a few miles of wherever you are. Many areas of this trip are also residential, so you will find easy access to grocery stores, ATMs and other necessities should you need it.
The Perfect Road Trip for California Dreamin' Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway covers most of Californa's coast, spreading from San Diego Country to just south of the state's northern state line. Experience California's famous relaxed bohemian style but also cliffside mansions and some of the most expensive real estate in the world. After this trip you'll be a California coast expert, having enjoyed everything from the Redwoods to the stars on Hollywood Boulevard.
If you take the entire route, you'll hit most of Californa's famous cities and landmarks. From San Diego to Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles' beaches and Hollywood, up to Malibu, Santa Barbara's wine country, Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Redwood National Park. There's not much left to see in the state after completing this trip.
This is another road trip that's pretty difficult to get wrong. California State Route 1, or the "Pacific Coast Highway" literally parallels the Pacific Ocean and is one straight shot. There are a lot of opportunities to adventure off-route to check out other cities, attractions, and adventures.
While the Pacific Coast Highway offers some truly memorable views, it's important to know that on this drive you won't be the only one on the road. In areas that this highway goes through major cities (like Los Angeles) and beach towns (like Newport and Hunnington Beach in Orange County), it can be very congested.
So it will be important to plan your trip with the days of the week and time of days in mind. For example, weekends going through popular beaches and weekdays during rush hour through major cities will likely be stop-and-go traffic.
Making the Most of Your California Road Trip
The summer is the busiest time of year for tourism in California. So everything will be busier and more expensive, and the weather will be mostly sunny and warm. It's also important to note that fires typically happen in the summers, and can cause closures.
The spring and fall are mild in California. The winters can be brisk. It's important to remember that the climates between northern and southern California vary significantly.
For example, the bay area experiences a late summer, where it's hotter in October and November. This region also experiences fog, rain and colder temperatures than the south.
This road trip truly offers something for everyone. There are plenty of opportunities for backpacking and camping adventures. Metropolitan, arts, entertainment and foodie options. But also wellness spas, beach relaxation, and luxury.
While there are stretches of highway that are more remote than others, you don't have to worry about being alone for too long on this trip.
Explore America's History and Future: Road Trip Through the North Atlantic Coast
This road trip will take you through America's founding history and the land of the original colonies. Each city offers its perspective on American culture and food and is truly the "All American" experience. The bigger cities on this list will give you a deep understanding of American art, entertainment, where it's been and where it's heading. This is a metropolitan road trip, with a handful of opportunities to experient the outdoors and nature, it's urban-focused.
The main stops on this road trip include Boston, Newport, Rhode Island, New York City, Philidelphia, Atlantic City, Ocean City, Maryland, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg Virginia, and Washington D.C. But do your research! Don't miss out on all of the small towns and farmer's markets in between.
It's best to start this route in either Boston or Washington D.C. Unlike the other road trips on this list, this adventure is not one straight shot. However, none of it is complicated. It's best to take this road trip from each city and to plug in your GPS when traveling to each new city.
You could potentially spend months exploring every city and landmark on this trip. Hubs like Washington D.C. and New York City offer a lifetime of things to do. I would recommend spending at least two weeks on this trip. It's best to look up your specific points-of-interest in each city and revolve your trip around that.
For example, if you've never been to Washington D.C., but have been to New York City before, you might find you only need a day or two in the city, and may want to spend many exploring the historical sites in D.C.
The Ultimate Road Trip for Patriots
Late spring to early fall is the best time of year to make this trip. Although the summer is peak tourism season across all of these cities, you won't experience any snow or extremely cold weather. Just know that because it's a busy season, it's smart to book your accommodations in advance.
Americans and foreign tourists alike will appreciate this road trip. If this trip doesn't bring out the patriot in you, nothing will. There are kid-friendly activities at nearly every major landmark and city, along with some of the hottest bars, clubs, and restaurants in the country for the younger crowd.
Unlike the west, east coast urban hubs are much closer together. This leaves few areas of long remote stretches. This is a bustling trip with a lot of busy freeway driving, so plan your routes accordingly.
Preparedness Makes or Breaks Even the Best Road Trips: Make Sure You've Got the Right Gear
Even if you choose one of the best road trips America has to offer, if you aren't prepared, it can ruin your trip. But finding the right gear can be tricky, there's a lot of mixed reviews out there. Many of the reviews you'll read are just ads in disguise and aren't tangible advice you can use.
Need gear for your next trip? Want to keep all of your passengers happy and comfortable on your next trip? Get real advice from an actual traveler. Check out my luggage buying guide and other product resources!
Welcome to LuggageGuru!
My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.